Tough physical challenges bring back the good old days of The Amazing Race

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Now this is why I love The Amazing Race. When I first started watching the show, probably around the third season, there were two main things that drew me to the show outside of the concept itself. I loved being able to see places and things I will never get to see in my lifetime (made all the more exciting to see when the show finally switched to HD), and I loved the challenges that were mostly physical in nature, or something that took people way out of their comfort zones. I’ll never forget the two grandmothers who had to swallow their fear and do a hang gliding challenge. It was a beautiful moment for them and for the viewers.

As the show continued on season after season, some of the locations became repetitive (India again?!?) and, even worse, the challenges just became silly and routine. New things were added like taking away a team’s money on a non-elimination leg forcing them to beg strangers for help (a degrading component of the show that was eventually replaced with the Speed Bump) and … the Speed Bump which had such challenging tasks as sitting in a mobile spa for fifteen minutes. Thankfully those tasks have been made a little more challenging as well. But the show fell into a rut and I got to a point where I just watched out of loyalty and for the scenery.

Things have improved over the last couple of seasons, and this week’s episode reminded me of those glory days of hang gliding and bungee jumping. And there was no better place on earth for this episode to take advantage of its location than Chamonix, France in the Alps. Talk about some stunning HD cinematography this week of mountains, snow and the valley below. This really put the title word “amazing” in context.

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As for the race itself, all of the teams left the starting point within eight minutes of each other as they all got to the Pit Stop last week one after another. To start, they had to find a car with a specific license plate to be taken to their first location to get a clue – Les Grands Montets Gondola Station.

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At the gondola station, which sat at the foot of the 15,771 foot Mount Blanc, teams learned they would have to take a gondola up to about 11,000 feet to get their next clue. Little did they know that clue was going to be attached to a piece of rock several feet away from the gondola station, requiring one team member to inch their way across a chasm hooked to a rope.

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Most of them did fine, but Ashley dropped her clue and had to do the task again while Sheri had a complete meltdown halfway across the rope before getting herself together and accomplishing the task. And this was after she had already been mentally freaking out while ascending the mountain in the gondola. Unfortunately, her son Cole also has a fear of heights so she basically had to take the bullet for this entire leg.

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After all of the clues were retrieved, a Detour was next. Teams had to choose between Dynamite or Campsite. Campsite required teams to build a survival tent in the snow, a deceptively simple task. Burnie and Ashley decided to do take since they were experienced campers and felt they could build a tent fairly quickly. The other seven teams chose Dynamite, which required them to take explosives (!) and lunch (a baguette) to a man on top of a mountain who did controlled explosions to prevent avalanches.

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So Burnie and Ashley quickly learned that building a tent in the snow was not as easy as they had predicted, having to spend a lot of time digging a space out for the tent and then making sure the snow around the area was high enough to protect the tent. And then they broke a piece of the tent while assembling it. It became a much more time-consuming challenge than anticipated.

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Meanwhile, the other teams were second guessing themselves when they learned they had to traverse a thin trail across the mountain peak – like wide enough for one person – while connected to a safety rope … which didn’t make many of them feel safe as they lost their footing. Zach’s fear of heights slowed him down a bit, but Cole and Sheri had it the worst because of his fear. Sheri felt it would be the quicker challenge and he eventually relented, but the delayed decision put them at the back of the pack. In one humorous moment, Erin and Joslyn almost stole someone’s actual lunch at the gondola station, not realizing the baguette they had was the lunch.

“Who eats a baguette for lunch?” – Erin tweet

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After the Detour was completed, teams then faced a Roadblock which asked “Who feels the wind beneath their wings?” This challenge required on team member to do a tandem para-glide from an altitude of 7,000 feet and then answer a question at the bottom about the yeti they saw along the way.

“I once dated a yeti.” – Korey tweet

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Para-gliding off the side of a mountain is one thing, but para-gliding off the side of a snow covered mountain is quite another because you have to run in order to catch the wind and take off. That is not easy when (1) the snow is a foot deep and (2) you’re attached to another person who also has to run in foot deep snow. Brodie was the first to take off but he could not get through the snow to launch and fell down. Which gave Korey an advantage to finally get ahead of the first place team as the two have been back and forth for the last four legs. Korey launched, saw the yeti waving a French flag, answered the question, and he and Tyler made it to the Pit Stop in first place. Brodie and Kurt came in second.

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Most of the team members managed to take off without a problem, but then it came down to the last three: Ashley, Erin and Sheri, all lined up and waiting for the wind, their pilots gently encouraging them, telling them to wait and when to go. Ashley’s pilot gave her the go-ahead but another pilot said they were getting a back wind and would not launch. He was right, and Ashley fell down in the snow. That gave Sheri’s pilot a brief window to launch and he told her to start running – and she made it, leaving Erin and Ashley behind. Both of the women had to try multiple times to take off, so it was going to be a battle for last place between them.

The rest of the teams arrived at the Pit Stop in the following order:

  • 3. Dana & Matt
  • 4. Scott & Blair
  • 5. Zach & Rachel
  • 6. Burnie & Ashley (somehow passing Sheri & Cole, who finished the Roadblock first)
  • 7. Sheri & Cole
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That left Erin & Joslyn bringing up the rear and being eliminated. But if you’re going to go out, this was certainly the challenge to go out on because it’s going to be hard to top both the challenges and the beauty of the scenery during the rest of the season. Which we’ll have to wait to see April 1 after the show takes a break for March Madness.

What did you think of this week’s show? Is your favorite team still in the race? Who are you rooting for? Tell us in the comments below!

 

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