On ''The Amazing Race,'' the competition turns bloody: Most of the teams lose their Romber obsession and start playing harder, leading to some serious casualties
The Amazing Race
Credit: Ray and Deana: Tony Esparza

”The Amazing Race”: The competition turns bloody

Welcome back, Amazing Race! I’ve missed you so! Come on, we can all admit it — something’s been missing from our favorite reality show. It’s called suspense! (Speaking of missing, Josh Wolk is taking the night off, but he’ll be back next week.) Finally, we got two hours of AR that didn’t focus on Romber! And it would have probably focused even less on Romber if it weren’t for Lynn’s incessant whining about how much he loathes Rob. Seriously, hon — stop while you’re behind. We know how much you hate him. We know you don’t think he deserves the money. But your hatred has become irrational and out of control. That whole not sharing your taxi thing in Africa only illustrated how petty your hatred for Rob has become — and only made Rob seem that much stronger. I can picture it now; that hatred of Rob will be Lynn and Alex’s downfall. And I can’t wait to see it. And with any luck, it’ll happen soon.

Man, this episode had me sweatin’ bullets — starting with the moment when Ray and Deana chose to fast-forward in the first hour and traverse a very shaky bridge across a very tall cooling tower in the middle of nowhere. With Rob and Amber waiting below, I seriously thought those two weren’t going to make it — but they did, allowing them to win the leg and a pair of pretty sweet cars. (But can someone explain to me how they ended up in first class on their way from Buenos Aires to Johannesburg?) Meanwhile, back on the course, it started to get ugly with Lynn. Hon started spewing things like how he was so glad Johannesburg was a real city and how he had been afraid ”it was going to be chickens and camels and whatever.” If only that was the worst thing he said all evening, but more on that later.

Next sweat-inducing moment? The moment in that dank, dark cave when Gretchen fell and looked like something out of a Scream movie. Honestly, this is the first time I wanted someone ousted from AR for their own damn good, and there is no more deserving couple than Gretchen and Meredith. Come on, AR — it’s not fun watching a pair of seniors try to keep up with the kids by climbing around a place they surely do not belong. What’s the use of winning a million dollars if you’re going to spend the remainder of your life in a freakin’ hospice? I was so relieved when those two came in last place — only to hear Phil tell them that they were still in the race. (Damn non-elimination legs!) And then to make matters worse, AR has decided to institute a new rule in which the losing team is stripped not only of cash but also of their belongings. Could it get any worse for these two? Seriously, it was like watching a couple of old seals being mercilessly clubbed on TV. I was secretly praying they’d be the first team to quit at a pit stop, but of course Gretchen and Meredith stayed the course. This isn’t ageism, people. This is serious concern for their well-being. It’s like watching my grandpa race, and my grandpa falls all the time. It scares the bejesus out of me.

One more note about this first hour, and sorry, it involves Romber. My initial concerns about the Survivors were realized again in this episode when they were recognized by fans (in Johannesburg, no less!) and that fame helped them score some handy help. Amber would have taken a helluva lot longer in that market if she didn’t have a fan guiding her. I’m ready for the duo to start enjoying a little anonymity.

And now on to hour two, or what I prefer to call ”Lynn’s true coming-out party.” Finally, we’re starting to see Lynn for who he really is — a distant, yet-far-more annoying relative of last season’s Kendra. Consider the moment in Botswana when he referred to it as the new Compton. Or how about the part when he directed Alex to find someone on the street who seemed ”least likely to have a gun.” And let’s not forget how he referred to one guy on the street as Tupac. It got so bad I just laughed and laughed when Rob accused Lynn of carrying on like a girl and ”running Alex like a farm boy” because, well, he does. And I just don’t like him. (But shame on Rob for accusing Meredith of pushing Gretchen in that dark cave for ”effect.” Dude, you don’t always have to run off your mouth. Can’t it be enough that you just run a good race?)

And then, holy crap, it happened — the brothers rolled the Rover on their way to the next detour! I know, I know: CBS has been promoting the hell outta this scene, so it probably came as little shock to most of you, but it still freaked the hell outta me — especially when I saw that poor crew guy on the ground with his eyes closed. Now I thought it was pretty decent that Lynn and Alex decided to stop and check, but I had no problem with Rob and Amber’s decision to drive by instead. Clearly, Lynn felt otherwise — and used it as yet another excuse to whine about Rob, whine about Amber, whine about anything having to do with these two. And even Phil got in on the act! When Rob and Amber arrived at the pit stop — second only to Ron and Kelly, who finished an impressive first — Phil asked why they didn’t stop to check on the brothers. Is AR finally loosening the tie on Phil and encouraging him to stir up a little turbulence?

And now, to the leg’s losers. Sadly, it wasn’t Gretchen and Meredith. They managed to survive the second leg with a few welcome donations from their fellow teammates (but not Romber!) and even got through a strenuous detour requiring them to crush corn into flour. (The alternative was sucking up groundwater and spitting it into ostrich eggs — which seemed far easier). Amazingly, Gretchen and Meredith did a better job of grinding the grain than Ray and Deana, who just fought through the entire challenge. Their constant bickering allowed the brothers to do some serious catching up after the car crash (they chose the water detour!), and it all came down to an awesome leg race at the pit stop. This is the kind of ending that we all hope to see but get so rarely. Deana, of course, gave up as the brothers made it first to Phil, so she and Ray got the boot. I honestly won’t miss the couple, but not because he seemed a bit like last installment’s He Who. Ray and Deana just don’t seem to like each other, and if that final voice-over exchange is any indication, I suspect they’re split and living in different cities about now.

More than ever, I’m loving the brothers — whose tears of joy at the end of the leg were so genuinely packed with a combination of fear and relief over rolling that car (and the fact that they gave a shout-out to their mom’s enchiladas earlier in the episode got me all warm and fuzzy inside to boot). Uchenna and Joyce are getting easier to adore (no fighting!), while Ron and Kelly are becoming a force to reckon with — though it seems things get a little ugly for these two next week.

What do you think? Are you as sick of Lynn and Alex as I am? Do you think Amber will ever lift a finger? Is Rob starting to lose his cool? And can AR be charged with elder abuse over Meredith and Gretchen?

Episode Recaps

The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.

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