"Here Fishy, Fishy"- Pictured L-R: Eliza Orlins and Corinne Kaplan of THE AMAZING RACE airing Wednesday, May 1 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: CBS ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Credit: CBS

Oooh, season 31 of The Amazing Race is big mad, huh? The crash-collision of TAR, Big Brother, and Survivor is making for a tornado of unforeseen emotions, and each team is responding a little differently.

Following the giving and receiving of last week’s very early U-Turns, Team Fun, Team Torey, and SisterSister are swapping around ever so slightly passive aggressive “peace offerings” at the airport. The Afghanimals are still regularly trying to trick people into thinking they’re in the wrong place, and the other teams are still regularly falling for it, followed immediately screaming, “They’re such liars!” once they figure out they’ve been scammed. The Big Brother teams are teaming up to work together, the Survivor teams are cracking under the pressure, and The Amazing Race teams look a little shell-shocked by the new, slightly more volatile atmosphere.

It’s all turning out to be an unexpectedly wild ride—not to mention, unpredictable. Just look at tonight’s final lineup; wherein last week’s first-place-finishers hit the mat last (well, if it hadn’t turned out to be a non-elimination leg, that is), and last week’s last-place-finishers hit the mat first. Try saying that 10 times fast—now try singing it in Vietnamese!

Just like the Afghanimals did with Japan in the premiere episode, Team Fun found the ultimate redemption tonight in the country that took them out during their first race TAR experience. I really feel for Floyd each time they flash to him falling off that bike during season 29’s Vietnam leg—but with that memory now freshly pasted over with visions of him and Becca literally dancing through my head, season 31 is officially the *redemption* season.

The teams set out from Luang Prabang, Laos, to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with a nice little bit of product placement for the Travelocity app in between. But even though the teams are alleeeeegedly booking their own flights (“wow, it’s so easy!”), gone are the days of staggered flight times, and that means everybody’s tripping all over each other at the DETOUR: REEL IT IN vs. LIGHT IT UP.

When the teams land they have to take taxis through the busy Ho Chi Minh streets to get a packet of herbal remedies from the House of Vietnamese Medicine that holds their next clue. The taxis the teams take from that clue, and how lost said taxis get heading to the Detours, pretty much makes or breaks the final placement on the map. Because the Detours, while vastly different, both prove to be pretty tedious. I am always shocked at how many teams will choose a choreographed dancing challenge (especially after having watched previous nightmare dancing challenges on TAR), but never have I ever been more shocked than seeing Team Odd Couple, Chris and Brett, not even think twice about choosing a dance challenge, when the other challenge was FISHING.

To be fair, you had slightly more control over LIGHT IT UP, wherein teams learned a choreographed dance from Vietnam’s famous 218 Dance Crew, and performed it alongside the crew in light-up LED dance suits. Fun! And seemingly the more fun teams found it, the easier it was to get down in a few tries. The first criteria was to get the choreo right, but the second criteria was big energy so that you could really see the moves in the light suits, and no one brings that more than Team Fun, who were obviously psyched for a challenge like this and cruised through on their second try. Given that Rachel and Elissa are both former cheerleaders, they presumed they’d also have an easy go of it, but don’t get it until their 18th attempt.

At one point when Rachel is on the ground exhausted, Elissa tells her to “put your 35-year-old big girl panties on and pull it together,” and Rachel very seriously responds, “I am not 35.” I would say age isn’t really a factor in this Light It Up, but endurance definitely is, so good on Chris and Brett for giving it one single try, seeing that they absolutely were not going to get this dance, at least not quickly, and moving on to…

REEL IT IN, which took place at a CYO restaurant—as in, catch your own protein. For a long time, Team Torey and Team Villain (for the record, I call Corrinne and Eliza that because they called themselves that in the premiere; they’re certainly no more villainous in their gameplay than their mortal enemies, the Afghanimals) are the only teams there, probably because the other teams assumed that trying to catch eight prawns in a large indoor pool would be a little tedious. And they would have been right about that, but all it took was a little patience, and each team who came into Reel It In, made it out somewhere around the middle of the pack.

Except, of course, for Team Odd Couple, who tried out both detours. But lucky for them, the Afghanimals exhausted themselves with a record 27 dancing attempts at dancing spell before they made it to the ROADBLOCK: WHO’S READY TO TUNE OUT?

I certainly wish I could tune out a few of these contestants singing the Vietnamese lines they were required to learn and perform in a karaoke bar, but for the most part, this challenge seemed very fun. Which, once again, played to the strengths of Team Fun, with Floyd getting that sweet, sweet redemption from his last disastrous Vietnam Roadblock. He got the practice booth to himself, cruised through the karaoke room in one single go, nailing his two Vietnamese lyrics, and I have to imagine, standing out as a crowd favorite.

Other strong performers included Victor, who was literally scared out of the practice room and onto the stage by Eliza’s wailing (which she claimed was intentional) and Colin…if you include somehow managing to sound like he was singing “Baby Got Back” in Vietnamese as a strong performance, which I of course do. Rachel and Janelle work together to learn the lyrics which doesn’t seem to help them so much but also doesn’t hurt them. The Afghanimals are the second-to-last to arrive at the Roadblock, so Leo just tries to go straight into karaoke without practicing first, which I have to admit, I’d been wondering about doing. The words were written out on the screen somewhat phonetically, after all…

It does not work even a little bit to try to read the words to a song you’ve never heard in a language you don’t speak. But Leo does get it in this first real try, which scoots the Afghanimals ever so slightly ahead in getting to the PIT STOP at HO THI KY flower market:

1: TEAM FUN win a trip for two to the Bahamas, redemption in Vietnam, and I hope a good hotel nap booked on the Travelocity app because those two were serving it today.

2: TEAM VICOLE: We’re still getting to know these two in TAR terms, but boy they seem pleasant. At one point this episode, when seeing the Vietnam traffic, Victor muttered in awe, Oh mylanta…




6: BBBLONDES: I didn’t realize there were so many teams of moms this season! Janelle and Brittany tell Phil they’re showing their daughters that women can do anything.

7: SISTER SISTER: With their peace offering of…maybe a tote bag? Rachel and Elissa informed Team Fun that they “are not drama mamas.”

8: AFGHANIMALS: Leo and Jamal went from first to last in the third leg of this race around the world, but they tell Phil it just goes to show that every team can have good days and bad days.

NOT ELIMINATED: And for TEAM ODD COUPLE, it is a good day! They came in last, but Phil informs them they will live to sing and dance another leg, and personally, I’m thrilled—I think we need the dynamic of these two hometown fellas to balance out some of the more, shall we say, vibrant pairings. And what about you? Is season 31 striking you as “more competitive and more conniving” as Team Fun called it? Can that really be blamed on the addition of Survivor and Big Brother teams, when the TAR teams are offering their fair share of shade? Sound off in the comments with your favorite teams so far!

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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.

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