Monday’s installment of “The Amazing Race: Australia vs. New Zealand” was our favorite of the entire season, and not because of the team eliminated. It was more about the mechanics of what makes great entertainment, and what does not. This begins with a semi-remote town in Russia, completely drenched in snow. It’s as far from Australia or New Zealand as you are going to find. Then, you added to that Daniel & Ryan’s crazy cab driver, Sally & Tyson’s engagement (the second in a week of “Amazing Race” shows), and Tyson’s obsession with the bathroom (is his bladder the size of a pea?), and you have very entertaining stuff.
We start with the country vs. country showdown, which worked out to be a great bit of TV given that just hours earlier, John & Murray snubbed their country-mates by giving the first class train ticket to Ashleigh & Jarrod as a reward for doing the Intersection with them. This was one of a few challenges that emphasized strategy over strength, since it was about finding Russian nesting dolls corresponding to a selected color. The New Zealand teams all split up, which turned out to be a pretty terrible move given that none of them ever caught up with the Aussies the rest of the leg.
Then, you had an awesome detour. Anytime that you can see teams having to bathe in the middle of a snow in a tiny bucket, over a fire they had to try and start, it is worth smiling over. This seemed to be much easier than stacking wood, at least if you knew how to make fire work and were willing to jump into the water in your underwear.
What made the wood challenge so important was first reading your clue properly (where you can understand the proper dimensions), and then knowing how to stack it so that it doesn’t collapse on you. Cat & Jesse came into here in last place behind John & Murray and Carla & Hereni, but they actually went on past them thanks to using their brains before using their brawn.
There’s not too much to say about the dog-sledding roadblock (probably the weakest part of the episode), mostly because the real drama happened at the end when the Salvage Pass made another appearance. This and the U-Turn are both proof that there really is value in being a good person to other teams on the race. Thanks to the way the chips fell, Daniel & Ryan had the opportunity after finishing first to either save John & Murray, or let them go home and take a one-hour head start on the next leg. Smartly, they sent them home. Would it have changed things if they were really nice to everyone? Maybe, but it certainly wouldn’t have hurt their chances. We feel for sure like they would have used the pass to save any other team, mostly because that is another opportunity for someone to beat the most-dominant team on the season to that point.
Let this be a lesson to future teams, but also, let John & Murray realize that there is value in also stopping to read instructions properly. They messed up at the Detour, so they still have no one to blame but themselves.
We do still personally feel like this hour head-start probably will not matter. The two guys will most likely start the next leg by heading to an equalizer, and it will be gone, anyway. We still love this twist much more than the double Express Pass. It introduces real strategy, and creates genuine drama. Episode Grade: A-.
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Photo: Seven Network