Well well well. I’ve been saying since roughly 2013 that we need to incorporate Double Battles into our North American Amazing Races, and someone finally listened, even if they decided “Double Battle” was a little bit gimmicky. Unfortunately, the Face-Off was kind of a nonstarter for TAR: Canada.No idea whether this is the kind of injury you can recover from overnight or if it’ll take weeks.[/caption]
My biggest fear is that they’ll take this twist that we’d probably have been calling fresh and interesting had one or two things gone differently and consider it a total failure due to circumstances that were really beyond the twist’s control. To wit:
- It was ridiculously cold outside. Let’s be real — they weren’t expecting tropical beach season here. But they weren’t exactly expecting Nunavut either. In mid-May, temperatures in the Magdalen Islands are typically around 10 degrees warmer than they were the day this leg was filmed, which meant that even in wetsuits, that water would not have been fun. A leg that was meant to be moderately difficult turned into an actively grueling one as a result. These conditions were miserable at the bare minimum and actually dangerous in some spots…which brings me to:
- Kristin’s injury. I’m relatively certain nobody counted on full-body muscle cramps afflicting anybody in this race. And for sure, it looked pretty awful. Neil and Kristin get a free pass from me where criticism is concerned this week. They were right to quit the Face-Off in favor of looking after her health, and kudos to them for continuing after they got the go-ahead. I don’t know whether this is something that will go away after a replenishing of electrolytes and a good night’s sleep or if Kristin will be on crutches for awhile yet, so it’s hard to tell what will happen to them in the next leg, but it certainly threw a wrench into everyone’s race in THIS one.
- Simi and Ope turned out to be unfathomably terrible at kayaking. You can chalk it up to the cold, or to Ope’s total discomfort with aquatic tasks, or just to an unfamiliar set of movements, but these two were just not getting the hang of kayak hockey, and it looked like they probably weren’t ever going to. I think this, too, must have been an unexpected wrinkle in Production’s plans — sure, they figured someone was going to suck at this, but the worst case scenario in their minds would be a team going 0 for 7 and then waiting out that last 15 minutes, but Simi and Ope’s quit kicked off the back half of the pack’s complete and total lack of facing off.
- Sabrina turned out to be unfathomably terrible at building sand castles. In the first few legs, Nic and Sabrina presented themselves as a team who could compensate for their lack of physical prowess by applying good strategy and brainpower. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen that particular Nic and Sabrina in a couple of legs. As with the kayak hockey, I’m reasonably certain that the course planners figured some people might struggle a little bit to get every little detail to pass muster on the sandcastle Roadblock, but of all the tasks — past and future — that they figured someone might declare too difficult after hours of struggling, I’m going to say this one wasn’t on their radar. This isn’t exactly a Swedish hay bale. And yet some mental block in Sabrina’s head kept her from getting out in front of that sandcastle until well after all of the other teams had left. Their tardiness may well have contributed to Simi and Ope’s decision to take a penalty rather than waiting around.
Take away just one of these four circumstances and the Face-Off probably would have gone off more or less as planned. Unfortunately, between two quitters and a third team bringing up the VERY rear, we wound up only getting a taste of what it could have been like. I suspect the course planners figured most teams would operate like Brian and Cynthia did – a shaky start giving way to slowly mastering it in time to overtake the next team that came along. Instead, we got a domino effect where one team bowed out and two other teams didn’t even get their feet wet.
Is there anything that could have been done differently on the part of production? Maybe not. I would have been interested to see what would have happened if the teams who were left waiting for an opponent were allowed to use the kayaks and practice while they waited, but again, with the beach as cold as it was, it may not have made much of a difference in the end.
Face-Offs don’t necessarily have to be physical, either. In Israel’s Hamerotz LaMillion, where a Double Battle happens on nearly every leg, tasks have ranged from a variation on the Spanish tomato-pile Detour from Season 10 to balancing vases on their heads to playing strip poker (no, seriously, they did that). If they bring it back, it might behoove Race brass to consider a task that calls on one or two skills other than athleticism.
So let’s talk U-Turn for a moment. Gino and Jesse’s reasoning when it came to U-Turning Brent and Sean was sound on its face — get that last Express Pass out of play — but this leg, that plan just wasn’t going to work. I can’t fault them too much, because they were so far ahead of the pack that they couldn’t possibly have had any way of knowing just how many teams were going to fail as hard as they did, but there was absolutely no way Brent and Sean were going to have to use that Express Pass.
Likewise, Brent and Sean didn’t know that two teams had quit behind them and a third had wasted practically a penalty’s worth of time trying to complete the Roadblock. All they knew was that Nic and Sabrina had still been at the Roadblock with no signs of advancing the last time they’d seen them, and thus they were likely still somewhere behind them. Could be ten minutes, could be an hour. If you can’t see other teams, I think you can’t assume anything about where you’re placing in this Race.
I think the odds are good that one of the three teams who probably should have gone home this week – Neil and Kristin, Simi and Ope, and Nic and Sabrina – will not be able to avoid elimination a second time next week. They’ve all lost so much momentum that I have a difficult time envisioning any of them getting their mojo back. Unlike Gino and Jesse, who let a temporary failure light a fire under them and push them back out in front, these teams may view their setbacks not as challenges to do better, but as reinforcements of their notion that this race is just really damn hard.