Amazing Race 33 restarts in Switzerland with two teams returning and ‘a safe plan’ – reality blurry

if The great race 33 revealed at the end of the third episode last week, only five of the nine remaining teams returned after the 1.5-year, COVID-induced hiatus.

But the race resumed in Switzerland with seven teams, as the race brought back the first two eliminated teams: Michael and Moe, and Natalia and Arun.

While I’m not a fan of Survivor‘s Edge of Extinction, I think this is a very fair way to proceed. If the producers had used brand new teams, that would have been strange. And if they had brought in teams that had run the race before, that would have created an unfair imbalance.

The return of two eliminated teams will not affect the chances of the remaining five teams in the way it further affects the match Survivor. When you consider how the race’s many equalizers restart the race, they all start from the same place.

Plus, Michael and Moe and Natalia and Arun were recently eliminated; it’s not like they were brought back after missing three quarters of the race like what happened on Survivor.

The bigger question for me going into this episode was what the new route and tasks would look like, and what the effect of having “a safe plan” would be like host Phil Keoghan described it. Can the world wait for you during a pandemic?

Amazing Race 33 team members hiking over mountain peaks in Switzerland
Amazing Race 33 team members hike over mountain peaks in Switzerland. (Photo by Helmut Wechter/CBS)

Phil mentioned a few changes, such as the charter plane, no public transportation, and “much more self-driving”.

I was curious if they would be in public spaces, and if so, masked or otherwise isolated from people. That was answered fairly quickly, as they ran unmasked through a city. That’s fine, of course, but what would happen if they ran into humans?

There were, from my perspective as an anxious person who reads a lot about COVID safety, some inconsistent safety measures. The teams were masked on the gondola they all took together, but when they waited for the gondolas, some of them didn’t have their mask on, although strangers nearby did.

Meanwhile, we saw Kim and Penn, and Sheri and Akbar, and Natalia and Arun all stopping strangers for directions, and they were in close, unmasked contact. Talking to someone outside for a minute or two probably isn’t a huge risk, compared to other risks, but I was still surprised that wasn’t banned, given the impact of a single infection on the race and crew. And this happened in the time of Delta.

Other reality (and scripted) shows have the ability to create an enclosed bubble environment – and some still had problems with infections. Here the cast and crew move around the world, which is inherently more risky, and interacting with the audience adds to that risk, not just for that team, but for the entire production traveling up close on that charter plane.

My assumption is that all the people who worked on tasks like the mountain hike guides or the people who teach them the flag dance have been tested and vaccinated, essentially treated like crew members, so that didn’t worry me.

They started racing in Switzerland and the beautiful views reminded me of The mole season two, which also started there.

That made me miss too The mole‘s duties, because this leg was pretty weak. The stage started with teams racing for one of the three buses, which had no effect as they all ended up riding together in the same gondola.

The Roadblock provided the best visuals and drama, with one member from each team – with a safety guide – running along the literal mountain peaks.

Sheri volunteered, but struggled because of her fear of heights. I was amazed at how fast some teams ran over loose gravel on the tops of the mountains, and I probably would have been there with Sheri and taking my time.

The biggest surprise of the episode for me was that Akbar and Sheri landed in fifth place – and it surprised them too! They seemed just too far behind, and their conflict telegraphed one last place. But no! There were two teams behind them, the same two teams who finished in last place on the first two legs.

Part of what made the Detour duties less interesting was that the last episode had “Donald Where’s Your Troosers,” and the Detour flag was basically a watered-down version of that — just learning some choreography with flags. I’m not suggesting it was easy, but it didn’t really make for great television by comparison. The other detour, which added bling bling to belts, didn’t sparkle either.

What I’d like to know is what this job was and why it was removed from the episode:

Moe Badger and Michael Norwood flee a mysterious task cut from The Amazing Race 33 Episode 4
Moe Badger and Michael Norwood run for a mysterious task cut from The Amazing Race 33, Episode 4. (Photo by Helmut Wechter/CBS)

CBS has six press photos of teams in a field with these big green balls, but unfortunately the captions don’t indicate the location or the task.

That photo shows Michael and Moe finishing in last place again, despite being in first place earlier in the leg. They had trouble navigating, but I wonder if this mysterious task – or traveling to or from it – allowed them to create that gap and close the gap for Akbar and Sheri.

Other moments I noticed during the episode, along with a little bit of snark:

  • When Phil asked the teams about their experiences over the past year and a half, Ryan – who spent 10 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of a murder he didn’t commit – joked, “I’m used to being locked up. I just returned straight to prison life.” I’m already impressed with how he’s turned his experience into activism, but to be able to laugh about it like that instead of being (rightly) bitter or angry is really impressive.
  • Natalia got married during the break and Phil asked her if “your husband was okay with you getting away.” No, Phil, she escaped!
  • Dusty said he and Ryan decided they would use the break in the race to “polish where we felt we were weak”. Dusty later described one of Ryan’s body parts, saying, “They look like some bowling balls stuffed into onion bags.” He just makes the jokes too easy.
  • “I’ll be better,” Akbar said, then became the same as a year and a half before, quickly becoming frustrated and annoyed with Sheri. When Akbar told Sheri how to do something with the flag, she said, “Shut up,” and he said, “I thought you said you wouldn’t say again, shut up.” Sheri said, “Well, you deserve to shut up.” Indeed.
  • Phil introduced the roadblock by saying it was possible to see Austria, Liechtenstein, Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland from one place, then said the team members would be “high 8,000 feet above sea level”. That part was apparently also cut from the episode.
  • Sheri said that “abundance of things” slowed her down at the roadblock, and “abundance” is a word I can’t hear without thinking of this scene in three friendswhere I first heard it.
  • Penn was one of the people who roamed the mountaintop, and as he passed people, he literally dragged his guide behind him. Kim said it was “so hot”. Coming soon to Only Fans: videos of Penn racing past other people.
  • As the teams got into their cars for their first self-driving experience in Switzerland, Arun stated, “It’s not a stick, thank goodness!” But Raquel was disappointed: “I really wanted to show off my hard-earned stick shift skills, like the bad-ass I am.” Those crafty producers of Amazing Race: give teams 1.5 years to learn to shift gears, then give them a vehicle with an automatic transmission.
  • Ryan and Dusty thinking about switching Detours showed that they were holding up two loose pieces of paper with what I presume are the details and rules about each of the tasks. We usually only see the summary of the task, but the teams can see the details. Ryan said “you don’t know” what the other job is like, but I wonder if the information on those pages convinced them not to switch.
  • Raquel and Cayla, and Lala and Lulu, all arrived on the mat at the same time, and Cayla told Phil they were both rooting for each other because “it’s been a while since an all-female team has won.” I didn’t realize how long it has been since season 25 in 2014.
  • Ryan and Dusty’s prize for their first arrival at the mat was $2,500 cash; no trip, no sponsorship. Did COVID-19 also bring down the Travelocity gnome?

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