"The world is waiting for you. Good luck. Travel safe. Go!"
— Phil Keoghan, starting off every season.
Emmy-winning Reality Show created by Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster and aired on CBS since 2001. Hosted by Phil Keoghan, the show could vaguely be considered the Reality Show version of Around the World in Eighty Days.Eleven teams of two peoplenote Though four seasons have featured twelve teams (Seasons 3, 4, 10, and 15), while Season 8 featured ten teams of four go on a journey around the world, following clues and performing tasks in order to find their way to the designated Pit Stops; the last team to arrive is usually (but not always) eliminated.The most common types of tasks that the racers must perform along the way:
Detour — A Detour is a choice between two tasks, each with its own pros and cons. For Seasons 1-4, one route was typically shorter but harder (or scarier) to use while the other was longer but relatively easier. Starting with Season 5, it became more of a choice between two conflicting skill sets, such as brains vs. brawn, or something highly technical vs. grunt work. However, up until about Season 12, the tasks were still unbalanced enough that teams could easily see that one was much faster than the other. The producers got better at this after the first All-Stars, and it's now uncommon to see all the teams choose the same Detour.
Fast Forward — A special task that allows a team to bypass all other tasks and head directly to the Pit Stop. This is only awarded to the first team to complete the task, and teams are limited to one Fast Forward per race. The earliest seasons had Fast Forwards available on every leg, but due to the expense of setting them up they were cut back to only once or twice a season.
Yield/U-Turn — Introduced in Season 5, the Yield allowed one team to hinder the progress of another, forcing them to wait for approximately 30 minutes before they were able to continue. Come Season 12, it was replaced by the U-Turn, where the affected team is forced to complete the other side of the Detour they just finished. There have been several variations on the U-Turn, such as the Blind U-Turn (Seasons 14-16), where the team using it can remain anonymous, the Double U-Turn (Season 17 onwards), where two teams can each hinder a group behind them, the Blind Double U-Turn (Seasons 21-22), and the Must Vote U-Turn (non-US only), which forces all the teams to vote for who should be U-Turned on that leg.
Speed Bump — Introduced in Season 12, this is a short penalty task for teams that place last in non-elimination legs (prior to this, non-elimination penalties involved the confiscation of money and possibly possessions, or a time penalty on the next leg if they did not come in first). Season 19 included a task called the "Hazard," which was functionally similar, but given to the team who finished last on the race's first task.
So far there have been four "gimmick" seasons: "Family Edition" (Season 8), which expanded teams to four people (including kids) and limited itself to traveling North America; "All-Stars" (Season 11), bringing back several previous racers; "Unfinished Business" (Season 18), a second All-Stars encompassing Seasons 12-17, but with the twist that none of the returning teams had won; and a third All-Star season, also titled "All-Stars," but which kept the "no winners" rule from Unfinished Business (Season 24).The show has done well with both critics and fans, with the possible exception of the aforementioned Family Edition, which sacrificed exotic world locales and interpersonal drama for a competitive family road trip.The Amazing Race, like all reality shows, consists of a camera crew following the teams as they race across the globe; accordingly, for legal and political reasons, all participants must be U.S. citizens, and legally able to travel outside of the U.S. The show is much less frustration-wrought than, say, Survivor — less emphasis is placed on knocking the other team out of the proverbial race, which allows for a more 'relaxed' atmosphere while showcasing some of the absolutely gorgeous scenery and geography in many of the world's most exotic countries.Heck, it's even mildly educational, owing to the fact that some of the clues require calculation, riddle- and puzzle-solving, and a passing familiarity with the notable landmarks in a given country.Not to be confused with Amazing Freaking Grace, though that hasn't stopped some from making that pun anyway.
Fittingly, other countries have produced their own versions of the show. Tropes relating specifically to these seasons should go on the International Versions page.
List of Series
The Amazing Race Asia: A race around the world (except for the Americas) open to English-speaking citizens of South, East, and Southeast Asia (Russia and Middle Eastern citizens not eligible), with a grand prize of US$100 thousand. It lasted four seasons.
The Amazing Race: A Corrida Milionária: A race around Brazil (and Chile) open solely to citizens of Brazil with a grand prize of 500 thousand Brazilian reais (about US$220 thousand). Only one season aired.
The Brazilian version is dubiously known for having one of the teams and their production crew robbed at gunpoint and being forced to stop racing until the local police could retrieve the camera and personal belongings of the crew. The team dropped from 4th to last, and were granted a non-elimination leg penalty. They were ultimately unable to recover and were eliminated two episodes later, after having come in first place on the leg before the robbery.
HaMerotz LaMillionnote "The Race to the Million" in Hebrew: A race around the world (except the Americas, again) open to citizens of Israel with a grand prize of 1 million Israeli new shkalim (approximately US$277 thousand). It lasted three seasons.
In the first 2 seasons, the Israeli race kept to the "no Americas" rule set by Asia. In the third season, the show visited Brazil and Cuba.
The Amazing Race Latin America: A race around Latin America and the Caribbean open solely to Spanish-speaking citizens of the region (except those from Cuba, French Guiana, Puerto Rico, and much of the Lesser Antillies; Jamaica and the Bahamas are okay though) with a grand prize of US$250 thousand. Five seasons have aired under differing titlesnote Season 1 and 2 were titled en Discovery Channel, and Season 4 was Edição Brasil, with a sixth in production.
The Amazing Race: China Rush: A race around mainland China with a grand prize of a trip around the world financed by a travel agency. The first season was open solely to English-speaking nationals or expatriates living in China, but the second season allowed Chinese citizens as well as any international contestants who speak English and Chinese and had lived in China at some time. Three seasons have aired.
Shanghai Rush: This knock-offnote The network didn't get the Amazing Race trademark until the China Rush preceded the China Rush and was a race solely around Shanghai with a grand prize of a year's accommodations at the Gemdale Green World. Instead of having Roadblocks, Detours, or Pit Stops, teams had to perform nondescript tasks at each location before moving on.
The Amazing Race Australia: A race around the world open to Australian citizens, with a grand prize of A$250 thousand (approximately US$229 thousand). Two seasons aired, and after taking a year off and switching production companies, a third season, subtitled "Australia vs. New Zealand" aired in 2014.
The first season of the Australian race initially kept with the unwritten "no Americas" rule of the Asian and Israeli races, and was the first race to include an extended visit to Israelnote The Israeli version barely spends any time in its home nation, and has only had international finish lines. and the West Bank.note It was an Israeli settlement. The second season broke this "rule" and had teams travel to Cubanote Practically forbidden for the American version due to the embargo. as well as Canada. The third season will become the first of the international versions to visit all six inhabitable continents.
The Amazing Race Norge ("The Amazing Race Norway"): A race around the world (except for the Americas) open to Norwegian citizens, with a grand prize of 500 thousand Norwegian kronor (approximately US$82 thousand). Two seasons have aired.
The Amazing Race Vietnam: Cuộc đua kỳ thú: A race around Vietnam open to Vietnamese citizens, with a grand prize of 300 million Vietnamese đồng (the lowest pay out at just over US$14 thousand). The second season was a Celebrity Edition, while third season was a mix of celebrities and "fanatics."
The Amazing Race Philippines: A race around the Philippines open to Philippine residents, with a grand prize of 2 million Philippine pesos (approximately US$46 thousand). A unique aspect of the Race was its Philippine broadcast schedule, essentially shown every day of the week in half hour blocks Monday through Saturday, with a compilation episode shown Sundays. It is also notable for having a team break the "contacting people outside the Race" rule and receiving a 24-hour penalty. A second season, that will travel to other Asian countries, is airing.
Velyki perehonynote "Big Race" in Ukrainian ("The Amazing Race Ukraine"): A race around the world (except for the Americas) open to Ukranian citizens with a grand prize of 500 thousand Ukranian hryven' (approximately US$61 thousand). It lasted one season.
The Amazing Race (France): A race around the world open to French citizens. It is the first international edition of the show to travel to the United States. The grand prize was €50 thousand (approximately US$65 thousand). It lasted one season.
The Amazing Race Canada: Open to Canadian citizens, and airs in summer to avoid schedule conflicts with simulcasts of the US edition. The grand prize is C$250 thousand (approximately US$240 thousand), and other assoarted prizes (depending on the season). The first season only traveled within Canada, while the second season expanded to other countries.
The Amazing Race Central Europe was cancelled and would have been open to residents of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria.
Note: Tropes relating to the series or teams in general go here. Tropes and examples specific to certain teams should be placed on their respective character pages.
Provides Examples Of:
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Alas, Poor Villain: With the tendency for teams to get a touching send-off after being eliminated or losing, even teams people originally rooted against can invoke this response upon realizing just how passionate they were about the race.
The full rules of the Race are never fully disclosed to the audience during the show, and they find out about many rules only when a team breaks them. According to former Racers, however, the teams spend a good bit of time being briefed on the actual Manual before the Race starts.
The audience only sees a single fairly brief page in the task envelopes that the teams open at each box. Again, teams have stated that there are usually supplementary sheets as well, with more details, limitations, and requirements for successfully completing the task.
The Alleged Car: Some of the cars the teams are given turn out to be this, and it's obviously quite deliberate. This is much more common in the early U.S. seasons than in later seasons, as Product Placement has replaced these so-called cars with much nicer ones.
Anti-Climax: Sometimes, no matter how carefully producers arrange things, teams will make mistakes and the outcome to an episode or a season will be perfectly obvious.
The Artifact: The Fast Forward. For the first four seasons, there was one on every leg, in theory giving each team a chance at one free pass. However, for budgetary reasons (as it was not cost-effective to set up all those single-use tasks, especially when half of them never got used, and therefore never made it onto the show), starting with Season 5 (and in all the foreign versions) the Fast Forward was cut back to only one or two per season, although the "one per team" rule still applied. With all the strategy drained out of it, the Fast Forward has mostly become a cheap and/or easy win for a team that was already in the lead, as no team outside of the lead pack would dare risk it, as to not get it would mean certain elimination (as happened to Terence & Sarah on US Season 13, or Joey "Fitness" & Danny on US Season 20).
Auto-Revive: The Save Pass, which saves the team who holds it from one elimination.
Back for the Finale: All eliminated teams show up at the Finish Line to cheer on the final three teams, with only a few exceptions. (Such as a team losing a passport)
Backseat Driver: All the time when teams are tasked with driving themselves. As a bonus, because of the way the camera crew positions themselves in the car, the non-driving teammate is always positioned directly behind the driver.
Bittersweet Ending: Played for most of the 2nd and 3rd place teams. It's rare that a team hits the Finish Line completely distraught or dejected.
Blindfolded Trip: Sometimes the teams are given charter buses or planes to sign up for, but are not told their ultimate destination.
Boring, but Practical: Some of the Detour choices can end up being a choice between an exciting, but more skill-intensive, task and this. In the worst-case scenario, the viewers don't get to see the exciting task at all. This was less apparent with earlier seasons when "fear" was a supposed "con" of the more exciting tasks, and the boring tasks were more time-consuming.
Born Lucky: A few teams manage to have extremely lucky streaks, just finding the right cab drivers, or even being bailed out by friendly locals.
Born Unlucky: In contrast, some teams have terrible luck, always finding the worst cab driviers and getting bad information from locals.
Climbing the Cliffs of Insanity: When the producers realized teams were no longer intimidated by jumping off things, they started making the teams climb them instead, such as in the US Season 10 premiere, where the teams had to climb the Great Wall of China to get to the Pit Stop on top.
Confession Cam: A variant, as teammates almost always do them together.
Culture Equals Costume: Costumes play a big part of the race; locals hired to run tasks and pit stop greeters will usually be in traditional costumes, and often racers will be put in costume as part of a task. Averted, of course, for everyone else the racers encounter.
Difficulty Spike: The Race intentionally tries to make the tasks start off relatively easy; but they get more and more difficult as the season goes on (Partly because a lot of difficult tasks early-on would be hell on the editors.) However, generally a third of the way through the season there's a notable difficulty spike.
Directionless Driver: Comes up more than you would expect, but there seems to be at least one team per season who would prefer to work off of maps than ever ask for directions from locals.
Drives Like Crazy: Some cab drivers, especially in countries where traffic is prone to be like this in general. In US Season 4, Tian & Jaree's cab driver in India drove on the wrong side of the highway at night with his lights off.
From US Season 17, in Ghana:
Jonathan: Our taxi driver and the taxi driver ahead of us have just invented a third lane.
Asian Drivers: The hectic nature of driving in countries such as India is often alluded to, but the trope is rarely outright stated. The best examples probably came from US Season 10 and Australia Season 2, where teams had to earn their local driver's license. While the US version toed the line with this trope, the Australian version stepped way over it, and teams passed their driver's test no matter how badly they did on their test. Sticky got into a car accident and still managed to pass.
Eat That: Most seasons have at least one eating challenge. They come in three varieties:
Foreign Queasine: One or both team members have to eat a local "delicacy," which they usually find gross.
Failing a Taxi: Will happen from time to time, and is always played for drama. Most of the time it happens because teams will be tasked with finding a cab in an area that doesn't have many.
Failure Montage: All the time when teams struggle with tasks, in order to show how long the task is taking without actually wasting airtime to show all the failed attempts. Can be played emotionally or for laughs depending in the situation.
Fatal Family Photo: Generally when a team talks about how much they miss their family back at home, especially early in the race, you can expect them to get eliminated that episode.
Fetch Quest: Get Object A, take to Location B to receive your next clue, return to starting point to retrieve your teammate.
Final Exam Finale: The finale of most seasons includes a puzzle as the final task, usually asking the teams to identify things from the race and put them in order. These items can include flags, locations, Pit Stop greeters, or the order of elimination from the previous legs. Here's an example from US Season 9, involving flags. It's become so notorious that teams take notes on what happens to them during the race in case they end up having to face one, and five times (US Seasons 9, 12, 13, 14, and 21) it has caused a lead change that ultimately decided the outcome of the race.
Follow That Car: Just about every episode of the show has some variant of this trope. The second season finale was even titled "Follow That Plane".
Friendship Moment: The whole point of having teams of two instead of individual racers.
Global Ignorance: It is a travel show, after all, and not all of the contestants have exactly been geniuses.
Graceful Loser: It's actually rare for a losing team not to be graceful in defeat (though the Elimination Station may be a different story), and many teams in the Final 3 are just happy having gotten to run the whole race.
Griefer: Many challenges include locals whose only point seems to be annoying or distracting the contestants on challenges that take a lot of time or concentration.
Hate Sink: Some teams exist purely to be hated by the audience, so that the fans can be happy when they're eventually eliminated.
Hidden in Plain Sight: Clues are hidden this way all the time, though most notoriously in US Season 19, when the clue was a giant flashing sign written in Chinese that many of the teams spotted then disregarded at first.
The Load: It always seems there's one racer who's near-useless on tasks, leaving their partner to do all the work (limits on Roadblocks have been made to discourage this).
There are even times when teams become this. While every team leeches information in some way, there are those teams who constantly follow and copy off all the other teams, seeming never to do any of the work for themselves. Andre & Damon (US 3) and Flight Time & Big Easy (US 15 & 18) have gotten complaints about this by the fans and other teams.
Long Runner Tech Marches On: Cell phone and smartphone proliferation has had a huge effect on the race metagame. Racers are barred from carrying phones themselves, but it's become increasingly easier to borrow a local's phone to call a cab or Google information about their clue or something, and as GPS devices become standard issue in cabs across the world, the "bad cabbie" problem is getting slowly phased out, country by country.
Whether you get a good or bad taxi driver can have a significant impact on how you do in a leg. In earlier seasons, this sometimes factored heavily in the finales. Later seasons have been designed so that performance on the tasks has a better chance to offset an unlucky choice of cabbie.
Mercy Kill: Of the non-lethal variety. When a team gets so far behind that it would be impossible for them to catch up to the other teams, they are given a clue that sends them right to the Pit Stop for their elimination. If they're really stuck (usually trying to complete a task) and can't even get to the next clue, the host will come to them.
Mobstacle Course: Happens in big cities, especially in India. Sometimes used as a task where teams have to find a specific person within the mob.
Mood Motif: An overabundance of them. When they're not using a Regional Riff, it's probably this. The most notable are those used for the first and last place teams coming into the Pit Stop.
Ms. Fanservice: All-female teams, particularly blond ones, often tend to be cast more for their supposed attractiveness over potential racing ability, though teams such as Dustin & Kandice (US 10 & 11), Jaime & Cara (US 14 & 18), Jess & Lani (Asia 4), Bar & Inna (Israel 2), Sam & Renae (Australia 1), Jo & Michelle (Australia 2), Valeria & Bohdana (Ukraine 1), and Lam Anh & Thu Hien (Vietnam 2) have demonstrated themselves to be more than just looks.
Mundane Made Awesome: Put a million dollars on the line, and anything can become epic. In US Season 16, they did this with pouring champagne, and it actually worked.
Mythology Gag: Although they don't necessarily point it out, many of the later international editions would either recycle locations and tasks from the US edition, or recycle tasks from each other. Australia Season 1 utilized this the most, as every other leg featured a task or location borrowed from the US or Asian versions.
Needle in a Stack of Needles: The show is quite fond of this trope. One notable example came in US Season 17, where one Road Block had racers using chopsticks to find pieces of fake food hidden in a gigantic table of real food. The catch was that if they picked wrong, they had to eat the food they chose. Naturally, this started becoming a huge problem when a few teams started making several dozen wrong guesses in a row...
No Damage Run: Twenty-three teams have made it to the Final 3 without ever being in danger of elimination (that is, finishing in the bottom 2 on any given leg), and eleven of them can be considered Flawless Victories, that being Meghan & Cheyne on US Season 15, Kisha & Jen on US Season 18, Ernie & Cindy on US Season 19, Rachel & Dave on US Season 20, Jason & Amy on US Season 23, Adrian & Collin on Asia Season 2, Shay & Guy on Israel Season 1, Mauricio & Carlos on Latin America Season 2, Nicolás & Cristóbal on Latin America Season 3, Omar & Bilal on Norge Season 2, Valeria & Bohdana on Ukraine Season 1, and Mickey & Pete on Canada Season 2. The others are:
Both Rob & Brennan and Frank & Margarita did it on US Season 1, but due to the way the course was set up it was impossible for them to finish below 2nd place after leg 9, and considering the easiest time to lose one's No Damage Run is late in the season like that, there's no telling what would have happened had the other teams been allowed to catch up.
Dustin & Kandice did it on All-Stars, but finished 2nd overall. They are also the only team to pull a No Damage Run where they had to run three legs with only four teams, where a 3rd place finish in any of them could have cost them.
Margie & Luke on US Season 14, they also never finished below 4th at any point during the season, only to finish 3rd when Luke choked on the Final Puzzle.
Perri & Maristela also did it in the Brazilian version, but unlike other teams who made it to the Final 3, they were actually disqualified halfway through the final leg for quitting a task.
Toño & Lili pulled a No Damage Run on Latin America's Season 2, but finished 2nd overall.
Rovilson & Marc pulled one in Season 2 of the Asian version, along with one of the best run games in Amazing Race history, never placing below second and coming 1st in 8 out of 12 legs, but ultimately a struggle in the final Roadblock put them in 3rd place for that season.
Jill & Thomas, US Season 17, also made it to the Final 3 unscathed. They then finished 3rd in the finale when they stuck with a bad cabbie past the point where it became obvious he didn't understand what they were telling him.
Anaelle & Akiva did on Israel Season 2, and were in the lead most of the final leg, but struggled with the final task and ultimately fell to 3rd.
Michelle & Jo from Australia Season 2 managed to reach the Final 3 only falling below 3rd place twice, and had a hour lead over the other teams midway through the final leg, but ultimately finished 3rd when a mid-leg flight allowed the other teams to catch up.
Natalie & Meghan from Canada Season 2, who won seven legs and were tied for the third best finishing average of all time (with Rachel & Dave from U.S. 20), but lost in the final leg due to a lingering hand injury and bad luck in luck tasks.
Non-Gameplay Elimination: Generally happens at least Once a Season, mostly due to the tight shooting schedule and loads of travel making it impossible to wait around for a single lagging team to finish a leg. The Race even has its own unique Non-Gameplay Elimination nicknamed the "Mercy Kill", in which they're so far behind, they're given a clue that sends them straight to the Pit Stop for elimination. Specific examples listed under the regional folders.
Odd Name Out: Take a look at the names of all the tasks and related material: Detour, Roadblock, Yield, Intersection, U-Turn, Speed Bump, Switchback, Express Pass and... Fast Forward? One has to wonder why no one thought of calling it a "Shortcut" instead.
One-Hit Kill: The U-Turn used to function as one in its early seasons, though there were often other factors that contributed to a team's loss than just the time spent on a U-Turn. It has since become much more forgiving on teams as Detour tasks are relatively easy on a U-Turn leg. The US version even introduced the Double U-Turn so that at least one team would survive it.
Path of Most Resistance: Showed up on a lot of early Detours, where one was scary or physically challenging, but fast, while the other was safe, but tedious and time-consuming. Used very frequently on the first four seasons, but not too often anymore, as the longer option was rarely taken.
Pitbull Dates Puppy: Some couple teams come off like this under the stresses of the Race, though most don't tend to act that way in real life.
Previously On: Usually only the finale references more than the previous episode.
Poison Mushroom: The second Express Pass teams "won" to give to another team quickly turned into this, leading to the eliminations of Jessica & John and Kristen & Darren, not to mention all the backlash it causes with the teams who do not receive the extra Pass.
The Power of Friendship: One of the main themes behind the race, with "teamwork" being one of the main skills necessary to win the Race that Phil brings up in his pre-Race speech every season. Sure, teams like Zach & Flo (3), Freddy & Kendra (6), and Eric & Danielle (11) have managed to win with less than stellar teamwork, but bickering and in-fighting usually kills a team's chances.
Race Against the Clock: Some tasks have to be performed in a certain amount of time, otherwise the teams have to start over.
Read The Freaking Clue: This is the number one rule of the Race. Teams have been issued penalties and eliminated for disobeying instructions in their clues, Vietnam Season 2 even saw a team penalized at the Finish Line and lose the Race sue to failure to do this.
Reality Show Genre Blindness: Actually averted most of the time; the majority of teams in later seasons make it clear that they have seen previous seasons. That said, failure to Read The Freaking Clue properly still happens way more often than it should.
Expect to hear a variation of "We did all that work on the last leg, only to have every team get on the same flight," at least once per season, despite equalizers having been a staple of the race since the beginning.
For everybody, please don't expect this is a free 24-7 vacation (or a honeymoon for couples).
Recurring Traveller: Phil Keoghan, Allan Wu, and all the other hosts, showing up at the Pit Stops to officially check the teams in.
Regional Riff: A staple of the show, and considering how many regions they've traveled to, they've used a lot of these.
Rubber Band AI: For various reasons, production creates "equalizers"note spots like airports or locations with operating hours, where teams are all evened up equally or "bunching points"note spots like train or bus stations, charter buses and planes, or "take a number" tasks where teams are moved closer together or into groups, but not completely leveled out. usually involving operating hours or transport schedules, so no team gets too far ahead or behind: Logistically, it's easier to keep the crew in a single country at a time and you don't want to tie up locals in assisting/judging tasks for days on end. Dramatically, having wins or losses be a Foregone Conclusion every week isboring.note And in the American version, during the first season, a few teams got caught too far behind because of factors outside their control, resulting in the race becoming Unwinnable by Mistake
Sadistic Choice: The producers learning how to balance Detours means that instead of choosing between a hard Detour and an easy one, there are now times when teams have to choose between two brutally hard ones.
Satellite Character: Some racers will fall into this, essentially filling out the team for their more interesting and more focused on teammate.
Screw the Rules, I'm Beautiful!: Heavily subverted. A lot of female teams talk about using their looks to their advantage. However, this rarely comes into play, and bringing it up pretty much guarantees a team's elimination down the line.
Seriously Scruffy: A result of the teams being constantly on the move. Though teams are allowed to carry grooming products with them, the constant travel causes personal grooming to slip as the season goes on and teams either spend their spare time resting, doing research, or ditch their products all together while lightening their backpacks.
Sex Sells: The reason women generally have a huge advantage when it comes to selling tasks. It doesn't always play out this way, but men will point it out when a woman blasts by them on a selling task.
The Taxi: The second most common form of transportation (after airplanes), with entire seasons turning on teams getting good or bad cab drivers.
Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Not every team finds themselves ultimately getting along, Tara & Wil (US Season 2) being the best example.
Tempting Fate: All the time, mostly on legs when a team in the front of the pack boasts about how good they've been doing, that generally means they're about to struggle for the first time. It's almost expected to happen now.
There Is Only One Bed: Never shown, but frequently talked about, especially when teams spend the night in a remote location.
This Is A Race: Usually used to justify breaking an alliance. Also quite possibly the most quoted non-Phil line in the series.
You can actually see the how this attitude changes in the US version, where, early on, teams who held a competitive attitude over a friendly one were seen as unlikable or villainous by the other teams, and alliances were seen as a necessity by a lot of the teams. The shifting towards a more general competitive attitude was a major plot-line in Season 10, where the teams who valued friendship over the competition were portrayed as inept, while the most competitive team, Dustin & Kandice, were seen by the other teams and portrayed by the editing as the villains, but were wildly popular and are still seen as one of the best teams to ever run the race.
Those Two Guys: Since all teams are pairs, you will end up seeing several of these.
Tightrope Walking: A rather common type of task, done with lots of safety equipment to prevent falling.
Tomboy and Girly Girl: Several female teams have fallen into this, though sisters Mary & Peach from US Season 2 are probably the best example. This seems to be a bad combination for female teams, as the girly girl tends to lag, forcing the tomboy to carry her weight.
Trailers Always Spoil: Both inverted and played straight, depending on the episode. The safest team on any given leg is usually the one made to look like they were in danger in the trailers at the end of the previous episode, which makes it all the more shocking when they play it absolutely straight.
Trailers that spoil have been taken to an extreme level in recent seasons, as they tend to show the final three teams at the final destination city, spoiling the final elimination.
Travel Montage: Given that traveling is the main premise of the game...
Undesirable Prize: Sometimes when leg prizes aren't trips or money, such as boats or dune buggies, they end up going to a team that has absolutely no use for them. Like when Charla & Mirna won a pair of catamarans on Season 11, and started celebrating before realizing they didn't know what a catamaran was, or when Season 16's Dan & Jordan told Phil they would never use the scooters they had just won.
Some teams don't accept their prizes, such as trips, due to tax issues.
Averted in Season 18, where Snapple was a sponsor. It appeared the prize was solely to taste two new Snapple flavors, and then Phil revealed they were also getting a feast that night, a private Bollywood-style performance, and a million rupees (or roughly $20,000 cash).
Universal Driver's License: The show takes full advantage of the fact that many people believe this trope to be Truth in Television, making teams operate things like doubledecker buses, armored personnel carriers, and shipyard cargo cranes, as well as extending it to things like dogsleds and donkey carts. Count on at least one shot each season of a team member saying something like, "How hard can it be?" just before they screw up royally.
Unwinnable by Mistake: Season 1, three teams were essentially eliminated on leg nine, as poor course design made it impossible for the two teams who technically did survive to ever catch up to the lead pack. This was fixed in later seasons with the introduction of deliberate equalizers. This has not stopped some fans from complaining about equalizers ruining the game.
Viewers Are Morons: Generally, the audience is told the location of the Pit Stop when the first team receives their final clue. However, when a Fast Forward is taken, viewers are told both after the Fast Forward is won and after the final clue, even if the two events are only a minute or two apart.
War Memorial: A common clue location in Emmy Bait episodes. The most contentious of these visits happened in Season 22, where the U-Turn was located at a B-52 Bomber used as a Vietnam war memorial, only the show made no mention of it's status, setting of a number of viewers, who said it was insulting to veterans.
We Wait: The producers are famous for subjecting the contestants to a variation of this trope (commonly referred to as "equalizers"). At the beginning of many legs of the Race, the first team to start the leg, no matter how far ahead they are, race to the airport to inevitably find that the first available flight to their destination doesn't leave for hours, well after all the other teams have caught up. Or they race to some local tourist trap that doesn't open until a specific time shown on a sign.
Who Is This Guy Again?: Teams are usually referred to by the names of both contestants. Because of this, viewers have the tendency to forget which team member is which on homogenous teams, especially when they resemble each other (such as US Season 2's Chris & Alex, US Season 7's Brian & Greg, or US Season 10's Tyler & James). Then there's the several pairs of identical twins who have run the Race (Shola & Doyin, US Season 2; Derek & Drew, US Season 3; Kami & Karli, US Season 5; Liz & Marie, US Season 19; Elliot & Andrew, US Season 20, but they also had differing hair styles; Natalie & Nadiya, US Season 21 (it doesn't help that they call each other "Twinny"); Nicolás & Cristóbal, Latin America 3; Frank & Ivar, Norge; Michelle & Jo, Australia 2).
In an attempt to make this easier on the viewers, when next to each other, such as on the mat, or in post-leg interviews, teams sit or stand in the same order as their names will appear on the screen. Meaning the racer whose name is first is always on the viewer's left.
Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: If a racer expresses a phobia at any time, expect them to have to face that phobia before the end of the season. This was much more prevalent in the earlier US seasons, where a lot of contestants were afraid of heights, and they were forced to face them multiple times per season. Later seasons greatly reduce the number of height-related tasks, and teams come in expecting them.
The World Is Just Awesome: Racers tend to react like this when the race brings them in the presence of great natural beauty. Of course, there's also the subversion, usually brought on by bad interactions with locals, where racers declare that foreign cultures suck.
World Tour: One of the main premises behind the game.
U.S. Version: General Tropes A-M
All There in the Manual: The show hasn't had strict 12-hour Pit Stops since the forced redesign in Season 12, partially in order to better control equalizers, but also to reduce time that the teams sat around at airports and task locations waiting for them to open, they just never mentioned the change on the show. Even before that, not all Pit Stops were exactly 12 hours either, some being 24 or 36 hours long.
The producers stopped letting teams intermingle at the Pit Stops midway through Season 14, which is why teams are shown interacting with each other a Pit Stops before that, but often don't know who was eliminated until everyone shows up at the airport in the next leg after that.
Before Season 19, the single use of a Yield/U-Turn was determined by whether you had your "Courtesy Of" sticker available. Since Season 14 featured a Blind U-Turn which did not require the use of the sticker, Luke has mentioned that he would have been able to use the other U-Turn if he got to it first.
Oftentimes averted when the race brings the racers to a place where one (or more) of them is fluent (or at least competent) in the local language.
Breather Episode: Each of the first four seasons had a non-elimination leg between the final elimination leg and the finale. Since there were no penalties given out to teams saved by the non-elimination, most teams considered this a free leg, and on Season 3, Zach even deliberately threw the second-to-last leg just to appease Flo. The non-elimination leg in the Final 3 returned for Seasons 7 and 9, but with penalties in place for non-eliminated teams, it was no longer a Breather Leg.
Though the penultimate leg in Season 17 was technically an elimination leg, the 4th place team had fallen 9 hours behind due to a penalty from the previous leg preventing them from making a flight. This basically made the leg an unintentional Breather Leg for the other 3 teams, who could then treat the leg as a free non-elimination leg.
Call Back: The "Switchback" tasks have teams repeat notable tasks from previous seasons. While some tasks (such as bungee jumping) are repeated without much fanfare, the "Switchback" reference the famous moments that made these tasks so memorable, and are generally held in the same location as the original task (the exception being the head shaving Fast Forward in Season 20).
Call It Karma: Some racers, especially in Seasons 10-15, seem to think that winning the race is all about racking up more Karma points than your opponents (Some of the fans aren't much better).
Call It Karma teams especially hate the Yield and the U-Turn, and will vilify any team who uses them, regardless of the context. This is despite that, aside from Freddy & Kendra (who both Yielded and were Yielded by Adam & Rebecca on Season 6), only one team has won the race after being Yielded (Eric & Danielle, Season 11), while seven have won after using the Yield or U-Turn (Chip & Kim, Season 5 the Linz Family, Season 8, BJ & Tyler, Season 9, Tammy & Victor, Season 14, Nat & Kat, Season 17, Ernie & Cindy, Season 19, and Bates & Anthony, Season 22).
The Cameo: Season 1's Kevin & Drew appeared briefly at the beginning of Season 8 to give the teams one of their first clues in New York.
Wayne Newton gave the racers their final clue leading them to the Finish Line in Season 15.
Allan Wu, host of Amazing Race Asia, gave the teams a clue in Season 16, and the finale took a trip to Industrial Light & Magic, complete with an appearance from Darth Vader.
David Copperfield ran the teams through a Roadblock in the Season 24 finale.
Cerebus Syndrome: Not so much of the show, but the attitude of the teams coming in has definitely shifted towards the darker over the course of the series. In the early seasons, the general attitude was one of a bunch of people taking an epic adventure around the world together, and there just so happened to be a million dollar prize at the end. Teams who played cutthroat were generally despised by the audience and the other teams, and were cut as the villains. Sometime around the first All-Stars, the general attitude shifted from "playing fair" to "playing to win".
Also contributing to this is the elimination of the "eat, sleep, and mingle" Pit Stops during Season 14, which means teams in later seasons spend a lost less time socializing with each other, and are therefore more willing to play cutthroat.
The biggest example of this shift is from Unfinished Business, where fans got upset about the teams working too much together, and giving each other answers to challenges. In the early seasons, this kind of cooperation was normal.
Color-Coded Characters: By accident (or maybe not), the Final 3 teams on Season 7 all ended up being associated with different color clothing (Uchenna & Joyce: yellow, Rob & Amber: red, Ron & Kelly: light blue). After that, teammates would generally wear same color shirts, if only for the first leg or so. Teams have started referring to each other by the colors of their shirts in the first leg (as teams are not allowed to interact prior to the start of the race), and even calling themselves "The <insert color here> team".
Prior to this, teams were denoted by both numbers on their backpacks and different colored bandannas. However, the numbers were rarely, if ever seen, and the bandannas, when worn, were not always in a noticeable position, and often times were even completely discarded by the teams.
Comeback Mechanic: The Fast Forward acted as this for the first four seasons. If a team fell to the back of the pack, they could use their Fast Forward to put themselves back in the front. Later, with only one or two per season, teams who had fallen behind had to hope for an equalizer, or that someone has made a worse mistake than them.
Curb-Stomp Battle: The show itself, as a Meta example. It has dominated the Emmy's Reality-Competition Program category since it's inception in 2003, winning the first seven awards, and ten overall, quintupling the number of awards won by every other reality show combined. Even if the show never won another award, it would take until 2022 for all the other reality shows combined to catch up to the show's ten Emmys.
Damn You, Muscle Memory: When the teams drive themselves, it's common for them to get in the left side of the car in countries where the steering wheel is on the right.
Description Cut: The editors love this trope, and it is done several times a season. Done typically when one team says something about the placement of another team that turns out to be completely wrong. A few examples:
Season 1, Episode 3: While walking to the Hotel de Ville, Joe & Bill started talking about how all the other teams would get stuck in traffic or not be able to find it. Cut to almost every single team showing up at the Roadblock before them.
Season 1, Episode 5:
Joe & Bill (reaching the Roadblock and seeing nobody else there): The fatties [Kevin & Drew] got lost.
(cut to Kevin & Drew dancing it up at the Pit Stop oasis)
A slightly different, but still deliciously ironic, one from Season 2, Episode 11:
Wil: [Tara and I] have the best chance of winning, because I got Tara. I got sunshine.
(cut to pouring rain outside)
Season 5, Episode 4:
Mirna: It would be nice to have dinner, we're starving.
(cut to Christie and Nicole breaking down as they try to eat 2 lbs. of caviar)
A similar cut was done with Susan & Patrick (7) on their way to the 4 lbs. of meat Roadblock.
Season 10, Episode 8: The entire episode played out like this, with Rob & Kim and Tyler & James laughing about how Dustin & Kandice had to do the Intersection with one of the Pit Stop, and about how the Fast Forward was going to put them so far ahead, only to have Dustin & Kandice win the leg.
Tyler (at the Fast Forward): No team is going to finish a Detour and a Roadblock ahead of us.
Rob: We're going to be so far ahead.
(cut to Dustin finishing the Roadblock, her and Kandice about to take first place on that leg)
From leg 1 of Unfinished Business:
Kris: Amanda will be good at that, she’s good at word puzzles and things.
*cut to a confused looking Amanda*
Amanda: What? Great, doesn’t make sense.
Doom Magnet: You would not believe just how many tragedies have happened in places that were just featured on the race:
Season 1: The series premiere, which left from New York City, aired on September 5, 2001, six days before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
Season 6: The racers traveled through Sri Lanka only months before it was devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Season 8 went through New Orleans a month before Hurricane Katrina hit, which was actually doubly tragic, because the Schroeder family, who were actually from New Orleans, got eliminated there—and then their home was severely damaged a month later (Fortunately, the Rogers family was kind enough to take them in for a while).
Season 14: On the night the second Bangkok leg aired, violent protests broke out in the city.
Season 16 is the race's biggest example: The prize for winning the first leg was a trip to Vancouver, including a skeleton ride at the Whistler Sliding Center. A fairly obvious tie-in with the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games... only one of the Olympic athletes died going down that track on the day of the opening ceremony, mere days before the episode aired. Also, that and the next leg went through Chile - aired a week before it was hit with an 8.8 earthquake. Then, after the fourth leg, one contestant (Louie) was put under investigation under suspicion of being involved in a police run cocaine ring in Rhode Island. The next leg was packed with comments from Louie & Michael talking about how their jobs as cops prepared them for the race. Then, leg 10 features He Pingping, the shortest man in the world, only to have him die between the episode filming and airing.
Season 18: In a less direct example, Phil's hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand was hit by a major earthquake mere hours after the premiere. It then took a more direct turn when the 2011 Japan earthquake hit right after the Tokyo leg aired.
Season 21: The Race finished in New York City, with the episode airing a month after it was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. The Coney Island boardwalk that featured so prominently in the final episode was destroyed.
Season 23: One of the less fatal examples; in the second episode, Kim DeJesus first reveal to the another team that she is married to a professional baseball player. Two days after the episode aired, her husband's team, the Tampa Bay Rays, was eliminated from the playoffs. Also, The Houston Texans, the football team Chester & Ephraim played for together and whose jerseys they wore, went from a 12-4 division winner the previous season to losing 14 straight games, the second game in that streak coming the day of the season premiere.
Season 24: An episode featuring the teams travelling from China to Malaysia aired the day after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished and crashed over the Gulf of Thailand while travelling from Malaysia to China.
Driving Stick: There are times when the contestants are given stick shift cars to drive. Often, neither member of a team knows how to drive stick well. Sometimes it's open for debate whether either one can drive a stick-shift at all. Teams have been eliminated from the race over this.
Sometimes racers who practiced driving stick at home discover that all manual transmissions are not created equal, and some foreign cars are much harder to shift gears in than they're used to.
Emmy Bait: At least one episode per season takes time out of the competition to have the teams talk about the heart-wrenching or inspirational local sights. Considering they've won the ten of the twelve Emmys given out for "Outstanding Reality-Competition Programming", it's obviously worked. More specifically, they often use India legs for this purpose.
The two most obvious Emmy Bait moments, neither of which actually ended up getting nominated for the Emmy, were the Slave House visit in Senegal in Season 6, and the Auschwitz visit in Season 11.
Early Installment Weirdness: Season 1 had a couple of features that were changed in later seasons, the most notable being that Phil only showed up at the mat to greet the last team instead of being there to greet every team like he would in every season thereafter. Also, the first episode was edited challenge to challenge, meaning each task was shown to completion before moving onto the next one, making it impossible to tell what order the teams were in, especially since it was the only season not to give team placements over the course of the leg, only showing what position teams were in when they checked into the Pit Stop; the route flags were yellow and white instead of the yellow and red of later seasons (the yellow and white flags would be brought back for Family Edition, and in countries such as Vietnam, that have a yellow and red flag); clue boxes and the Pit Stop mat were not standardized, and changed to reflect each country; and poor course planning resulted in two of the final four teams falling hopelessly behind with no chance of catching up to the two lead teams, something that the producers have taken steps to avoid since then.
The first four seasons as a whole had a lot more exposition than later ones, with teams (and Phil) talking about things like rules (both written and unwritten), money usage, travel, and how each little move affected their placement in the Race. Such exposition was cut out in later seasons as that information was expected to be common knowledge among fans by then. Many episodes in those seasons would also start with shots of the teams interacting at the Pit Stop, and Confession Cams were done solo instead of in pairs.
Originally, penalties were issued at the beginning of the leg following when they were earned (unless the penalty eliminated the team, then Phil would call the penalized team and the last team to check in into a meeting to tell them the new results). However, after Season 4, the rules were changed so that teams could not check in until all earned penalties had been served. (Season 21 briefly reverted to the original version, though, when production had to improvise to deal with a unique situation at the moment.)
Evolving Credits: Starting with Season 14. Early on each team has an "in their home environment" shot before a turn-to-the-camera-and/or-the-camera-pans-to-you portraits, both filmed in a single session (Sometimes just the same shot from two angles). Around Episode 5 or 6, each team's is replaced by action from of the the first half of the season. Teams eliminated early are often shown in their fatal challenges, while the continuing teams at that point team are shown doing other challenges or in transport - occasionally also a Crowning Moment of Funny.
Expy: The producers have definite character types they like to cast, to the point where often times it seems like you've seen half of these teams before:
The most blatant example is probably Season 14's Amanda & Kris, who were pretty much a carbon copy of Season 6 fan favorites Kris & Jon.
The multiracial brother/sister trio of Azaria & Hendekea, Nick & Starr, and Tammy & Victor from Seasons 12-14 (respectively). They were all young, smart (though Nick & Starr were more crafty as compared to the other two's book smarts), below average physically, had communication issues (Azaria & Hendekea and Tammy & Victor with each other, Nick & Starr with other teams), and all had a bit of an ego. They were all even considered the strongest teams on their respective seasons at one point. It also helps that they were the first three brother/sister pairs cast since Season 3.
Seasons 6, 9, and 12 had the parent-child pairs of Gus & Hera, Wanda & Desiree, and Ronald & Christina respectively, each featuring young, intelligent daughters who had to keep their parents' manic behavior in check on top of running the race. While the former two teams faltered due to this dynamic, Ronald & Christina became the most successful parent-child team to date due to Christina's sheer racing prowess, though Ron's lunacy also led them to a relatively early exit in Unfinished Business.
It's hard to keep track of the number of beauty queens paired with a borderline competent boyfriend/husband that have been cast. They all either argue their way through the race (Ron & Kelly, Season 7), bumble their way deep into the race (Brandon & Nicole, Season 5, and Brian & Ericka, Season 15), or both (Brent & Caite, Season 16). They also have a weird tendency to finish 3rd. The only beauty queen/boyfriend pair to avoid this fate were Colin & Christie (Season 5), who were dangerously competent.
Inverted with Ken & Tina (13), where Tina was the domineering one and Ken was the nice guy.
Then there are "fighting couples," in which the girl can give as much nastiness as she takes from the guy, such as Tara & Wil (2) and Nathan & Jennifer (12). The women in these couples tend to be whinier as well.
Following Season 1, the producers attempted to recapture the immense popularity of Kevin & Drew by casting at least one "male friends" team obviously chosen primarily for their sense of humor for several seasons thereafter. The most blatant Expy of them were Season 3's Ken & Gerard who were fairly successful. Season 2's Oswald & Danny (aka Team Cha-Cha-Cha) and Season 4's Jon & Al (aka The Clowns) were even more successful, although the former team might actually have upstaged the actual intended Expy team Gary & Dave (who just came across as "trying too hard to be funny" to many viewers). These teams also had a knack for finishing in fourth place (leading some fans to say that "Fan Favorites Finish Fourth"), with the exception of Ken & Gerard (and even then, they beat it by only one ranking place). The producers seemed to stop trying to follow this trend after Season 4, however, shifting the focus to couples teams, though there still was Avi & Joe from Season 6, who ended up being one of the most popular first outs.
Then after the immense popularity BJ & Tyler garnered on Season 9, every season thereafter the producers have tried to recreate that success with other quirky, lovable, usually male teams. These teams tend to have a marketable gimmick, and stick out like sore thumbs from the rest of the cast. The editing tends to focus entirely on the team’s personality, ignoring the technical aspects of the race and their interpersonal relationship (that is, unless the relationship is part of their gimmick). So far, Andy & Tommy (19) have been the most blatant Expy (though they were more of a Base Breaker, and many preferred fellow Season 19 team Bill & Cathi). Kynt & Vyxsin (12) and Jet & Cord (16) each achieved their own massive popularity, as well as Flight Time & Big Easy (15) and Mark & Bopper (20) to a lesser extent, while others have been less successful and overshadowed by other teams.
If Season 19's cast looked familiar at first glance, that's probably because it was nearly identical to Season 7's cast. It had the same gender breakdown (2 Female teams, 3 Male, and 6 Male/Female), with 6 couples (the gay couple, the old couple, the black married couple, the couple who met on Survivor All-Stars, the couple in their 30s, and the couple in their 20s), one parent/child team, and a sibling team who looked (if not were) identical.
It went so far that the breakdown of the final three was the same; with a dating couple, an engaged couple, and a black married couple. The final placings differed, however.
Season 9 also attempted to duplicate Season 7's cast (Ray & Yolanda to Uchenna & Joyce, Fran & Barry to Meredith & Gretchen), most blatantly with Danielle & Dani copying Debbie & Bianca's rollerblading in skirts intro. In turn, Season 10 had Tyler & James copy Eric & Jeremy's shirtless basketball intro.
Fake Balance: The first nine seasons favored physically strong teams (the first four seasons especially so). It was exceedingly simple for fit teams to power their way through the race, waiting for fatigue to take out the smarter teams. However, since then the game has tilted more and more towards favoring intelligent teams, as (1) teams have learned that cardio is far more useful than brute strength, and started preparing accordingly, (2) while physical teams can still dominate and string wins together at the beginning of a season, they are put at a huge disadvantage late in the season when the puzzles and mental tasks get harder, while the strength tasks remain relatively the same, and (3) budgetary cuts at the beginning of Season 12 (see Screwed by the Network under the Trivia tab) forced production to shorten the race by two legs and a whole week of filming time. Though the twelfth leg would be added back in Season 14, the actual length of the race has remained around three weeks (as opposed to the month it took for the first eleven seasons), meaning the fatigue the teams are working under in the final leg is much less than it used to be.
That is until Season 20, when things started to balance out so that they no longer so heavily favored the intelligent teams.
Felony Misdemeanor: Both racers and fans are guilty of this one. It's understandable for a team to overreact when they're Yielded or U-Turned (though Eric calling Dustin & Kandice "Dirty Pirate Hookers" was probably going too far), but there are those who are willing to vilify a team simply for copying another team's flight arrangements or, even worse, having a "bad attitude".
Fleeting Demographic: Bertram justified only teams being selected from Seasons 12-17 for Unfinished Business by claiming that people might not remember contestants from earlier ones. Though this hasn't stopped Survivor or Big Brother from recycling contestants repeatedly, unlike those shows, people do not automatically become celebrities for running or even winning the Race.
Foiler Footage: The 4th, 5th, and 6th place teams generally keep racing, even after their elimination, in order to thwart spoilers. This has not always been successful.
Generally, the show doesn't go too far in-depth explaining elements of the route and tasks, so if any suspiciously particular details are brought up, expect them to cause problems along the way. Money for instance is barely mentioned beyond a simple "You have $___ for this leg of the Race" statement at the beginning of the leg with exceptions being Chip running out of money to pay his cab in Season 5 after Kim chastised him for always giving overly large tips and Duke & Lauren running into money troubles in Season 10 after many people were intimidated by the zero-dollar allowance for the leg and started to count their remaining money.
Game of Chicken: The high risk, high reward nature of Fast Forwards can turn into this when two teams simultaneously decide to go for it. While there are still teams who value each individual leg win, the Metagame has evolved to the point where most teams would rather finish in the middle of the pack and stay in the game rather than take an All or Nothing shot, where you have a 50% chance of winning the leg, but are almost guaranteed elimination if you fail. Generally, one of the two teams will talk themselves out of going for the Fast Forward when they see another team going for it, conceding the leg win to give themselves a better chance to stay in the game.
Good Is Boring: This idea tends to influence a lot of Executive Meddling. For instance, mingling with the other teams at pit stops was stopped midway through Season 14 in an attempt to stir up conflict among the teams whom the producers believed were getting too friendly.
Hollywood Atlas: A lot of the challenges are stereotypical of the current location. (eating caviar in Russia, climbing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, throwing a boomerang in Australia, selling beer in Germany, etc.)
Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Season 2 onwards; it's usually a line overheard on that leg of the race. The one exception is Season 8, episode 3, "I Don't Kiss, I Make Out," which was never said during the actual episode.
Instant-Win Condition: Even though it's not true, teams tend to see the Fast Forward as this (five times a team(s) has won the Fast Forward and failed to finish first; Dennis & Andrew (3) and Mark & Bopper (20) were so far behind when they took it, they still lost the leg). Subverted in Season 1 with Joe & Bill, when, after winning the Fast Forward, they decided to save money and take the bus instead of finding an alternate route to traverse the over 100 miles to the Pit Stop, solely because they thought there was no way the other teams could catch them. The next morning they rolled into the Pit Stop in last place, only to be saved by another team's even worse mistake.
Late-Arrival Spoiler: On the cover of almost every season released on DVD, the Final Four teams are shown. Even worse is with the first two seasons released, where the only teams shown on the menus are the teams that are going to be eliminated on that disc.
Limited Wardrobe: Certain teams have become associated with certain garments, such as Linda & Karen's "Bowling Moms" shirts from Season 5.
Certain unfortunate wardrobe choices, amplified by the Limited Wardrobe, can lead to some very "memorable" outfits, such as Teri & Ian's disposable underpants (Season 3), or the Holy Trinity of ugly pants, Kelly's khakis on Season 7, Rachel's skintight gray pants on Season 12, and the multicolored nightmare worn by BJ (or Tyler) after losing all their clothes (and borrowing some from Yolanda) on Season 9.
Loophole Abuse: It was common to see teams such as Rob & Amber (7 & 11) and Charla & Mirna (5 & 11) convince locals to go along with them on legs, helping them navigate past the other teams. Luckily this loophole was closed after Season 11.
Manipulative Editing: Bill & Joe, (Season 1) have repeatedly said the same thing: The camera does not create footage. If it's on the film, it's because you said or did it. The editing, however, can add, delete, or change the context.
The bottom two teams in any given leg are always made to look as if they're neck and neck, no matter how far apart they really are. The one exception is in the finales, where instead it's the top two teams (or all three, in the cases of Seasons 11 and 14). Seasons 7 and 16 were especially bad, as the top two teams finished 45 and 25 minutes apart (respectively). The only exception to this was Season 1, where it was impossible to do due to the first two teams ending up on separate train rides to the finish line (and the third team still being in Alaska).
Several teams on the first All-Stars seemed very aware of this, as teams were very cordial towards the beginning of the race (except for teams like Rob & Amber and Dustin & Kandice, who just didn't care, and Mirna, who was so self-righteous she didn't realize how she was coming off). Most teams seemed to forget about this very quickly, however.
Metagame: Traces of it developing can be seen in Seasons 1-7, though it does not come into full effect until Season 10. It had two major effects on the game, first, shifting it from a game dominated by young, fit teams (especially "alpha male" teams) and those with extensive travel experience, to a game dominated by intelligent teams. Second, it gave teams who would have had no shot on early seasons (like Ronald & Christina, who were weak at physical tasks) a legitimate chance to win.
Mood Whiplash: Any time the racers stop to pay tribute to a human tragedy, the sudden return to the frenetic pace of the race is jarring. In more specific examples, Season 6's visit to the Gate of No Return for African slaves was soon followed by Kendra's infamous "breeding and breeding" comments, and a stop at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Season 20 was followed by rubber chickens in a Japanese game show.
Muscles Are Meaningful: At the beginning of each season, it's the biggest and strongest teams that are generally the most feared, and who are usually picked to win by the fans. Though justified in the first four seasons, where physical strength was only challenged by those with travel knowledge, in later seasons it's much more likely for an "Alpha Male" team to eliminate themselves with a stupid mistake than to dominate a season.
Expect multiple teams to be far too worried about who they could or couldn't beat in a footrace, especially when it comes to the finale. This is despite the finale having only come down to a footrace once (Season 2), and almost every Season since 7 having been decided by the final puzzle. Tammy & Victor (Season 14) even U-Turned Kisha & Jen mainly on the reasoning that they couldn't beat the girls in a footrace (and even wrote "Sorry, but we can't beat you in a footrace" on their picture), even though Margie & Luke were the much bigger threat (only Luke pulling one of the biggest choke jobs in race history in the finale keeping them from beating Tammy & Victor).
Derek & Drew serve as an excellent deconstruction of this concept on the Race during Season 3. On the tails of fit male teams winning the first two seasons, many of the teams became immediately obsessed with beating the "wonder twins", despite Derek & Drew viewing themselves as barely hanging on for the first few legs. At the same time, Ken & Gerard talked about how no one was giving them any thought because of their pudgier physiques, and Teri & Ian were outright disregarded as fodder. While Derek & Drew did end up being formidable opponents, so did Ken & Gerard and Teri & Ian, who both edged out Derek & Drew to make it to the Final 3. The twins lost not because they got beat in some head-to-head competition, but simply because they couldn't find a clue.
Season 5 winner Chip was a huge proponent of this trope, especially when writing for the "Return of the Racers" blog for CBS.com. He constantly talked about how "alpha male" teams had a unfair advantage over all other teams, and how he and his wife never would have had a shot against one of these teams (even though they did beat the arguably stronger team of Colin & Christie). When he made a list of the strongest individual racers, the top 11 spots all went to men, with the top female racer being a physical trainer (though this was prior to Dustin & Kandice catching fire on Season 10).
In Season 17, Jill & Thomas actually averted this. Given the chance of U-Turning any team, they targeted diminutive Home Shopping Hosts Brook & Claire, citing them as the biggest threats left (and Brook & Claire did end up beating them in the end). Nick then went and played it straight when he had a chance to use the second slot on the Double U-Turn, wanting to target the team of Chad & Stephanie (who spent most of their time at the back of the pack) over Nat & Kat (who had three leg wins at that point), until Vicki talked him out of using the U-Turn.
On Season 1, teams were only allowed to buy one set of plane tickets, and weren't allowed to switch, even if they found a faster flight or their original flight was delayed. This was changed on the very next season, and multiple flight bookings has become an important part of the Metagame ever since.
The first two seasons had no rules in place for when a team's car broke down. These were instigated in Season 3 after several time credits were issued in Season 2 (including one that saved Blake & Paige from an elimination, which they received after Paige threatened to sue).
After Season 3, it became standard on selling tasks, where teams had to reach a certain amount of money made, for each individual item to have a minimum amount it could be sold for. This was after Ken & Gerard completed such a task by selling massive amounts of fruit for what would average out to be very low prices, and repeatedly going back to the stall to get more to sell.
Ties were disallowed after Season 4, to prevent having to give out multiple prizes for 1st place ties, and, more importantly, to keep two teams from accidentally tying for last.
Limits on how many Roadblocks a racer could perform were instigated after Season 5, after the three women who made the Final 3 that year performed a total of three Roadblocks combined.
After the first All-Stars, limits were put on the practice of bringing locals along in the team's vehicle to help with navigation and other tasks. (See Loophole Abuse)
The original penalty for qutting a Detour was 24 hours (far longer than the 4-hour Roadblock quitting penalty), which had only been applied twice (Nancy & Emily in Season 1, Maria & Tiffany in Season 15). Due to the production complications this would cause if someone quit on a non-elimination leg (since they would still have to keep track of the lagging team despite them being essentially done for - see the mess in Season 21 when James & Abba lost a passport on such a leg), the penalty was shortened to 6 hours after Season 15, which only applied to Nick & Vicki in Season 17.
After the teams on Season 17 were Genre Savvy enough to take detailed notes throughout the race in anticipation of the Final Exam Finale, Season 19's Final Exam Finale instructions specifically forbade the use of notes. (There was no Final Exam Finale in Season 18.) This did have a precedent in Season 12 which disallowed the use of a pen and paper to solve its final task.
When the cheese hill task from Season 14 was brought back for Season 22, they made a rule where teams had to use proper equipment to carry their cheese, fixing the loophole that allowed teams such as Margie & Luke to just roll their cheese down the hill and chase after it, rather than carrying it. Chuck & Wynona were eliminated as a result of rolling their cheese.
Other minor changes were made to keep teams from taking advantage of loopholes, such as buying cellphones from locals (which Rob & Brennan did on Season 1) or switching their damaged car for another team's car at the Pit Stop (Dustin & Kandice on Season 10).
Overshadowed by Awesome: Guaranteed to happen on any All-Star seasons, as an increase in competition means that teams who led their seasons are all of a sudden running with the pack, while teams that would otherwise be expected to make the Final 3 on a normal season are all of a sudden scratching and clawing to stay in the race. Unless they're a top tier team like Dustin & Kandice and Rob & Amber (on All-Stars), Zev & Justin (on Unfinished Business), or Dave & Connor (on the second All-Stars), no team really has a chance of standing out. In the case of Unfinished Business, this happened to every former Final 3 finisher, with the aforementioned Zev & Justin who finished 9th and Gary & Mallory who finished 6th being the dominant teams.
Paranoia Fuel: Not for the viewers, but the racers. It's well known how quickly fortunes can turn on the Race, and not knowing where the other teams are, especially on the later legs when there's only four or five teams left, can cause some pretty entertaining freak outs. Rob & Amber and Dustin & Kandice were two of the more popular teams for others to focus their paranoia on.
Pink Means Feminine: The second most popular choice for female team colors behind light blue. Pink is generally assigned to the more girly teams, though it's generally downplayed due to teams being asked to dress alike by the show.
Most seasons have a leg that feature the Travelocity roaming gnome, starting with Season 7. Even discounting that, one of Phil's Once an Episode lines is "For winning this leg of the race, you have won a trip to beautiful [place] from Travelocity."
Kodak EasyShare cameras were the leg prize four times, and were used in a challenge, in Season 3.
In general, seasons often have Ford loan cars for a leg for the contestants to drive, in exchange for the show going out of its way to point out that the cars were made by Ford (usually once near the beginning when they get to the cars, and again at the Pit Stop) and usually including a challenge designed to show off some aspect of the car model being used.
Leg 7 of Season 16 had a "7" theme, including a sponsored prize by 7-Up at the end of the leg.
Season 18 included a leg in India with a lot of tea-themed tasks, sponsored by Snapple. In a subversion, they resisted the urge to plug Snapple at every opportunity and didn't even explain that the teas used were Snapple-brand until the finish line. Zig-zagged when one clue was a bottle of iced tea, as the bottles were unlabeled but the racers still recognized them; Jen and Kisha even thought they had to find a Snapple factory until they found the real clue under the cap.
Leg 10 of Season 19 had teams drive to the Ford Proving Grounds in Belgium where they had to drive Mustangs. The prize for winning the leg was a Mustang for each team member. Oddly enough, the next leg had a task based on the comic Tintin and aired at about the time a movie adaptation hit theaters, but no reference was made to the movie at all; Tintin was presented as merely a Belgian cultural icon.
Phil has two variations on the Catch Phrase he uses to greet teams at the Pit Stop. He normally uses, "You are team number n," to check the teams in. However, he sometimes uses the far more ominous, "You are the nth team to arrive," which always proceeds either a penalty or another clue, yet teams are always caught off guard when Phil follows it up with, "However..."note Though this was finally averted by Nicole in Season 23.
Though there was a non-elimination leg in the Final 3 in seven of the first nine seasons, the show has not had one since, yet most recent teams are still surprised that, when it gets down to leg 10 and there are still four teams left, leg 10 ends up being a non-elimination leg.
Almost any time they make the racers dress in costume. There's no special need for it, it's usually not for safety, and it's just there to make the racers look ridiculous.
To prove this example, in Season 18, the teams have to dress up as kangaroos... for no real reason.
Several challenges have a band playing local music, for no apparent purpose except driving the racers completely nuts as their patience wears thin and the music keeps distracting them.
Then there are the non-musical locals whose only purpose is to laugh at the teams when they mess up.
In Switzerland during Seasons 14 and 22, the racers had to take 50-pound wheels of cheese down a very steep hill... and were intentionally provided with very cheap equipment.
Running Gag: At least Once a Season the show has legs where teams are given $1 for the leg, and it always manages to get laughs from the teams. Multiple teams have even given Phil the dollar back when getting eliminated at the end of these legs, and Flight Time & Big Easy carried their dollar throughout Unfinished Business so they could give it back to Phil at the Finish Line.
Sequel Difficulty Drop/Spike: The courses have gotten gradually tougher as the producers have gotten better and better at making courses, however some do stick out from the norm as being particularly tough or easy:
The tasks on Season 5 were not particularly harder than what came before, but a few permanent additions upped the overall difficulty of the series from that point out. The addition of penalties for teams saved by a non-elimination leg made it even more costly to finish last at any point, and the subtraction of the Fast Forward took away each team's one free pass per season.
Season 6 was the hardest of the single digit seasons, with a number of tough challenges, including the infamous Hay Bale Roadblock (in which the odds of finding a clue were Seven percent. 20/270), the Spicy Soup challenge (which caused nearly every racer to throw up, one even in their bowl), and the row of locks racers were forced to try and unlock on the penultimate leg (which caused one team to quit and take a penalty, and almost did it to another team as well). Plus, with an overabundance of equalizers, it was nearly impossible for a team to get an advantage through their travel knowledge. It also introduced limits on Roadblocks for each team member, making it harder for a strong racer to carry a much weaker teammate through the season.
Season 8 was just a giant loop around North America, and included challenges that could easily be completed by a child early on, though the difficulty did ramp up later on.
Season 10 was, by far, the hardest course they put together at that point, setting a new standard for course difficulty that would not be topped until Unfinished Business. Teams faced challenges on the first few legs that were not usually faced until midway through the season. This was also the first season teams were sent west to Asia to start the race, where communication with locals is generally the hardest, instead of east (Europe) or south (South America), and the first where there were rules against begging for money, taking away what had been a major Game Breaker for the last seven seasons.
Season 11 had almost no tough physical challenges, and the mental challenges would have been easy for first time racers, let alone All-Stars. It was the biggest complaint fans had about the first All-Star season.
Season 15 again had the fans complaining about how easy the course was (even with them bringing back the Hay Bale Roadblock).
Season 17 at the time had one of the hardest routes from All-Stars to Unfinished Business, especially in the wake of the poor course design in the previous two seasons. Even with the introduction of the Express Pass this season, producers upped the difficulty by including a wide variety of physical tasks in addition to incredibly tricky mental tasks to throw off the teams.
Season 18 not only featured an increase in the difficulty of the tasks that was missing in the first All-Star season, but they took out any learning curve, hitting the teams with difficult tasks right from the start, issued an automatic U-Turn for the team who finished last on the first task, created combination tasks (by taking what would normally be two separate tasks and making the teams do them either simultaneously, or as part of the same Roadblock), replaced two non-elimination legs with back-to-back Super Legs, and had no (shown) Fast Forward. This season also began the trend of hitting each team member with their own Roadblock in the final leg (or at least forcing teammates to trade off tasks, in the case of Season 19).
Season 19, not so much with the challenges, but the clues, as they seemed to have been specifically designed to exploit teams who forget to Read The Freaking Clue, changed small things to throw off expectations of teams who knew the metagame, and exploited teams' tendencies to miss obvious things.
Season 23 pulled back on a lot of the physical challenges teams had been put through in the past three season, only they did not make up for it by increasing the mental difficulty, leaving a few difficult tasks sprinkled in with a bunch of easy ones.
Disappointing course aside, the challenges in Season 24 were considered too easy and linear for returning players.
Share Phrase: "It's on like Donkey Kong", originally said by Frank near the end of Season 1, has been quoted by several teams over the course of the series, such as Chip on Season 5, B.J. on Season 9, Jen on Season 12, Cara on Season 14, and Cord on Season 16. (Chip's usage of it is probably the most well-known.)
Shoo Out the Clowns: The lighthearted, easy going, and comedic relief teams generally tend to trail off near the end of each season, when things get more competitive and they find it harder to keep up with the more cutthroat teams. three such teams have managed to win the race (Chip & Kim from Season 5, BJ & Tyler from Season 9, and Josh & Brent from Season 21), but only after they had an elimination scare and got serious. Other such teams are:
Jon & Al (4th place on Season 4) are probably the most fitting, seeing as they were actual clowns.
Danny & Oswald finished 4th on both Seasons 2 and 11, winning three legs on both Seasons.
Wisecracking Zev & Justin fell just short of the Final 3 on Unfinished Business.
Andy & Tommy finished 4th on Season 19, becoming the first team with at least five leg wins to miss the Final 3.
Ken & Gerard (3), Nicolas & Donald (12), and Dan & Andrew (13) all made the Final 3, only to finish a distant third.
There's the "Fan Favorites Finish Fourth" trend, which (aside from the above) includes Kevin & Drew (1), Linda & Karen (5), Gretchen & Meredith (7), and Flight Time & Big Easy (15).
Starting with Season 7, 5th place became the axing point for such teams with Lynn & Alex (7), the dysfunctional Paolo Family (8), Fran & Barry (9), Erwin & Godwin (10), Uchenna & Joyce (who on All-Stars did not seem to have the same drive after winning Season 7), Kynt & Vyxsin (12 and Unfinished Business), Mark & Bopper (20), and Meghan & Joey (22) going out.
Signature Line: Colin's "My ox is broken! This is bull***!" from Season 5. My Ox Is Broken even became the name of a tie-in anthology book.
Spoiler Opening: Early seasons included the phrases "Who will be eliminated... tonight?" and "The last team to the Pit Stop will be eliminated," and any deviation was an instant tip-off that it was a non-elimination leg. Production quickly made it standard procedure to use ambiguous language ("Who will be eliminated... next?" and "The last team to the Pit Stop may be eliminated."). Even the teams picked up on this, and it was pointed out by Tara & Wil in Season 2.
"Follow That Plane!" (Wil, Season 2, Episode 11); After losing their clue, Tara & Wil direct their charter plane to follow Chris & Alex by using this line. Later in the leg, Chris & Alex tail Tara & Wil to the Finish Line, and pass them up in a footrace.
"Good Doing Business With You" (Dustin, Season 11, Episode 10); Dustin & Kandice buy Danny & Oswald's Yield (the last Yield ever used). Danny & Oswald later act like it was a Deal with the Devil, and seem to lose any and all heart to win the race.
"It Starts With an “F”, That’s All I’m Saying" (Dan, Season 15, Episode 10); the infamous "Franz" incident, where Dan refuses to help Big Easy at the Roadblock, and Big Easy ends up taking a four hour penalty instead.
"They Don't Call It The Amazing Race For Nothin!" (Brook, Season 17, Episode 1); counts as both a regular Title Drop, as well as providing the title for that episode.
"Tastes Like a Million Dollars" (Kat, Season 17, Episode 5); vegetarian Kat eats half of a sheep's head to win the Fast Forward, and it took on a whole lot more meaning after the finale.
Token Minority: A handful of teams every season, with Season 10 being the one exception, as 8 of the 12 teams could be considered a minority in one way or another.
True Blue Femininity: Light blue is an even more popular choice than pink for all-female teams when they're given team colors, and is generally assigned to the less girly or more mature teams. The most well known is probably Dustin & Kandice, with their light blue jackets across Seasons 10 and 11, and Nat & Kat were also assigned blue when they won Season 17. Like with Pink Means Feminine, downplayed due to teams generally being forced to dress alike, at least early on.
Inverted in Seasons 13-15, as the obvious favorite won when the underdog team(s) choked away their lead on the final puzzle, only to return to playing it straight on Season 16.
They tried to play it straight again on Season 17, by attempting to make Jill & Thomas look like the heavy favorites going into the final leg. However, the general view at that point tended to be that all the teams were pretty much even, and they all had a good chance at winning.
Played straight again on Seasons 18 and 19, with Zev & Justin and Andy & Tommy looking unbeatable, only to suffer Shocking,]] albeit heavily foreshadowed, Eliminations.
Averted in Season 20, but gone back to being played straight in Season 21, then averted again in Season 22.
Visible Boom Mic: The show is usually very careful about editing the show to hide any trace of the camera and sound team following along with each team of Racers, but sometimes they get caught in shots anyway.
In Season 4, leg 2, the teams are packed into a crowded alley, and it became all but impossible for the cameramen to avoid each other.
In Season 5, leg 8, after Colin changes the spare tire on his cab, the sound guy can be seen getting back into the cab with them.
In Season 6, leg 2, the camera/sound crew are clearly visible when Meredith & Maria finish the Holmenkollen challenge.
The infamous scene in Season 6 where Jonathan shoved his wife Victoria in a fit of rage at a Pit Stop showed a cameraman in the frame.
In Season 7, leg 2, Brian & Greg's cameraman got caught on camera during their race to the Pit Stop with Megan & Heidi. Then when Brian & Greg flipped their car, all pretense got dropped as both Brian & Greg and Lynn & Alex's camera crews got each other on camera.
In Season 8, leg 1, during Phil's opening speech, an extra person can be seen standing off to the side near the line of teams.
In Season 14, leg 6, during Jaime's rant at her cab driver in the streets of Jaipur, a second cameraman can be seen running ahead of them.
At Season 19's 8th Pit Stop, a fan can be seen taking pictures of teams running up to the mat.
In Season 20, leg 7, during the fight between Brendon & Rachel and Art & JJ and Vanessa & Ralph at the Nairobi airport, shots of various cameramen can be seen as they angle to get shots of everyone's faces.
In Season 21, leg 1, an overhead shot of the in-progress starting line challenge showed multiple cameramen scurrying around on the bridge. In leg 4, when Trey & Lexi's cab was passing Gary & Will's, you can see Gary & Will's camera and sound guys through the open windows. In leg 7, sound men can be seen as Jaymes & James and Natalie & Nadiya are at the pool Detour. In leg 9, the cameraman can be seen as Natalie & Nadiya do the Fast Forward. The finale (legs 11 and 12) included at least a dozen of these.
Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Used on the racers themselves in Seasons 7, 8, 9, 14, 18, 19, 22, and 23. The teams get a clue telling them to go to mat and find Phil, only to have him tell them that they're still racing, and hand them their next clue.
U.S. Version: Season-Specific Tropes (and Routes)
Season 1 (Fall 2001)
Start: Central Park, New York City, New York Destinations: South Africa / Zambia / France / Tunisia / Italy / India / Thailand / China Finish: Flushing Meadows Park, New York City, New York
108: The infamous Fast Forward that indirectly cost both Bill & Joe and Nancy & Emily the race involved dropping 108 coins into urns in a Buddhist temple.
Anti-Climax: The finale's final fifteen minutes were mostly filler, as the top two teams got on two different trains, fifteen minutes apart, to the Finish Line, while Joe & Bill were still stuck in Alaska.
Spoiler Opening: Season 1's opening titles showed actual locations teams would be going to and tasks they would be doing, making it quite easy to work out whether certain teams were going to make it through to the next leg of the race. It was not until Season 14 that they started to show shots from the season during the credits again, and then they were only ever shots from the current or previous episodes.
Season 2 (Spring 2002)
Start: Pahrump, Nevada Destinations: Brazil / South Africa / Namibia / Thailand / Hong Kong, China / Australia / New Zealand Finish: Fort Baker, Sausalito, California (Across the Golden Gate Bridge, overlooking San Francisco)
Down to the Last Play: The finale was decided by a footrace from the cabs to the Finish Line. Wil & Tara made it out of their cabs seconds before Chris & Alex did, but Tara was asthmatic, and the physically fit Chris & Alex ran right past her and won the million dollars.
Shopping Montage: There was one of these, with several teams involved, and was used to set up the flirtation between Alex and Tara, as well as the cliquish nature of the teams. This was obviously before teams learned the importance of money management. In the next leg, Oswald & Danny, while waiting for a booking agency to secure them flights, took time off to shop, refreshing themselves and distancing themselves from the more cutthroat teams. The net result? They got the first flight out, drove in luxury to the airport, and came in an easy first on that leg. And most importantly Danny got that perfume he wanted.
Season 3 (Fall 2002)
Start: Everglades National Park, Florida Destinations: Mexico / England, UK / Scotland, UK / Portugal / Spain / Morocco / Germany / Austria / Germany / Switzerland / Malaysia / Singapore / Vietnam Finish: Gas Works Park, Seattle, Washington
Saved for the Sequel: Jill was originally a finalist to appear on Season 1 with her brother, then he later died in 9/11, and she started dating John Vito, after which they applied to race together.
Season 4 (Summer 2003)
Start: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California Destinations: Italy / Austria / France / Netherlands / India / Malaysia / South Korea / Australia Finish: Papago Park, Phoenix, Arizona
Gay Aesop: The last several episodes played out like this, with Jon Corso playing the "homophobe" who was "learning a lesson" about stereotyping homosexuals. This is the first and last time the show has devoted significant airtime to such a storyline.
Shark Tunnel: Leg 11 had racers wait in one of these while their teammate did a Roadblock in the surrounding tank.
Season 5 (Summer 2004)
Start: Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California Destinations: Uruguay / Argentina / Russia / Egypt / Kenya / Tanzania / United Arab Emirates / India / New Zealand / Philippines / Canada Finish: Trammell Crow Park, Dallas, Texas
Billing Displacement: 6th place Charla & Mirna were on the DVD cover over 3rd place Brandon & Nicole.
Binocular Shot: In Episode 12, the racers had to identify the Philippines flag through binoculars. At one point, Brandon looked through the binoculars with the lens cover still on one side, and a single circular frame, offset to one side of the screen, was shown.
Running Gag: Episode 6: The Roadblock has teams digging through a patch of sand searching for a wooden scarab. As each team reads the clue, they invariably ask: "What's a scarab?"
Colin: Is this it?
Christie: That's a rock.
Season 6 (Fall 2004 - Winter 2005)
Start: Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois Destinations: Iceland / Norway / Sweden / Senegal / Germany / Hungary / Corsica, France / Ethiopia / Sri Lanka / China Finish: Ping Tom Memorial Park, Chicago, Illinois
Bar Slide: A task had the teams do this while aiming for a target on a bar made entirely of ice.
Start: Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, California Destinations: Peru / Chile / Argentina / South Africa / Botswana / India / Turkey / England, UK / Jamaica / Puerto Rico Finish: Bonnet House, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Saved for the Sequel: Uchenna & Joyce made it all the way to the pre-race sequester for Season 6, only to be cut at the last minute.
Storming the Castle: The Roadblock at the end of leg 9 had teams climb a ladder up the wall of Halil Pasa Kulesi in Istanbul, then retrieve a key to unlock their clue.
Season 8 [Family Edition] (Fall 2005)
Start: Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park (below Brooklyn Bridge), New York City, New York Destinations: New Jersey / Pennsylvania / District of Columbia / Virginia / South Carolina / Alabama / Mississippi / Louisiana / Panama / Costa Rica / Arizona / Utah / Wyoming / Montana / Canada Finish: Joseph Davis State Park, New York City, New York
Blindfolded Trip: Teams were put onto a bus to be taken to a mystery location (Huntsville, Alabama), attributing to the Weaver Family's infamous Waffle House breakdown.
The Cameo: Season 1's Kevin & Drew appeared briefly in the first leg to give the teams one of their first clues in New York.
Development Gag: Kevin & Drew's Cameo in the first leg was a reference to Season 8 originally being considered for an All-Star edition.
Spy Speak: The Roadblock in Washington, D.C. had the racers exchanging a briefcase with a spy after exchanging code phrases.
Season 9 (Spring 2006)
Start: Red Rocks Park, Morrison, Colorado Destinations: Brazil / Russia / Germany / Sicily, Italy / Greece / Oman / Australia / Thailand / Japan Finish: Red Rocks Park, Morrison, Colorado
Billing Displacement: 7th place Dave & Lori were on the cover of the DVD over 3rd place Ray & Yolanda.
Book Ends: The season began and ended at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado.
Everything's Better with Monkeys: The Roadblock in Bangkok had teams preparing a feast for sacred monkeys. The monkeys kept interrupting the task by dashing in and grabbing the food, forcing racers to keep fixing their work.
Swan Boats: Teams had to paddle one of these to get to the 11th Pit Stop.
Season 10 (Fall 2006)
Start: Gas Works Park, Seattle, Washington Destinations: China / Mongolia / Vietnam / India / Kuwait / Mauritius / Madagascar / Finland / Ukraine / Morocco / Spain / France Finish: Saint Basil Academy, Garrison, New York
Arrows on Fire: The second leg Roadblock involved shooting flaming arrows to light a target on fire.
Chariot Race: The Roadblock in Morocco featured one of these.
Five-Token Band: The Back Pack, which consisted of Lyn & Karlyn (black single moms from Alabama), Erwin & Godwin (Asian brothers, one of whom went to Harvard), David & Mary (a coal miner and his wife from Kentucky), Tom & Terry (boyfriends), and Kellie & Jamie (college cheerleaders).
Paranoia Fuel: This was intentionally invoked by the producers in the first leg with the surprise elimination of Bilal & Sa'eed at the Meridian Gate which would otherwise be a normal conditional bunching point, threatening the other racers to stay aware of what other twists might be prepared for them later on.
Produce Pelting: One Detour late had the locals pelting racers with tomatoes as part of La Tomatina, the local tomato festival.
Start: Palmetto Bay, Florida Destinations: Ecuador / Chile / Argentina / Mozambique / Zanzibar, Tanzania / Poland / Malaysia / Hong Kong, China / Macau, China / Guam Finish: San Francisco Botanical Garden, San Francisco, California
Billing Displacement: The cover of every DVD, save for Family Edition, features four teams across the cover, with the winner in the center alongside the biggest Spotlight-Stealing Squad for the seasonnote Seasons 3, 4, and 15 being the exceptions, with Derek & Drew, Dave & Jeff, and Brian & Ericka being featured in the center alongside their respective winners. Eric & Danielle, however, are shunted off to the side of the All-Stars cover, the smallest of any of the teams, with Danielle coming this close to being hidden behind Oswald. Most likely this is due to them being the most hated winners in the series, while the other teams in the top four are all amongst the most popular teams from the All-Stars era.
Never Trust a Trailer: The producers hurt themselves by repeatedly calling All-Stars a race between the "best of the best," when in fact they had cast the teams they deemed the most memorable, not the ones who had been best at the game. The Internet Backdraft caused by fans complaining about what constituted the "best" teams caused them frame the next All-star season as a second chance season instead, in order to justify the casting of any teams.
Wire Fu: One of the Hong Kong Detours had the teams climbing a bamboo scaffold while stunt men fought around them.
Season 12 (Fall 2007 — Winter 2008)
Start: Playboy Mansion, Los Angeles, California Destinations: Ireland / Netherlands / Burkina Faso / Lithuania / Croatia / Italy / India / Japan / Taiwan Finish: Girdwood Airport, Girdwood, Alaska
Billing Displacement: 5th place Kynt & Vyxsin were on the DVD cover over 3rd place Nicolas & Donald, though this made sense, as T.K. & Rachel won the season, and Ronald & Christina, Nate & Jen, and Kynt & Vyxsin shared the spotlight role for the season.
108: The wedding garland teams had to make in a Detour in India contained 108 flowers.
A Storm Is Coming: Used in leg 3, when it started storming in the middle of the leg, when two of the teams were still trying to milk their camels at the Roadblock.
Storming the Castle: One of the Detour options in leg 6 had teams rappel down and then scale a rope ladder up to a cliffside fortress.
Season 13 (Fall 2008)
Start: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California Destinations: Brazil / Bolivia / New Zealand / Cambodia / India / Kazakhstan / Russia Finish: Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon
Foreign Wrestling Heel: The Roadblock in Bolivia had one team member learn a wrestling routine in which they had to fight against a local woman, making them this by default.
Try Everything: The Roadblock in the second leg involved finding the location of the Pit Stop on a wall filled with Portuguese words and phrases. Instead of trying to work out the clue logically, most teams just wrote down everything and repeated it all to the judge until they got it right.
Two Men, One Dress: The cow costumes teams were forced to don for the Act Like Fools Detour in Kazakhstan. They then had to run all around Almaty wearing them.
Start: Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base, Los Alamitos, California Destinations: Switzerland / Germany / Austria / Romania / Russia / India / Thailand / China Finish: King Kamehameha Golf Club, Waikapu, Hawaii
Beach Episode: The finale in Hawaii, which had the teams in bathing suits for the entire episode.
Billing Displacement: 6th place Mel & Mike made the cover over 4th place Kisha & Jen, which is one of the stranger cover decisions, as Kisha & Jen would come back and win Unfinished Business.
Blessed Are the Cheesemakers: A task in the premiere episode had teams carry large wheels of cheese down a steep hill. Though it did not look too difficult on the surface, poor balance and the cheese carriers breaking under the slightest provocation led it to being one of the most memorable tasks in race history - so memorable, in fact, that it made a repeat appearance in Season 22, where Phil called it the most memorable task in Race history.
Fanservice: The whole point of the underwear run Roadblock.
Genre Savvy: The teams on the finale spent their final plane ride reviewing the previous legs to prepare for the Final Exam Boss puzzle that had been used in the previous two seasons. From that point on, taking notes on every leg became a common strategy.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: In leg 8, one Detour choice had teams sing karaoke in a party taxi, each accompanied by a pair of transvestites.
Mood Dissonance: While Jen & Kisha and Margie & Luke were having the fight at the mat, the Pit Stop Greeters sat calmly and ate their food.
Rule of Cool: The premiere had the teams bungee jumping off of the dam from the beginning of GoldenEye. As it was the only task in that part of Switzerland, sandwiched between two train rides, the Roadblock was there simply to allow the racers to emulate James Bond.
Margie & Luke and two other family members were in consideration for the Family Edition before being ultimately cut.
Mike White was originally chosen for Season 13 with director friend Jon Kasden. Jon backed out, and Mike was paired with his father for Season 14.
Season 15 (Fall 2009)
Start: Sixth Street Viaduct, Los Angeles, California Destinations: Japan / Vietnam / Cambodia / United Arab Emirates / Netherlands / Sweden / Estonia / Czech Republic Finish: Casa de Shenandoah, Las Vegas, Nevada
Edible Ammunition: One of the Detour choices in leg 9 had teams fire small vegetables at a moose sign with slingshots.
Hahaha No: The Roadblock on leg 10 involves searching the Prague Opera House for a tiny case with a tiny cello inside. Some teams try bringing a empty case or a giant cello, only to have the judge give a "Hahaha...No" laugh at them.
Out-of-Genre Experience: The Japanese Game Show Roadblock in the premiere, including the sound effects and graphics to go along with them.
Precap: In the episode with Mika's water slide meltdown.
Shark Tunnel: The water slide in Dubai went through a shark tunnel.
Viva Las Vegas: The finale took place in Vegas. It involved traveling from casino to casino, an Elvis impersonator in a wedding chapel, a visit to Cirque de Soleil, Wayne Newton, and counting out a million dollars in poker chips. The season also featured Maria & Tiffany, a pair of professional poker players (however, they were eliminated before the finale).
Season 16 (Spring 2010)
Start: Vista Hermosa Natural Park, Los Angeles, California Destinations: Chile / Argentina / Germany / France / Seychelles / Malaysia / Singapore / China Finish: Candlestick Park, San Francisco, California
Blindfolded Trip: Between the fourth and fifth legs, the teams were taken by bus from Hamburg, Germany to Les Monthairons, France.
If You Can Read This: The final challenge required the teams to place psychedelic posters of the eliminated teams in the order of their elimination. They also had to place three posters representing the three non-elimination legs. These posters featured host Phil Keoghan's complete Opening Narration that was played along with the show's opening theme in Season 1.
In Memoriam: In leg 10 for He Pingping, the world's shortest man, who was the task judge for the noodle Roadblock.
The Magic Poker Equation: Averted during the five card stud task in the third leg. Only one team won their hand with something higher than a low pair (Brent & Caite's two pair), and several teams won with a high card.
Season 17 (Fall 2010)
Start: Eastern Point Yacht Club, Gloucester, Massachusetts Destinations: England, UK / Ghana / Sweden / Norway / Russia / Oman / Bangladesh / Hong Kong, China / South Korea Finish: Greystone Mansion, Beverly Hills, California
Anti-Climax: Despite being a very memorable season over all, the last two episodes in general were an anti-climax. Nick & Vicki got pushed so far behind in the penultimate leg due to their penalty for quitting a Detour that their elimination was a Foregone Conclusion. Nat & Kat then so thoroughly dominated the final leg that it was clear they were going to win halfway through the episode, and they didn't see another team past the midpoint of the leg.
Bears Are Bad News: Season 17 had two fake bears, one on a dogsled course, one in a circus.
Camera Abuse: During the Gorodki Roadblock, there were cameras set up behind the pin formations, which would repeatedly be knocked over by the teams' bats.
Continuity Nod: The final puzzle had the teams searching for the pictures of the eleven greeters who had met them at the mat at the end of each leg. In amongst the eleven right pictures were dozens of wrong pictures, which were all greeters from previous seasons of the race.
Edible Ammunition: The watermelons teams shot at suits of armor using a giant slingshot.
Episode 3: Almost every single team who chose the option of decoding phrases into symbols for the Detour couldn't find the decoder key located on a wall just around the corner from where they were (the sole exception being Connor & Jonathan, who completed it before the others showed up). All of them ultimately opted for the second Detour option, and the cameras kept on showing them running right past the decoder key - if they had just glanced behind them, they would have seen it.
Episode 7: Every single team had trouble spotting a colorful figurine of a building in an otherwise drab colored tower they were scanning the skyline from. In fairness, the figurine was placed behind the racers, in the exact opposite direction of the skyline.
Fake Food: The "find a fake piece of food in a table full of real food" Roadblock.
Global Ignorance: The teams were visiting a school in Ghana and tasked with identifying Ghana on a map. It went about as well as you would expect.
Language Barrier: Exploited in the finale. Even though the teams were back in the U.S., none of the idling cabs waiting outside the Rose Bowl (the ones set up by production to be waiting for the teams) had drivers who even remotely spoke good English.
The Piano Player: In one challenge, there was a room full of Russian pianists repeatedly hammering out iconic classical pieces while the racers constantly freaked out trying to identify them.
Storming the Castle: The first task of the Race had teams scaling the walls of Eastnor Castle while dirty water was thrown on them.
Season 18 [Unfinished Business] (Spring 2011)
Start: San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm, Palm Springs, California Destinations: Australia / Japan / China / India / Austria / Liechtenstein / Switzerland / Brazil Finish: Pigeon Key, Florida
Basketball Episode: While waiting for the train to Kunming, China. The Globetrotters broke out a basketball, and played a game with Jet & Cord and Kisha & Jen.
Call Back: As an All-Star season, it had a number of Call Backs to the teams' previous seasons, especially during team introductions.
Chekhov's Gun: At teh beginning of leg 6, teams were told to go to a tea shop and given tea to drink, then given a clue telling them to fly to India. Zev even called it a pointless task. After landing in India, the Roadblock involved identifying that tea on a table full of cups of tea.
Comedic Sociopathy: One of the locals watching the final trailer setting task got in a great line while the teams were fighting against the wind knocking down all their work:
When they do something stupid, we think it's funny.
Continuity Nod: The premiere had the teams fly to Sydney, Australia, where the audience was welcomed to Sydney by the Pit Stop greeter from the Race's initial trip to Australia in Season 2. The Establishing Shots for the episode also featured the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, both locations of tasks in Season 2.
Covered in Mud: The Frog of Luck Detour resulted in this for all the teams who chose it.
Flashback Effects: Justified, in that Unfinished Business was the first season shot in HD, so all Call Backs to previous seasons were all shot in SD, and in 4x3 format instead of 16x9, so all "flashbacks" were in lower quality video with borders on the side to fill out the screen.
History Repeats: Brook & Claire, a team considered essentially a shoo-in to be invited back for an All-Star season, had to drop out after Claire got pregnant. Colin & Christie, another shoo-in team, had to drop out of All-Stars for the same reason.
My Greatest Second Chance: Season 18 was painted as this, being called "Unfinished Business" and all. Of course, for the teams returning, this also led to...
My Greatest Failure: This was emphasized for nine of the eleven teams returning for Unfinished Business. Only Jaime & Cara (14) and Amanda & Kris (14) were exempt, as the former finished 2nd without any obvious mistakes, and the later was U-Turned out of the Race. Those mistakes were:
Kynt & Vyxsin (12) having stick shift problems in Italy. However, no mention was made of their ultimate elimination after U-Turning a team that was in front of them until much later.
Christina (12) panicking and falling apart on the Final Puzzle.
Mel & Mike (14) sticking with a bad cab in Phuket.
Luke choking on the final surf board in Season 14's Final Puzzle after having 8 of the 11 surf boards placed by the time the other teams got there.
Zev & Justin losing a passport on Season 15's fourth leg.
Big Easy (15) being unable to unscramble the word "Franz," even with the "F" spotted to him, and taking a game ending penalty instead.
Jet & Cord (16) standing by as Dan & Jordan cut in line at the Shanghai airport in the finale, and allowing it to affect their game afterwards (see Failed a Spot Check above).
Gary & Mallory (17) getting lost for nine hours in Oman.
Never Trust a Trailer: The promo for "Unfinished Business" shown at the end of Season 17 prominently featured a large number of teams, more than could be in a single season, and led to a number of false cast lists popping up on various sites.
Recycled Set: Victoria Memorial was once again used as the Pit Stop, having previously been a Pit Stop in leg 9 of Season 5.
Schmuck Bait: The Austria Detour in Unfinished Business was a choice between "Long Hard Walk" or "Quick and Easy Meal". Three teams took the bait, a task which was nearly impossible to complete since it required both teams to finish a meal full of meat within a strict time limit. On top of that, failure essentially meant you had to do the other option since it's not like you can eat any more the second time.
Shark Tunnel: The premiere had racers wait in one of these while their teammate did a Roadblock in the surrounding tank.
Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Before Unfinished Business even aired, Season 14 became a Spotlight Stealing Season, taking 5 of the 11 cast spots (plus first alternate Steve & Linda, who finished 10th originally), leaving only six cast spots for the other five seasons, including zero representatives from Season 13, and only a 6th place team from Season 17 (though the two best candidates from Season 17, Nat & Kat won the race, disqualifying them for Unfinished Business, and Claire got pregnant). Bertram Van Munster called 14 a "very unique season" in order to justify this overcasting. Ironically, 4 of the 5 teams cast from that season were eliminated in the bottom 4 places, Amanda & Kris were halted by a U-Turn again, Mel & Mike were forced out of the running due to medical concerns, Jaime & Cara were foiled by a Roadblock in China, and Margie & Luke suffered an extremely shocking elimination when Luke choked on the Roadblock in India. But then Kisha & Jen turned around and won the whole thing, so... (Then again, were we complaining?)
This Is Gonna Suck: At the beginning of the 6th leg, after two straight legs in China, teams were given a clue telling them to find a tea shop, eliciting groans from everyone (except Chinese speakers Ron & Christina) about how they were going to have to stay in China. However, after drinking a cup of tea, they were sent to India.
Trailers Always Spoil: The final episode was a two-hour finale with two legs - the last elimination leg and then the final leg of the race. One of the trailers CBS aired for the finale, however, showed all of the teams but one in the final destination city, leading a number of viewers to guess (correctly), that the team in question was eliminated in the penultimate leg.
Undesirable Prize: Subverted, where Snapple was a sponsor. It appeared the prize was solely to taste two new Snapple flavors, and then Phil revealed they were also getting a feast that night, a private Bollywood-style performance, and a million rupees (or roughly $20,000 cash).
Season 19 (Fall 2011)
Start: Hsi Lai Temple, Hacienda Heights, California Destinations: Taiwan / Indonesia / Thailand / Malawi / Denmark / Germany / Belgium / Panama Finish: Swan House, Atlanta, Georgia
Anti-Climax: Ernie & Cindy completely dominated the finale when the other two teams made vital mistakes early in the leg, to the point where they didn't see another team after leaving the first task.
Barely-There Swimwear: Much to the embarrassment of everyone except Ernie and Marcus during the bodybuilding task.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Though different from the usual kind. The show normally ignores stuff surrounding the production, but Season 19's premiere showed how spoiler hounds tracking racers' progress on Twitter helped Kaylani & Lisa recover their lost passport, preventing their automatic elimination.
Chekhov's Gunman: Throughout the penultimate leg, Ernie & Cindy, Marcus & Amani, and Jeremy & Sandy voiced their annoyance that their cab drivers were all discussing directions with each other, with Marcus & Amani getting taken to the wrong Detour as a result. However, they were all much happier when those same cab drivers helped them get into the Final 3 over Andy & Tommy.
Chewing the Scenery: The Roadblock that required contestants to memorize a Hans Christian Andersen poem called for "dramatic flair," which invariably led to a lot of this.
Expy: If Season 19's cast looked familiar at first glance, that's probably because it was nearly identical to Season 7's cast. It had the same gender breakdown (2 Female teams, 3 Male, and 6 Male/Female), with 6 couples (the gay couple, the old couple, the black married couple, the couple who met on Survivor All-Stars, the couple in their 30s, and the couple in their 20s), one parent/child team, and a sibling team who looked (if not were) identical. It went so far that the breakdown of the final three was the same; with a dating couple, an engaged couple, and a black married couple. The final placings differed, however.
Failed a Spot Check: Exploited in Episode 2, when one task included a sign of additional directions that weren't in the clue. Eight of the eleven teams missed it and had to backtrack, causing the three who did notice to jump as many as seven places to the top of the standings.
Fanservice: The whole point of the body building pose-athon.
Genre Savvy: On leg 5 of Season 19, when given a clue to disassemble a spirit house and take it with them, five of the eight teams took notes on the positioning of the pieces of the house in case they have to put it back together later, and the other three had team members who at least suggested it (unfortunately, in one of those cases, the team just decided to take mental notes, and in the other two the team member making the suggestion was rebuffed, and all three doing the Road Block had to go back and look at another spirit house).
Hidden in Plain Sight: The first clue in China is one of the most notoriously tricky in the series. They were simply told to go into a commercial district and "look up." The clue was a giant red and yellow sign written in Chinese that many of the teams spotted then disregarded at first.
Product Placement: Subverted. The 11th leg had a task based on the comic Tintin and aired at about the time a movie adaptation hit theaters, but no reference was made to the movie at all; Tintin was presented as merely a Belgian cultural icon.
Season 20 (Spring 2012)
Start: Bridlewood Estate Winery, Santa Barbara, California Destinations: Argentina / Paraguay / Italy / Germany / Azerbaijan / Tanzania / India / Japan Finish: Secret Island, Waikane, Hawaii
Badass Beard: The Champion Male Detour involved molding a beard after a world championship winning beard style.
Bait and Switch: In the first leg, the teams are told to drive to a small airport, where they find a Roadblock clue. Most teams, being Genre Savvy, automatically suspect that it's a sky diving challenge, only to find that, once they open the clue, they're only half right. The Roadblock involved following a map to the landing zone for their partner after they sky dived.
Call Back: The tenth leg repeated the head shaving Fast Forward from Season 7 (Season 5 was not mentioned).
Continuity Nod: When the teams competed in a Japanese Game Show Roadblock, the host for the task was the same person who hosted the Japanese Game Show Roadblock all the way back in Season 15.
Fan Disservice: Not just for the fans in Season 20, as one Detour had the teams scrub oil off of hairy, nearly naked men.
Mood Whiplash: A stop at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial was followed by rubber chickens in a Japanese game show.
Out-of-Genre Experience: The Japanese Game Show Roadblock in the finale, including the sound effects and graphics to go along with them.
Precap: There was one used in leg 7 to recap the major storylines of the season so far, and show where they would be heading starting in that episode.
Regional Riff: Played with during a cricket Detour. After having the teams compare the challenge to "just like hitting a baseball," the challenge is scored by sitar versions of "Charge" and "Take Me Out To The Ball Game".
Saved for the Sequel: In Season 19, Kaylani's original partner was supposed to be Rachel Reilly, but as Rachel was asked to return for Big Brother 13, she had to change to Lisa, and Rachel was cast for the following season with Brendon.
Trailers Always Spoil: The premiere, instead of featuring the normal, "Next week on ''The Amazing Race''," instead featured a preview for the entire upcoming season, including scenes from the 7th episode, the 8th, the 10th, and even the finale. It became fairly obvious that certain teams were safe until those scenes aired.
We Wait: The Water Supply Detour in leg 8 was simple, all you had to do was fill up nine jugs with water, only you had to wait in a line for forty minutes or so to get to the hose.
Season 21 (Fall 2012)
Start: Colorado Street Bridge, Pasadena, California Destinations: China / Indonesia / Bangladesh / Turkey / Russia / Netherlands / Spain / France Finish: Gotham Hall, New York City, New York
Beach Episode: The three teams had twelve hours to waste in Barcelona, so they went to the beach.
Call Back: Leg 9 repeated the ditch vaulting Roadblock from Season 12 (Jaymes even recognized it as they were driving up).
Chekhov's Gunman: Observant viewers might have noted that the greeters at each of the Pit Stops in Season 21 said hello and goodbye to the racers in their native languages. This turned out to be important later when the final challenge was to match the words/phrases for "hello" and "goodbye" to their native countries. Unfortunately, most teams did not pay attention to this detail and the people who did the roadblock spent at least two and a half hours trying to complete it.
Failed a Spot Check: The finale had all three teams constantly miss the seemingly inconspicuous poster among others posted at Coney Island Boardwalk. Appropriately, it was titled The Amazing Houdini.
Loophole Abuse: In the second Double U-Turn, the leading three teams going into Amsterdam - all which had a good 3+ hour advantage on the trailing two teams - conspired to use the Double U-turn specifically against the stronger of the trailing teams, Abbie & Ryan (who were also the ones in contention for the $2 million prize); one team used their U-Turn on Abbie & Ryan, while a second team used the U-turn on the team that provided the first U-turn, knowing full well it wouldn't affect them, but specifically to deny Abbie & Ryan from using the U-turn on the other trailing team.
The Season 21 premiere showed clips from leg 9 and the finale.
Likewise, in the episode prior to the season 21 finale, the preview for said finale featured shots of Lexi doing the final Roadblock at the United Nations building in New York City, and Jaymes & James on the Coney Island boardwalk.
Victimized Bystander: The bamboo Detour in leg 5 involved teams carrying forty bamboo poles to a rickshaw and then taking the rickshaw to a construction site. The teams repeatedly lost control of the poles as they turned corners, and kept smacking locals with them.
Season 22 (Spring 2013)
Start: Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, California Destination: French Polynesia / New Zealand / Indonesia / Vietnam / Botswana / Swaziland / Germany / Scotland, UK / Northern Ireland, UK Finish: Mount Vernon Estate, Mount Vernon, Virginia
Leg 5, Vietnam. What could have been an extremely exciting leg involving a Double U-Turn (with obvious divides between alliances, no less) was rendered a Foregone Conclusion after Dave & Connor quit early in the leg due to the former's injury, thus ensuring the rest of the teams were safe even before the first commercial break.
Bates & Anthony did not see another team after the Spy Roadblock, which was halfway through the episode.
Bait and Switch: During the final leg, in Washington, D.C., the teams all go to 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, where they are to get pictures with the President. The teams are all surprised... but it turns out that they are just going to get pictures of themselves taken with an image of the President photoshopped onto the pictures.
The leg 4 Roadblock had the teams search through a number of surfboards for one that had the picture of a Polynesian priest who had blessed them in the second leg (with the clue only telling them to look for something they had "encountered" on the course). Aside from that, the task was also a simplified version of the Final Exam Finale Puzzle from Season 14.
Leg 8 repeated the cheese carrying task from the Season 14 premiere, only this time teams had to do it in the snow. The episode title itself, "My Cheese Is Out of Control," was a direct Call Back to the Season 14 episode title, "Don't Let A Cheese Hit Me."
The finale also repeated the spy Roadblock from Family Edition. Unlike with other Switchbacks, they showed images from the original task, but did not mention what season they were from. Also notable in that it was the first Switchback not to draw from a memorable moment or episode, meaning most fans might not have recognized it as a Switchback had it not been pointed out.
Calvinball: The shemozzle race in New Zealand, which involved crawling through a crate dripping with molasses and a tunnel full of feathers, then riding an inner tube down a tarp into a muddy pond, all while holding eggs.
Chekhov's Gunman: In the second leg, teams were blessed by a Polynesian priest before getting their Detour clue. Two legs later, a Roadblock had the teams search through a number of surfboards for one that had the picture of the same priest on it (with the clue only telling them to look for something they had "encountered" on the course).
Disney Acid Sequence: The Roadblock in the German leg had teams traveling through a freaky labyrinth inside Berlin's Salon zur wilden Renate. Multiple racers even said walking through the maze was like being on a drug trip (see Mind Screw below).
Everything's Better with Monkeys: The teams were task with retrieving a clue in Bali by having a monkey open a coconut for them to retrieve the clue inside. The episode title was even "I Love Monkeys".
A subtle version of this in the first leg sandcastle Roadblock. As confirmed by Matt & Daniel, many teams didn't think to dig underneath the sandcastles, expecting the clues to simply appear when they knocked the castles over (despite it saying they would be beneath the sandcastles in the clue). Though searching 400 sandcastles and having to rebuild them would be taxing in itself, this led to teams not finding a single one in all of them and thus the last three teams felt it better to take a penalty over continuing their fruitless efforts.
The penultimate leg (set in Belfast, Northern Ireland) had a Detour in which one of the challenges involved teams going to the dry dock where the Titanic was built and serving a five-course first-class meal to reenactors. Three of the final four teams attempted this challenge, and all of them initially didn't realize there was a reason why the menus they picked up only had two of five courses listed for each person at the table - the menus were sitting on a signboard which listed the other three courses.
Human Chess: A Detour had the teams setting up human pieces on a Chinese Chess board.
Innocently Insensitive: The show itself became this in leg 5, as Leg 5 was set in Vietnam and featured a communist propaganda song and the wreckage of an American B-52 bomber that - though the show didn't mention this part - served to commemorate a victory over the Americans. Production had acknowledged they made a mistake and a formal apology was offered at the start of the next episode, though this was only broadcasted on CBS.
Mind Screw: The labyrinth in Berlin's Salon zur wilden Renate was built to deliberately invoke this.
Patriotic Fervor: A Roadblock had teams sitting and watching the performance of a patriotic Vietnamese song and dance.
The Precarious Ledge: The Roadblock at Eiger mountain in Switzerland, where teams had to climb out on a slim board bolted to the mountain's north face.
Saved for the Sequel: Chuck & Wynona were originally cast in Season 21, but had to drop out due to a family death.
Spy Speak: The Switchback in Washington, D.C. had the racers exchanging a briefcase with a spy after exchanging code phrases.
Tar and Feathers: Shemozzle racing in New Zealand involved getting covered in molasses and feathers.
Trailers Always Spoil: Season 22 had a two-hour finale featuring the final elimination episode and the final leg. Like with Seasons 18 and 21, the promos aired on CBS showed three of the teams in the Final Destination City, Washington D.C., leading to the (correct) assumption that they were the Final 3.
The World Is Just Awesome: This season seemed particularly geared towards this kind of reaction with a route primarily consisting of scenic rural locations and endless Racer soundbites about how cool the surrounding environment was.
Season 23 (Fall 2013)
Start: Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio, Santa Clarita, California Destinations: Chile / Portugal / Norway / Poland / Austria / United Arab Emirates / Indonesia / Japan Finish: End of North Douglas Highway, Juneau, Alaska
Bait and Switch: Like in Season 20, the Roadblock of the race was designed to fool teams into thinking the Roadblock was a physical thrill task, in this case paragliding. However, the non participating team member had to do the paragliding, and the Roadblock was to instead follow their teammate to the beach.
Chekhov's Gun: The bag of Viking Coins the teams picked up in Norway were later used to decode the code for the electronic locks on their Ford Explorers in Abu Dhabi.
Continuity Nod: When the teams competed in a Japanese Game Show Detour, the host for the task was the same person who hosted the Japanese Game Show Roadblocks in Seasons 15 and 20.
Falling Chandelier of Doom: The unused Detour in Austria involved assembling a chandelier. If they failed to do it correctly, the task judge would drop the chandelier to the floor.
Fanservice: The salt bath Detour, though Phil tweeted that there was no requirement to get into swimwear. Everyone just followed suit after Jason & Amy changed.
Flat World: Lampshaded In-Universe during the Miles Detour in Lisbon, where teams had to measure out Magellan's circumnavigation route via a giant compass and a flat map. Three teams forgot the world was round when they got to the end of the map, while one team was able to correct this, restart from the other side of the map, and give the right number, two other teams kept giving ridiculously large numbers to the task judge until they just gave up and switched Detours.
The Maze: Teams had to navigate a hedge maze to get their final clue in Austria.
Out-of-Genre Experience: The Japanese Game Show Detour in the finale, including the sound effects and graphics to go along with them.
Recycled Set: The Konno Hachimangu Shrine in Japan was previously used as the first Pit Stop in Season 15.
Trailers Always Spoil: The CBS-made promos prior to the two-hour finale spoiled the final elimination again.
Wholesome Crossdresser: The polka Detour in Poland had teams dressing up in traditional Polish costumes to do a polka dance routine, and had to remain dressed like this for the remainder of the leg. One teammate dressed as a male and the other as a female, this included all-male and all-female teams. Most teams had no problem cross-dressing for the purpose of the Detour, but Danny complained long and hard about dressing as a woman, much to Tim's annoyance.
Start: College of the Canyons, Santa Clarita, California Destinations: China / Malaysia / Sri Lanka / Italy / Switzerland / Spain / England, UK / Wales, UK Finish: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, Nevada
Anti-Climax: The eliminations of Joey & Meghan, Margie & Luke, and the Globetrotters were obvious by the middle of their respective episodes.
Call Back: As an All-Star season, it had a number of Call Backs to the teams' previous seasons, especially during team introductions.
The Cameo: David Copperfield ran the teams through a Roadblock in the finale.
Fake Difficulty: The toy chariot racing in Rome. It was easy when teams were alone, but got harder when more and more teams shows up.
Flashback Effects: All flashbacks to previous seasons are done in muted colors with travel documents layered in over the edges of the screen.
My Greatest Second Chance: For all the teams, with three of them (along with one half of a fourth) having their third chance.
Mobstacle Course: Done in leg 6 with tuk-tuks, as seven teams raced to fill up four tuk-tuks apiece, with only two gas pumps available. This caused traffic jams at the pumps as contestants fought to get their tuk-tuks to the gas pump, with contestants standing in front of, block, redirecting, and even pushing tuk-tuks out of the way.
New Rules as the Plot Demands: It was not the producers' fault, but they should have told the viewers about the new Roadblock rule at the start of the season, not when everybody realized that Dave did only 4 Roadblocks over the course of the first 11 legs, thus giving the illusion of this.
Noodle Incident: Several team placements changed between the first and second leg with no explanation. Dave & Connor and Margie & Luke switched 3rd and 4th place, Margie & Luke moving up, Dave & Connor down. Joey & Meghan also moved up two spots from 10th to 8th.
Rearrange the Song: The season kicked off with the theme song played by the UCLA marching band. The normal title sequence played a little later on, though.
Recycled Set: Both the first route marker and the Pit Stop in Kuala Lampur were used as route marker locations in previous seasons. Teams had to get their photo taken at the Petronas Towers in Season 3, and climb the stairs at the Batu Caves to get a clue in the original All-Stars.
Rubber-Band A.I. : Averted for the first five legs, as the teams were not all fully equalized for the first time until the beginning of leg 6. However, leg 6 the proceeded to hit the teams with three equalizers, an operating hours equalizer, followed by two trains.
Second-Hand Storytelling: In the finale, there was a fight between Rachel and Caroline & Jennifer in the customs. Since they couldn't film the fight in that section of the airport, the fight had to be told by confessionals from all three teams. From Caroline & Jennifer's POV, Rachel appearantly cut in front of them. From Rachel POV, she arrived at the customs first, and then Caroline accused her of cutting in front of them.
Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Season 22 became the spotlight stealing season this time around, providing four of the teams for All-Stars. However, unlike with Season 14 on Unfinished Business, only one of the teams, Dave & Connor, was really expected to be brought back by most fans. Jessica & John were considered an outside possibility due to the embarrassing nature of their elimination, while Joey & Meghan and Caroline & Jen were surprises.
Just as surprising, the season most expected to steal the spotlight, Season 21, only ended up contributing one team, Natalie & Nadiya, while Jaymes & James, Trey & Lexi, and Abbie & Ryan were all snubbed.
Truncated Theme Tune: For every episode except the first and last, they cut all the teams out of the title sequence, playing a shorter version of the theme before showing the title card after a few seconds. They would go back to the full theme in every episode in the following season.
Unwinnable by Design: For three teams in Leg 3. The flights out of China were split 6-3 with a three-hour deficit for the last three teams, making it impossible for those teams to catch up and guaranteeing they would be the last three teams to check in.
What Have We Ear?: In the finale, David Copperfield pulled clues out from behind the contestants ears.
Season 25 (Fall 2014)
Start: Times Square, New York City, New York Destinations: United States Virgin Islands / England, UK / Scotland, UK / Denmark / Morocco
British Royal Guards: One of the Detour choices in the second leg had teams changing the guard at Buckingham Palace.
For their 25th season, the show started with Phil at the Bethesda fountain in Central Park, where the first race had started, with shots of that season starting. Later, at the Starting Line in Times Square, Phil pointed out that some veteran racers had shown up to see the race start (Frank from Season 1, and Terence and Andrew from Season 13). The first clue of the season told teams to go where the first season had ended (the Unisphere in Queens), and all the teams ran over to Frank to get the answer.
Later in the leg, when the final three teams at the Roadblock all decided to take four-hour penalties, the editors cut to shots of the three teams who had similarly decided to take four-hour penalties at the Roadblock in leg 1 of Season 22.
Green Aesop: The fourth leg in Copenhagen centered around this, with one task involving driving 20 miles in an energy efficient car while using less than a tenth of a gallon of gas, and the Pit Stop was outside of a self-ustainable apartment building.
History Repeats: As in Season 22, the premiere featured a lengthy Roadblock on the beach involving the teams digging in sand. Eight of the teams got it, leaving a trio of a pair of firefighters, a pair of blonde women, and a couple. The couple decided to propose to the other two teams that they all quit the task and take the four-hour penalty and race it out to the Pit Stop. The two biggest differences in the ending were that the teams knew they'd be in a footrace to the Pit Stop instead of racing it out via boat, and the blonde team was eliminated instead of the firefighters.
Milestone Celebration: The 25th season. For the occasion, the premiere referenced the first season's starting and finish lines (see Call Back above), and filmed the race start publicly in Times Square with fans in attendance rather than at a private location.