I’ve been wanting to re-watch some older seasons for a while now, especially seasons I didn’t recap like I do today. So after the finale of TARPHDME20 (lol), I decided why not finally do it. And what better season to start with than my favorite season of all-times, Season 3!
I’ve watched TAR3 episodes over and over again for years now. I’ve watched the episodes so much, I felt like I could recite the hilarious one-liners and know what’s ahead in every episode.
However, I did not expect how different the experience would actually be. I didn’t expect that watching the episodes just to watch them vs. watching the episodes to recap them would feel different. But it was. It actually caused me to be more critical of the episodes and the Leg design and stuff like that. Since when you’re watching the episodes, you’re just enjoying what’s on screen and just going along with everything. But recapping and nitpicking and all that definitely gets you to look at things in a way that you didn’t before.
And that made me think about some of the other seasons I may not like. What if I just watched those seasons without worrying about recapping them. Would I have a different opinion of them? Would I not be so hard on them?
(Though I know for sure no matter what, TAR24 will still be horrible. Recapped or not lol)
It’s also different of course watching and recapping TAR3 now almost 20 years after first watching it and having 30 other seasons to compare it to. How I felt watching TAR3 for the first time in 2002 is definitely different from watching it in 2020.
Anyway, what I do know for certain is that TAR3 still holds a special place in my heart. And it’s definitely still my favorite season. But I think what TAR3 did was solidify my love for The Amazing Race. As much as I was wowed by season 1, especially after September 11th, and enjoyed season 2 and spazzed over San Francisco being the Final Destination, it was TAR3 that got me totally invested in the show week after week.
And TAR3 just has everything you need for an Amazing Race season: A great cast, great locations and great tasks.
Now, while recapping, I regularly talked about the horrible Leg design. But that’s coming from 2020 where TAR’s evolution has necessitated the need for near-perfect Leg design to make up for poor competition and bad casting. Back then was also a time when TAR was still trying to find the right formula for the show. They were still trying to figure out the best and most efficient way to deal with logistics as well as balancing being a competition and a travel pron show.
TAR3 definitely highlighted the importance of good casting. The teams elevated what would sometimes be iffy Leg design and some tasks that with any other teams would fall flat.
One positive thing of contemporary TAR is the tighter Legs. No random equalizers in the middle or even end of a Leg. Or big country jumps in the middle of the Leg either. But one of the negative things about contemporary TAR is the tighter Legs to the point of being completely barebones and nonexistent competition.
Which is why with TAR3, the teams and their interpersonal relationships as well as competitive nature really helped carry the show when at times (maybe with a 2020 lens), the tasks and competitive aspect kind of lagged.
But that’s not to say that TAR3 didn’t have good tasks and Legs. They had plenty. Not to mention some iconic TAR moments.
Dieselgate was a warning to all future TAR teams to make sure you know what kind of fuel to put into your car. And Heather & Eve illustrated exactly what “walk” or “on foot” means on TAR, not to mention one of the very first and most memorable depictions of the necessity to “READ YOUR CLUE.”
The Morocco Legs had great tasks that would get recycled often. The Grindelwald Leg still is one of the most exciting (and funniest!) Races to the Pit Stop ever. Also, only these teams could make discussions of pants be hilarious and fun.
The Asian legs in Malaysia, Singapore and especially Vietnam were definitely when the season truly kicked into high gear. The perfect Final Five teams Raced through Southeast Asia and delivered some excellent episodes.
The Vietnam Legs and episodes especially will forever be two of the best hours of The Amazing Race ever. Between Flo’s meltdown and the reflections of the Vietnam War, especially by Ian, these were the Legs and episodes that truly highlighted just how amazing The Amazing Race could be.
Overall, I 100% don’t think any future season (however many TAR has left, which is probably very few, if that) will ever top TAR3 as my favorite. It’s not perfect, but everything comes together to result in a season that delivers what TAR is all about.
My Subjective Team Rankings
After Episode 1, I mentioned how it was hard to really rank the teams just based on the episode alone since I already know how the season plays out and also years removed from the original airing. And now after rewatching and recapping the season, it’s still hard because I know some of my rankings will be based on how memorable they are in the grander scheme of the entire franchise and not necessarily based only on the season. But anyway.
There is no question Teri & Ian are my favorite team of the season. They’re still one of my favorite teams of all time. It really is funny how they were always included in the intro to each episode with Phil reminding us that they were old and are hanging on in the Race by a thread, basically. And yet, they were minutes away from winning the whole thing. Heavy and not-subtle foreshadowing perhaps? They really would’ve been one of the series’ best winners. Very competitive. A strong team with no help from alliances or anyone else. They Raced very well, especially in the second half of the season. But not only that, they were hilarious and fun to watch. Big, dynamic personalities. They were entertaining and they were also great Racers. And them being one of the “older” teams, yet besting teams younger than them is a big plus. Perfect combination.
Ken & Gerard are such an interesting team to watch. This rewatch made me realize how fascinating their Race was. They were basically the top dogs at the beginning of the Race. One of the teams to beat and stealthy masterminds as well. Not even in a nasty or conniving way. Just able to work the Race and the other teams. They Raced well AND were hilarious and fun. Yet, towards the end, they ended up fading to the background. They still Raced well, but the attention was drawn all toward Flo & Zach and Teri & Ian. The Oh Brothers went from contenders to also-rans. So strange! But despite that, they’re definitely one of the most memorable teams of all time.
John Vito & Jill are just your boy and girl next door team. They had an emotional backstory and were nice guys. So you can’t help but root for them. There were times when they would feel like tag-a-longs to the loose alliance, but once they shook that off, they were able to Race well enough to reach Southeast Asia. I can definitely see why they were invited back for All-Stars, even if perhaps they might have been a replacement for a Kelly & Jon maybe. Team JVJ are just nice, likeable people with solid, not spectacular Racing.
Flo & Zach, what is there to say? Two of the biggest storylines this season were Flo and Drew’s budding relationship (and Zach with the unrequited love angle lol) and Flo’s end of Race meltdown. That alone solidifies their spot in the higher tiers of TAR teams. Even more when you add in the fact that they won. I remember back then people commented that Zach dragged Flo to the end. And who knows how well they could’ve Raced if the Road Block limit existed back then. But their story is definitely one of TAR’s most memorable journeys to victory.
Derek & Drew were called the Wonder Twins for a reason. After their almost epic collapse in the opening Leg, they quickly solidified themselves as top contenders during the season. Drew and Flo’s relationship just added to their storyline. But it would be the epic moment in Vietnam before their elimination that they will be best known for. One of the most memorable and iconic moments of TAR. The once invincible Brotherhood alliance shattered at the perfect moment. We might not have gotten that with another team. But the Wonder Twins helped to deliver it.
This rewatch helped me remember how fun Michael & Kathy were. All I remember before this rewatch is them being the most unlucky team during Dieselgate. But I had forgotten Michael’s witty one-liners. And the contrast between Michael’s laidback nature and Kathy’s more Go Go Go! attitude. Knowing that they married and now have a family is awesome. So it makes watching them on the season that much more fun.
I also forgot how much Heather & Eve delivered in their short time on the Race too. From opening Leg freakouts to crashing into a pole to their unprecedented elimination, they helped to bring us some of the season’s funniest moments. A great team that could’ve really made it to the end. And what a different Race that would’ve been!
Tramel & Talicia would’ve been fun to watch a little more on the Race. Their fun-loving nature would be a good contrast to the uber-competitive nature of the other teams. And it would’ve been interesting to see that. They and Gina & Sylvia are nice teams. But ultimately, they both did get eliminated at the right moments.
I definitely did not like Aaron & Arianne back then. But now, I appreciate the nasty cattiness they brought to the Race. lol Which is why I think they too were eliminated at the right time. Any more Legs and they would’ve gotten on my last nerve. But for their time on the Race, they delivered some deliciously villainous actions that helped spice up the season for sure. Dennis & Andrew had a pretty quiet Race and will be best known for getting eliminated after going for the Fast Forward. What I didn’t remember was that they were so far behind anyway, they wouldn’t have had a chance regardless.
I’ve always remembered Andre & Damon for tagging along with the Brotherhood alliance and also getting lost in Morocco. But this rewatch reminded me how much they really just followed other teams. (Very familiar considering TAR32 that is currently airing as I write this.) They were also eliminated at the right time. But their Racing was unfortunately really poor and they ended up otherwise invisible most of the time.