Recap: ‘The Amazing Race: All-Stars’ – ‘Bull Down’

I spent my day on the set of FOX's “Broadchurch” remake “Gracepoint” up in beautiful Victoria, BC, so I'm on my own race not-exactly-around-the-world, a race that left me unable to watch Sunday's (May 5) “The Amazing Race” until late, meaning that it's already after midnight as I start on this recap.

Fortunately, this is a really easy episode to recap.

In fact, there are really only two things to discuss about Sunday's episode, which doesn't mean it was a bad episode. In fact, thanks to one utterly bonkers Detour, it was quite fun. But Sunday's Leg was darned straight-forward and, once again, all came down to an over-reliance on the U-Turn for drama.

On to the recap after the break.

So let's just get straight to the two major points of discussion, one of which was the sole determining factor in the Leg and the other of which was totally irrelevant to anything in the Leg.


Cutting to the chase: Jet & Cord are out of the Race and they're out of the Race because they were U-Turned by the Afghanimals and they were U-Turned by the Afghanimals because Leo & Jamal determined that they wanted to use the U-Turn to target the strongest remaining team, but also hoping that somebody behind them would also U-Turn Brendon & Rachel.

The second part there is BS. If you're the first team to the U-Turn mat and you say you're targeting a team because they're the strongest team? Well that's the team you want out. So if you're Leo & Jamal and you U-Turn the Cowboys, when you had every opportunity to U-Turn Brendon & Rachel and you know with complete certainty that Brendon & Rachel are behind you and you'd promised you were going to U-Turn Brendon & Rachel if you had the chance, you're saying something clear: You're saying I'd rather race against Brendon & Rachel longterm than race against the Cowboys. That's fine. We'll get there in a second. But what's the point in saying you hope another later team U-Turns Brendon & Rachel? You already said you want the Cowboys out, so you're saying you want the Cowboys out, but you want Brendon & Rachel punished just a little for purely vituperative reasons? Ick. Come on. If you want vengeance for a slight that wasn't inflicted upon you but you don't want to enact the vengeance yourself? Maybe you just want to move on and grow up. You made a decision! Don't be wishy-washy about it after you were decisive. 

And was the decision the right decision? Would you really rather go to the end with Brendon & Rachel rather than the Cowboys? Well… Probably? For the season, Brendon & Rachel have three Leg wins, while the Cowboys only had one. But Brendon & Rachel also had four Legs finishing fifth or worse, while the cowboys only had one. So, at least for this season, the Brendon & Rachel have greater upside, but they also have a better chance at flaming out. But the Cowboys always seem to eventually find a way to flame out, almost never on challenges, but always getting from point-to-point. You could have waited for them to have that flame-out, while targeting Brendon & Rachel for personal, mean, alliance-based reasons.

In the end, it was a combination of those things that allowed the Cowboys to go out in the first place. The U-Turn and the need to do the extra part of the Detour? Well, that was the nail in the Cowboy coffin, but the only reason it worked was because the Cowboys did what they do and they got lost. I feel like a lot of people will overlook the second part in analyzing the Cowboys' demise, but you shouldn't. The reason why Jet & Cord went home is because they overshot the Detour clue area when they were ahead of Brendon & Rachel. Because Brendon & Rachel got to the Detour area in third, with the Cowboys in fourth and the Country Blondes in fifth meant that Brendon & Rachel got to the U-Turn mat in third, Rachel squealed in excitement and declared, “They did the smart thing, not the popular thing.” 

If the Cowboys get to the Detour clue in third, they finish the Detour in third. They get to the U-Turn and, in that circumstance, because of the stupid utilization of the Double U-Turn, they would have been able to U-Turn another team before completing the other half of the Detour. In that circumstance, they would have been able to choose between Brendon & Rachel and the Cowboys, they probably would have chosen Brendon & Rachel and Brendon & Rachel would have gone home. In that case, the Afghanimals would have wasted the U-Turn on the Cowboys, but they could have been pleased that a team they disliked went home, even if it wasn't the team they really wanted out.

It was that minor bit of directional confusion that meant the difference. Instead, Brendon & Rachel got to the U-Turn first and couldn't U-Turn anybody and went on. And then the Country Girls got there and, knowing that the Afghanimals and Dave & Connor had a big advantage and that the Cowboys had already been U-Turn, they only could U-Turn Brendon & Rachel, even though Brendon & Rachel had already passed by. The Blondes didn't know if they were ahead of Brendon & Rachel or behind, but they had no choice anyway. So they got to have the cruel pleasant of putting Brendon & Rachel on the board and taunting them and it accomplished nothing.

Farewell, Cowboys. You were the team I was rooting for, even if I could have done without Jet quoting Proverbs at the end: “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord” 

That's fine. We always knew the Cowboys were all about their faith, but it very rarely came up on the show.

And in a rare bit of Probstian Alpha Male blather, Phil Keoghan expressed his solidarity with the Cowboys as he eliminated by saying, “Quite frankly, I think everybody was just outright scared of you guys.”

Well, yes. Thanks, Phil. That's what the U-Turns in your game are SUPPOSED to be about. You U-Turn a team you're scared of, either to win a Leg — as Brendon & Rachel did in a move Dave has now started calling “kinda inappropriate” — or a team you're scared of and you want to eliminated. Otherwise, what's it there for? The Afghanimals made a choice. If they had U-Turned Brendon & Rachel, it seems very likely Brendon & Rachel would have gone home. They'd have been powerless to U-Turn anybody themselves and that would have been it.

On to…


That was a fun, fun, fun Detour, right?

Seville is much more known for bullfighting than bull-racing, but “Amazing Race” has done a bullfighting Detour before, back in Season 21. 

So instead, “Amazing Race” pretended Seville was Pamplona and staged a task in which contestants had to get into inflatable balls with bullhorns and they had to rush through the tight streets of Seville looking for the clues to a quote about… matadors. Talk about mixing your bull. 

The alleys required squeezing through and the contestants thought that that was the challenge, until other guys in similar bull costumes attacked them in every square. The caused our contestants to be bounced around like they were in a pinball game. Presumably secure in their inflatable suits, contestants were doing faceplants, flipping head-over-heels and bouncing into and off of walls. 

For some Racers, this brought out their best. Jamal was ramming into the opposing bulls and trying to protect Leo, who was so cowed — pun intended, I guess — by the situation that he eventually just resorted to rolling down the street. Brendon and Connor also did well with this task.

For some Racers, this brought out their first. Dave, predictably, played the “I'm old” card with the bulls. Rachel, in turn, played the “I'm a girl” card. 

But the image of Rachel flopping and flying through the air while yelling things like “These guys are bullying me. Save me!” and “I'm not a boooooy!” and “You guys are so mean!”? That was just vintage. 

I did wonder where, exactly, this was all taking place. They seemed to be occasional knocking over stands selling sunglasses and whatnot and occasionally other people or dogs passed by. But this wasn't something that could be done in a truly public space.

The other Detour option was Flamenco dancing, but there was no doubt which task the “Amazing Race” producers wanted people to choose. The Flamenco task was in a poorly lit tavern or something and the choreography and the instruction were flat and lifeless. In contrast, the bull task had all of the POV camerawork and all of the flair and humor. 

The major drawback on the bull task was that it offered no chance for advancement. You ran along and you suffered through your abuse and you collected the matador quote, but there was no way anybody could do it faster.  I wish a team had been behind the Cowboys, who missed the first half of the clue and had to backtrack, to see if it might have been possible to capitalize on a clear error. But barring an error, it was a task were teams were only ever going to finish in the order they arrived in.

And that's about all I have to say.

A few other comments on Sunday's Race:

*** The balloon-shaving Roadblock was stupid. Something else had to have fallen through. I get the Barber of Seville thing, but it showcased no skill and didn't seem to take anybody more than five minutes. Rejected.

*** The Speed-Bump for Jennifer & Caroline wasn't much better. They had to deliver ham to a shop. It required only one trip. Caroline said they smelled like hamhocks. Rejected.

*** I'm not sure how concerned to be about Jamal's knee. It was hurt during Running with the Ballz — amazing that was the only injury — and he initially was talking about his knee-cap being out of joint. He was able to jog to the end of the task and they were able to walk to the Pit Stop, so you know it was only SOMEWHAT serious, but Leo & Jamal are such peppy guys, it was wrong to see them serious and drained of energy at the end. And by walking to the Pit Stop, they let Rachel & Brendon take second. Ouch, indeed.

*** Boy, I hate when “Amazing Race” has a sponsorship-heavy Leg one week and then the following Leg begins by extending that sponsorship by showing the winning team still reveling in their win by looking at what they won online on a computer we know just had a blank screen.

*** I'm not sure I liked Jet & Cord being bitter about being U-Turned and calling Leo & Jamal dirty players and saying this showed the kind of people they truly are. Really? Yes. It showed they want to win a million bucks. Strange.

Yawn. Sleep time.

Your thoughts?