The Amazing Race
has run for a remarkable 30 seasons. In that long time,The Race
hasn't changed too much, both in format and rules. The game is largely the same in season 30 as it was in season 1. This is what made it rather surprising when The Amazing Race
introduced a brand-new twist in the second episode of season 30, the Head-to-Head. The Head-to-Head saw the team stop right before the Pit Stop and engage in a face-off that they had to win before they finished the leg. While the Head-to-Head maybe isn't something that should be used every leg, it was a terrific way to spice up the competition.
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It's Really Not Over Until It's Over
Admittedly, the specific challenge used for the first Head-to-Head wasn't the best. The Amazing Race's strong suit has never been in the teams being put in a foot race. For all intents and purposes, that's how the Head-to-Head played out as the teams had to be the first to take themselves and a dolly of fries across a finish line. The set-up for the Head-to-Head felt far more amateur and slapped together than the typical Amazing Race challenge which always feels professional and prepared. Amazing Race host Phil Keogan also seemed a bit out of his comfort zone narrating the mini races.
The execution of the Head-to-Head wasn't the greatest, but the concept is where the twist really shines. This is the chief reason that it should return, specifically so the show can do the idea much better.
It's far too easy for certain legs of The Amazing Race to become a rather boring affair. When a team gains a lead early in a leg it's rare, almost impossible, for them to completely lose it. Even if the time that separates the first and last team is less than an hour, an episode of The Amazing Race can feel almost done less than halfway through.
The Head-to-Head levels the playing field and keeps interest engaged in the race until the very end. This was something that was made obvious with Henry and Evan. The couple made it to the Pit Stop (and the Head-to-Head) very early but they were nearly eliminated because they couldn't handle the Head-to-Head. Even if the specifics of the Head-to-Head itself were wacky, Henry and Evan's struggles were a great proof of concept for the twist. Henry and Evan's journey to conquer their tower of fries made the show far more interesting and exciting that it would be normally in the second episode of the season.
It might seem unfair that the Head-to-Head can ruin a team that has been doing so well the entire rest of the leg. It's just one challenge of many but that's The Amazing Race. The show isn't always fair, it's a competition with twists and turns.
The mere fact that the Head-to-Head happened right in front of the final goal, the Pit Stop, just enhanced the drama of the twist that much more. The Amazing Race tries to do all sort of editing and reality TV tricks to make the rush to the Pit Stop seem dramatic as possible. With the Head-to-Head no TV "magic" is required, the struggle is all right there.
As mentioned, the Head-to-Head shouldn't be a constant fixture of every leg. Some legs should just play out as normal. The Head-to-Head will work best as a looming presence, known but not always expected. If overused it could threaten to make the rest of the leg meaningless as it really all comes down to the Head-to-Head.
Hopefully the Head-to-Head will become less physical in the future too. Henry and Evan's strong suit is obviously not anything in the physical realm and challenges should play to their strengths occasionally too. One of the greatest assets of The Amazing Race is that the perfect team needs to be well-rounded and have multiple strengths. A cerebral team can (and should) be able to overpower their other weakness.
Ultimately though the Head-to-Head should become a recurring part of The Amazing Race. It shouldn't be abandoned and forgotten, like the misguided season that saw entire families compete on the show. The Head-to-Head is way more of a clever addition to The Amazing Race than a silly and unnecessary gimmick.
How do you feel about the Head-to-Head? Do you want to it return? Was the first Head-to-Head just a little too goofy? Does too much ride on the Head-to-Head? Sound off in the comments below!
(Image courtesy of CBS)