The Amazing Race: Do Alliances Take the Fun Out of the Competition?

True confessions time: I found myself frustrated and disappointed at the end of Sunday night’s installment of The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business. It didn’t help that my second-favorite team had been eliminated, but ultimately, it was the way they met their demise that didn’t sit right with me.

Early in the episode, the six remaining teams faced a Road Block in which one member had to measure the entire length of Lichtenstein on a motorized bicycle, then reveal the correct distance (22 km) to Olympic skiier Marco Buchel in order to receive the next clue. “The map is pretty straightforward. I mean, you do have to read it,” said Flight Time, as he made his way along the course.

The task, however, turned out to be a case of easier read than done, and in the end, four of the six players assisted one another in getting to the finish line. Jen, whose map had fallen out of her pocket, stopped to help a befuddled Justin figure out Buchel’s coordinates, then convinced her rival to let her follow along to the finish line. Later, as Justin and Jen waited for a bus to take them to their next destination, they saw Flight Time, who’d gotten lost and was heading back to the starting line to try again. With very little prodding, Justin and Jen handed him the “22 km” code word. Flight Time then went ahead and volunteered this information to Gary, reasoning that he’d rather give a leg up to a slower team and possibly hasten the elimination of a more imposing force (like the Cowboys).

That left Vyxsin and Jet as the only two people who didn’t benefit from a competitor’s assistance on the course. And with that, Jet had to go back and start at the very beginning — yes, the visit to Villa Trapp has me in a Sound of Music state of mind — and he and Cord were never able to make up the deficit.

Look, I know alliances are a time-honored tradition on The Amazing Race, and reality TV in general, but I can’t help but feel like last night’s blithe sharing of intel robbed the episode of some of its suspense and humor. I mean, without all these assists, Jen and Flight Time almost certainly would’ve had to return to the starting line — and it’s possible Justin and Gary would have, too. Think of all the panic, frustration, yelling, and crying we missed in the name of alliances. As it turned out, we got a second consecutive episode where the last-place finish seemed like a foregone conclusion. Am I nuts for thinking the show’s producers should put the kibosh on teams handing out answers to their fellow players — especially at this late stage of the competition? Otherwise, it seems way too easy to gang up against one particularly strong team and force them out of the race. Am I just being bitter over the loss of the cowboys, or am I actually onto something here? Sound off in the comments below. Before you do, though, a few other observations from Sunday’s show:

* Once again, I appreciated Gary and Mallory’s genuine awe at their surroundings, particularly Gary’s comment about how he and his daughter didn’t want to sleep on the train to Lichtenstein after 36 hours awake because they were enjoying the local landscapes way too much.

* Loved that shot of Jen on her motorized bike while a gigantic bus roared up behind her and tooted its horn. Yikes!

* I was a little bummed the show gave us a second consecutive eating challenge, and then totally astonished when Zev and Justin (who failed the weinerschnitzel wolfing last week in Austria) chose “cheese” over “wheeze.” I can’t lie: I felt a little nauseous watching Justin burping in agony and Zev chowing relentlessly as the contents of their fondue pot began to congeal (pictured). But despite Justin’s mid-challenge case of the voms, Zev carried on, and the BFFs finished yet another leg in first place.

* Could Kent’s behavior be any more irritating? His chant-like cadences become totally intolerable when he’s whining at his partner. “You hit my ankle! You hit my ankle with the cart!” he squealed during the luggage-delivery challenge, before plopping himself in the cart and having Vyxsin haul him around like a fuchsia-dyed plow horse.

* Final order of finish this week: Zev/Justin; Kisha/Jen; Kent/Vyxsin; Gary/Mallory; Flight Time/Big Easy; Jet/Cord (eliminated).

Who are you rooting for with only five teams left? Who are you hoping will go home next? And would you like to see stricter rules against alliances or the sharing of intel during challenges? Sound off below, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!