The Amazing Race 18 Unfinished Business Introduction Part 2

Are you shocked I am ready to post the second half of my introduction to Unfinished Business? It is no joke. Sections of my blog are much easier to cover when it does not require much research. Let’s skip the ado and take care of some unfinished business.

TOPIC #4: ALL-STAR AND RETURNEE SEASONS SINCE TAR 11.

2004: Survivor 8: All Stars.

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2006: Big Brother 7: All Stars.

mike boogie

2007: The Amazing Race 11: Real All Stars.

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TAR had by far the most success with planning their all-star format when it came to casting the important members from their franchise and making it as “epic” as possible.

BB All Stars, while great for the most part, had disappointing stretches here and there.

Survivor All Stars was considered to be a nightmare for Probst and perhaps one of the ugliest seasons in any competitive reality show in the past fifteen years.

It would take Survivor twelve seasons before reviving the all-star format. As for Big Brother? Nearly a decade later and there is no sign of another one coming up down the road.

As for TAR? They waited just seven seasons to redo another season full of returning players. The only way it failed in TAR 11 is that the general audience (but not me) were unhappy with who won the game.

It only makes sense that the competition which had the best run with this format would attempt it again just four years later.

However, just because BB and Survivor did not have an all-star season does not mean they put a halt to returning players. In fact, this would become a Survivor staple in years to come. For Big Brother, they will at one point do this three times in the span of four years.

Let’s take a quick look at seasons involving returning players leading up to TAR 18: “Jodi’s” Fodder Friends vs. Actual Competitors.

2005: Survivor 11: Guatemala — The Mayan Empire.

danni boatwright

This season aired before TAR 11: Real All Stars, but I never talked about it leading up to my TAR 11 blog.

While my family absolutely loathed StepheMe, she resonated with the American audience south of the border and was re-cast along with the much more likable Bobby Jon.

This is the last “classic” season before we enter the Transition Era of Exile Island and Cook Islands.

This is the first season of Survivor that is neither hated nor beloved by fans. It is the epitome of a season I feel indifferent to from start to finish. Original Nakum was awesome, and thus seeing Danni take the prize at the end was extremely satisfying.

I know Probst and Co. hated it while filming because not only did Danni hide her strategy, but StepheMe took such a hit during the season that her performance in Guatemala wasn’t even acknowledged in Heroes vs. Villains. They also didn’t like many of the new players as it is the only cast of new players to not have anyone brought back for a second time.

It overall was viewed as a failure, but yet the ratings held strong before the disastrous Exile Island. Survivor’s second foray into returning players once again left them disappointed.

2008: Survivor 16: Micronesia — Fans vs. Favo(u)rites

mikey b

I am not a fan of this season. . .but many other people are. To me it came off as a broken season where it didn’t feel like a true game had a chance to be played due to weird and predictable circumstances, but yet others found it super unpredictable.

This was the only season where I had a good grasp on what the boot order would be because I knew Erik, Jason, James, Ozzy, and Eliza would be dead at the merge because the others there demonstrated they are capable of outplaying them. Not to mention Joel’s aggressiveness, Mary Who, and other pre-merge boots were either outsiders or trainwrecks.

For those of you who do not know how this season came to be, producers originally told twenty returning players they were going to fly out to Micronesia/actually Palau again.

At the very last minute, they cut ten of them to disrupt pre-game alliances, and flew out with ten so-called superfans.

Probst liked the ten people coming back because none of them acted like rock stars and divas which were commonly found in the All Stars cast. I assume this was the case because Survivor was not as big of a deal anymore, and nobody has ever become truly famous due to Survivor in the past twenty seasons.

I wish the boot order was in reverse and some of the ridiculous twist decisions were vetoed, but fans loved the product they were shown. This was a big hint to CBS that seasons involving returning players can in fact work very well.

Probst was so bold as to say before reading the votes at Final Tribal Council that this was the casual fan’s favourite season since Borneo. Okay then. I guess we’re in for more people coming back, I suppose.

2009: Big Brother 11.

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One twist I have always wanted to see in a competitive reality show is for the winner of the previous season being forced to come back and defend their title in the subsequent season. This pattern continues to create a picture of who the best player truly is in the whole franchise.

Sadly, this is unrealistic in the real world and can never happen.

The closest we have come to attempt this scenario is when BB11 brought back one returning player against a bunch of newbies.

jessie

Not just any returning player, though. . .It’s Mr. Pectacular!

At the beginning of the season, I was excited because my childhood favourite houseguest Cowboy had the chance to come back after being screwed over by America’s Vote leading up to BB7: All Stars.

Instead some early boot nobody from the previous season gets to play again and, what do you know, he goes home early again.

I love how Mr. Pectacular is a full-fledged running joke in Big Brother history. He has appeared in nearly every season since then in the form of a cameo, and is the only person to be alone as a returnee against a house full of new players.

It is like producers watched the Joe Schmo Show, and adapted it for Big Brother. Except in this scenario the Schmo has nicer abs.

This season aired during my BB hiatus between BB9 and BB11 because I hated BB8 so much that it killed my interest in the series for four years. Then BB13 aired which killed my interest for another two years.

From what little content I have seen of BB11 over the years, none of the players are particularly likable. It is bothersome that Jeff and Jordan were the most popular people from the season, and go on to be super irritating and frustrating to me in BB13. Going back to some of their BB11 clips left me scratching my head as to how they gained super duper obsessive fans over the years.

Did I mention how much I love Jeff & Jordan not being apart of TAR 18?

Overall, nobody has thought of retrying the format of having a lone returnee against a fresh cast. I assume it is because fans would view it as a non-factor going into the season. Especially if it is as minor of a character as Jessie.

Although, I doubt this would be the case if Survivor decided to bring back somebody like Rupert against a bunch of new players. It would be a test for execs to see how much of a ratings draw Rupert truly could be after all these years.

Just for the record: CBS–DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS IDEA. DON’T DO IT!

I am more than happy with this resting as a mere hypothetical.

2010: Survivor 20: Heroes vs. Villains.

coach cry

This is the true start of CBS obsessing with returning players. It all stems from the great critical acclaim and mainstream attention Survivor temporarily received during Heroes vs. Villains.

Probst was in a place where he could handle any player thrown at him. He is getting older and is patient with anybody who behaves like a rockstar and/or diva. Everybody in production can handle it.

There have been so many stars created over the years that they can now have a cast (almost) full of them whenever they wish to do so.

The season offered something for everybody. The odd Hantz fans who think he is a strong player, the people on the east coast who view Bee Rob as some sort of god, Tyson’s blunder, JT’s blunder, Sandra being amazing, and others such as Coach and Courtney who bring a ton of comedic moments to the table, and then the other characters who satisfy viewers who strictly watch it for the strategy.

Heroes vs. Villains is the only returnee season outside of Philippines that I would consider to be in my top ten. There are flaws with Heroes vs. Villains, but I have already written a blog post about that in my Survivor Rankings that I did over four years ago.

Perhaps Heroes vs. Villains’ universal appeal sent too strong of a message to CBS that the audience wants their “favourites” to play again repeatedly.

In the next five years, TAR 18, TAR 24, Survivor 22, 23, 25, 27, 31, BB 13, and BB 14 will all have returning players.

That is A LOT in five years. I am worried Big Brother Canada or TAR Canada will be encouraged to go in this direction if their first returnee season works out for either franchise.

If any season was directly responsible for Unfinished Business, the widespread success of Heroes vs. Villains is likely the biggest culprit.

However, TAR 18 producers failed to take note of how Heroes vs. Villains had several old school players within their cast. In fact, half of their players had not returned in over two years, and seven of them have waited more than four years.

Unlike the TAR 18 cast where nine of their eleven teams had played within two years, and the other two teams hadn’t waited more than four to be brought back.

Not sure how TAR producers missed the memo on that one.

Oh, and Micronesia and All Stars, the season with the highest number of representatives, only composed of twenty percent of the total cast each. Unlike TAR 14 which nearly had an outright majority in TAR 18.

It is like CBS couldn’t quite figure out what made Heroes vs. Villains successful, and merely interpreted the whole season as “Well, returning players do well for ratings! Let’s not learn why that is and mass produce them!”

Sigh.

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P.S. Poor Colby. :/

2011: Survivor: Redemption Island.

phillip

This aired simultaneously with TAR 18, but I think it is important to talk about this now.

It is the only season of Survivor I have yet to finish. I have tried on four separate occasions, but I can never make it through. It is just too terrible.

I didn’t watch it during its original airing because I thought Redemption Island was a really stupid twist, and I watched the videos of each contestant only to wonder why the heck they were chosen. Most of them had Type ‘B’ personalities and I expected them to be horrible television.

For weeks I kept hearing “Oh Logan, you’re not a TRUE Survivor fan if you refuse to watch a season!”

I was smug because I know crappy seasons tend to have a great beginning in the first three weeks. If your big upsets happen early on in the game, that means you are bound to have nothing to build up to for the second half and have a crappy finish.

Fast forward to May when the majority of the audience proclaimed Redemption Island to be the worst season ever. I was right about how awful it was going to be even before the season started. πŸ˜€

The lesson learned from Redemption Island: Casting has-beens like Bee Rob, Russell, and mostly dull new players can all impact a season. Who you choose to play together actually matters.

Sadly, Redemption Island could not air a year earlier and teach TAR 18 a valuable lesson.

2011: The Amazing Race 18: Unfinished Business.

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And here we are. Back to the present timeline of this blog. As you can see, I think the success of Heroes vs. Villains is the only reason why TAR 18 had returning players less than a year later.

Micronesia’s positive reviews indirectly served as a stepping stone for a competitive reality show to try the all-star format once more, and because it worked, the whole landscape of competitive reality TV has changed.

At first, TAR 18 could be viewed as a celebration of ten years of TAR (the end of the race marked ten years of completion; TAR 11 started filming just after the five year milestone). However, since the milestone was never mentioned, I assume the season was made as a response to Heroes vs. Villains.

If you thought seven seasons between TAR 11 and TAR 18 was brief to redo an all-star concept, well, it’ll only be six seasons until the next one.

And I can guarantee you TAR 30 will be another all-star season if TAR makes it that far.

Sorry if you thought TAR was going to stray away from returning players. I just don’t want you to be disappointed when it happens. Heck, I wouldn’t be shocked if it gets bumped up to TAR 28 and we see Jet & Cord for a fourth time. Seriously.

TOPIC #5: WHO WAS CAST

I will begin with the team who competed most recently.

GARY & MALLORY

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A team from Kentucky who finished in sixth place who played in the season right before an all-star gets to compete again?

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That hasn’t happened before!

It’s clear that picking a racer who would be bubbly all season long was a priority for producers heading into TAR 18. Choosing a competitive beauty pageant queen who is family-friendly was likely viewed as a potential home run.

Knowing what happens with Gary & Mallory in TAR 24, it is clear producers only truly cared about having Mallory on TAR 18. Gary is just there because he represents the family member to help connect with the core Conservative TAR audience.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Gary & Mallory observed their opponents and realized their image was going to take a huge positive boost by the end of the season on TV. They must have known a bunch of the other teams were bound to get into some sort of conflict with each other or the other teams. Especially if Gary & Mallory refuse to use the U-Turn because it was not “fair play”.

You have to keep in mind TAR 18 filmed before TAR 17 was done airing on TV. Producers were forced to predict who the audience wanted to see from this season. Given that the edit focused so heavily on 5th placer Chad & Stephanie, it is a bit of a shock that producers went in the opposite direction and opted to forego that pay-off in favour of redoing Gary & Mallory’s storyline.

I mean, Mallory had a minor edit in TAR 17, but nothing that would suggest to the viewer that producers would have a change of heart and double down on the Kentucky family-friendly edit.

And this double down will prove to benefit producers. If you want to choose any of Mallory’s three iterations to remember her by in terms of her legacy, this would be it.

***

And now to the team that is hated by the online community, but favoured heavily by casual fans who have zero knowledge of behind-the-scenes stuff in the reality TV community.

JET & CORD

unfinished business jet cord

I would argue TAR 18 was set up to feature two teams and nine supporting characters. Yes, two teams who would need to be on board to play if CBS would green light Unfinished Business.

One of those two teams? Jet & Cord.

You have to keep in mind TAR 16 and Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains simultaneously. Survivor essentially built Samoa and Heroes vs. Villains around one character to be the focus of their franchise for TV viewers to identify it with when thinking about the show.

TAR 16 did the same thing, and you knew it was a sign that producers wanted nothing more than to insert their star into a season very soon to try and get casual fans hooked for the sake of ratings.

It is too bad promoting Jet & Cord so intensely during TAR 16 turned off a lot of the hardcore TAR fans since day one. Between this and forcing Jeff & Jordan upon us, I remember seeing articles written by fanatics who said they would “finally” call it quits after staying loyal to the series for such a long time.

Of course, this happening during TAR 16 is funny to think about now because we fast forward over five years later to TAR freakin’ 27 airing on TV at the moment. If you think about the hiatuses early on in the series and how TAR 16 was the lowest rated finale in terms of viewers, absolutely nobody in 2010 would believe TAR would still be a thing in 2015.

Back then nobody followed the homophobic slur incident that occurred with Dan & Jordan at a fan event. In fact, I would say it is not until this past year that the story has somewhat reached the casual fanbase, thus igniting the long overdue opposition to Jet & Cord as the face of the series.

But let’s get back to the reality of 2011. Jet & Cord were painted as small-town dudes who embody these honourable Lone Wolves in a pack of cutthroat heathens.

Dan & Jordan were assassinated by the edit at the expense of making Jet & Cord look like a team who were victims of an unfair race tactic, and would have won the game if everyone played fair.

Fan favourites who were screwed over by “liars and cheaters” or a “bitter jury”? That’s exactly who you bring back for an all-star season!

I have wondered if a huge number of the TAR 14 fodder were picked solely to increase Jet & Cord’s odds of winning this season.

Not only do we get TAR 14 fodder, but two additional parent-child teams, a guy who lost his passport, high-strung Goths, and basketball players who suck at mental challenges.

It is tough to deny that producers didn’t slant the table a -little bit- for Jet & Cord. Think how great of a story that would have been.

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“FAN FAVOURITES SCREWED OVER ONE YEAR LATER COME BACK AND WIN THE AMAZING RACE”

That’s a headline which would have entered general entertainment news streams. It is something which a pair of all-female winners was somewhat able to accomplish during TAR 17. TAR is desperate to keep itself alive in the media.

The online community assumed the editors would be very kind to Jet & Cord during TAR 18. They can do no wrong.

Which leads me to an amusing story. This leaked online from one of the players, but when teams were together during TAR 18 they would discuss their past season. In these conversations everyone would laugh and joke about how they were eliminated. Nobody had animosity towards any previous team who may have screwed them over. Even Amanda & Kris and Kisha & Jen had no issues with Margie & Luke. Only team was still bitter about their defeat. Who was that one team?

Yep. Jet & Cord. Supposedly they blamed Dan & Jordan and were still holding them one hundred percent responsible for losing TAR 16. A year had passed but Jet & Cord had yet to get over it.

You know people are going to U-Turn Jet & Cord at some point during TAR 18. It is just a matter of successfully beating them to the U-Turn mat. If this occurs, Jet & Cord are bound to use their fanbase to target the team who “wasn’t playing fair and honest like we are”.

Therefore, our best case scenario is if a team with such a positive fanbase who cannot have their reputation smeared is willing to take one for the team and put them out of the race.

And thank goodness there is a team exactly like that in this cast.

P.S. As you know, producers kept Jet & Cord alive as the face of their franchise by reviving them from the ashes for TAR 24. I know I am skipping ahead here, but it is difficult to not reference their TAR 24 run when we can safely say it may be a couple years before I get to blogging about that season.

Because Jet & Cord won a fan favourite poll posted during the TAR 24 finale week, many people have asked me if I think the Cowboys will play for a *gasp* FOURTH time before the series ends.

My initial response: Dear god no. CBS wouldn’t sink that low and re-use stars for a fourth time. Given that I assume TAR 30 will be a returnee season, that would mark four appearances in the span of seven years. Holy crap.

My carefully thought out response: I would say it was a certainty after TAR 24 ended. Jet & Cord were still a draw for the casual audience. Since Jet & Cord were in TAR 24, it is a telling sign that producers want that story arc where the Cowboys can finally pull off a victory on The Amazing Race.

However, as I said earlier, Jet & Cord’s reputation has taken a hit in the past eighteen months. TAR 24 witnessed such a ratings plummet that Jet & Cord are now tied to the two most significant seasons to lose viewers. They might be popular amongst existing fans, but that ain’t gonna help if everyone else who has a fading interest will stop watching. I know prominent reality TV columnists who have outright said “I will quit watching TAR if Jet & Cord play for a fourth time”.

In other words, I will go on record to state that there is a seventy percent chance we can talk about Jet & Cord’s time on TAR in the past tense.

***

FLIGHT TIME & BIG EASY

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The Harlem Globetrotters are a recognizable brand. Other than the minor exception of Lori & Bolo and Jin Lao, Flight Time & Big Easy are the only team to go by their stage branding names rather than their real ones.

Much like Gary & Mallory and Jet & Cord, picking a pair of Harlem Globetrotters helps promote the idea that The Amazing Race is artificial family fun (which I regret is a direction producers took because it makes the series not quite as fun to talk about).

I thought it was going to be a one-time crossover. Flight Time & Big Easy sign up for a CBS show not truly knowing what it is about, and know their job will be to entertain the audience as they travel around and compete.

They keep the brand alive by following Sam & Dan every leg, try to do their Globetrotty antics, and finish in fourth place with a super memorable blunder attached to their name.

In my expertise, I thought this would be the end of it.

Obviously, I couldn’t be more wrong.

I did not think Herb and/or Nate would be the type of people interested to agree to participate on The Amazing Race with a brief eighteen month break. Maybe they are tired of basketball. Who knows.

It is argued Big Easy has the most absurd blunder of them all. Sure, Mika had the waterslide scene but she had zero racing spirit which fit how her situation played out. And yes, Anders’ blunder in TAR 22 with the surfboards is a strong contender.

But the Globetrotters had a lock on the Final Three. Brian & Ericka would have been dead in that leg ninety-nine times out of one hundred. Big Easy couldn’t unscramble a five-letter word after several hours. A five-letter word which had just one goddamn vowel.

Seeing the Globetrotters for a second time raised a couple of questions. Could they run their own race? And how will returning teams react if the Globetrotters decide to promote their brand and resume their old tactics of clinging to others?

Because if they are brave enough to risk a short life in the game, the Globetrotters’ reputation could be cleansed and significantly re-write a tarnished legacy. The Globetrotty antics was their biggest charm. Can they recognize that and have fun with it?

P.S. Oh? Are you going to ask me if the Globetrotters will also play TAR for a fourth time? Nah. I doubt it. Their edit was tiny in TAR 24 despite lasting the majority of the season. Producers probably feel that a 3rd round for Flight Time & Big Easy was a mistake. Phil likes them, though.

***

ZEV & JUSTIN

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Zev & Justin were one of few teams who could either match or top Meghan & Cheyne’s skill level in TAR 15. When they see who their competition is three seasons later, they must have been stoked.

No offense, but they must have been relieved to see Meghan & Cheyne, Sam & Dan, and Gary & Matt to be traded in for people like Kris & Amanda, Mel & Mike, and Jaime & Cara.

TAR 11 had a strict criteria to not cast a team who finished worse than 6th place. Much like how Survivor: All Stars never had anybody who was voted out before Day 21.

The rules have changed over the years. We see first boots mixed in with runner-ups or early pre-merge exits with winners.

Zev & Justin finished ninth, but it was more of a disqualification. I think Toni & Dallas would agree with that because it helps soften the blow of being defeated in TAR 13 by Dandrew.

Again, seeing Zev & Justin appear without Toni & Dallas is bizarre to me. Both teams made an unthinkable blunder and represent two demographics, but yet only one of them receives an invite. I will always be confused by this.

The only difference is Toni & Dallas were not taken as legit contenders until the ninth round when they won a leg. Zev & Justin finished 2nd in the premiere and followed it up with “winning” the Cambodia leg three rounds later. It is not until after checking in that Phil says they could not continue.

Perhaps producers had a big ‘What if?’ of their own because they thought Zev & Justin could win the darn thing. Toni & Dallas’ odds were much lower (how is 1-in-4 lower?). Chances are Zev & Justin both know who Joseph Stalin is.

Zev & Justin demonstrated quite a bit of personality in four episodes. Zev’s lack of filter creates a lot of potential when it comes to confessionals. If they lasted a bit longer, Zev could have slayed the other fools during each mat chat while Justin plays the straight man. In addition, Justin is a great speaker and witty comedian. Engaged with the audience greatly helps their widespread appeal.

There is no doubt producers wanted to see how Zev & Justin would do if provided with room to play for TAR 18. Zev is a huge fan of the show and I think producers wanted to be kind enough to award him a proper chance to compete.

Seeing how they have the worst finish of any team going into this season, nobody would have been cruel enough to U-Turn them. Five TAR 14 fodder teams, good ol’ Cowboys, over-the-top Goths, and a confrontational old man are going to take a lot of heat in conflict.

I am curious if producers secretly hoped Justin would lose another passport. Could a team screw up that badly twice with the game alive in their hands? This is Zev & Justin’s chance to be memorable because -everybody- remembers Toni & Dallas’ blunder before theirs.

***

JAIME & CARA

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It is incredible these two and Kisha & Jen are the all-female teams to be brought back.

Jaime & Cara were not well-liked by the general audience. They were apart of the most unpopular Final Three in TAR history. To this day I am amazed I rooted for them to win in the season finale. That is when you know you have an odd season on your hands.

You know why Jaime & Cara were cast. Producers, while big fans of finding family-friendly teams with one-dimensional images to cater to TAR’ core fanbase, also need drama to keep the buzz alive.

What better way than finding a team who argued with several locals, are prone to being hot-headed, and built alliances to splinter the whole group?

Few all-female teams possess the level of punishing aggressivity that Jaime & Cara do, but without the accessibility to the casual fan to help identify with them.

If anything, they are like a poor man’s version of the Chipmunks.

Alright, that analogy may be a bit of a stretch. A -homeless- man’s version of the Chipmunks. Sure, Dustin & Kandice had Barbie-like personalities which seem cold at times, but they acted like regular uninteresting people who weren’t afraid to target others.

Jaime & Cara, on the other hand, were very real but also too douchey to be accepted by the audience.

When I saw Jaime & Cara’s names on the list, I assumed producers wanted somebody who would irritate the crap out of the audience. I also assumed they wanted somebody who could irritate the crap out of the audience but knew would not last long at all.

Producers wanted that team who could provide a satisfying early exit while the other fan favourites could last longer and create long-running stars.

Of course, this will all backfire if Jaime & Cara survive their mutual TAR 14 fodder and make it to the end once again.

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But yes, producers wanted somebody they could count on to create early drama. There is no way Jaime has changed in two years. She is bound to blow up quickly and often.

From Jaime & Cara’s perspective, I think they came into this expecting to have a shot at winning as well as wanting to prove the audience wrong and pull off the win.

They want the highly coveted all-female crown. It will likely involve yelling at taxi drivers, pranking other racers, and laughing at their own antics. That’s the Jaime & Cara way.

***

MARGIE & LUKE

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I said TAR 18 happened because of two teams, and producers didn’t really care about anyone else who was cast.

One team was Jet & Cord. Who was the other team that they wanted to compete oh so badly?

Margie & Luke is your answer. If they competed on TAR 15, four other teams from that season would have played instead of TAR 14 fodder. It’s true. You sure as hell wouldn’t have Amanda & Kris.

Think about all of the storylines heading into TAR 18. Margie & Luke are in the perfect situation to eat up a lot of screen time. It is up to them to not screw it up.

Amanda & Kris were U-Turned out of the race by Margie & Luke.
Mel & Mike worked with Margie & Luke while labelling Luke as the Sinister Deaf Kid.
Kisha & Jen and Margie & Luke got into the most uncomfortable argument in TAR history.
Jaime & Cara were Margie & Luke’s closest allies all the way to the finish line.

Add in the fact Margie & Luke are both usually in a position to film The Amazing Race whenever called upon, and you have a team producers will not hesitate to use three times in the span of five years.

As recently as six months ago, Phil told the story about how Luke winning the opening leg of TAR 14 is one of his personal favourite moments.

Now imagine what a moment like Margie & Luke crossing the finish line would be like for the Kiwi. He and the producers would go wild about it.

A mother-son team where the son has a disability wins The Amazing Race? That would be huge news, and something producers were begging to occur in TAR 14.

It’s funny when you think about TAR 14’s ending. A 68 year old, Little People, two all-female teams, a mother-son duo with hearing impairment, and a generic sibling team in the top six. . .and the generic sibling team wins. Producers had to be pissed.

I am upset knowing that if Margie & Luke weren’t on TAR then Toni & Dallas would have had this slot. I presume that would be the case, anyway.

Instead Margie follows up a super uncomfortable moment by being allowed to play a second time. Personally I thought their story arc was meant for one season, but producers disagreed.

In fact, so many people were on Margie & Luke’s side heading into the episode that Kisha & Jen are blamed for the incident. Sure, Margie & Luke took a bit of a hit, but their reputation was salvaged in the eyes of most fans.

Margie is unique because she has this grumpy but hard-working attitude which is responsible for propelling the team. There hasn’t really been another Margie on TAR.

I know producers wanted Margie & Luke to make it to the end of TAR 18. Why do I figure this is what they hoped for? Because they cast three teams who Margie & Luke beat easily in TAR 14, and the only team from that season to beat Margie & Luke are their closest allies.

What I was intrigued about going into the season is if Margie & Luke had reacted to some of the negative feedback they received, and would change deep down as people for TAR 18. Is Margie aware she can be enabling? Has Luke gained some self-confidence and being able to break away from Margie a bit? I was interested to find out.

This was meant to be Jet & Cord and Margie & Luke’s season. . .and the same will tragically apply to TAR 24. . .and probably to TAR 30.

P.S. Luke might be the most diehard fan of TAR out there. In a way, I do not feel too bad he had the chance to play again. He really wanted this. As soon as Luke was done with TAR 24, he has advocated for a Fans vs. Favo(u)rites season where he and Margie would take on a bunch of newbies.

Now, do I think Margie & Luke will be invited back to TAR for their fourth appearance? I can confidently say it won’t happen. Their performances in TAR 18 and 24 will result in the spotlight on them to fade away rapidly.

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P.P.S. I recently discovered that Luke is an advocate for reviving the classic weekly Fast Forward format. I award five points to Gryffindor.

P.P.P.S. Yeah, I am aware I have mixed thoughts on Margie & Luke.

***

KISHA & JEN

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Jen should be happy she figuratively pissed away a million dollars because otherwise her and Kisha would not have been asked to play.

Being the target of hatred by America’s Favourites followed by giving up on the race because of a bathroom break? Mix in Kisha’s sneezing and laughing would lead to a picture of a team who were not in the casual fans’ good graces.

“She couldn’t even hold it for a million dollars?!”
“How dare she LAUGH at him! That’s rude!”
“How did they misplace their belongings? They are so stupid!”

Seriously. Kisha & Jen’s fandom was limited to a pocket of superfans on the Internet.

If Big Easy’s Znarf Kafka was an absurd blunder, then Jen’s was bizarre and weird. It fit in perfectly with the off-putting narrative of TAR 14.

“A team is eliminated because they stopped for a bathroom break metres away from the pit stop? Really? This isn’t a child’s fanfic being acted out?”

I doubt many people took Kisha & Jen seriously prior to Unfinished Business. Nobody remembered them as a particularly dominant or dynamic team. Kisha & Jen were on the right season to luck out with this invitation.

china jen hoffman 2

Their reputation can only climb, but is it possible for them to eliminate the bathroom break legacy? And how will the interactions be between them and Margie & Luke? Will other teams outcast Kisha & Jen automatically?

Much like Jaime & Cara, Kisha & Jen entered TAR 18 with some bad press. Unlike Jaime & Cara, however, Kisha & Jen have a genuine chance to bat it all away.

***

MEL & MIKE

germany mike 3

Mel is seventy years old. He had multiple injuries during TAR 14 and has grown two years older since then.

Besides Kris & Amanda, Mel & Mike were the most unexpected team to be picked. Mel could barely compete the first half of the race. How in the world did producers believe Mel would be healthier two years later?

I am not against ancient people on TAR. Jody Kelly, while there just for the adventure, at least proved herself to be a very durable person. Her background in marathons and triathlons at the age of 72 reassured producers that she could endure through the race.

siberia mel

Meanwhile Mel, who is a good speaker in confessionals and a great talker on the race, has zero durability or endurance. He was lucky the first half of TAR 14 was in cold climates. Do you recall how rough of shape he was in when they stepped into India? He was ready to die during the Roadblock.

Mel must have put everything he had into passing the pre-season medical test. If I was a doctor watching the TAR 14 tapes, I would have thought twice about approving him for going on the show.

Producers must have thought Mel’s condition was a big enough risk to ensure they could use his and Mike’s witty commentary during Unfinished Business. There really wasn’t another reason to have them play again.

My question going into Unfinished Business was “Will Mel & Mike be the first ones out or will Mel & Mike be the first ones out?”

Everyone in this cast is in prime physical condition. Maybe producers wanted Mel to be medically evacuated to create a buzzworthy mainstream moment. Okay, I doubt they are that evil, but that was a very likely possibility.

It will require a TAR 15-like twist to ensure Mel & Mike are not the first ones out. But producers wouldn’t bring back such an awful twist, right? . . .right?

P.S. Does anybody know when Mike became good friends with Jeff Probst? Because it could explain Mel & Mike’s ease of getting cast for Unfinished Business. Or Mike was well-connected even if you exclude Mr. Probst.

KRIS & AMANDA

switzerland amanda kris

Let’s talk about the team I frequently refer to as Kris & Jon. The team whose names appeared on the casting list and made me laugh out loud at home when I read it.

Ever since Survivor: All Stars aired in spring of 2004, we have had over ten years of competitive reality shows using returnees. In all of my experience watching these gimmicky themed seasons, there has never been a more random casting choice to be brought back in the genre’s entire history than one particular team that participated in TAR 18.

It is the only team I made fun of for being invisible out of the fourteen seasons of TAR that I watched as they aired.

It is the only team whose names I screw up six years later without even doing so as a joke–friends of mine online can attest to the fact that I genuinely make the mistake.

It is the only team who had the most vanilla and blandest edit of any team I have ever seen.

And of course, it is the only team who can blame Margie & Luke for their elimination, and with “Jodi” helping out her friends, this is the nail in the coffin as to how clouded her judgment really was.

amanda kris intro 3

“They get to be on The Amazing Race for a third time?! TAR 4, 14, and now 18?

kris jon intro

Wait. Or is it them? I really hated it when Freddy & KKKendra beat them to the finish line in the lamest final round of all time.

In all seriousness, I don’t have a screencap of Kris & Amanda.

To emphasize how indifferent this team is to the casual audience or how little of an impression they left on TAR 14, there is a story I love to tell.

Whenever Survivor or TAR brings players back, I always show the photos of them to my parents and sister to refresh their memories as to who they are. Especially if I give them a bit of information about the player beforehand, and they can’t quite remember who it is.

When it came to the TAR 18 cast, they recalled everyone either by the information I gave or after I showed them the photo.

THEM: Who are Kris & Amanda?
ME: You’re not going to remember them.
THEM: Oh c’mon, our memories aren’t that bad. We’ve gotten everybody else so far.
ME: They got U-Turned by Margie & Luke out of the race in season fourteen. They finished eighth or something.
THEM: Still not ringing a bell. Can we see a picture?
(Shows picture.)
THEM: No. . .and you said that’s Kris & Amanda?

Now let’s fast forward to three weeks later. I saw the season premiere, but my frustration with who they chose and the overall format of the first round left me frustrated to where following Unfinished Business was no longer my priority. On a day off from university, I asked my mother and aunt who had been eliminated so far (they follow most reality shows). I knew Amanda & Kris were gone from reading discussion groups online, but had no idea if there was another team or two that were gone.

ME: So who has been eliminated from the race so far?
MOTHER: Uh, the father and son. Mel and Mike.
ME: . . .Anyone else?
MOTHER: Huh. Yeah. Just the one team.
ME: Wasn’t Kris & Amanda eliminated?
MOTHER: Who?
ME: The team I said you wouldn’t remember.

It’s the only TAR 18 discussion I can recall vividly back when the season aired.

To me, this confirms my belief that CBS nor production checked over “Jodi’s” proposed casting choices. They probably only cared about getting Cowboys and Globetrotters, and nothing else really mattered to them.

Who was the most random casting choice in TAR 11 (besides a hybrid team of two recent characters that weren’t even dating anymore) as perceived by the general audience?

john vito jill

That’s right. John Vito & Jill. A team that was very popular during TAR 3, and had one of the most powerful casting stories of any competitive reality show ever.

Who was the most random choice on TAR 24?

caroline jennifer

Caroline & Jennifer, but they played just one year earlier and had made it all the way to leg eleven.

Even if you look at Survivor and bring up folks like Monica Culpepper or Amber Brkich, they all had some sort of legacy. Amber was distinctly remembered as Jerri’s little buddy, and Monica was thrown around as being a disappointing exit who was also married to an ex-NFLer.

I would like to see the production room discussion when “Jodi” mentioned Amanda & Kris. What was her pitch like? Was revisionist history involved? Were ten other teams already locked in, and they just needed to find a team to lock in before the casting deadline at midnight?

What kills me is that Amanda & Kris’ place in TAR history will go from “the team nobody remembers” to “the team almost nobody remembers except for the few who love comedy”.

It’s hilarious. If you look up “casting fodder”, Amanda & Kris’ picture would occupy the whole page.

It has been nearly five years since TAR 18 aired, and I have yet to understand how Amanda & Kris get to be part of an exclusive club of those who have played The Amazing Race twice. Not Ken & Gerard. Not Lena & Kristy. Not BJ & Tyler or Chip & Kim. Not Brook & Claire or Toni & Dallas.

But Amanda & Kris are apart of this group. They have played twice before all of those teams. I guess losing your passport for one second or being U-Turned by Margie & Luke is what set them apart.
.
.
.
Okay. It’s just because they raced with “Jodi”, but still. πŸ˜›

***

RON & CHRISTINA

ronald christina laundry

The most successful parent-child team of all-time who had a tumultuous relationship? Unless producers wanted to ignore TAR 12 as much as TAR 13 and go with super ultra recency bias, Ron & Christina had to be a lock.

What other teams could Ron argue with this time? Gary? Margie? Luke? The Cowboys? The dude is unpredictable and everyone was eager to see if this man had changed in the span of four years.

While I was also laughing at how Ron is a health risk, his wasn’t quite as severe as Mel’s. Ron’s biggest issue was a hernia which eventually healed by the end of his first run. Does he have any other wounds this time or can he run another full season?

In fact, there was an extra round of play compared to TAR 12. That is an additional two to three days of potential wear and tear. I know producers love what Ron brought to the table, but are they being a little too optimistic?

I love how they identified Ron & Christina’s story arc may not be finished yet. We can hear them go on and on about how Ron & Christina have a fully functioning relationship at the TAR 12 finish line, but there can be a lot of change during their four year break. Christina found enough time to get married to another TAR racer for crying out loud.

You also have Christina who had the biggest meltdown of any team ever at the final Roadblock.

singapore hussein sutadisastra 19

eric final flags

Well, other than these guys.

All Christina had to do was change one thing about her original answer to the riddle and she wins the season. Case closed. Now she gets to be in an Eric Sanchez-like state of mind where she had to be absolutely determined not to mess up at the final task once more.

I know we will have some moments involving Ron & Christina to talk about in TAR 18. They can’t let me down. It certainly helps that the TAR 14 fodder will buy them a lot of time in the event Ron is held back by a possible physical injury. . .or turning into his explosive self.

KENT & VYXSIN

kynt laugh

Kent went from occasionally having a vowel in his name to permanently having one in the memory of his father.

Since I posted my Part 1 Introduction, I am almost positive that Kent & Vyxsin broke up a few years after Unfinished Business. This season is the last time to view them as a couple.

The effort they put into promoting the show had finally paid off. They are going to bicker in their eccentric Gothy ways. They will break down. They will crumble under the pressure.

And it will be delicious to watch.

I have always appreciated Kent exhibiting femininity while Vyxsin portrays the Tomboy. She appeared to be overall more suited for TAR Combat than Kent was in TAR 12. Has Kent worked hard in the past four years to make himself as strong physically and mentally as Vyxsin, or will pressure rest on her pink shoulders once more?

It is tough to picture them going early. They have a lot of racing experience and there a lot of physically compromised and WTF-worthy teams in this cast that they should coast for a while.

Or maybe they’ll have another “Stop this car!” moment, and they will choke early.

And you know they will want to build alliances. In fact, I thought them and Jaime & Cara would not get along AT ALL. Both are super competitive teams who try to play TAR like Survivor. There is no way these two teams will cooperate.

***

So there you have it. A mix of TAR 14 fodder and a bunch of parent-child teams. How the heck did “Jodi” and CBS execs green light this combination?

TOPIC: #6: FORMAT CHANGES FOR TAR 18

Wow. It took me a while, but we are finally ready to talk about the overall format and atmosphere for Unfinished Business.

1) There were a lot of twists early in the season.

This will become a pattern for TAR 18 and TAR 19. Nearly every big twist will happen in the first couple of rounds, and after that it will resume being a normal season. Let’s review these over-the-top and cringeworthy twists for Unfinished Business.

a) Reviving the Starting Line Task twist from TAR 15.

This will become a TAR staple. TAR 15 is the only season to do this to date, but that will change quickly. TAR 18 will start a four-season streak of doing one task at the starting line.

TAR 22 and 23 will regain their senses and take a break from this twist, but it will return religiously by TAR 24.

I have never been a fan of the Starting Line Task twist because it is like doing a task in a studio. Nearly every race begins in Los Angeles since TAR 11 which creates a vanilla feel there at the start of each season. Therefore, making teams do a task within Los Angeles seems silly. Do we really need to see paper airplanes in a field, hot air balloons in a field, a bridge to descend, or members of a marching band in a field?

No. No we do not.

Considering nearly every season premiere is one hour of television, wasting precious airtime for eleven teams doing a pointless task in Los Angeles robs us of seeing the travel destination for the round. Do you want thirty minutes in Japan where producers know they can only have or two tasks, or do you want forty minutes of airtime where you can throw a legitimate leg at the racers?

Knowing we do not leave a field in Los Angeles for a quarter of the episode is mind boggling. My fellow Canadians may embrace the lack of travel due to their strange brand of xenophobia, but that crap does not fly in America, man.

mia paper planes

The only way I approve of searching through paper planes in a field is if Natalie & Nadiya’s soundtrack plays in the background.

b) Eliminating the team who finishes the Starting Line Task in last place.

bilal denial

Eric & Lisa’s elimination in TAR 15 is argued to be the biggest bulls–t elimination in TAR history next to Bilal & Sa’eed. Nobody at home liked that twist, and Eric & Lisa metaphorically flipped off producers by refusing to tag along to Elimination Station. Everyone knew the twist was a really bad idea. Why the hell do you eliminate somebody over a freakin’ license plate five minutes into the race in their hometown?! Why?!

Somehow, producers forgot all about this and will repeat this twist for TAR 18.

I know what you are saying: “Logan, the team who found the paper plane last was not eliminated by Phil right there. Didn’t you know that?”

Well, sure, the team wasn’t eliminated but they may as well have been.

For Unfinished Business, the last team to find a paper plane would be automatically U-Turned at the first Detour.

Some people in 2015 may argue it gave the team a fighting chance, but you have to remember what TAR was like at the time. Every single team (in the US version) who had been U-Turned was always eliminated from the race. Yes, Brook & Claire survived a U-Turn, but the only team they beat was Chad & Stephanie who were also victims of the Double U-Turn.

In other words, no U-Turned team had ever defeated a non-U-Turned team in the six-season history of the twist. It is safe to say the twist is ultimately a death sentence. If you are U-Turned, you better hope it is a Double U-Turn for the round. Otherwise, you are dead.

In TAR 19, the penalty for finishing in last at the Starting Line Task will greatly soften. Then penalizing anybody at the Starting Line Task will be gone for good after that.

Unfortunately, we will have to put up with this bogus twist for now.

c) A NEL on the opening leg.

While it may work due to the ten-team format in TAR Asia, it has never really fit for the US version.

In fact, this is another twist which is exclusive to TAR 15. The only difference is that this is formatted as a Keep On Racing round which means the entire season premiere will not matter (except for the Auto U-Turn twist). Whoever finishes in last will not even have to do so much as a Speed Bump. It appears the real opening leg pit stop took place in Los Angeles for the duo who could not find the correct paper airplane.

Tragic.

2) Multiple Keep On Racing rounds.

Ugh. I never liked this twist when it debuted in TAR 6 and I certainly do not like it now. I only approve of it if the last place team is required to do a Speed Bump in the following round.

Knowing this twist appears multiple times induces many eyerolls from yours truly. I am aware it is a great tool to wear out teams, and also cut down on the length of the race, but I hate how it usually produces an equalizer or all of the teams and renders the previous round completely meaningless.

I think multiple Keep On Racing rounds early in the season was TAR’s attempt to mimic Samoa-era Survivor of keeping in as many teams as possible for as long as humanly possible.

3) No new countries.

Okay. We get Liechtenstein for about twenty minutes, but there is no debuting country which occupies a full episode in a season. This has never happened before in TAR US’ 18-season history. Did producers have options on the table or were they being lazy?

Because of this and combine it with the fact every team is playing for a second time, a huge chunk of this task will be racing several rounds through familiar territory. That to me takes a bit of the adventure which draws in the audience to watch The Amazing Race.

Luckily, nearly every subsequent season will feature a new country for a full round except TAR 23 and 24. I give TAR 26 a pass because they successfully touched every inch of Monaco. That was impressive.

4) The failed Express Pass twist from TAR 17 comes back for a second time.

sweden express pass

It had zero effect on TAR 17. . .so we’ll try it again!

5) Six out of the first ten rounds take place in countries visited throughout TAR 14.

And yes, two of these six rounds are in China. That means TAR 14 fodder teams could be experiencing five rounds in China during their TAR lifetime. I know the TAR 14 teams needed to be given a fighting chance, but isn’t this favouritism being taken to an extreme?

6) For the first time ever, no Fast Forward was offered during the season.

The closest we have come to this format is, once again, TAR 14. There was an unaired Fast Forward where nobody wanted to give up all of their money in the Phuket leg. Because nobody attempted it, the Fast Forward was not shown on television.

This time one isn’t even on the table. Due to budget cuts, this format will continue for TAR 19. After that it shall be revived until the next returnee season comes along. Why do producers hate Fast Forwards in all-star seasons? They’ve already saved a ton of money during the casting process.

7) Filming in HD!

Yes, I saved the most insignificant for last. It had been more than two years since Survivor switched over to shooting in HD in Gabon. Some would say Survivor was a bit late to the HD craze.

TAR, however, took its sweet time. In fact, it took so much sweet time that Canada was only months away from ending analog TV services permanently (August of 2011).

I have referenced my old school technology throughout this blog over the years. For instance, I have every episode of Survivor recorded on a VHS tape all the way until Nicaragua. I skipped Redemption Island, and when I came back to Survivor for South Pacific, we finally switched our TV to digital but I couldn’t figure out how to record to VHS properly.

What is funny is that when we made the switch to digital in mid-2011 we were likely the only household with TVs that range from twenty to thirty inches. Well, the TV in my bedroom is half of that, but I never really used that one. I can assure you we had the smallest TVs for a family who now had the digital services. -_-

By 2011, people were moving well beyond digital TVs and stepping up to smart TVs as well as 3D Sony TVs. Last year I was at my ex-girlfriend’s house when we were still dating and I witnessed a 74-inch 3D TV for the first time. My mind was beyond blown.

Why am I bringing this up? Because I transitioned to digital right when TAR did. If TAR is advancing its technology at the same rate I am, the series is in serious trouble. My co-hosts on YATNcast, Michael and Ben, repeatedly make jokes about the outdated gadgets I still use to this day.

I truly am old school.

8) Ford steps in as a sponsour and never goes away.

It is time for the invasive product placement to begin for TAR! Ford’s advertisement within the show will become increasingly painful over the years that it begins to interfere with the integrity of the race.

Oh, and for some reason Snapple makes a cameo in Unfinished Business and then is never heard from again. A curious case, really.

9) The overall impression of the season: Expected to be an abomination at worst, but a forgettable season at best.

That’s the range of what could occur going into this season. With the poor casting, route design, and twists decided upon becoming public knowledge, everyone was prepared for this to be the most vile season of TAR to ever be produced.

If all of the TAR 14 fodder and the Cowboys make it to the end together, and we either have uncomfortable drama or none at all, and racers being screwed over by dumb twists, we will have a season that could smash TAR 14’s record as worst season ever made.

If, however, everything in our wildest dreams come true and goes against what we expect on paper, the best case scenario is that this season is mild and leaves little impression on the audience.

Thankfully, the latter is what happened. Out of all of the seasons I have seen discussed online over the past five years, TAR 18 and TAR 19 are in a virtual tie with TAR 4 for rarely being brought up in contrast to the other 26+ seasons out there. The season is one big sigh of relief that TAR’s legacy does not end up being forever tarnished. It got saved thanks to the aversion of twenty expected disasters meant to happen during the game.

All I can say is that as somebody who saw four episodes of TAR 18 live when it aired, the only truly memorable moment I have is the outcome of the first elimination. It is a hilarious moment for TAR history. From what I have heard, one meltdown followed by a ridiculous recovery is the only other true highlight of the season. Oh, and a painful waxing challenge. Other than these moments, TAR 18 is a mild season.

Thank god for that.

And thank god the pre-season preamble is over. Are you ready to start talking about each leg of the race? Are you ready for inappropriate jokes and pop culture references?

romania amanda kris

ARE YOU READY FOR AMANDA & KRIS?! HUH? ARE YA? THEN LET’S DO THIS THING!

***

Oh, and listen to the weekly Amazing Race podcast I do with YATNcast. We discussed the season premiere of TAR 27 a few days ago. v=Gc53wcjC0vk

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8 Responses to The Amazing Race 18 Unfinished Business Introduction Part 2

  1. Hugo says:

    I’m especially curious as to what you’ll think about this season since it’s the first one I ever watched in whole – my introduction to TAR. That’s made it somewhat less forgettable for me. Rewatching it four and a half years later, I’d say that it starts off terribly (as in the cast) but gets better as it goes along. By the halfway point, most of the worst elements are gone.

    “Other than the minor exception of Lori & Bolo, Flight Time & Big Easy are the only team to go by their stage branding names rather than their real ones.” I believe Jin of Ernest & Jin this season also qualifies.

    I think that Jaime & Cara were primarily cast because producers needed somebody to fill the “attractive all-female team” role. Same goes for Caroline & Jennifer in Season 24 – the one team who I couldn’t see any other reason at all why production would want to cast them.

    And just curious – what do you think of what CBS did for Survivor: Cambodia’s casting?

  2. Jordan says:

    Why are John Vito & Jill more unexpected than Eric & Danielle. You said they was popular and there was no precedent for a team to have 2 people who met on the race.

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