And so my 2021 rewatch of season 4 is over. TAR4 was always a sort of middling season. Especially sandwiched between seasons 3 and 5, two of the franchise’s gold standard seasons, it was easy for TAR4 to get lost in the shuffle. Of course after ten years of the HD Era, it’s also easy to look back at a season like TAR4 with great nostalgia.
After this rewatch (my first time in years), I think it essentially reaffirmed my original thoughts of the season. That is, the tasks and route may not have been all that memorable or amazing. But the cast may be one of the best of all-time. Quick check of my latest All-Time Rankings and I see that I indeed have TAR4 tied with TAR8 as my 3rd favorite group of teams.
And really, it’s the teams that carried this season. TAR4 isn’t about memorable tasks, but memorable characters who provided memorable moments. It’s amazing to see how well TAR was cast back then. A far cry from TAR of today.
TAR4 was all about the characters rather than well-designed Legs or great tasks. Which is more than can be said of contemporary TAR which has neither good characters nor well-designed legs or tasks.
These teams provided us with great moments. Some of the moments I remember even without rewatching the season:
-Steve & Josh buying tickets for Team ATC and shutting Monica & Sheree out of the flight.
-Any of Tian & Jaree’s arguments.
-Millie and Chip getting physical over a fiacre.
-The other teams being upset at Tian & Jaree for parking at the gate, Steve jokingly threatening their tires will get slashed.
-Kelly & Jon making fun of Millie the mole and werewolf Chuck.
-“Dating 12 Years/Virgins”
-Tian doing the bull racing Road Block
-Naked Jon Corso
-David & Jeff being the second coming of Joe & Bill
I remember the teams and these moments more than I remember even most of the Legs or destinations.
And of course, possibly the moments that make TAR4 sadly infamous; the sexual assault trains in Mumbai.
It’s just as shocking watching that episode now as it was back then. Perhaps even more so. Especially when we remember that TAR5 returned to India AND had teams get on those trains once again. One year after female Racers were sexually assaulted on a train in broad daylight, TAR thought “Yes, let’s do that again. It’ll make great TV.”
No. It was not great TV. And TAR should have learned their lesson. It’s one thing to highlight something unexpected on the Race. It’s another thing to shine a spotlight on such a thing and then treat it like it was simply culture shock.
Anyway, TAR4 should also be remembered for other, more positive things as well. Other than the cast, this season also introduced the once-radical idea of having a Road Block before the Detour. At the time, I remember it being so insane for such a format change. Fast forward today, we have Legs with ZERO Road Blocks and ZERO Detours. Lol Really such a different time now.
The best Leg and episode of the season was definitely Leg 9 in Malaysia. The competition and the drama were all there. And the exciting finish was one that was really absent most of the season.
What I’ve realized after watching TAR3 and TAR4 is that it really is a different time and different world. What was exciting and amazing 15 years ago will probably not work today. It’s part of the evolution of the Race as well as changing tastes, I guess.
Airport drama in 2003? Exciting! Airport drama in 2021? Why can’t they just look for flights online.
So it’s important to keep things in context I guess. Especially with older seasons. As a fan watching the season again, I can appreciate it for what it was back in 2003 as well as compare it to 31 other seasons as well. The nostalgia coupled with not-so-amazing HD Era seasons definitely leaves me with an overall positive feeling for The Amazing Race 4.
My Subjective Team Rankings
It’s a little hard to do a final rank of these teams since I actually like them all. Some more than others, of course. But I think you could make a case for each team and point to that one moment from each that really stands out.
Kelly & Jon are one of my favorite teams of all times. They were the quintessential couple team. They may fight and argue, but they still love each other. They can provide us the drama of bickering while being able to make up in the end. They Raced pretty well. Sometimes they’d stumble hard. But they made it to the Final Leg on their own merits. They were funny and they enjoyed the Race. Just a team that I loved to watch and enjoyed watching. Both back then and today.
I think we should talk about how Tian & Jaree should definitely be mentioned alongside other iconic TAR all-female teams. While they didn’t make it as far as others, their impact was nonetheless very strong. Their bickering was fun. But what really gives them an edge over other all-female teams was just the complete badassery of Tian. Jaree was hilarious and fun in her own way. But Tian definitely carried the team. And it that sense, they complimented each other well. Thus, making for a great, memorable team.
Amanda & Chris would’ve been AMAZING if they had survived longer on the Race. I get the feeling this Race would’ve been completely different had they stayed. Drama between them plus drama with other teams? All while they cuss their way through Legs? That’s TV gold.
It says a lot about this cast or the casts of other seasons when Debra & Steve had more memorable impact in one Leg than some teams have all season. The fat, forty and fun parents were great to watch. Delivering great one-liners left and right. And while they weren’t the most physically fit team, they still gave it their all. That’s a great combination to have on the Race.
Steve & Dave are a team you would never see cast on TAR anymore these days. They were the “big fat guys,” but they had more personality than some casts have combined. Needing to make up for their lack of physical strength compared to other teams, they used their wit and strategy to keep themselves in the Race. It was fun to watch and seeing them play that role of pot stirrer was hilarious.
Monica & Sheree were a good team. And they had actually been doing quite well. It was just one slip up that cost them the Race in India. But otherwise, they Raced solidly and were strong women who never backed down. They were definitely catching their stride by the time they were eliminated.
Jon & Al fit a mold that TAR definitely had for that “older” funny team. But they proved to be great Racers as well. David & Jeff, meanwhile, felt a little like Racebots at first. But had some moments where they showed they were competitive and had no problem getting in other teams’ faces if they needed to.
Reichen & Chip are definitely not one of my favorite teams or winners, but it’s hard to fault them for their competitiveness. That competitiveness may have been a bit of a turnoff back then. But with it sorely missing on recent TARs, it’s quite a refreshing thing to see.
Steve & Josh would be the closest the season would have to a villain. Josh especially. From his random “fake tits” comments to his various maneuvering and attempts at scheming, they had the makings of a team you could love to hate.
Millie & Chuck are such a fascinating team to watch. And it says a lot about them when the fact that they are virgins is possibly the least interesting thing about them. Watching their relationship devolve over the course of the season, coupled with Millie’s uber-competitive nature/Chuck’s more nonchalant attitude and the tension with other teams, they helped drive a lot of the season’s conflict or drama. They were right in the thick of it. And they Raced well. A full package of a team.
Russell & Cindy will of course be best known for their relationship ending before it even started. I don’t know if we would ever see a couple like them ever on TAR. But their short stint was definitely fiery and dramatic.