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The Amazing Race recap: Surface Tension

As the game heats up, we start to see Aja and Ty grate on each other’s nerves, while the frat guys have their own problem

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Race Marisa Brooke
Robert Voets/CBS

The Amazing Race

TV Show
Reality TV
run date:
Phil Keoghan
Jerry Bruckheimer
Current Status:
In Season

The Amazing Race can’t always let a team’s mutual irritation flower slowly and organically. Sometimes it can’t fit a partnership’s growing animosity into the show until one week has some open space and — BAM! — they finally spring it on the audience: instant bickerers!

When this episode began, and the teams made their way to Auckland, we saw a tension between Aja and Ty that we hadn’t seen in previous episodes. Tension like this doesn’t just “begin,” it festers over a series of days; clearly this had been building for the past couple of episodes, we just never saw it. For example, let’s look at Aja’s quote “I swear, if you say ‘bit us in the butt’ one more time, I’m gonna jump off a cliff.” If you looked at the cutting room floor of the last three episodes, I’m assuming you would find a series of scenes in which Ty said “bit us in the butt,” while Aja gradually cringed more and more forcefully. If you put them together in a flip book, it would look like a time-lapse evolution of a grudge.

Regardless of how we got here, now pretty much everything Ty says irks the snippy Aja. She’s become so bossy that Ty called her, “Fidel Castro,” which, as a pet name, leaves a lot to be desired. Start yelling that out in the boudoir, and you’re liable to be hauled in by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. It did look like it broke the tension…at least until Ty bumped the curb and got a flat, which took the air out of his good times with Aja as fast as it did the tire.

With all the romantic/friendly tension going on in this episode, perhaps the first small challenge — untying a giant spherical knot — was meant to be a metaphor: Could the partnerships unravel all their differences, or would they remain — yes! — tied in knots? Or, conversely, were the knots just a result of a challenge producer forgetting to plan ahead and quickly ordering some PAs to snarl some rope to stall the teams while he wrangles some Maori together?

Either way, the game worked, and as the teams busily scratched at the balls, I learned another fun fact about the players: It turns out that Amazing Race teams can be mesmerized in the same way as a common housecat can. Next week, perhaps the roadblock will involve jumping up and batting at the world’s largest windowshade cord.

This week’s roadblock, however, had players facing an army of apoplectic Maori warriors to try to find the one with the facial tattoo that matched a card. Here’s what this challenge taught me about Maori warfare: What it lacks in modern weaponry, it more than makes up in tongue-wagging. Now, if players approached the right warrior, they earned a clue and a nose rub. But if they picked the wrong one, he would snatch away the card and run. Was this also part of Maori military strategy? Is this how their generals negotiated treaties? If the terms were not to their liking, they would grab them and run off into the hills? So the two Maori techniques I learned were: sticking out one’s tongue; and grabbing a possession of your enemy and running away. From this limited lesson, it seems like they share the same tactics as a 5-year-old boy. I’m not familiar with their wartime history: Instead of D-Day, did they have Opposite Day?

NEXT: Kiwi action