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The Amazing Race Takes a Roll in the Hay

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CBS has this incredibly odd way of promoting The Amazing Race. Well, perhaps "odd" isn't quite the right word — maybe "forward" is better. They have a very forward way of promoting the Race. Whenever one sees scenes from the next episode – either right after the current one or over the course of the week – the network is always very, very obvious about what exactly is going to take place, what the big story is. There's something to be said for that – honesty and truthfulness aren't bad things in general. Sometimes, though, one ends up feeling either less than shocked at a big "twist" that's been ruined because of the promos or simply waiting to find out when the moment from the promo will appear.

We were all promised for last night's episode that we would get the hay bale task from season six again, that is, a task done nine seasons ago where one poor woman had to stay in a field all day (10 hours), unrolling huge, round, bales of hay in order to find a flag stuck in one. It was intensive labor and the flag seemed pretty easy to miss. Plus, with almost 200 bales of hay present and (at least this time out) only seven flags stuck into them, it could take an incredibly long time.

While strength and skill were certainly factors last night, luck also played a huge role. Choose the wrong bale of hay – the wrong 100 bales of hay – and one could have wound up in the field for an awfully long time. The first time the series did this task, Phil had to go to the field and tell Lena & Kristy that they were going home, and, they still hadn't found the flag. Talk about disheartening.

I actually thought it incredibly nice that this time out, Phil was right there by the hay field. He could just go, tap the losing team on their shoulders, and tell them they were headed home. I was sure that he was right there for that reason.

Not only did that not happen, but luck didn't play as big a factor as it might have this time out.

Yes, the first team to arrive at the hay field was the second to last team to find a flag, but that didn't put them all that far behind the first team, and while it may have cost them a trip for winning that leg of the race, they didn't go home. It was in fact the final team to get to the hay field that was the last team to find a flag. There's something almost right about that. Position changes do routinely come up on Detours and Roadblocks, but seeing the team to arrive last at the final task of a night finish last is something no one can really be all that upset about.

What I found equally remarkable was the fact that after finding out they were going to be last [SPOILER ALERT], Gary – of Gary & Matt – kept on working, unrolling bales of hay. Last week featured the two poker-playing quitters giving up on the leg after realizing they were going to come in last. It was massively disappointing. You never just throw in the towel like that, and the fact that Gary & Matt didn't, that they stayed there and Gary kept unrolling hay really spoke well of them. Also, this turned out to be a non-elimination leg, and I imagine that if the two guys had quit that wouldn't have been the case (I'm going with the theory that the producers have some discretion on the fly with those sorts of things).

So, Gary & Matt live another day and the Race has successfully revisited a Roadblock where not all the teams succeeded last time out. Was the visit successful? Well, depends on how you see things – I don't like luck-based tasks, and this was a luck-based task. It was however still fun to watch the contestants do such grueling manual labor.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.