In less exciting seasons of the Amazing Race, teams become stratified very early on, so that you have a few of the same teams duking it out for first, a few straggling in the middle, and a few teams vying for last place. Good Race courses try to allow for as much mixing it up as possible without transparently bunching the teams too often.
This leg was incredibly well-designed in that regard—neither Draw It nor Dance It was so difficult as to be impossible, but they were just difficult enough that teams were frequently tempted to switch. (Of course, the Roadblock was less of a daunting task and more of an excuse to put racers into esoteric outfits, but I guess we have to have those kinds of tasks too, and it was a nice shoutout to the same Olympics that made Jon Montgomery a household name in Canada.) Navigation, bad cabs, and stressful tasks shuffled the order quite satisfyingly. While two of the top three teams in the first leg finished in the top three again, Jody and Cory jumped from seventh place all the way up to third by running a near-perfect leg, and Vanessa and Celina were shocked to discover they’d caught up to the previous leg’s first-place finishers despite leaving Kelowna an hour later.
Vanessa and Celina, incidentally, seem to be one half of the biggest actual inter-team conflict we’ve seen so far. When they beat the Tims to the mat due to their penalty last week, they snarked “suckers!” at them. But when the Tims caught a Canada Line train out of the airport that the girls missed, they got a little bit of karmic retribution. It hasn’t veered off the path of friendly competition yet, but the potential’s there, and I wouldn’t say either team is the other’s favorite at the moment. Also not winning any prizes for most BFF-worthy team: Brett and Holly, who irked Jet and Dave when they wouldn’t allow their cab driver to call a second cab. Whether this is justifiable ire or not is debatable, since it is, after all, a race. And anyway, it ended up having very little effect on Team Dudebro’s placement because they made so many other mistakes along the way—switching tasks, getting lost, declaring things to be impossible before they tried them. Some teams just like to talk about quitting (Brenchel anyone?) without any actual intent to do so, but it’s still annoying to hear that kind of defeatism, and I can’t say these guys impress me much.
The team who took the biggest hit in this leg’s shuffle were Darren and Kristen, who got slightly flustered after making one navigational error and never seemed to recover entirely. Add a bad cab to the mix and it just wasn’t a good day for the hippies. But making a bad day worse was the fact that they don’t seem to know how best to talk to each other during stressful moments, which caused a sort of negative feedback loop that started on the way to the speed-skating track and didn’t play itself out until they stumbled onto the mat in fifth place after seemingly visiting every room and hallway of the Vancouver Convention Centre. But hey, fifth isn’t last…well, not yet it isn’t.
The only team that didn’t have a prayer, sadly, was the cowboys. Jamie and Pierre ran a pretty straightforward leg, and the editing tried to mix them in with everyone else, but they started out in the back of the pack, came into Vancouver three hours behind everyone else, and never saw another team. It wasn’t as egregious as that team that was a full 24 hours behind back in TAR13, but it was pretty clear that the cowboys were pretty much on their own for all of the Vancouver leg. Their race was over once they stopped on the way to the Kelowna airport.
Being eliminated at the hands of a confusing British Columbian ATM is definitely not the way anybody wants to go out. But unlike many other ignominious eliminations, this one was preventable. The lesson here is that your primary focus on the Race must be making up time until you know you’re safe in the moment. It’s a lesson Kisha and Jen learned in TAR14 when an ill-timed pee break killed their chances. It’s a lesson Team Guido arguably learned in Thailand all the way back in Season One. There’s plenty of built-in down time once you reach the airport, or once you check in at the mat, or once you’re waiting for a venue to open. Unless there’s absolutely nothing Race-related to do in the moment, you must be racing. You are a shark, and if you stop moving forward, you will die. The Tims were seen using an airport ATM, and presumably ATMs were available all over Vancouver, so unless Jamie and Pierre didn’t have enough cash to pay their cab, there was no reason to stop.
It’s definitely disappointing to lose such a likable team early on, especially since country-western-related tasks awaited them in their native Alberta on the next leg. But many likable teams remain, and we even have a villain team emerging, if the previews to next week are to be believed. I wouldn’t have guessed it of a team of pediatricians who’ve pledged to donate their winnings to a children’s hospital, but Brett and Holly have a diabolical side, and it’s about to come out. It looks like we can expect some Boston Rob-level shenanigans next week, and I, for one, can’t wait.