I can confidently say The Amazing Race 34 is the best non-TARPHDME season of The Amazing Race in 2022. I think there’s several reasons for that. And I’ll outline it here. But basically, even as TAR34 was the first TARUS season filmed completely in the COVID Era, it was as close to normal TAR as TAR can get.
Over the summer, TAR Australia and TAR Canada each attempted a COVID Era Race. And to be quite honest, both stumbled. A lot. I wouldn’t say “fail” because both seasons completed production. And though lots of people caught COVID, no one was seriously ill. But remember The Amazing Race is an entertainment program. And TARAu and TARC provided more frustrations than entertainment.
TAR34 succeeded in many aspects that both of those aforementioned franchises, relatively speaking, failed at. And I think it was a combination of TARUS’ planning and just pure luck.
TAR in the COVID Era
Luck because obviously, it’s a crap shoot in 2022 on whether or not you’ll catch COVID. No matter how careful you are and what precautions you take, you could still catch COVID. Thankfully, vaccines and medicines will keep us from becoming seriously ill. But when you have teams running around the world Europe, there’s still a chance COVID sneaks in.
Though COVID forced Abby & Will out of the Race, all the other teams were able to run the Race and be eliminated or reach the Finish Line. That is unfortunate and sad for Abby & Will who were a fine team. But it is a relief compared to the mess that transpired on TAR Australia and Canada.
Eliminating Abby & Will was the best decision at this point. There would be no reason to hold them until they tested negative like the other TARs did. And speaking of luck, TAR34 was lucky only one team caught COVID. They were able to easily eliminate the team and still keep their “No Non-Elimination Legs” promise.
But how did TAR34 manage only one COVID-positive team while other TARs had to sideline several. I think the charter flight definitely played a huge role there. TAR34 lessened teams’ exposure to other people, especially in crowded airports and planes. (And that is regardless of planes having clean air and the like.)
Moving forward, that’s really what any TAR must do. Be able to craft a Race course that can be staged in as much of a bubble as possible. That is, limit teams’ unnecessary exposure to big groups of people and limit the potential for them to catch COVID. That can certainly be done through Leg design. And the charter plane and self-driving are important pieces in making that possible.
TAR34 of course stayed in Continental Europe (plus Jordan and Iceland) and chose locations that had low COVID rates. Whereas TAR Australia had what you might call an overly-ambitious route. Beautiful locations, but definitely did not limit teams’ potential risk for COVID. Ultimately, I think what TAR Australia did was a mistake. But TARAu’s goals for their TAR format are far different than TARUS or even TAR Canada’s.
On the flipside, TAR Canada again stayed in their own country. (“It’s… better getting to explore our own country!”) Yet they too sidelined teams before bringing them back in (to win!). They had taken public transport and flown commercial and ran around crowded public places too.
That TAR34 was as normal as possible really helps to make it as enjoyable as possible. Especially in the present time. It’s basically making do with what you have. And as much as it would be awesome to see TAR Racing through Asia or South America or other places, unless the show can take as many precautionary measures as possible, then it won’t be likely.
Also especially because of the show’s shoestring budget these days. That charter flight definitely isn’t cheap either.
But with all things considered, the Race itself was fine. Nothing too special. Nothing too memorable. Though nothing too offensive either. There weren’t absurd penalties and free passes like TAR Australia. There weren’t random battle backs and pointless twists like TAR Canada.
TAR34 did as best they could with the circumstances. And I have no problem giving it that leeway.
The one major change this season was the touting of having No Non-Elimination Legs. (TARPHDME did it first, kinda lol)
Seriously though, a surprisingly fierce debate over Non-Elimination Legs and KOR Legs and the like popped up several times this season. Especially with relation to the Mega Leg.
Of course, the Mega Leg debuted in the Season That Must Not Be Named. The official definition of a Mega Leg is basically a “Leg” that has two Detours and two Road Blocks. In reality, it’s a Leg with as many tasks as a normal Leg in the SD seasons.
But TARUS is essentially using the Mega Leg to replace Non-Elimination Legs and also KOR Legs. Keep on Racing Legs were essentially no-penalty Non-Elimination Legs. And a Mega Leg is essentially the same thing as well. No, there is no Pit Stop. But the basically three tasks of each half of the Mega Leg is equal to one regular Leg in modern TAR. The “no rest” argument isn’t really one to make when Legs these days last a few hours compared to Legs lasting a whole day (and longer) in the past.
The Mega Leg is also probably budget-induced as well. And I guess whatever keeps the lights on at TAR, just go ahead and do it. As long as it isn’t some nonsense like what TARAu and TARC attempted to do this past summer.
Any other twists, I think, are not necessary. Even in the COVID Era. A back-to-basics Race is fine. As long as the tasks are actually challenging for teams and teams actually Race and not get dragged across the Mat by their new friends.
The other big “twist” was the first Leg’s “Scramble.” It’s a good idea on paper. But I don’t know that it was executed in the best way. Or if even the idea is good for television. Seeing teams complete tasks in the order they choose is an interesting idea. And it can make things a lot more unpredictable. But the first episode was edited in a way that really removed the potentially great results of a Scramble. If they bring it back in the future, they should find a way to tweak its presentation.
Still Modern TAR
Unfortunately, the biggest knock against TAR34 is that it is TAR34. That is, most of the HD seasons have gradually declined in many aspects, including how challenging the Race actually is.
TAR34 was no different. Linear Legs. Simple, straight-forward tasks.
While the cast was alright, they certainly didn’t produce any huge, memorable moments or characters that you’ll remember in the future. The Euro-centric route had some wonderful new locations, but they all blend together with not much difference from each other. (With the exception of Jordan of course.) And the tasks we on the so-so side.
Some of the more standout tasks for me include the sculpture Road Block in Florence, the royal family tree Road Block in Dordogne and the three tasks in Malaga.
All that said, TAR34 was perhaps above average for modern TAR. Even with the COVID-affected production. And that’s definitely a win for the show in 2022.
Season 34 slots in quite easily with the middling seasons. Not one of the all-time greats and certainly not horrible or offensive. It’s a season that did what it was supposed to do and did it okay. And for modern TAR, that’s a win. As long as teams Race relatively well, locations are still stunning to see and no one is either quitting, getting free passes or force-feeding each other answers, then that’s a good season for me. And in comparison to other recent seasons, a combination of recency bias and just the overall positive feelings for this season kind of push it higher in my rankings than it otherwise would be at.
Season 35 has wrapped production. And though CBS has not yet announced a premiere date, it would be nice to see it in the Spring rather than next Fall. But we’ll see.
My Final Subjective Team Rankings
So this year, I’ve stopped ranking teams every episode for TAR. When the episodes (whether TARUS, TARAu or TARC) are so processional and teams so bland, there’s really no point in ranking teams anymore. Sometimes teams don’t even show up in an episode. Other times, there would be zero change to the rankings. Or the episode doesn’t give anything to affect those rankings one way or the other. But after a season’s worth of episodes, we can go ahead and rank these teams.
My absolute favorites are of course Emily & Molly. They ran such a great Race. And while they might have stumbled a bit later on after a strong start, they did what they had to do to reach the Finish Line. They had such a great backstory that definitely carried over onto the Race. They had great, positive personalities. And they did Race very well. And of course, that’s in spite of Emily’s injury. Legit All-Star worthy team I think. Hope to see them Racing again in the future.
Another potential All-Star-worthy team is Glenda & Lumumba. They were such a joy to watch. I don’t think there’s very many teams, especially in recent memory, who were as fun and enjoyable as Glenda & Lumumba. If any team should be invited to Race once again, it’s them.
Rex Ryan was a relatively big “get” for TAR. So it was surprising to see Tim & Rex on the Race. But they were fun and made the most of their short time on the Race. They definitely had the makings of a TAR4 Steve & Dave-type team. And it would’ve been nice to see them on the Race longer.
Derek & Claire are fine winners. I wasn’t rooting for them, but okay with them winning. Having watched Derek on Big Brother (and rooting for his short-lived bromance with Travis). I knew I could root for this fellow Asian-American guy. I didn’t really know Claire though since I stopped watching BB23 after the first few weeks of anti-Asian hate coming from the fans. But Claire ended up being the key for her team. Not only did Claire try to rein in Derek from being too friendly with everyone else, she did most of the most difficult tasks this season. And did well!
Marcus & Michael were such a strong team. They looked unbeatable. So their collapse, which was slow, was so fascinating to watch. It’s too bad they really fell off leading towards their elimination. But maybe starting out too fast on TAR really takes a toll on you. And it seems to have been the case for them.
Abby & Will were barely on-screen. But I put them up here because of the one moment I remember from them. (Other than their COVID elimination of course.) They said they wanted to run their own Race and not have to be tied to other teams. THANK YOU! That immediately made them shoot up my list after I first heard them say that. Too bad COVID had to get ’em. But for that one moment alone, I like them a lot.
Aubrey & David were an alright team. They definitely peaked at the right time. A slow, but consistent rise enough to get them the Penultimate Leg. The same can be said for Luis & Michelle. But they really stepped into the spotlight later on. And a combination of great Racing and a positive attitude really helped them make it to the finale. A well-deserved spot too. And they would’ve been good winners as well.
Rich & Dom were definitely an interesting team. Their contrasting personalities alone would be enough to provide some content for the show. But Dom’s own personality and the contrast between that and her career as a motivational speaker really provided for some crazy fun moments from them. I think they were eliminated at the right spot. But seeing more of them, especially Dom, could’ve produced even more potentially memorable scenes.
Quinton & Mattie really surprised me. They had started out rough, but were able to quickly recover and regain their footing in the Race. Though they would be in the shadows most of the time, they did just enough to make it to the 7th Leg. That’s a big accomplishment.
Linton & Sharik. Oh boy. Now Linton is amazing. What a great father. It was really awesome to see him on the Race. And we definitely need more Lintons. Sharik though? I’m not sure. She just really didn’t seem interested in the Race. Or she’s just not cut out for it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or to be criticized for. TAR just wasn’t for her. And she really showed it. It’s just unfortunate for Linton who really deserved to be here and would’ve been great to watch more.
We barely got to know Aastha & Nina. My goodness, it feels like so long ago. And the Scramble definitely didn’t help. Too bad, but their time was really too short to even form an opinion on them. But I think they could’ve been a strong team if they had made some other Legs.
(My Messy) ALL-TIME RANKINGS
The last major update as December 11, 2015, unless otherwise noted. Otherwise, I simply add in the current season to the list without changing any other rankings.
(regardless of winner)
Not overhauled until a full rewatch of each finale
23. TAR11: AS
|GROUP of TEAMS
|MY ALL-TIME TEAMS
*did some trimming after TAR34*
1. Charla & Mirna (TAR5/11)
1. Teri & Ian (TAR3/11)
1. Ron & Christina (TAR12/18)
4. Ken & Gerard (TAR3)
4. Kelly & Jon (TAR4)
4. Brook & Claire (TAR17)
4. Meredith & Gretchen (TAR7)
8. Michael & Kevin (TAR17)
9. Brendon & Rachel (TAR20/24)
9. Linda & Karen (TAR5)
9. Kris & Jon (TAR6)
9. Dustin & Kandice (TAR10/11)
9. Gary & Mallory (TAR17/18/24)
9. John Vito & Jill (TAR3)
9. Dave & Margaretta (TAR1)
9. The Paolo Family (TAR8)
9. The Gaghan Family (TAR8)
18. David & Mary (TAR10)
18. Erwin & Godwin (TAR10)
18. Emily & Molly (TAR34)
21. Michelle & Victoria (TAR32)
22. Brian & Ericka (TAR15)
23. Max & Katie (TAR22)
24. Dan & Jordan (TAR16)
24. Ernie & Cindy (TAR19)
24. Pam & Winnie (TAR22)
|ELIMINATED TOO EARLY
1. Charla & Mirna (TAR5)
2. Rachel & Elissa (TAR31)
2. Janelle & Britney (TAR31)
4. Michelle & Victoria (TAR32)
4. Lena & Kristy (TAR6)
4. Linda & Karen (TAR5)
7. Teri & Ian (TAR11)
8. Ron & Christina (TAR18)
9. John Vito & Jill (TAR3)
10. Joseph & Monica (TAR9)
11. The Gaghan Family (TAR8)
12. Erwin & Godwin (TAR10)
13. Gary & Mallory (TAR17)
14. The Paolo Family (TAR8)
15. Michael & Kevin (TAR17)
16. Dustin & Kandice (TAR10)
17. Nancy & Emily (TAR1)
18. Tian & Jaree (TAR4)
19. Meredith & Gretchen (TAR7)
20. Nathan & Jennifer (TAR12)
21. Bopper & Mark (TAR20)
22. Natalie & Nadiya (TAR21/24)
23. Pam & Winnie (TAR22)
24. Tiffany & Krista (TAR27)
25. Glenda & Lumumba (TAR34)
26. Tim & Te Jay (TAR25)
27. Amanda & Kris (TAR13)
28. Misa & Maiya (TAR20)
29. Dennis & Isabelle (TAR25)
30. David & Mary (TAR10)
31. Jim & Marsha (TAR5)
FINAL 3 TEAM (NON-WINNERS)
1. Charla & Mirna (TAR11)
1. Teri & Ian (TAR3)
1. Ron & Christina (TAR12)
4. Brook & Claire (TAR17)
5. Emily & Molly (TAR34)
5. Brendon & Rachel (TAR24)
7. Ken & Gerard (TAR3)
7. Kelly & Jon (TAR4)
7. Dustin & Kandice (TAR11)
7. Kris & Jon (TAR6)
11. Gary & Mallory (TAR18)
11. Brendon & Rachel (TAR20)
13. Kristi & Jen (TAR30)
14. Max & Katie (TAR22)
15. Frank & Margarita (TAR1)
16. Blake & Paige (TAR2)
17. Colin & Christie (TAR5)
18. Eric & Jeremy (TAR9)
19. Brian & Ericka (TAR15)
20. Jaime & Cara (TAR14)
21. Henry & Evan (TAR30)
22. Trey & Lexi (TAR21)
23. Raquel & Cayla (TAR33)