The Amazing Race Philippines 2, Leg 1 Wrap-up – "This is a long Leg!"

And the first Leg of the 2nd season of The Amazing Race Philippines is over. It was a mixed bag of a week, bringing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. But overall, it was great to see the Philippine Race back up and running after almost two years.

First of all, a lot was made of the daily format of season 1. For many TAR fans, nakakapanibago. Six episodes a week seemed very daunting. But for the most part, Legs still played out like normal TAR episodes, only broken up into 3-4 episodes a Leg. My only problem with season 1’s airing schedule was Legs would start and end on different days of the week with some Legs spanning more episodes than others.

Looking to avoid that, TARPh, with the help of Bertram Van Munster during his April visit to the Philippines, figured out a way to tweak the format for the better. That apparently resulted in now having one Leg per week for 10 weeks with at least one task or Route Marker per episode Monday through Saturday.

This looks absolutely great on paper. It makes total sense and I was really excited about seeing the format being better for the show.

But after this first week, it turns out the format is very much like a Detour. It’s got its pros and cons.

Monday through Saturday
But seriously, this one Leg-a-week format solved my only problem with season 1’s schedule. It allows viewers to be able to jump in any day of the week and not feel lost seeing teams in the middle of some task or challenge they may know nothing about if they missed the day before.

Plus, it’s good to have a set schedule where you know when Legs start and end.

To help fit a Leg into week of episodes, it appears we’ll be getting many more tasks per Leg. And having more tasks per Leg is definitely welcome after the decreasing amount of even Route Markers on TARUS.

But after this first week, the major cons became evident. The format unfortunately removed many of the fundamental qualities that have made TAR so successful.

No Sense of Time
The biggest of which is the overall sense of time and Racing. With each task or Route Marker contained in a single episode, we don’t see any teams progressing on to the next task until tomorrow. That is even if in real time, the leading teams have gone on to finish that next task while trailing teams are still in the middle of this previous task.

This week we saw teams starting next tasks in broad daylight on the next episode when teams were still completing the last task after dark the day before.

This is a Race, after all. But instead of a full Leg, it’s like we got little mini-Legs in each episode. The sense of competition and exciting Racing that you feel when watching the original TAR, for example, is lost when we’re seeing teams move along in a processional manner, especially when they’re not doing tasks at the same time. The sense of time and continuous movement is an important part of what makes The Amazing Race so exciting. But here, we’re getting self-contained tasks and challenges instead of one full, complete Leg.

The Risk
The other equally big downside is if a certain task or challenge underwhelms (and that is the case for many TAR tasks, regardless of country) then an entire episode is a bust. For example, a task that may take up at most 5-10 minutes on a regular TAR episode now must be stretched to 22 minutes. Even the best planned and interesting tasks don’t necessarily warrant 20+ minutes on TV time.

This week had two examples of both good and bad with respect to this. Thursday’s Detour episode was the weakest episode of the week. The Detour itself, taking orders in Japanese, was fine and is a classic TAR task. But the episode was flat, almost boring. The only interesting moments from the episode were JP & Kelvin’s exchange when they got out of their taxi and the trunk hitting Jeck’s face. And together, both maybe took 1 out of the episode’s 20+ minutes.

The task had teams in and out, one-by-one. It was the most Linear of tasks to rival some of TARUS’ most Linear Legs.

On the other side of the spectrum, Friday’s episode was maybe the best of the week. The problems that made Tuesday through Thursday’s episodes… not so good, disappeared on Friday’s task at Resorts World. It had everything you look for on The Amazing Race.

The task itself was fun and colorful. You’ve got teams dressed up, especially the guys in drag. Since it was a dancing task, it brought the drama like a dancing task always does. And because it wasn’t a processional task or a task where teams could leech off each other (more that later), we actually got to see some competition and Racing. Something we did not see in the three episodes previous. Teams moved ahead, others fell behind.

Long Road to the Pit Stop
And now maybe the biggest case against the one-task-per-episode format, the Pit Stop episode was incredibly tedious. If it weren’t for the streets of Metro Manila becoming rivers and creeks, then what would the Pit Stop episode have been filled with?

Heading to the Pit Stop shouldn’t take 20 minutes. And the teams popping out of one location at the start of the episode and all suddenly heading to the Pit Stop definitely does not give off a sense of Racing and accomplishment after having just gone through one whole Leg.

Of course the simplest solution to all of this is having normal one or two hour episodes a week. But we know that’s not possible.

I think I might actually prefer season 1’s schedule now. At least those episodes played out like normal TAR episodes. Monday-Wednesday and Thursday-Friday Legs maybe?

The biggest thing they could do now is to edit the episodes normally, that is, no one-task-per-episode. Instead, show teams continually moving forward. Again, this new format makes absolute sense, but at the same time, I would hope the Filipino audience would be able to still follow the show if it were edited like it was season 1.

Or how about just five episodes per Leg a week? The actual Race on Monday through Friday. The highlights episode on Saturdays and a full marathon on Sunday nights?

But we’re here now. So maybe the simpler tweak would be making the Friday episode end with the first team or teams only just getting the Pit Stop clue and then move into the Saturday episode with the rest of the teams finishing up that final task of the Leg before heading to the Pit Stop.

Zarah & Osang apparently finished the dancing task and left Resorts World before Daniel & Charlie and RR & Jeck even arrived there, judging by their reaction when Derek told them they were NOT the last team to leave Resorts World. That meant they didn’t even see the last two teams.

Wouldn’t it have been more exciting seeing that play out right at the end? Zarah & Osang leaving for the Pit Stop, but Daniel & Charlie and RR & Jeck only just arriving at Resorts World. Then Team Travel Buddies ultimately getting done in by traffic and flooding.

I don’t want to say the editing so far this season is worse than season 1, but… I also can’t NOT say that.

And again, these graphics errors are unacceptable:

The Tasks
The week started and ended well. The rappelling down the side of SM Aura was a perfect first challenge. Very TARAu of them to have a rappelling Road Block as their very first clue.

And the dancing task at Resorts World, as I pointed out above, was great.

But it were the four tasks in the middle of the week that ranged from boring to messy to downright cruel and misguided.

A Little Too Much Matulungin
The ice bar task set the tone first. The teams handing each other answers was awful. After the mess that was TAR24, seeing teams holding each other hands like that brought about horrible memories and reminded many of what has made TARUS so underwhelming these recent years. It left a bad taste in many fans’ mouths.

Absolutely no sense of competition at all, especially with teams feeling so entitled that even the simplest tasks are so impossible for them. Teams these days should be lucky they aren’t on any of the earlier seasons of TAR. They’d probably quit immediately.

But with this task, it was one of those that looked great on paper, but end up being horrible in execution. There should have been a stipulation that sharing answers was not allowed.

After all, Dani & Mish were penalized in season 1 for asking Dayal the answer to a Road Block.

If that wasn’t bad enough, teams used the answer sharing to indirectly (or not) target Tina & Avy only because they were in last place.

To make it even worse, teams did the exact same thing on the very next challenge at the Philippine Stock Exchange! GIVING each other answers.

No matter how long it may take to finally solve puzzles, neither were impossible. And TAR would never have unsolvable puzzles. That doesn’t make good TV and that would diminish the Race itself.

With two back-to-back tasks most teams didn’t even complete, they came off as lazy and entitled. Are they here to Race? Are they here to compete? The fact that this happened on two of the FIRST three episodes did not help. People watch TAR to see teams compete fully, not just give up and resign to thinking the tasks were impossible. They just started the Race! These were the 2nd and 3rd tasks of the entire Race!

Maybe the worst part of the answer sharing debacle was that it focused more on the whispers and conniving that we missed out on getting more insight into each individual team. Those individual team insights were present on Monday’s premiere and Friday’s episode (again, both the best episodes of the week). But in these middle week episodes, it was all about forming alliances and making deals, like this was Big Brother or something.

What happened here on TARPh has not happened on any Amazing Race I’ve ever seen, and judging from comments by other TAR fans, none they’ve ever seen either. It was really an unprecedented move by these teams. And I hope it never happens again.

Doubly Cruel Duel
And then, the sprinting duel. Though Derek didn’t say it, this was definitely TARPh’s version of HaMerotz LaMillion‘s Double Battle. TAR Israel’s original feature has teams facing off against each other in duels or all together before moving on with each Leg.

After seeing Wednesday’s episode, I decided to look up all of TAR Israel’s Double Battle tasks and none of them were as poor an idea as this sprinting duel. In fact, most of the Double Battles were actually fun and creative and didn’t force a team into an disadvantage worse than a U-Turn.

The sprinting turned into a grueling physical task that specifically favored certain teams and forcibly knocked a team down into last place.

Making things worse was the other teams being so averse to helping Zarah & Osang (who, by all accounts were one of the nicest teams) when they themselves relied on help to get through the two previous tasks. It came off very hypocritical. Kelvin’s roundabout excuse also applied to all the other teams who refused na pagbigyan sila Zarah & Osang. Who, by the way, while not as physically fit as the other teams, still did the task 7x more than all other teams AND still managed to almost beat two others to the Pit Stop.

Now that’s what The Amazing Race is all about.

So overall, while I am excited to have The Amazing Race Philippines back, it was a rough first week. I only hope things get much better moving forward.

Oh, and one more thing.

TV5 definitely needs to upload FULL episodes onto their or TARPh’s official YouTube Channel. And in HD!

I’ve gotten messages from TAR fans around the world asking where to watch the show. And all I can point them to is low quality, “pirated” uploads. Most of those uploads, disappearing a day or two after they’re uploaded to YouTube.

TAR fans are a loyal bunch, especially long-time fans. And many of those fans love watching foreign TARs even if they are in another language. Having official episode uploads would help The Amazing Race Philippines immensely. Not only would it help draw attention from around the world, Filipino fans and even Racers themselves have been looking for ways to watch the episodes, either for the first time or just to watch them again.

When dozens of networks, including all networks that air The Amazing Race put full episodes on their websites, TV5 should do the same. Being able to share episodes with others will help spread the word and get more people excited about the show. And the show certainly would benefit from more attention and excitement from viewers.

If there are going to be illegal uploads of the episodes anyway, why not put them on the official channels and actually BENEFIT even more from them?

My Subjective Team Rankings After Leg 1

So this really is a good cast. If only they actually did tasks on their own. (hehe) But it’s only the first Leg. Let’s hope teams can actually be independent and show they actually deserve this shot in the Race.

All of the teams are likeable so far, some more than others. But it is definitely a solid cast and definitely much more interesting than many a TARUS cast of recent years.

Zarah & Osang best exemplified what The Amazing Race is all about. They made a great first impression with Zarah’s adorable chatting with Jet as they were rappelling in the first episode. Then they showed how much heart they had. #Puso indeed. They had to, to have been able to do what they did. They kept fighting and never gave up. Like I pointed out above, they did that sprint 7x more than all other teams yet were able to work their way back up the ranks and were almost safe. Experienced travelers, it would have been awesome to see them compete, especially out of the country. One of the most heartbreaking first eliminations ever, on any TAR.

Luz & Chen are my 2nd faves of the week if only for Luz. Chen is great and all, but Luz absolutely stole the spotlight. She stole the show and every scene she was in. She was the only one in the entire cast who consistently delivered every single day of the week. Her one-liners are absolutely hilarious and I hope we get to enjoy them for many, many Legs to come.

I can’t help but like AJ & Jody so much if only because they are absolutely the anti-Dave & Connor. If you don’t know who Dave & Connor are, well, lucky you. But they are worst example of a parent-child team on TAR. AJ & Jody, on the other hand, had the perfect combination of being good competitors AND being able to bring some fun drama. It was a lot of fun seeing them clashing. Knowing they are obviously father and son, you know that fighting and arguing and pikonan comes very natural. And you know that even though they fight, it’s not like they’re going to break up after the Race or anything.

Tina & Avy, like Zarah & Osang, never gave up. They showed they too had heart and a great fighting spirit. Tina being able to figure out the ice bar puzzle on their own deserves major kudos. And the fact that other teams were less than cordial to them definitely encourages you to root for them. They’re fun sisters who don’t give up and are ready to Race, help or no help.

Jet & Yna were great at the ice bar. And I can’t fault them for coming up with a clever strategy at the duel. But I must fault them for not giving that task at least a few more tries. When Zarah & Osang were able to go that many times, Jet & Yna certainly could have gone up against at least one more after Luz & Chen. They have a lot of potential though. We’ve had a lot of different sibling teams with many different dynamics. I am looking forward to seeing what Jet & Yna offer.

JP & Kelvin are also very promising. Their bromantic asaran is a dynamic we’ve never really seen on the Race before and it would be awesomely fun to watch. I hope we do get to see more of that from them. Usually, it’s always two boring best buds or basic alpha males. However, unfortunately for them this Leg, they were made out to be the scapegoaty-face of the teams’ hypocrisy at the duel. While Kelvin’s excuse was definitely nonsense, it’s the same kind of explanation the other teams had for Zarah & Osang as well. It’s just unlucky for them that their excuse was what made TV.

Roch & Eji‘s closing message after Zarah & Osang’s elimination may have seemed harsh, but that competitive spirit is definitely not something to dislike. They’ve already established that they are in it to win it and that’s a better attitude to have than “I want to hold the other teams’ hands!” They definitely owe Kelvin & JP after that PSE task. But I do hope we see more of those chefs who said they would “bake the other teams alive” though. They had some fun little moments, but I’m expecting to see more of the sassy chefs soon.

RR & Jeck delivered in the first episode. Hilarious fun bickering. But being the promoters of that mess at the ice bar and their villainous laughter toward Tina & Avy’s last place predicament were big turn offs. They were definitely lucky that Zarah & Osang didn’t hop out of their taxi sooner on the way to the Pit Stop, otherwise they’d be done. And while RR, experienced with TV comedy, also says funny things, some of it can come off as forced too. Maybe because I’m used to seeing her on TV after years on Wowowee

Vince & Ed may have won the Leg, but they had a pretty quiet Leg. Like literally. They’re so soft spoken, they actually mumble through their clues. A calm, cool and collected attitude is good for them on the Race, but maybe not the most exciting for us watching. Also, with their educational background and all that, you’d expect them to have done much better at that ice bar puzzle instead of begging Chen for the answer instead. They deserve kudos at the stock exchange puzzle though, especially with them telling the other teams only HOW to solve the puzzle and not the actual answer.

Matt & Phoebe were very under the radar this week. Definitely a huge contrast to the big, hyped up clashing in the trailer. The drama between them must be a slow burn. So until then, they’re just an okay team who also deserves kudos for their performance at that PSE puzzle. But no kudos for just telling the other teams the answer. Boo.

Daniel & Charlie may be last on my list, but that doesn’t mean I dislike them. I actually very much enjoy Daniel’s swearing. It’s so random that it’s amusing. But a few times this week it felt like they were on an episode of Juan Direction instead. That shtick could quickly get old. Props to Charlie for figuring out the puzzle with Phoebe. But I do hope they step it up, both Race-wise and entertainment-wise moving forward as well.

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