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The Amazing Race Review, Season 20, Episode 11
“It’s a Great Place to Become a Millionaire”
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on CBS
In an unpredictable competition like The Amazing Race, it’s tricky to craft a final leg that provides a satisfying finish. The result often comes down to choosing the right taxi, which isn’t exciting for anyone but the winners. This season has included one of the most dominant teams in the show’s history. Dave and Rachel’s win this week isn’t surprising, but this is no cakewalk. The final leg includes difficult tasks that require both strength and skill. They even face a stunning rejection from Phil at the finish, but that only delays the victory. A directional mistake gives Art and JJ a great chance, which creates surprising tension. Despite their bickering, Dave and Rachel keep it together and roll through the final challenges for the win.
The two-hour finale begins with four teams, so there’s still another elimination. They fly to Hiroshima, Japan and face the confusion of buying tickets without understanding the language. Dave and Rachel face a possible disaster after missing the day’s last ferry. They’re saved by limited hours of operation, which brings everyone together on the island of Miyajima. After a brief somber visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, let the silliness begins! The Roadblock in Osaka is a fake Japanese game show called “Bring That Chicken Home”. Players run on a large treadmill and grab three chickens without falling backwards into a balloon pit. This ridiculous game show feels similar to the Sushi Roulette of the Season 15 premiere. Vanessa’s ankle is swollen from last week’s injury, and it’s hard to watch her fall repeatedly as the others pull ahead.
The top three teams travel to the Umeda Sky Building for the Detour options of “Bingo Shout Out” or “Photo Cut-Out”. The first choice is playing sushi bingo by choosing the right food. That seems more difficult than getting people to pose with goofy cut-outs of sumo wrestlers. Dave and Rachel are the only ones to pick the photos, and it helps them pull ahead of Art and JJ to win their seventh leg. Neither challenge seems that tough, but the silly pictures are the better move. Art and JJ end up second, and it comes down to Brendon and Rachel versus Ralph and Vanessa. The editors try to raise the possibility of a last-minute change, but the Big Brother team reaches the mat and takes third. It was a gutsy effort by Vanessa on the bum ankle, and she would have struggled mightily if they’d made the finals.
The remaining three teams start the second hour by flying to Honolulu. Their first destination is Mauka and Makai, twin towers that are surprisingly hard to find. Art and JJ try to follow Dave and Rachel’s cab, but this move backfires and sends them into third. The towers challenge is harrowing and involves a steep ascent. Once they spot their next destination, they must walk face first to the bottom. It’s an impressive task that ranks among the better height-based challenges. The next location is the Sand Island Park for the first Roadlblock, shaving ice with a samurai sword. It’s a straightforward activity that’s most notable because of its effect on a later event. Hawaiian actor and former sumo wrestler Taylor Wily (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) hands off the clues with a big “all right!” to each player.
The next step is a helicopter ride to the North Shore, but a mistake reading the clue by Brendon and Rachel puts them in jeopardy. The editors telegraphed this move with other players’ earlier comment denigrating their clue-reading abilities. They grab a taxi instead of just walking to the helicopters, which puts them into third. In the Big Brother team’s defense, this is a common error that’s easy to make. However, it does ruin a possibly good chance for the win. The North Shore challenge is a simulated ocean rescue on a Waverunner. It’s another physical task that doesn’t give anyone a problem. Dave and Rachel appear headed for an easy victory, but a big oversight gives the Border Patrol guys a chance.
After Phil’s rejection for inadvertently skipping the Roadblock, the leaders hurry back to try and catch Art and JJ. The next sequence is the highlight of the night and shows how struggling with a single task can change the game. Art’s required to take the second Roadblock because JJ shaved the ice earlier. This task involves sliding face first down a hill aboard a Holau sled. It’s a deceptively hard ride that quickly frustrates the big guy. This doesn’t appear important to the Border Patrol guys since they believe Dave and Rachel are ahead, but the tone changes dramatically when the couple arrives. JJ’s reaction to their renewed chance is priceless, but that shifts quickly when Rachel rocks the challenge. Dave is a strong competitor, but her skills have been the major difference. While Art repeatedly falls off the sled, she nails it in two tries and sends them closer to the Finish Line.
The second part of the Roadblock is easier and involves rolling a lava rock into a goal. Rachel finishes quickly, and this time there’s no doubt that they’ll be accepted as the winners. Art and JJ slide into second and take it well, and Brendon and Rachel eventually arrive in third. They give an awkward speech at the mat towards the haters, but they seem okay with the result. There were some low points, but this was a solid season overall that improved on the previous one. It’s clear that the producers worked to shore up the game design, and the strong final leg supports that adjustment. Hopefully this positive trend will continue next year; the next step is better casting. Mark and Bopper were the stars this time, and casting more likable players like them could pay major dividends for the series going forward.