The Amazing Race Needs A Rule Change After A Production Choice Screwed One Team Over

 Angie And Danny drive to a Detour on The Amazing Race.
Angie And Danny drive to a Detour on The Amazing Race.

The Amazing Race left many viewers confused and one team frustrated this past week after an obscure production rule seemingly had a major effect on the outcome of the leg. Now, the eliminated team is sounding off (in a pretty nice way) in interviews, and I’m left wondering why producers haven’t already announced they’re changing the absolutely stupid and unfair rule.

Let’s go over what happened blow-by-blow. Amazing Race 36 contestants Angie and Danny Butler, a mother and son who seemingly get along better than any mother and son I’ve ever met, were racing to the Detour when they lost their crew. Apparently, unbeknownst to most fans, this is a huge no-no for players, and a rule requires you to be reunited with your crew before continuing. So, Angie and Danny waited at the Detour and waited at the Detour and waited at the Detour as team after team passed them. After Danny spotted the crew, they were able to jump into the Detour, but they weren’t able to complete it as fast as the other teams and ultimately went home.

The episode’s production went out of its way to make it clear the crew getting lost was apparently Angie and Danny’s fault. The preview for the episode accuses them of making "a crucial mistake." The Wikipedia page even points out that Angie made “an illegal turn” in a roundabout, which caused them to get separated from their crew, but apparently, the truth is a lot more complicated than that. Their crew wasn’t just delayed, they allegedly got full on lost. The contestants told US Weekly it took the crew an hour and a half to get to the Detour which was less than twenty minutes away.

I haven’t seen any quotes from producers on exactly what happened or how the behind the scenes conversations went, but according to Angie and Danny, they were eventually told to film with a different crew. Production had Danny record a line, which aired on the show, about how the crew had just shown up (even though they hadn’t), and then they were allowed to move on. You can read a portion of the quote below…

They had me say the line like, ‘Hey, our crew is here.’ Our crew wasn’t there. I don’t know why they decided — maybe it’s because we had waited so long — but they just grabbed another crew that was already there and [were] like, ‘Hey, they’re going to take you down to the beach.’ And so probably about 30 minutes into the detour I think is when we ended up seeing our cameramen again.

Now, let me defend The Amazing Race for a second. You could easily make a case that Race is the best produced reality show in the history of television. There’s a reason it won the Emmy for Reality Competition Series the first seven times it was given out. There’s a reason it’s still routinely nominated almost forty seasons after it premiered, but that doesn’t mean the show gets it right every single time. Fans have complained during several seasons about contestants helping each other too much, which still hasn’t been fully addressed, and now, we seemingly had an episode where a production crew getting lost may have altered the outcome.

There are a lot of fans complaining about what happened online, but I suspect there are two reasons this hasn’t gone mega-viral outside The Amazing Race fan bubble. First, Angie and Danny have been so nice about this entire thing. They took responsibility for what happened during their confessionals on the show and in the subsequent interviews, they even said they were “content” with how it all played out since they went home for something outside their control. Second, while Angie and Danny were a delight, they never felt like a threat to win. I don’t know if they would have gone home without the crew screw-up, but this sorta felt like the right week for them to go home, given the other teams that were left.

But whether they want to be nice about it or not, whether they deserved to get further or not, The Amazing Race producers need to look at what happened here and change the rule. Contestants should make an effort to stay connected to their crew. They should encounter some kind of minor penalty if they lose them. Maybe that means pulling over to the side of the road until the production crew performs a u-turn or makes the next light or whatever. But these problems should be measured in 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there. If the crew legitimately gets lost and can’t figure out where they’re going, the producers need to step in and just let them go. I realize this might mean we’ll miss out on some footage and it’ll be complicated to edit, but maintaining the integrity of this being a race is more important than ensuring you have the best possible footage.

Questionable decisions aside, this season of The Amazing Race has been terrific, as always. You can catch new episodes on CBS on Wednesday evenings after Survivor.