On a random December night in 2001, I stumbled across the finale of the very first The Amazing Race and was immediately hooked. This week’s episode, "This Is Gonna Be A Fine Mess," returned to one of the coolest places visited in that first season: Phuket, Thailand.
Many things about the race have changed since that first season. There’s usually only one Fast Forward per season now vs. one every week back then. U-Turns, Express Passes and Speed Bumps would not be created for several seasons.
Far more has changed for Phuket, Thailand. As mentioned on the show, the deadly tsunami that ravaged Thailand in 2004 devastated Phuket and much of the tourist places in Thailand. For a country that relies so heavily on tourism, the impact was greater than it would have been in many other areas of the world.
Only seven years have passed since the tsunami and it was great to see that at least Phuket, if not Thailand itself, had come a long way in repairing its previous way of life. Phuket was as beautiful this week, in season 19, as it was back when the original jokers, Kevin and Drew, were eliminated.
Keeping with our theme of comparing this week’s episode to the first season, one subtle change that has bugged me in more recent seasons is the chance to catch up via hours of operation.
This week Andy and Tommy and Laurence and Zac were bailed out for not booking the correct flight by the hours of operation of the pier in Phuket. The placement of tasks that have hours of operation after flights – which can separate teams – that level the playing field has made the show seem a bit more controlled in recent seasons.
Back in the first season hours of operation mattered more and actually impacted the race. One of my favorite examples was on the third leg when Rob and Brennan completed one task before it closed, but did not get past the subsequent task before it closed. The teams behind them spent the night thinking Rob and Brennan were way ahead, but had no idea that they only gained a 20 minute advantage or so.
Fortunately this leg made up for a disappointing hours of operation leveling with a great Detour. From a competitive perspective it is always shocking when a team switches from one challenge to another. Often it leads to elimination. This week, we saw three teams switch and all of them avoided finishing last.
Many changes from season 1 to 19 have been for the better. One great idea that race composers have come up with is incorporating a benefit to the area that the racers are visiting from their presence.
Thus, the only disappointing part to the Detour is that the teams were able to opt out of helping to repair the coral reef. More the half of the teams started with the coral, but only two finished. From a competitive perspective, I understand why they did. However, I would have preferred if the challenge did not have options so every team had to contribute.
More from this week:
- I was hoping there was more to the shape of Thailand drawn on the clue being shown repeatedly early in the episode. I love tricky clues. Alas, not this week.
- Why didn’t Andy and Tommy and Laurence and Zac book all of their travel before leaving for Jakarta? Unless the rules have been altered about changing their flights, they could have purchased better a flight in Jakarta if they had found one.
- Laurence and Zac clearly over thought the final directions to the Pit Stop. There’s no way anyone else was giving their driver coordinate-based directions.
- Did anyone else think of Goonies when the teams found Soap Island with the coin with the holes in it?