Amazing Race Season 18 – Episodes 6, 7, &8

Episode 6

Tea Tasting

Episode 6 gave us one of the most grueling puzzle challenges so far in Season 18. Before leaving for India from China, teams had to visit a traditional tea shop and sample some tea. Though the task seemed pointless at the time, its purpose was revealed once the teams arrived in India. Teams were lead to a large room at city hall where a ridiculously long table had been set up, with hundreds and hundreds of bowls of tea resting on top. One member from each team had to find the tea they had tasted back in China (papaya-mango) amongst the hundreds of different bowls and flavors. It seems there must have been additional rule that when testing out a tea, or taking it to be verified, players had to drink the entire bowl (since no players were simply taking a sip of each kind). When a player thought they had the right bowl, they took it to a tea auctioneer for verification.

Needless to say, the players with a bad memory or bad luck suffered, forced to drink cup after cup of tea, to the point of nausea for some. Players commented that the more tea they drank, the more all of the flavors tasted the same. Several seemed to find the correct tea simply by luck and brute force.

The number one strategy that seemed to work for this challenge: smell. Ron quickly decided that drinking the teas wouldn’t be the most efficient method and began smelling the different teas instead. The smell of papaya and mango jumped out, and he was the first to complete the challenge. Jet followed with the same strategy, while the rest of the teams seemed to rely on tasting.

Once players found the correct tea, they were simply given a bottle of tea as their next clue. Interestingly, while the rest of the teams quickly opened the bottle and looked under the cap to find the location of their next clue, Kisha and Jen overlooked this possibility. Instead, they began searching for a local Snapple factory, thinking the bottle itself was the clue. Interestingly, some locals did give them the same location as the one under the cap, but for one reason or another Kisha and Jen didn’t make it there and ended up a bit lost before finally opening their bottle and (frustratingly) finding that the clue had been with them the whole time. Jen had even expressed earlier that she wanted to drink the tea out of exhaustion. Maybe it’s the Mole fan in me, but I can understand if they wanted to avoid opening the tea, thinking they might need it completely in-tact for the next part of the challenge. This might have been what kept them from just drinking it, but for the most part I think they just simply didn’t make the connection that the clue could be under the cap.


Episode 7

Holy Men

In this challenge, one member from each team had to search the streets of Varanasi for six sadhus, brightly clad holy men, using photos of the men as a guide. As players found each sadhu, they were given a piece of paper with part of a secret phrase written on it. When all of the pieces were collected, players had to arrange the words in the correct order and tell one final sadhu the “meaning of life” phrase they had deciphered.

I was excited about this one for the secret phrase angle, but it turned out to be pretty simple and all of the teams solved it quickly (or their brainstorming wasn’t shown).  I really wish they would do more intellectual challenges and puzzles, and not so many speed-based activity challenges, or needle-in-a-haystack tasks. Maybe intellectual challenges don’t film well?  I know it’s a “race” but the fast cuts and emphasis on speed above all else makes me miss the relaxed, thoughtful pace of The Mole.


Episode 8

Back it Up

The first task awaiting teams in Vienna was the kind that would give me goosebumps if I were there.  Each team got in one of the Ford-sponsored cars and followed the instructions from the show’s host playing on the navigation display.  They were instructed to back up, and the car’s back-up camera would show them their next clue.  Large letters written on the ground behind the cars revealed the location of a castle.

Stuffed

The next challenge was a Detour, and didn’t involve any puzzling, but it was interesting in that one of the two challenge options seemed to be an impossible task.  Teams had to choose between carrying a couch about one mile, or eating a large meal during one trip on a famous ferris wheel (12 minutes).  Three teams chose the food challenge (labeled “A Quick and Easy Meal”), feeling pretty confident about their eating abilities.  Unfortunately, none of the teams who attempted this challenge even came close to completing the meal, which was made up of a lot of fried food and dessert.  The all had to admit defeat and attempt the heavy-lifting challenge with full stomachs.

It’s interesting that the game included a challenge that was seemingly unwinnable.  (Also interesting that both of the challenges were a bit biased towards larger people with larger appetites and stronger muscles.)  If I were trying to decide between the two challenges, I might assume the couch challenge would be equally challenging.  Arm muscles have a limit, same as stomachs.  But all the teams did manage to complete the couch-carrying challenge, so they definitely didn’t seem to be equal.

On a side note, Kent and Vyxsin’s bickering made the episode almost unwatchable.

The cowboys, who were behind from the start of this leg, chose the couch-carrying challenge because they figured they could run while they carried it.  They’re so practical and determined and level-headed and positive, they’ve definitely become my favorite team.