Spoilers ahead for the December 9 episode of The Amazing Race Season 32.
I love The Amazing Race. More specifically, I love so many different things about The Amazing Race. I love watching cab drivers get lost and contestants nervously try to drive stick shifts. I love watching teams walk right past clue boxes, book flights with dangerously small layovers and misread their clues. I love watching frantic Detour switches and sudden realizations that the wrong team member was picked for the Roadblock. I love it all, or at least I thought I did, until I watched an entire season controlled and ultimately ruined by an alliance.
Let’s back up real quick. The Amazing Race is currently on its 32nd season. In many ways, this go-around has been similar to what we’ve seen before. We had a team eliminated because they couldn’t figure out directions. We had a team blow up on another over using a U-Turn. We had balancing challenges and music challenges and memory challenges and brute strength challenges. Apart from a mega-leg wrinkle and a leg without Detours or Roadblocks, the basic structure has been very familiar, but it’s all felt really different because of an alliance that has completely dominated and taken over the game.
In short, the so-called Mine Five Alliance worked together throughout most of the season. They openly conspired to get certain teams eliminated (even when it made no sense whatsoever), and they actively worked to help each other out whenever possible. Eventually, they got rid of every other team, but instead of racing against each other, three of the teams formed a new alliance to eliminate the other two teams. Last week it was pretty annoying to watch, but this week it was absolutely infuriating after three of the four remaining teams literally did the final challenge together. They compared notes, devised a system to guess different possible answers and then when one of them got it right, they just walked over and gave the two other teams the answer.
Listen: I’m a seasoned reality show viewer. I’m not anti-alliance. There are certain games you have to play with other people. Survivor and Big Brother are both great examples, but The Amazing Race is not supposed to be those shows. The point of watching The Amazing Race is to see teams compete against each other. It’s to watch teams try to problem solve and figure out how to get places and complete tasks as a two-person unit. Yes, there is always the occasional help teams offer each other, whether it be pointing out where a clue box is or providing some tip that helps them compete the challenge. But offering a little support is entirely different than literally doing challenges for other teams, and there have been so many instances of that this season.
Watching a team walk over to another and directly give them the answer is not fun to watch. It mocks the entire competition element of the show, and it makes the outcome seem preordained. I’ve never had less fun watching an Amazing Race season, and if Twitter is any indication, I’m not the only one who feels that way either. I don’t blame the contestants. They’re operating within the rules, and they’re just trying to win a million dollars. But as a viewer, I’m asking those involved in the show to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
The Amazing Race is closer to Top Chef or Project Runway than it is to Survivor, or at least I’d like to think it is. I want to see teams succeed based on things like common sense decision-making, sense of direction, skill with their hands, strength, creativity and even luck. I want to see teams get to the finals based on things they accomplished, not which teams they’re friends with.
I don’t know if the answer is eliminating alliances or telling teams they can’t help each other. There’s always going to be at least a small social element to the game because of U-Turns and Yields, but this level of social isn’t fun to watch. It’s frustrating and makes the actual challenges seem pointless. Please figure it out.