It looks like we had another Amazing Race. This was another "All-Star" season, where they brought back fan favorites from previous seasons to give them another shot at the race around the world for a million dollars. This season actually had plenty of sympathetic teams, two of which actually made it to the finals. So that part was nice (even if I wish they'd stop bringing back Jet and Cord, the homophobic cowboys).
I liked the mix of teams, for the most part, and I liked that most of them played the race smart and avoided a lot of drama. The obvious exception was Brendon and Rachel, who did pretty well on the former but not on the latter. They were much better than last time, when they seemed to be a sort of Zach-and-Flo minus the competency, but even so, Rachel's insistence that they were racing on behalf of her tragically empty womb grated. (No, seriously. She'd made a deal with Brendon that if they won, he had to impregnate her. Because that isn't creepy.)
Actually, more needs to be said about that. It's creepy, but it's not just creepy that Rachel made that deal. It's creepy...creepier, in fact...that Brendon agreed to it. Because you could see it in his face every time she talked about it, which was a lot--he doesn't want kids right now. He may not want kids ever. But he really doesn't want to have that conversation with Rachel. So he's putting up practical obstacles in her way so that he doesn't have to discuss the emotional divide between them on the subject, which is really unfair to her and clearly driving her towards big dramatic gestures in an effort to get those practical obstacles out of the way (and if there's one thing you don't want to do, it's to encourage Rachel's tendency to dramatic gestures).
Other than that, I thought their "heel" elements were overplayed by the series. Eventual winners Dave and Connor made a huge hairy deal out of the fact that the Brenchels U-Turned them, which...um, RACE? Competitive competition in which each team tries to come in first? I understand not being happy, but seriously, people. This is like getting pissy with your friends when they hit you with a "SORRY" card.
All that aside, I thought there were some good challenges this season; the bamboo raft-building exercise made for some great television, and the drink-mixing detour was fascinatingly brutal. And I think that every team should have to go through Rome and participate in remote-control chariot races. (And they should also have to race bunnies in the Netherlands, but that's another story.) Even so, it felt like a lot of the legs lacked tension, probably due to the foregone conclusion of Margie and Luke's elimination falling right between two non-elimination legs. (Mallory and Bopper's leg felt a bit like a foregone conclusion, too, but that at least had some tension to it.)
The lack of tension extended a bit to the finish line--not that skydiving to the mat wasn't AWESOME, but I was really good with either Dave and Connor or Caroline and Jennifer winning, and Brendon and Rachel were clearly out of the running for first no matter how they Amazing Edited things. So it didn't pack as much oomph. Still, the finish was great because the finish to the Amazing Race is almost always great. Seeing all the teams gather together and share the joy of having experienced the Race, win or lose, is something you don't get in Survivor or Big Brother. It's what'll definitely bring me back for another season.
But please no cowboys next time?