The Amazing Race has never been a series known for big twists. There are occasional season-long gimmicks but typically the race remains the same year to year. Teams travel across the world competing in Roadblocks, Detours and sometimes Speed Bumps. Yet in season 30 two major twists have been introduced in the middle of the race. The first was the Head-to-Head and then, most recently, the Partner Swap, which saw the teams of two trade partners with another pair. While the Partner Swap wasn't as successful as the Head-to-Head, it did prove to be perfectly messy in that great Amazing Race way.
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The Partner Swap didn't really work out in any team's favor, except maybe for Alex and Brittany because it became clear that Brittany is the driving force of Team Ocean Rescue and Lucas is the bumbling sidekick. Nearly every team decided that they were best with their original partner, which is probably for the best as it would've made the rest of the season increasingly awkward. Still, the teams' mutual losses was really the audience's gain.
The Amazing Race does present some stunning locales but truly the series is all about the interpersonal drama. Whether they're getting along or fighting, the highlight of The Amazing Race is how the teams interact with one another and that's something the Partner Swap highlighted. The less the team worked together, the more amusing the twist became.
Jessica and Kristi sort of imploded together. They are successful when they're with their real partners but alone the two didn't balance each other at all. It was hilarious, albeit in a voyeuristic and slightly cruel way. The same goes for Conor and Lucas' partnership. It's obvious that Alex and Brittany are the stars of their respective teams. Conor and Lucas completely floundered together and got stuck (quite literally.) All of their struggles in the mud wouldn't have been half as amusing if the two were with their original partners and not because Lucas would've said something to make Brittany cry.
In all honestly the leg with the Partner Swap was one of the more boring in Amazing Race 30. The challenges were dull and more than a bit confusing. (The show never adequately explained why water jugs needed to be buried on the Detour.) Yet all the bland surroundings were necessary for the personal craziness of the Partner Swap. The Partner Swap made the leg interesting, by being a total wreck, which was the intention.
And the Beauty
Yet as much as the highlight was how certain teams struggled, it was completely negative. The Partner Swap wasn't a retread of the Blind Date season of Amazing Race which was relentlessly negative and bitter, with no one liking their partners. It was messy but all in good fun. No one walked away hating their new partner or getting too nasty.
Also, by stripping away their usual partners, Amazing Race allowed the contestants' individual personalities and strengths to shine. For example, it was obvious that Team Extreme and Team Big Brother are two of the biggest threats in Amazing Race but it wasn't clear, until the Partner Swap, what each member brought to the team. Likewise, the Partner Swap also gave The Twins some much needed individuality. It was short-lived, as they were eliminated in the very next leg, but it was refreshing to have a brief distinction between Daniel and Eric.
The Partner Swap probably shouldn't happen more than once a season and it really can't occur until halfway through a season, just because it takes a while to get most teams straight. Still, the twist was something that needs to return on Amazing Race in the future. It was too much to outright ignore. It would even be welcome if stuck around for more than one short leg to really make the Swap have some consequences. Otherwise, the twist was a surprising success for The Amazing Race.
But what did you make of the Partner Swap? Was it better or worse than the Head-to-Head? Would you like to see it return? Were any of the swapped teams better than the original versions?
(Image courtesy of CBS)