Recap: The Amazing Race 29, Episode 11 – As Easy As Stacking Cups
Teams set off on the penultimate Leg and fly to Seoul, South Korea. From Incheon Airport, all teams decide to take a taxi to Gangnam District except Matt & Redmond who decide to take the subway upon advice from locals.
Despite rush hour traffic, the three teams get to Gangnam and receive their next clue from K-pop trainees. Teams must now make their way to Hanyang University Olympic Gym.
Tara & Joey are first to arrive and find the Road Block: Who stacks up?
For this Road Block, teams will try out sport stacking and try to beat 7 seconds completing a specific formation of cups. Joey and Brooke get started with Logan close behind.
Matt & Redmond just arrive in Gangnam and notice they’ve taken the last clue. They hop into a taxi.
After a couple of tries, Brooke taps at just 7 seconds and she and Scott can now head to the Mugyewon Arts & Cultural Center. Tara & Joey and London & Logan are right behind them as they leave the gym.
Meanwhile, Matt & Redmond’s taxi driver realizes he’s been driving towards Hongik University instead of Hanyang University. He offers them a discount.
Scott & Brooke arrive at the cultural center and open the next clue. Teams will be making six servings of kimchi which they will place in a pot to be buried to begin the fermentation process. Tara & Joey and London & Logan are right there with them.
Redmond starts the Road Block as he and Matt start to realize they’re far behind.
Tara & Joey, London & Logan and Brooke & Scott have a bite of kimchi to complete the Road Block and must now head to Seoul OGN E-Stadium.
And here, they find another Road Block: Who’s ready to take control? The team member who did not perform the first Road Block must complete this one.
For this Road Block, teams must play Street Fighter V against pro gamers. After every 10 rounds, if the teams have not yet beaten the pro, the pro will first get a hand tied behind his back and then be blindfolded.
Scott, Tara and London head into the e-sports stadium to get started. They get absolutely pwned after 10 rounds and even into the next 10 with the pro getting the one-handed handicap. It is only after the pro is blindfolded that London and Scott get the KO and win. Tara, however, is struggling and Joey does not appreciate the pro not giving Tara any leeway.
It is Round 31 and Tara still can’t get the upper hand. That’s when Matt & Redmond arrive and Matt takes a seat to get started.
Across town, Brooke & Scott and London & Logan arrive at Some Gavit, the Pit Stop for this Leg, as Teams 1 and 2.
Tara finally delivers the knockout and she and Joey hurry to the Pit Stop where they secure their spot in the Final Leg.
That means Matt & Redmond are last and eliminated.
Alright. So I’m very conflicted about this Leg. I’ve actually been conflicted about this Leg since it was first rumored that Seoul was the penultimate Leg. Even when the first spoilers in Chicago of Seoul being up on the Wrigley Field scoreboard, I was in denial. I felt like visiting Korea on a penultimate/final 4 Leg again was such a waste.
I think I’ve explained many times before. But basically, the number of teams competing on a Leg can completely change the dynamic and even the Leg design itself. That’s one of the reasons I hoped TAR would visit the Philippines earlier in the Race rather than be the penultimate country, again, in season 25. TARUS may never get that chance again.
And it’s exactly that reason why I’m annoyed with Korea being used like this. Many might say that’s an overreaction. But to put it bluntly, these are the kinds of decisions that has plunged TAR into the pit it is in today. Missed opportunities, poor Leg design, wasting potentially excellent locations. These are all traits of contemporary TAR that helped cause its steep and fast decline, both quality-wise and ratings-wise.
Diversifying Legs and where they’re placed on a Route help make things fresh and exciting. And South Korea is certainly a place that has diverse locations and culture, especially outside of Seoul.
South Korea has only been visited three teams in 29 seasons. THREE Legs! in 29 seasons?! One of the major countries of the world, whether culturally or in business and technology? For it to only have hosted three Legs, half of one focused on an American military base and two other halves focused on tasks that could’ve been staged anywhere in the world?
Even NBC’s Better Late Than Never did a better job of highlighting Korea and the Korea Tourism Organization (which also sponsored Better Late Than Never‘s Korea episode) has been very aggressive in attracting tourists to the country. So it makes it all the more inexplicable and puzzling that TARUS, which these days must rely on local tourism boards to entice them with subsidies and incentives, would drop the ball so much with Korea.
And this isn’t only because I’ve been sucked into the Korean Wave for years. I’ve said the same about poor tasks in first-time visit countries too. Like playing around with car parts on Mount Ararat or in Cuba, for example. Maximize the locations, show the audience things they’ve never seen before. That’s what made TAR so amazing once before in the now distant past.
Anyway, more of this State of the Franchise ranting in next week’s Wrap-up. But back to rating about this Leg specifically.
Having a night Leg in a city like Seoul is definitely not a bad idea. In fact it’s a great idea and the chosen tasks here fit very well. But at the same time, this ultra-modern urban Seoul Leg just screamed to be paired with a more cultural-focused or just rural Leg somewhere else. Whether that just simply be in nearby Incheon or actually having the teams travel further south or east into the countryside; it really would’ve been a perfect way to showcase South Korea being a small, yet very diverse country.
The K-pop Route Marker was cute, including the original song. But needing to reference “Gangnam Style” and the lack of an actual K-pop task was just a no-no.
The cup stacking Road Block was pretty good. It’s a quick task that featured amazingly talented kids. Those kinds of tasks are always great. (See TAR21’s opening Leg table tennis Road Block.)
The kimchi-making is the perfect Active Route Info task for this Leg. The only contrast to the two modern Road Blocks, but still too touristy instead of if it had been done somewhere in the countryside at a real home. Also, curry powder? Uh… Scott’s description is probably not the best description of what they had to do at the task. lol
And finally the Street Fighter Road Block. Another great task in a good location. E-sports have really blown up the last few years and South Korea is as good a country as any to stage this kind of task.
BUT! Like I mentioned earlier, this urban Seoul Leg would’ve been perfect alongside a more rural Leg. But even on its own, this Leg would’ve been even more exciting and full with more than just four teams Racing on it. The Leg design and its structure was well suited for an early Leg, even a premiere Leg actually. Not so much a penultimate Leg that ultimately decided the final 3 with a taxi.
And speaking of, no subway? It appears the teams took a direct Hanoi-Incheon Korean Air flight that got them in around 7pm. Even with rush hour traffic, the subway from Incheon to Gangnam in Seoul would take a very long time. And that’s also even if they took the KTX express train. Plus there’s still at least one transfer involved.
Having teams (more than four at least) navigating Seoul’s expansive subway system would be a task on its own. Having to transfer, making sure you’re on the right line going in the right direction while walking through the maze in the huge underground stations. It’s pretty crazy while also convenient. Matt & Redmond probably took the non-express train to Seoul which could’ve easily put them behind 30 minutes immediately.
But lol at the editing at the end. They probably could’ve edited all four teams on the way to the Pit Stop instead of making it seem like the first two teams were far ahead of the last two. All four were probably within 30-40 minutes apart, likely less, going to the Mat. Poor Pit Stop editing these last few seasons is another thing to complain about though, seriously.
Anyway, this was a good Leg on its own but a lot of missed opportunities and wasted potential while also being questionable as a penultimate Leg.
My Subjective Team Rankings
So going into next week’s finale, I don’t really have a choice to win. I’m not really rooting for anyone nor am I rooting against anyone either. I’d settled on Tara & Joey as my picks to win when some of my early “faves” got eliminated. But these last few Legs plus the little bursts earlier on of them getting very negative when they weren’t in the front of the pack have been a little bit of a turn off. Especially in this Leg at the Street Fighter Road Block. Joey especially was very Mike-like. I get the frustration, but both he and Tara were just very negative and not even in a fun, trainwreck sort of way. It was just hard to watch, especially Joey basically ridiculing the pro gamer just because he wasn’t letting Tara win. I was afraid he was going to say something… uh, off color. Not the kind of underdog, never give up spirit they’ve showed in the past.
Scott & Brooke have been the most entertaining team this season with some rough spots here and there. But like earlier on, Brooke showed that she can do things even if she whines and complains for no reason. London & Logan have embraced the dark horse role of the season and have quietly done enough to get themselves into the Final Leg. London at the Road Block was particularly an example of how they’ve run the Race; a good mix of falling forward, luck and actual Racing skill.
It’s really anyone’s Race at this point and it might all come down to a taxi or how well the Final Leg is designed.
As for Matt & Redmond, the subway and the taxi are what basically did them in. Otherwise, they would’ve easily secured a spot in the Final Leg. Not too sad about their elimination though.
Brooke: “They’re laughing at you, so you did it wrong.”
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