What if the American version of The Amazing Race had a Game Changers season? And unlike Survivor, featured teams who were actual Game Changers. . .and Caleb & Hali.
I sit here in Dublin as I present you with a quick TAR article during my European backpacking adventure. This list unintentionally counts down from the most important to the least important in chronological order (with TAR 1’s game changer being the most important while TAR 27 being the least important.)
01) The entire Final Five from season one.
Episode nine of TAR 1. It is the most important episode in the entire history of The Amazing Race. Good luck making a counter-argument.
For those who need a quick refresher, this is how the episode goes down:
There is a Detour task that were both essentially the same style of “needle in a haystack” (but in this case it was license plate-in-a-large-area-within-Thailand).
Of course, the Fast Forward task was a much more appealing option to Nancy & Emily and Joe & Bill as these two teams had yet to use their Fast Forward.
Joe & Bill win the showdown, and Nancy & Emily, who had already considered quitting a round earlier due to the overwhelming nature of India, were stuck with doing the Detour.
Rob & Brennan and Frank & Margarita had no issues with this Detour. They get a huge jump on both Kevin & Drew and Nancy & Emily.
Kevin & Drew eventually complete this Detour, but it really sets them back. So far back that they will not be able to catch up to Rob & Brennan or Frank & Margarita for the remainder of the season.
Joe & Bill were laughing in their hotel room. Sadly, the joke would be on them as they did not anticipate that Rob & Brennan, Frank & Margarita, and Kevin & Drew were still fighting it out in this race.
Meanwhile, Nancy had become so overwhelmed by the race and lost her competitive edge that she wanted to skip the Detour and take a 24 hour penalty. Unbeknownst to her, they would beat Joe & Bill to the pit stop. The 24 hour penalty would eliminate them from the race, but they weren’t the only ones eliminated that leg.
Kevin & Drew and Joe & Bill were so far behind Frank & Margarita and Rob & Brennan that Hours of Operation and other factors made it downright impossible for them to catch up for the next FOUR episodes. That’s right. TAR had not instituted equalizers for when teams are consistently half a day ahead of other teams, and treated the first season as a true race.
Starting with season two, production would never be afraid to institute equalizers along the way to ensure the race would always be semi-competitive, and not become a two-team competition with four episodes to go. If a Rob & Brennan vs. Frank & Margarita incident happened in modern day TAR. . .well, you can probably guess what the comments would be like on TAR’s official Facebook page.
Penalties would also be significantly reduced for Detours, Roadblocks, and Active Route Infos over the years. Detours are anywhere between four to six hour penalties depending on which international version you are examining.
Therefore, all five teams from the first season of TAR deserve the number one spot on this list. It was the day TAR switched from being an unfiltered documentary into a competitive reality TV show.
02) Tara & Wil and Chris & Alex.
The first love triangle on The Amazing Race.
The first time villains triumphed over the heroes and still had the audience stay tuned for a season three.
The iconic showdown at the finish line which is something producers have been chasing for over a decade. How do you recreate the magic of the TAR 2 season finale?
The answer: You can’t. I know TAR 29 may be the final season for TAR US, and producers will be desperate to replicate anything that worked out well for the series in the past, but forcing the close finish from TAR 2 ain’t the way to do it.
I know it won’t work because they tried to do this in the TAR 24: Fake All Stars finale.
“Who is it? Is it Dave or is it the woman related to John Wayne? OMG. The suspense!!!!!!1111one.”
The attempt was transparent and TAR 24 would go down as the absolute worst season ever. Ever.
03) Flo & Zach.
The first reality TV winner to infuriate the entire TV viewing audience. Flo?! Flo?!?!?! FLO?!?!?!?! She broke every rule in the book for reality TV winners.
Flo is such a gamechanger that I already wrote a full article about this years ago. Flo is perhaps the biggest individual gamechanger on this entire list.
I would love to see her play again.
04) Colin & Christie.
They have a book named after a quote one of them said. Do I need to elaborate?
“I am probably the most intense person to ever run this race.” – Colin.
Since then, few teams have matched Colin & Christie’s sheer intensity. That level of intensity does not mix well with Charla & Mirna. It truly is a shame that Christie had to be preggers during Real All Stars.
Whether their ox is broken, their ego is inflated, yelling “hakuna matata” at a Tanzanian man, puking up eggs, quoting Ludacris in the face of adversity, or winning a leg over the runner-up team by 12 hours, or flexing their muscles for Chip, Colin & Christie’s intensity was a benchmark set for all future teams.
Furthermore, due to the Fast Forward format being revised, Colin & Christie were the first team to win a significant number of legs and put up lengthy winning streaks. Leg wins is a highly coveted title that everyone attempts to break each year.
05) Charla & Mirna.
After the first four seasons, TAR was nearly canceled.
Thanks to folks like Sarah Jessica Parker and Tony Danza, TAR was given new life and the series would hit its peak with TAR 5.
While TAR 5 was airing during the summer everybody was paying attention to the aggressive Armenian cousins on a weekly basis. All of their competitors absolutely loved them or hated them, but most importantly respected their skills in TAR.
Charla & Mirna were apart of MadTV and made other TV appearances. They would play for a second time and nearly win the whole freakin’ game. Can you imagine if Charla & Mirna won The Amazing Race: Real All Stars? That would have an ending which would have been news in the mainstream reality TV world.
NOTE: I am a big fan of Eric Sanchez, but c’mon, Charla & Mirna winning All Stars would have been a much more noteworthy ending than a random hybrid team that weren’t even romantically involved when the season was filming.
06) Kelly & Christy and Nick & Starr
Once upon a time, TAR would allow teams to interact and hang out at the pit stop. Much of the footage of what would go on at these pit stops would never be recorded, and would be that one break racers get to chill without the usual bullshit going on.
(Except in TAR 2 where you get drunk and fight with a pastor at a pit stop in South Africa. Oh, how I miss those days.)
Anyways, things would get intense during TAR 13 where Kelly or Christie may or may not have pushed Starr’s bra off of a window ledge during a pit stop.
Kelly & Christie deny they ever did it while Starr is certain one of them did. You can see how this would be a tough situation for producer to deal with at the time. They couldn’t ignore it because it would be a key storyline of the season, but yet had none of the crucial footage to properly tell the story.
Their solution? Sequester every team from each other until TAR 26 when teams were allowed to spend Thanksgiving together. Since then, teams have been awarded more and more leeway to hang out at pit stops. This leeway probably saves money in the quickly evaporating TAR budget.
In other words, no more pit stop segregation = everybody wins.
07) Margie & Luke.
Am I going to bash TAR 14 again? I wouldn’t really go out of my way to do that on a list like this, would I?
No, not this time. Margie & Luke can breathe a sigh of relief.
You know, after 28 seasons of TAR, I have never seen Phil get excited over a team like he did with Margie & Luke. To this day, Phil constantly references Margie & Luke winning the season premiere as one of his favourite moments in TAR history.
He relishes Margie & Luke as much as Michael & Scott wet themselves whenever they think about the city of Boston.
If a team like Margie & Luke is what keeps Phil intrigued and interested enough to stay with a TV show for 29 seasons, maybe TAR 14 isn’t the worst thing on the planet.
And hey, I went through this whole segment without parodying my favourite Margie meme. Perhaps I am maturing a little bit after all these years.
Let’s end this writeup early before I think about TAR 14 too much.
08) Jet & Cord.
Oh god. Jet & Cord are on this list for all of the wrong reasons. It is impossible to ignore their negative impact on TAR history.
TAR 16 aired at the same time as Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains. It was an era where Russell Hantz’s edit consisted of a great deal of propaganda. Russell was portrayed as a hero and one who supposedly “deserved” to win the game, when, in reality. . .he wasn’t.
The same would happen for Jet & Cord. TAR 16 saw them witnessed as over-the-top heroes and anybody who stood in their way should be ashamed of themselves. Even if Jet directed homophobic language towards Jordan following TAR 16’s finale at a fan event, or constantly blaming everyone for not “playing fair” whenever they are eliminated, you cannot deny that Jet & Cord shaped a part of the casual fanbase into what it is today.
Did you know all three of Jet & Cord’s seasons were the three lowest rated seasons in terms of ratings when their respective finales aired?
It is like each season of theirs ends with the same audience reaction:
a) “Jet & Cord were robbed! This is the worst ending ever! Dan & Jordan/Kisha & Jen/Dave & Connor did not deserve their win! Jet & Cord were unfairly beaten fair and square!”
b) “Dan & Jordan/Kisha & Jen are great winners! But man, did we need a whole season with Jet & Cord’s alternative reality?”
There never really is a positive reaction to any Jet & Cord season. Either you are annoyed that they did not win, or you are annoyed that they tainted with how much you like the winners.
The sad thing is TAR 18 and TAR 24 showed that producers are so out of touch with the returnee casting process that I could see Jet & Cord playing for a fourth time. If TAR 30 is an all-star season, and I see Jet & Cord’s faces on my screen again, I would definitely quit watching TAR US. It wouldn’t be enjoyable anymore.
Jet & Cord are also game changers because of how bonkers some of the casual audience is whenever their names are mentioned. Sigh.
09) Natalie & Nadiya.
You would think the U-Turn twist would have been revised by now due to Natalie & Nadiya breaking this twist in TAR 21.
Oh, the U-Turn.
In TAR 5-11, producers introduced the Yield. Stop one team from racing for a predetermined amount of time until the sand in an hourglass runs out.
Starting with TAR 12, producers switched it to the U-Turn where teams were forced to complete the other side of the Detour that they initially ignored.
Due to nobody using the U-Turn in TAR 13, the Blind U-Turn was introduced. Now you could U-Turn anybody without them knowing for certain it was you.
The U-Turns will continue to be a death sentence for several seasons until TAR 19 where somebody will finally survive a round over a non-U-Turned team.
In fact, TAR 17 introduced a twist called a Double U-Turn where two teams can be U-Turned in one leg. This meant your chances of surviving a U-Turn goes from 0% to 50% because one other team will be just as screwed as you are. Again, TAR 19 is the first time where Detour tasks on U-Turn legs are designed to give the U-Turned a shot at surviving.
During TAR 21, producers decided to go a bit excessive and implement a Double Blind U-Turn. Let the jokes ensue.
It was during the Double Blind U-Turn that Natalie & Nadiya came up with a brilliant idea.
You see, after TAR 17, the first team U-Turned in a Double U-Turn leg realized they can just U-Turn the team behind them to nearly guarantee their chance of making it into the next round. This really rendered the twist into a single U-Turn, and made it as predictable as the twist was when it first began.
Natalie & Nadiya were aware of this strategy. It was here in TAR 21 where the Double Blind Karate Chopping Elephant Flying Hamburger Eating U-Turn should have been put to rest.
“Why not have our allies U-Turn a team ahead of them so our targets are absolutely screwed?”
And that’s what happened. The trifecta alliance of Jaymes & James, Natalie & Nadiya, and Lexi & Whatshisname all ganged up on Ryan & Abbie. Ryan & Abbie thought they could get away with U-Turning Josh & Brent to have a free pass into the next round, but the alliance blocked Ryan & Abbie from being able to do so.
This is why somebody like Natalie Anderson could cross over to Survivor and win the season despite having no core alliance. One could make an argument that Natalie is one of the sharpest players to ever appear on reality TV. Out of all 33 seasons of Survivor, she is the first one to dominate the post-merge phase just by acting entirely on her own from week to week. She was rarely part of any core majority, or involved in any Final Two or Final Three deals, but was always in power.
This was not a surprise to me, however. After Natalie & Nadiya created the Double Blind U-Turn block, I went on message boards saying they would be one of the few racers who would do extremely well on Survivor. Fast forward two years later when they are cast for Survivor: San Juan Del Sur. 😛
P.S. Natalie WAS going to be cast on Survivor: Game Changers but she had to withdraw at the last minute and was replaced by Sierra. Natalie is a Game Changer on two different reality shows.
10) Bottom three from the season premiere of TAR 22.
Max & Katie and two other teams all decided to quit the final task of TAR 22, and chose to make a mad dash by paddling to the pit stop. We lost two Boston firefighters in the process (an archetype which TAR attempted again for TAR 25). What were those guys’ names? Scott & Brian? Matt & Bob?
Anyways, this round will directly impact the premiere of TAR 25 where an identical situation will play out because three teams will directly reference this incident from TAR 22. Again, I have no idea why teams have agreed to do this multiple times because it makes absolutely no sense on paper, but it does make for amusing television.
NOTE: If you are serious about winning The Amazing Race, do not copy this strategy. You’ll have an additional four hours to dig up your clue if others choose to voluntarily quit the task.
11) Amy & Maya
Upon the conclusion of TAR 24, TAR had record low ratings. The show was moved to Friday nights, and we had several winners in TAR Canada and TAR US which never got the audience talking.
Since Nat & Kat’s victory in TAR 17, we had a very long string of low key winners. Yes, there was Josh & Brent’s awesome upset, but the reaction to it was very split.
TAR 25 featured a number of small tweaks and twists to a very rigid TAR format that had been put into place since TAR 14.
During the penultimate episode of TAR 25, producers threw the biggest curveball in over a decade.
In every single season of TAR ever, the final leg always has three teams.
They may not all make it to the finish line, but hey, three invitations are sent to the contestants each season.
Brooke & Robbie had become hilarious villains.
Jim & Misti were pissing everybody off by winning half of the legs even though they were able to keep The Save after finishing last on a NEL leg. Everyone hated Jim receiving his thumb at the end of episode ten.
Adam & Bethany were. . .well, you know, like, you know, like. . .cool or something????????
And then there was Amy & Maya. Amy’s legs were in worse shape than Jody & Cory of TAR Canada and Dave & Connor combined.
Not even Chloe would switch ankles with Amy.
I mean, they studied ice cream.
It is like Better Off Ted meets New Edition.
At the end of episode eleven, Amy faints on the mat after a rough day hanging out in the Filipino heat with the crossguard who was acting like Michael Jackson.
What an embarrassing way to be eliminated. Fainting into Phil’s arms like a woman swooning over Talib Kweli in the “Never Been in Love Before” music video.
It is like Lisa Simpson’s worst nightmare. She collapses in front of everybody, and Alice still earns First Chair in the school band. Just let her go home and cry already.
99% of the time, Amy would be rehydrated, hospitalized, and then Phil would give her the bad news of being Philiminated.
But no, Phil gets her up, and tells her and Maya that it is going to be a Final FOUR at the end. After a terrible pun involving a Manila envelope which would make Allan Wu chuckle, Amy & Maya benefit from the most unexpected twist since the back-to-back NEL twist in TAR 3.
Amy & Maya look like they will probably die again in the finale, but somehow beat all of the odds as they win their only leg of the season when it mattered most. They took down Brooke & Robbie, Adam & Bethany, and Jim & Misti simultaneously. While editing tipped off experts such as myself and Michael Harmstone that Amy & Maya were receiving a winner’s edit as of episode five, those who do not care for studying the edit would receive one of the most pleasant surprises in TAR history.
I should note that I will respect Jim & Misti for how they reacted to the twist. They could have easily claimed an unfair twist screwed them over and that Amy & Maya didn’t deserve to be in the finale. However, it might be because they were in possession of The Save all season long, but Jim & Misti never took any credit away from Amy & Maya.
Runner-ups who give credit to the winners should be mandatory at the end of each reality TV season.
NOTE: I only want to see The Save return if a team claims it and then finishes last on all three NELs as well as an elimination leg during the race, and then wins the final round of the game. The audience reaction would be delicious.
12) Kurt & Bergen
Well, Kurt & Bergen (er, mainly Kurt) fudged it all up.
Kurt & Bergen had just won a leg. Everyone, including myself, thought Kurt would be an early boot because it seemed like he was a recruit who was as prepared for TAR as Mika was, and would likely find any excuse to get out of the experience.
Enter Ford. Stage right. Or rather, don’t enter a Ford if you are Kurt.
For those who don’t remember, Kurt & Bergen and Mike & Rochelle struggled with driving their vehicle. Mike & Rochelle eventually grind it out and make it to the pit stop.
Kurt & Bergen? They started off the leg quite well prior to picking up their car, and then what was seen as a struggle became one of TAR’s most over-the-top moments.
Kurt is right up there with Eve of TAR 3 and Maria of TAR 6 in the Andre Plummer “She can’t freakin’ drive a stick” award recepient.
It was the first time ever that a team ditched their car in favour of a taxi. They didn’t even fill their car up with diesel fuel before making the switch! Things became downright ridiculous when a task required teams to use their Ford vehicle to receive their next clue.
Kurt & Bergen received another penalty in the process (and nearly so did Laura & Tyler too for stealing Brackie’s car), and stuck with their cab driver.
For the first time in what feels like an eternity, a team was so low on funds that they ditched the cab because it was too expensive, and instead chose to use public transit. Producers only gave teams enough money required for those who would FOLLOW THE RULES AND NOT DITCH THE SPONSOURED VEHICLE.
After every team checked in, Phil ventured out on one of his patented mercy kills as he eliminated Kurt & Bergen who were hopelessly stranded at the train station. I wish Phil offered them his car to drive themselves to the airport.
Once TAR 26 ended, Ford declined to renew their sponsour deal after thirteen seasons. We will only see one self-drive leg in the next two seasons. Sigh. TAR Canada is the only version nowadays to get a regular dose of self-drive legs. Thank you Chevrolet for taking the chance on Canucks.
P.S. Poor Bergen. He probably would have killed for TAR 29’s Stranger Danger twist where he could have at least chosen his own partner. I cannot imagine a worse fate for a superfan than one where you are stuck with an unprepared recruit who you know is not suited for The Amazing Race or Survivor.
13) Justin & Diana
Casual fans and the folks at Reddit: No! How dare you! *clicks the ‘X’ in the top right corner*
Everyone else: Eh. . .I’m willing to hear your argument.
Did Justin & Diana win the highest number of legs on The Amazing Race?
But what was unusual about Justin & Diana’s edit is that it reached Survivor: Samoa levels of having the narrative of an entire season surround one specific team.
In TAR 9, BJ & Tyler had to share the spotlight with Eric & Jeremy.
In TAR 5, Chip & Kim, Colin & Christie, Charla & Mirna, Linda & Karen, Jim & Marsha, and pretty much the whole cast got a decent amount of airtime.
In TAR 20, Brenchel, Mark & Bopper, Art & JJ, and Dave & Rachel split 99% of the airtime between them.
In TAR 16, Brent & Caite, Carol & Brandy, and Louie & Michael will share their airtime with two pieces of shit.
There are seasons where two or three teams will absolutely dominate the footage we see on TV.
TAR 27 is the first time where producers decided to have everything revolve around one team. They won’t be bouncing their edit off of anybody else. We will be watching twelve episodes of ten other teams commenting on Justin & Diana all season long. Unless you are a hardcore fan, you aren’t going to focus too much on the funny little things happening with Denise & James Earl or Krista & Tiffany until after Justin & Diana check into the pit stop each leg.
Psssst. BuddyTV. Justin & Diana don’t even have the best TAR average in history, and teams winning six or more legs have been occurring for over a decade. I can’t wait for BuddyTV to take a page out of Vulture and rank Lisa & Joni as the 25th greatest team of all time, then insert a bunch of TAR 14 teams and three-timers into their list.
In all seriousness, it was the first major shift for TAR in the editing suite since TAR 14. During TAR 28, the trend of ignoring half of the cast on-screen continued. Nobody occupied quite as much airtime as Justin & Diana, but you can see the storytelling become more and more focused on fewer characters.
So there you go. Do you have any other suggestions for this list? Feel free to post your list, and I will tell you how nearly all of you are wrong. Will you be the lucky person that has a worthwhile suggestion? Only one way to find out!
Anyways, I gotta Will and Boogie as I tour Dublin. Remember that life is too short to be angry about everything that comes your way, and it’s all about having fun. If you can’t abide by that, then you shall always be unhappy.
Peace out! And chill. . .til the next episode. Which is March 30th, provided CBS does not change their mind for the twentieth time.