Last Night on TV: The Amazing Race’s Alpine Adventure

By  · Published on March 12th, 2016

Welcome to Last Night on TV, our daily column that looks back at what happened on television the night before. If we’re going to stay up all night and watch TV, we might as well talk about it the next day.

Last night on TV, we climbed the French Alps with the latest episode of The Amazing Race.

The Amazing Race

Episodes like last night’s “We’re Only Doing Freaky Stuff Today” always leave me surprised that this show isn’t cooler to like. It’s popular enough ratings-wise and properly acclaimed, but nobody I know watches and I always have to tell friends it’s just a guilty pleasure piece of fluff I enjoy. That’s not entirely true, though. It is a cool show. It is a fun show. It is a thrilling show.

While I do prefer the puzzle episodes, because they’re more engaging, I always appreciate the adventurous stunt episodes, too. This was one of the latter, taking the racers journeyed up the French Alps for some gravity-defying challenges in the shadow of Mont Blanc. They ziplined over deep mountain crevices, they threw dynamite for controlled avalanches (another bit involving gunpowder this season) and they rode hang gliders through the beautiful snow-covered valley.

What makes this sort of episode so thrilling is what makes any kind of adventure involving similar stunts so thrilling. Yes, the contestants here are fastened into so many safety measures that there’s no way they’ll die, but it doesn’t matter that we’re sure the people survive. We know heroes in movies like Cliffhanger will survive, too, right? And Sylvester Stallone’s less-safe maneuvers are just an illusion.

Anyway, things can go a bit wrong on The Amazing Race. Someone drops a clue down the crevice of an enormous peak. Another person might slip and fall and be left hanging for a moment, secure but still quite scary (that didn’t exactly happen last night but it has happened on ziplines in the past). And teams we think are in the lead can fall back due to simple mistakes or accidents. Also, they at least make jokes about dying and having to eat each other, a la the movie Alive.

The thrilling adventure episodes are where it tends to look like The Amazing Race is worth it for the racers in spite of the competition nature. In fact, last night we heard from two people that the million dollar prize is just a bonus and the real reason to be on the show is for stuff like this. Of course, one of those contestants was Brodie, whose team is constantly in the lead. The other was Erin, who with teammate Joslyn wound up in last place and eliminating and not getting her cherry on top.

This season’s teams in general so far have seemed like a bunch just happy to be along for the ride. Maybe it’s just in contrast to the uber competitive teams of last season but none of these people are too gun ho about winning that million dollars. Even the two pairs regularly in the lead – Brodie and Kurt and Tyler and Korey – are rather humble. And there are a few teams I think could be giving them more competition if they were trying harder (namely Burnie and Ashley).

Maybe it’s because all these people are internet famous that it feels like a celebrity tournament of a game show. They’re just there to have fun and make flaccid penis jokes involving baguettes and just entertain. I think that’s just great. I don’t care too much who wins at this point, but I’m really enjoying the carefree nature of this season.

What did you watch last night?

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.