I write this as I sit in a San Pedro, Spain hostel at 1:30am. It wouldn’t surprise me if you find a bunch of typos.
TAR 28 was definitely the worst of 2016, but why is TAR Canada 4 hovering in the middle? Let’s explore this briefly.
THE CASTING WAS AMAZING
If the casting didn’t deliver this season, it would have wound up like a TAR Canada 1–a product that would make me disinterested, and skip out on watching the series for weeks at a time.
After TAR Canada 3’s slight disappointment in casting, everything was beefed up for season four. The only duds in the cast were out in the first episode, and all nine other teams have some form of entertaining legacy.
Remove Stephan’s bizarreness, Frankie & Amy, Kelly & Kate, and Joel & Ashley from the equation, and you have a season that would have been a case of “Why the hell am I watching this?”
Them and the TAR Canada 2 cast need to be proud for how they contributed to the series as an ensemble.
TOO MUCH DANCING AND MEMORY BASED CHALLENGES
There wasn’t much at first. My hopes were high. Then post-Vietnam happened. Production evidently loves these two types of challenges, but it makes episodes stand out less and less each time that they do it. And we’re only four seasons in.
THE PRODUCTION VALUE GOES IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION
Twelve teams, three continents, twelve rounds, and a mid-season reunion show? How about ten teams, two continents, eleven rounds, and just one reunion show? You ain’t that broke, are you CTV?
SPONSOURS WERE MORE FUNNY THAN ACTUALLY OFFERING ANYTHING
I love how the sponsour invasion of TAR Canada has become a self-deprecating joke. The black and white “I Love Lucy” Mentos cameo each week was a LOLsy moment for me.
Air Canada can go die in a fire, though. Bleh.
EVEN FEWER INTERNATIONAL LEGS SOMEHOW
In the words of Brooke from TAR 25: “How is that possible?”
I don’t get it. More cities are being overlapped, and the Maritimes continue to add nothing.
Why, we even added a couple more smaller Ontario cities as if Sudbury wasn’t enough.
Two rounds in Cuba? Nah, St. Andrews, New Brunswick is far more important!
This season knocked off nearly every city I anticipated that was left for TAR Canada to visit.
We have Moose Jaw, Churchill, and. . .and. . .maybe some isolated French-speaking town in Quebec? Oh wait, we already did that.
I can’t believe we only got one episode in one of the world’s most fascinating countries.
INFINITE U-TURN RUNS ITS COURSE
The VoldeMussolinis, Emmett & Jillian, and Steph & Kristen have all proven why this twist doesn’t really work anymore.
I loved its experiment in TAR Canada, but we have all come to realize that it breeds an environment of the Richer Getting Richer and the Poorer Getting Poorer (tm The Product G and B’s Maria Maria).
PREDICTABLE BOOT ORDER AND WINNERS YET AGAIN
With the exception of Anthony & Brandon being eliminated first, this boot order matched pre-season expectations much like recent seasons of TAR US.
THE ALL-FEMALE ASTERISK
Yes, an all-female won TAR Canada after an onslaught of Shahla & Nabeelas and Susan & Sharnjits who did not make much progress in the series.
However, everybody complained before, during, and after that a cast consisting of five all-female teams tilts the table more than they like. I am inclined to agree.
A complaint like that is a tragic way to steal away from Steph & Kristen’s dominating win, but unfortunately the reality of the situation can suck.
Thankfully, all of the all-female teams were entertaining.
THERE IS CUBA AND VIETNAM
Did I mention I loved Cuba and Vietnam? The majority of the season’s memorable moments come from those three episodes alone.
Not “every pun Julie & Lowell made” like the Top 20 Moments episode would suggest.
TOO HEAVY ON TREATING IT LIKE A SPORT
Remember, producers: It’s not all about editing each episode to have the audience like whoever is doing the best at each task, and present a correct way of how to approach TAR Canada.
Although it didn’t happen this season, this type of thinking can lead to a TARC 3 where we have a few robots rather than personalities entering the fray.
CAN’T GET OUT OF THE FOURTH GRADE SOCIAL STUDIES CLASSROOM
The editing was waaaay too geared towards those with young children or social studies teachers.
Although my sixth grade school teacher did let me bring a VHS tape of TAR 3 episode 4 to class when I was eleven years old, I really don’t want this to become a nationwide phenomenon.
The Amazing Race is a competitive reality show. Attempting to educate fourth graders about the pioneers, having tame editing when adult teams are communicating, and incorporating small towns into the mix really alienates the whole 18-49 demographic.
On the other hand, there is absolutely no Canadian content on TV worth watching anyway, so you guys probably win by default.
THANK GOD FOR NO MORE JAMES DUTHIE
The co-hosts from The Social improved drastically since their laughable TARC 1 reunion show performance.
The birds were chirping. The choir was singing. I was smiling at everyone I encountered.
No James Duthie to fuck up my Amazing Race viewing experience is always a good day. Sorry Ice Cube.
THE CANADIAN CASUAL FANS
They made me laugh every week with their batshit crazy complaints online. Jesus. At least mine are well-thought out.
Oh, and nobody from the Yukon will be on next season. Sorry to break it to you. And I agree–Jillian is a raging biatch, and we didn’t get to see the “real” St. Andrews.
P.S. With Canada’s 150th birthday being celebrated during season five’s run, I have a gut feeling it will be the final Canada-centric season. I hate that we could have another eight or nine Canada leg appearances on our hands, but I really really really hope casting can repeat TAR Canada 4’s success and make this a somewhat bearable season to watch. Otherwise. . .man, why are we wasting all of this potential with TAR Canada?
Quick Ranking of the Teams
10) Anthony & Brandon
Everyone said that they were going to be as boring of characters as Gino & Jesse, and before the season began everyone rooted for their elimination.
I tried to defend Boobie Miles and his buddy prior to the season premiere. Once the episode aired, I realized everybody else was right.
9) Anne & Tanya
And from here to #1 we have fun characters.
All of us knew Anne & Tanya had no chance of winning, but happy birthday to youuuuuuuuu, the Annecredible Hulk, face cream, leather, and Fainting Tanya were all hilarious.
8) Rita & Yvette
Their airtime was minimal, but I do appreciate the Janet Jackson reference. Relatively introverted people, though. Same with Emmett & Jillian.
7) Emmett & Jillian
In other news, Jillian did not like the casual fan reaction to her antics throughout the season.
The way Emmett & Jillian were edited, they would have been perfect characters to be eliminated in Vietnam by Anne & Tanya to trigger a huge upset. Unfortunately, this did not happen and we received the same type of edit from beginning to the end. It became repetitive after a while.
Emmett & Jillian are just too much of an introvert for me to feel comfortable with them being thrown on TV in the future. I don’t think Jillian is suited for what the reality TV universe requires of a contestant in this day and age.
6) Steph & Kristen
Before the season aired, we correctly predicted Steph & Kristen and Emmett & Jillian would be in a league of their own.
The Infinite U-Turn rule essentially broke the season yet again, and we never saw the Softball Lesbians vulnerable except when using a machete.
I am glad they are our first Canadian all-female winners rather than Natalie & Meaghan. Steph & Kristen possess this realness and charisma that Natalie & Meaghan never really had.
5) Julie & Lowell
My best joke to this day is saying that it is offensive for Lowell to be in the 20-20 Olympics given his eyesight. Dark comedy at its finest, and I am happy Lowell gave his blessing for the constant jokes at his visionary expense.
4) Joel & Ashley
My biggest grief with Joel & Ashley is that they went too far out of their way to speak squeaky clean on TV. I mean, the worst term they could muster all season was “fartface”.
3) Stephane & Antoine
A French-Canadian father-son duo who started off really well then crashed when it became a “real” season is one of the most surprising story arcs in TAR Canada history.
Stephane being all wet and doing the weirdest Dennis Hopper impression I have ever seen makes him one of the most bizarre characters I have ever seen over the past seventeen years. To this day not even Stephane knows what happened during the Vietnam leg.
2) Kelly & Kate
I said they would do well at international legs, but suck at the Canadian legs.
Too bad this was the most domestic season since the first year of TAR Canada. As my friend Ben would say, this decision arguably lost us our biggest characters ever in TAR Canada, and angered the fanbase once more that we just. can’t. seem. to. leave. the. country.
1) Frankie & Amy
If you don’t know why Frankie & Amy are the most entertaining team of this season and best mother-daughter team of all time, then I feel sorry for you. No explanation required.
Quick Ranking of the Legs
11) Prince Rupert, BC -> Hamilton, Ontario
It’s like puking on a pile of shit. I think ten minutes was spent on Steph & Kristen’s deal with Joel & Ashley because so little happened. Then another ten minutes on the video messages from home thanks to BMO. Then ten minutes on that warplane museum.
Man, this round was embarrassing to watch.
10) Hamilton, Ontario -> Kingston, Ontario
I had to look up what happened this round. God, this round went to such terrible locations. Queen’s University, another memorization task based on pioneering days, the lame Chevrolet unlock code, and the Let’s Troll Lowell As Much As Possible storyline.
Joel & Ashley’s anger is the only thing good about this episode. Oh, and Frankie’s slipup about Steph & Kristen.
9) Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam -> Prince Rupert, BC
Haida Gwaii: So few things to do where you are stuck doing an outdoor puzzle.
The lumber Roadblock looked fun.
The pit stop location was one of many lame ones used this season, and what made it extra lame is that Kelly & Kate were eliminated in their first round back to Canada. If only they were American, we could have had a full season of Kelly & Kate.
8) Havana, Cuba -> Louisbourg, Nova Scotia
Only one leg in Cuba? Everyone’s heart sinks. The Speed Bump reminded me of a Mario Party mini game (Stamp Time!)
I liked the Farmer’s Walk challenge since it took me back to the days of watching the World’s Strongest Man on TV with my dad.
Sadly, this was the episode which cemented that the Infinite U-Turn twist had run its course for TAR Canada.
7) Saint John, New Brunswick -> Montreal, Quebec
One thing I have always said: TAR finales are impossible to do on TV given airtime restrictions. Resolving the climax of the season in a 35 minutes of airtime before concluding at the finish line is a tall order for producers.
The tasks weren’t awful for a finale, but they didn’t stand out like a TAR 9 or a TAR 12 situation. The expected outcome occurred, which always hurts a finale.
6) Jasper, Alberta -> Calgary, Alberta
A unique task in the form of using social media to find the location of a clue box (this would later inspire TAR Asia 5’s moving pit stop).
Julie & Lowell are almost as good as me when it comes to fish related puns.
TAR Canada pulls out the first ever second round NEL if you are only counting TAR Asia or TAR US.
The Double Express Pass, ultimately meaningless, has the best format yet as Steph & Kristen have to risk their victory for this leg in order to obtain it. Also, Emmett & Jillian’s betrayal added that element of drama.
That showdown to the pit stop was extremely close, but thank the Chinese-Canadian gods that Kelly & Kate are saved.
5) Sydney, New Brunswick -> Saint Andrews, New Brunswick
Ashley. Frankie & Amy. You contributed nothing, New Brunswick.
4) Yellowknife, NWT -> Jasper, Alberta
No dancing. No pointless memorization tasks. No over-the-top sponsour cameos. A Roadblock that acted more as a brain teaser. Lots of self-driving.
It is one of the best domestic legs TAR Canada ever put together, and it eliminated what could have been a sequel to Gino & Jesse in the opening round. Not bad for a day’s work.
3) Kingston, Ontario -> Havana, Cuba
Hemingway’s house. The old school cars. A country TAR US nor TAR Asia has ever visited.
Steph’s machete accident.
Plenty of shake-ups to the overall standings.
2) Cai Be, Vietnam -> Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Annecredible Hulk. Emmett & Jillian are nearly ousted after blowing a twenty quadrillion lead over uber underdogs Anne & Tanya.
Kelly & Kate crush it. Or nail it. Which phrase belongs to TAR Canada rather than TAR Australia?
While the karoake was mildly amusing, it was the fact it was called “V-Pop” which makes me snicker to this day.
I love the sheer number of tasks used for this round, how brutally long it was, and the fact teams were on a bus rather than OMG AIR CANADA IS SO AMAZING as a form of transportation.
1) Calgary, Alberta -> Cai Be, Vietnam
Stephane’s baffling behaviour, Fainting Tanya, the only leg where Steph & Kristen nor Emmett & Jillian are dominating, and a very punishing round pushed everyone to their limits.
Alright. Now to the main event–me raving and raving and raving about why TAR Asia 5 was so awesome, and was the best of 2016.