There are some twists to a reality concept that come out and surprise you, and then there are others that sound promising only to flounder instead. In the case of “The Amazing Race Canada” and the Face-Off, we consider it more of the latter.
In theory, we do like the concept of pitting two teams directly against each other, and it helps separate the show from the American version. However, we find there to be two fundamental flaws that keep this less exciting than it would otherwise be.
1. It forces teams into a particular order. In the case of the Havana leg, we were fortunate that there was a Roadblock afterwards that caused some pairs to falter. If this was a task with less skill involved, odds are that teams would’ve finished in the same exact order in which they arrived.
2. It completely exhausts some teams, which makes it so much harder for them to finish. For example, you can argue that Joel & Ashley, despite arriving to the Face-Off later, had more energy reserves left than Rita & Yvette and Frankie & Amy, who each had to beach volleyball in the Havana sun more than once. Joel & Ashley conquered the Roadblock quickly, and went from last place up to second.
Also, maybe we’re particularly salty about this twist because it created such a dud of a landing when it first debuted, and we also don’t like something as physical as volleyball as a task. Some teams are inherently better at it than others and it gives athletic teams a huge advantage.
Speaking of athletic teams, this was a comeback leg for Jillian & Emmett. Sure, they finished first, but what may be more important is that they got along. When this happens, they’re an almost-impossible team to beat. Still, we gotta give massive credit to Steph & Kristen, especially given that Steph cut up her hand badly at the Detour, but still was able to power through a series of challenges that were very reliant on using said hands. This is a leg that the promo made us worry about for them, and they were still able to push through.
Quick aside: Who thought that the Detour, sugar cane vs. dancing, was actually one of the more balanced ones we’ve seen in some time? Cheers, production!
In last place for the night was Rita & Yvette, mostly because of their struggles at the Roadblock. Consider this further evidence that you can have all of the momentum, and one bad task can cause everything to come crashing down. Frankie & Amy were able to pass them near the end, and escape what ended up being a Speed Bump penalty. This was, after all, a non-elimination leg.
Overall, the Face-Off slightly hampered our enjoyment of the leg, which also had a beautiful setting in Cuba that the show probably could have used more. After all, car repair and volleyball are challenges that can be done anywhere, and as an American who didn’t get to see much of Cuba on television growing up, we would’ve liked even more of the culture and heritage to be shown. Episode Grade: B-.
You can check out some further coverage of “The Amazing Race” Canada,” including a preview for what lies ahead, over at this link. Meanwhile, sign up over here to secure some other TV news on all we cover, sent right to you via our official CarterMatt Newsletter. (Photo: CTV.)