Race to Survive: New Zealand Episode 3 Recap: A Rocky Start to Race 2

Bronsen Iverson and Ryan Stewart kneeling together on Race to Survive: New Zealand.
Photo Credit: Daniel Allen/USA Network via Getty Images

We are officially in the thick of things on Race to Survive: New Zealand. Last week, we saw our first team eliminated when the Rhode Islanders, Emilio and Heather, were the last to make it to the End Crate on Race 1. They fought hard, and the rest of the teams cheered them on as they crossed the finish line. This week, it’s time for a brand-new race.

On Race to Survive: New Zealand Episode 3, “Grit Trumps Calories,” the eight remaining teams embarked on Race 2. While some racers sprinted through the course with ease, a severe lack of calories started to catch up to some other folks on the course. By the end of the episode, one team was forced to throw in the towel.

Cold, wet, and miserable at Survival Camp

Paulina Pena standing in front of a fire on Race to Survive: New Zealand
Photo Credit: Tim Williams/USA Network

Episode 3 of Race to Survive started at Survival Camp, where the eight remaining teams sat around looking pitiful. It was rainy and cold. Plus, some of the teams were literally starving after the exhausting first race.

The Oil Riggers and the Brooklyn Climbers skipped the food caches in Race 1, so they were running off zero calories in a race where they burn up to 6000 calories a day. That’s not a good combination. At one point, Stef and Mikhail tried to barter with the Smokejumpers to get food. It didn’t work. Meanwhile, Kennedy was licking fungus off a tree to try to get a calorie or two. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Even the teams that did get food caches were running low on fuel. The Cool Moms said they were running off of a few almonds and a piece of beef jerky. At this point, no one was having a good time, so they were legitimately excited to see a helicopter show up with a crate to kick off the second race. They were ready to get moving again because anything beats sitting in a cold tent.

Race 2, Day 1

Bronsen Iverson and Ryan Stewart sitting together on Race to Survive: New Zealand
Photo Credit: Daniel Allen/USA Network

The racers got their hands on the map for Race 2: Maungakaura. It started with an uphill sprint, followed by a treacherous alpine marsh. Then, they have to locate a dropdown point to descend to a mandatory checkpoint and an optional food cache detour. After hitting the first checkpoint, their next task is ascending a mountain, only to turn around and go right back down the other side of it.

For Race 2, there’s also an important caveat: if another team taps out before making it to the finish line, you’re not guaranteed a pass to Survival Camp. This is a change from Season 1, and it adds more pressure on the racers to get to the finish line quickly. They also have to get there in one piece.

When the race started, the Hunters immediately took a lead over the rest of the teams. They started running up that hill like Kate Bush, but the New Zealand heat started to catch up to Bronsen. He had to take a breather, sip some water, and regroup. After eating nothing but bacon in Race 1, shivering in Survival Camp, and then running uphill in the sun, it’s understandable why he didn’t feel good.

Since the Hunters got derailed, that opened up the opportunity for the River Guides and the Smokejumpers to gain a lead. It’s just like the first race, where these three teams started the race leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but at this point, it won’t be too surprising to see one of these teams win the whole thing.

A supergroup forms on the racecourse

Paulina Pena and Creighton Baird on Race to Survive: New Zealand
Photo Credit: Daniel Allen/USA Network

During Race 2, Day 1, the Cool Moms, the Ultramarathoners, and the Divorcees all found themselves kind of neck and neck with each other on the course. The Moms admitted that they were kind of just following whoever was in front of them, so that way they didn’t have to think too much about navigating. They’re all going to the same finish line anyway.

Meanwhile, the Ultramarathoners weren’t feeling that strategy They didn’t want anyone riding off their coattails, so they intentionally let Rhandi and Ashley pass them up. That cleared the way for the ladies to catch up to the Divorcees, and thus, a supergroup was formed.

Ex-lovers Paulina and Creighton agreed to work with Rhandi and Ashley as they pressed forward. They called it a “navigation committee.” Strength in numbers, right? Wrong. The supergroup walked right past the drop point to get to the mandatory checkpoint and the all-important food cache. By the end of Race 2, Day 1, they realized they would have to start the next day by backtracking to the checkpoint.

To eat, or not to eat

Nikola Milutinovic and Kennedy Taylor in Race to Survice: New Zealand
Photo Credit: Daniel Allen/USA Network

At the mandatory checkpoint, the racers had their first food cache decision. They could climb across rocks down a stream to get food or continue venturing towards the Race 2 finish line. The only caveat was that the racers needed 30 minutes left on the race clock before starting the food cache challenge.

Oil Riggers Nik and Kennedy were on their ninth day of no food, so they were really banking on getting to that food cache. On Race 2, Day 1, they got to the checkpoint with 20 minutes left on the clock, so the rules stated that they couldn’t push forward to the food. Had they gotten there ten minutes sooner, they could have put an end to their starvation. Instead, they had to camp out next to the challenge and wait for Day 2 to start. That’s torture.

When morning came around, Kennedy went after the food cache first thing and they finally got to eat, after nearly ten days of no food. It couldn’t come soon enough — Nik’s clothes hardly fit him anymore. Plus, there’s no way they could have made it much longer with zero calories. Our bodies just don’t work like that.

Meanwhile, the “navigation committee” eventually showed up at the food cache as Nik and Kennedy celebrated their first meal of the race. The Oil Riggers were shocked to learn that they were ahead of so many other teams. The moms showed up and celebrated getting their food rations with a chant, “Grit trumps calories!”

A costly slip-up

Steffen Jean-Pierre and Mikhail Marti on Race to Survive: New Zealand looking at a map
Photo Credit: Tim Williams/USA Network

Elsewhere on the course, the Brooklyn Climbers were struggling in every way imaginable. They hadn’t eaten, so compared to the rest of the teams, it looked like they were moving across the course at a snail’s pace. Priority number one was making it to the first food cache.

Race 2, Day 1 came and went with no food cache. On Day 2, they started trekking towards the food cache when Mikhail slipped and fell into some rocks. He told Steffen that he might have hurt his knee and “heard a crack” when he fell.

Mikhail got up from the fall and tried to hobble his way to the food cache. But, it didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t going to be possible in the long term. The narrator said they were moving at a “glacial” pace, and that was putting it lightly.

With Mikhail injured and their stomachs empty, the Brooklyn Climbers told the producers that they were ready to quit the race. They threw in the towel after not eating for ten days and racing through 50 miles of rugged, New Zealand terrain. You can’t blame them — it’s not like you can race with an injury like that.

After a producer commended the Brooklyn Climbers for a job well done, a helicopter came and swooped them up to take them back to safety. As the helicopter whizzed over the racecourse, the rest of the teams pushed forward to try to finish Race 2 and avoid elimination. There’s still a lot more course for them to conquer.

Race to Survive: New Zealand continues on USA Network on Monday nights at 11/10c.