Welcome to Last Night on TV, our daily column that looks back at what happened on television the night before. If we’re going to stay up all night and watch TV, we might as well talk about it the next day.
Last night on TV, The Amazing Race created a love affair.
The Amazing Race
Christopher: It’s funny how The Amazing Race couldn’t find romance in its recent forced blind-date-pairing season (26) but now there’s a sudden unplanned coupling in this Internet-celebrity-based season, between ultimate frisbee pro Brodie and beauty tutorial star Blair (TAR has seen it happen before, with Christina and Azaria’s fateful meeting in season 18). And you can tell the producers – with help from Tyler Oakley and his teammate Korey – really wanted to make it a thing. Not just with a couple-name mashup hashtag (#blodie) but in how much time was spent on shots of the amorous pair, mostly separately but also one time together (obscured inside their sleeping bags), and having all the other players comment on it. It all felt very middle school in its excitement and its execution.
The thing is, and this is something notable through the rarity of romance documentaries, it’s very difficult to capture the start of a love story organically. But the popularity of romance-based reality shows like The Bachelor and Millionaire Matchmaker have the industry wishing it was easier. Let’s not forget, though, how rare true romance is actually seen on those programs. I found it very confusing on this episode of The Amazing Race how Brodie and Blair’s pairing even came to be. Had they met before everyone came together at Rafael Núñez International Airport? Did they have online crushes from before the race even began? With as much effort as the show put into making it a thing, it didn’t do a very good job of communicating the narrative to viewers.
Rather than a romance show, The Amazing Race is primarily a game show, and just as when I find myself knowing the answer to a Final Jeopardy clue that no contestants get right or solving a Wheel of Fortune puzzle long before its players, I was far more satisfied in my self-congratulatory engagement with this week’s challenges than any love story. The nine teams of racers headed to Switzerland in this leg and both the Detours and the Roadblock were of the puzzle variety, each tied to something fun and culturally touristy for the area. We learned Geneva has the longest wooden bench in the world, on the Promenade de la Treille, and saw how Swiss Army Knives are pieced together and took a virtual trip to the UN’s Palace of Nations.
I’m going to boast that I would have done two of the challenges better, because that’s one thing you do when watching The Amazing Race. Firstly, with the “Bench Work” Detour at Promenade de la Treille, I grew more and more frustrated with everyone counting every bit of sitting space along the bench, just to get the wrong number – until the correct number was found and nicely shared with most of the other teams. Nobody thought to figure out one section and then multiply it by how many sections there were in the whole bench? Surely that would have worked better. And then I couldn’t believe how long it took for the racers participating in the UN Roadblock to realize they were staring at a map of the flag lawn layout. How was that not obvious?
Two things I’ll admit to not getting, though: the fan swarms at airports and why the Instagram models were eliminated this episode. Regarding the former, it’s just that I’d never heard of any of the Internet-famous competitors before the season began (I knew of the work of some, but I would never recognize even the one of them I’d seen in online videos before). As for the latter, I understand that the models were the last to arrive at the Pit Stop, but I really expected this to be a non-elimination leg because as far as I know those seem random but are actually calculated by producers out of fairness or interest. The models were screwed over so much this episode, not being helped when everyone else was grouping up, that it’d have been tensely dramatic if they turned out to still be in the game. The season needs more drama, too, since once again the same two teams came in first and second.