Contestants from the first TARA (Image from novafm.com.au)
The first season of The Amazing Race Australia (TARA) has been a genuinely satisfying one with rarely a dull moment. All episodes have been jam-packed with fascinating (though not necessarily original) tasks thus far and the editing has been top notch. I was almost worried that the finale would be an anti-climax, but it did keep up the high standards set by the rest of the season thus far. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good.
Amazing Race finales are the most difficult episodes to do well because unless you have two really equally good teams which keep the race tight, the finales really turn out to be rather predictable. The US version has never topped the nail-biting finish in Season 2 where Tara and Will and Chris and Alex battled it out in an extremely close foot race to the end. The rest of the finales since then have been either bland, or out-right boring. It is especially boring when the teams are sent to another country before going back to the home country because more often than not, they will be bunched at the airport for the flight back, hence annulling any good racing that took place in the other country.
This is where the TARA finale stood out – the race in Singapore did have an impact on the flights that the 3 teams took back to Perth, even if it were just a 30 minute difference (which Sam and Renae made up quickly because they were in home-ground). The interesting dynamics kept the suspense high all the way till the end of the episode. There were many points throughout the episode where teams were bunched up during the tasks and left tasks in different order which kept it exciting.
The number of tasks throughout the episode too made it very interesting, though I groaned at the Singapore Flyer task which sounded like it would have took a lot of time for teams. I can imagine that Sam and Renae would have been there for almost 3 hours! That’s not the best way to sell our Singapore skyline really, though the scene with Tyler & Nathan sarcastically replying to the flyer voiceover was hilarious. I would have preferred there to be a task in the finale which actually relied on strategy and intelligence rather than pure luck, but the nature of finales is that the tasks are usually tedious or require lots of guts. The MBS Detour was really visually stunning and I was really quite impressed with the many pull-out shots of them walking across the rope and the camera pulling out all the way to opposite MBS.
The competition was really between the surfer boys and Sam & Renae. Jeff & Luke were really out of their game tonight and it was clear they were fatigued. They made the wrong detour choice, wasted a lot of time at the ‘Confucius’ challenge and struggled unnecessarily with the keys and locks at the Fremantle Prison. Tyler and Nathan were sharp throughout and barely made any mistakes. They ran an especially good leg tonight. For overall performance I still rank Sam and Renae higher, but Tyler and Nathan were definitely deserving winners.
Looking at the episode from the perspective of a Singaporean though, I found it rather lacking both in terms of planning and accuracy of portrayal.
I’m sure the racers would have realised that they were made to go from MBS to Jurong then back to Flyer (which was 5 minutes next to MBS). That was a waste of taxi money and a needless journey to a part of Singapore that frankly not many Singaporeans or tourists go to. Why couldn’t they have just had a task around the City Hall area of Singapore, which Jasmine always claims to be an area with such a classic colonial vibe compared to the rest of Singapore. They could have had a task which required them to explore the historically significant points along the Clarke Quay stretch or had a kite-flying task at the Marina Barrage (which would have been visually stunning too). The visit to Chinese Gardens seemed rather superfluous to me.
Like all the other episodes of TAR (US version) featuring Singapore. I felt that they never really looked at the multi-cultural aspect of Singapore and focused solely on the ‘Chinese’ culture with tasks that featured Peking opera, fortune-telling etc. It isn’t really the most vibrant aspect of Singapore culture. If I were to design a task in Singapore, I would definitely have one that requires them to visit various cultural areas of Singapore like not just Chinatown, but also Little India and Malay Village. The tasks should highlight the diversity of cultural areas within Singapore which are bustling with activities.
Nonetheless, this was an enjoyable finale, a fitting end to an excellent season. Casting for TARA Season 2 has already begun and I shall now await TAR20, which I believe will be airing in 2 months time!