Commentary: The Amazing Alliance Race?

I posted this on the TAR sub Reddit and didn’t realize how long it got. Lol So I’ll post it here too.

As the discussion over alliances on The Amazing Race heats up once again, I just wanted to share my take on it all. Though I’m pretty much just echoing my thoughts after The Amazing Race Philippines 2, The Amazing Race 32 and The Amazing Race Australia 5. Three of the seasons I’ve watched where alliances affected how much I enjoyed them.

I think there’s a bit of overgeneralizing when it comes to alliances on TAR. I think most fans have no problems with teams working together, giving each other a head’s up with a task or directions, driving together to a Route Marker, pointing in the direction of the cluebox. Or even giving another a team a hint or clue with solving or completing a task before they run to the next Route Marker.

Whether it is the Six Pack of TAR10. Or the Twin Hunt vs the Brotherhood of TAR3. Or Twinnies, Trey & Lexi and the Chippendales frolicking on the beach after eliminating their rivals. Or teams ganging up on Brenchel. Alliances have been a part of the Race from the very first episode.

But when it comes to just simply giving another (select) team the answer or solution to a task, or WORSE, actually doing the task for another team, then that’s where the ick and the sour tastes come about.

That’s what happened on TAR32. And sadly, it’s happened again on TAR35-turned-36 this week.

I’ll bring over two examples from international TARs that can be comparable to stuff that’s happened on TARUS.

On TAR Philippines 2 back in 2014, a Leg 1 task involved teams having to unscramble ice blocks with letters to reveal their next Route Marker. As teams struggled, a couple of teams decided to form a loose alliance and shared the answer with each other. Some of the teams then shared the answer with the rest of the teams. All while at the same time specifically excluding one team. This continued to the NEXT task which involved deciphering a code at the Stock Exchange and then again two Legs later.

What’s interesting with TARPH2 though is that in Leg 8, the show actually warned teams NOT to share the answer with others. (“Warning! Once you’ve found the next clue, do not share the answer with other teams. Do not make this mistake!”)

Meanwhile, an even more egregious example is from TAR Australia 5, Leg 58… I mean Leg 18. The Detour task involved teams needing to estimate and cut 7.4kg of cheese. They would then take their cheese up the hill to be weighed. If correct, they’ll be given the next clue. If not, they’ll have to go back down and get more or less cheese. After one team got the thumbs up on their cheese, they head back down the hill and ran into another team in their alliance who was walking up with their cheese guess. The first team decides to just hand them their block of cheese which had already been weighed. So that second team walked up to the scales, obviously got the correct weight and were then given the next clue.

For me, these are examples of the negative aspects of some alliances. It comes across as teams seemingly finding ways to get out of actually completing tasks. This is supposed to be a Race, yet we have teams holding hands through tasks and Legs. So watching it, you’re like “Then what’s the point of having these tasks in the first place when some teams don’t even end up completing them themselves?” And it’s an even worse look when other teams are able to do such tasks on their own. Knowing the effort the show puts into making these tasks and challenges happen, I think it is reasonable to see the teams also put in the effort rather than expect to be force fed answers by another team or spoonfeed the solution to others.

TAR is a competition, after all. And you’d like to see good sportsmanship and hard fought competition instead of watching teams exploiting loopholes and shortcuts. Even more so, many people watch TAR and not Survivor or Big Brother for a few related reasons as well.

However, it is definitely not only the teams’ fault. The rest of the fault lies with the show itself. If it is easier for a team to quit a task or ask someone else for the answer rather than completing the task themselves, then the task is no good to begin with. If that’s the case, then they’ve gotta find something else or design the tasks to prevent things like this from happening. If it means specifically forbidding teams from giving each other answers, then so be it. There are rules forbidding team members from helping their teammate during a Road Block. But having teams share answers with each other is perfectly fine?

That said, sometimes, alliances (or extreme uses of alliances) will have a (negative) cascading effect on the rest of the episode and the season. And like James and Cayla mention here, the What Ifs? affect how a viewer might experience or enjoy the rest of the season too.

When it comes to the idea that the teams are not Racing for the viewers, that is absolutely true. And I think a lot of people actually hate teams that intentionally play up to the camera or try to “appeal” to the viewers for one reason or another. This is The Amazing Race after all, not season one of Big Brother US or other international Big Brothers were the public decides evictions and winners.

That said, The Amazing Race is still an entertainment show, So of course viewers and especially longtime fans will feel a certain way about stuff that happens. And that includes feeling a certain way about teams as well. People can root for or against any team they want. The same is done in sporting events, beauty pageants, etc. And so long as they are not hurling nasty, vitriolic (or worse) comments at them, viewers should be able to like or dislike how a team runs the Race. That’s obviously a part of watching these reality-competition shows. It’s not about forcing teams to placate viewers. It’s just people’s reaction to what they are watching for an hour or 90 minutes every week.

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