Race to Survive: New Zealand Episode 5 Recap: Caves and Mazes

Race to Survive: New Zealand Episode 5 recap.
Photo Credit: Daniel Allen/USA Network via Getty Images

Lace-up those hiking boots and finish up your last helpings of eel kabobs because it’s time to get back on the course! Race to Survive: New Zealand returned with an all-new episode, challenging the teams to their most terrifying challenge yet.

Last week, the seven remaining teams crossed the finish line of Race 2. The ultramarathoning moms, Rhandi and Ashley, arrived in last place, but in a surprising turn of events, they were still able to score a medallion and proceed in the race. It turns out that the Brooklyn Climbers tapping out of Race 2 cleared the way for everyone to survive another day in the race. We love a happy ending, right?

Unfortunately, the racers weren’t so lucky this week. Race 3 was no joke, and by the end of the episode, another team fell victim to the dangers of the Down Under. Here’s what happened in Race to Survive: New Zealand Episode 5, “Deep, Dark, Holes.”

Race 3, Day 1

Ryan and Bronson in a cave on Race to Survive; New Zealand, wearing blue jumpsuits and helmets with lights attached to them
Photo Credit: Brian Finestone/USA Network

This episode immediately kicked off with Race 3, Day 1, which seemed like the most complicated racecourse to date. It’s a 22-mile journey where they have to descend into a cave, navigate through “the green maze” forest, walk down a rocky river bed, and then kayak to the finish line. Typing all of that felt exhausting, so imagine doing it. This course is truly bonkers.

Unlike the previous two races, there was a food cache decision at the very beginning of this course. It was the only food cache for the entire two-day race, and they had to immediately decide whether or not they wanted to go straight to the cave or slow themselves down by going out of their way to the food cache.

After starving themselves through the first two races, almost everyone decided to go for the food cache. That was everyone except for The Hunters, Ryan and Bronson. They decided to make a run for the cave. In their minds, getting ahead in the race felt more important than starvation.

Within, what seemed like five seconds, the River Guides showed up at the food cache, grabbed their rations, and took off towards the cave. The rest of the teams showed up a few minutes later, all at the same time, showing just how fast Oliver and Corry were moving compared to the rest of the groups.

At the food cache. Creighton was like, “Wow, I’ve never seen this many people at a food cache.” He’s right. Perhaps there were too many people there because, in the chaos, Coree from the Ultramarathoners took a nasty spill. He faceplanted right into a rock, a slip that ended up haunting him through the rest of the episode.

The race to the cave

A shot of a cave entrance on Race to Survive: New Zealand
Photo Credit: Brian Finestone/USA Network

Since Ryan and Bronson skipped the food cache, they were the first ones to the cave. These two never seem phased by anything, and this cave descent was no different. They just put on their helmets and started spelunking. Meanwhile, watching it at home felt like watching The Cave starring Eddie Cibrian or The Descent. You’re just waiting for the flesh-hungry, humanoid monsters to come crawling out of the depths.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen. The actual terror of this section of the course came from the tight little passages they had to squeeze through. At one point, Ryan said it looked like Bronson was being born again as he pushed himself through a tiny little hole in the rock. We love the father and son-in-law bonding happening.

Meanwhile, the rest of the racers were outside of the cave, lining up to descend into the darkness. This was another first come first serve activity, so the racers scrambled to get into position so they wouldn’t get stuck waiting in line.

Still in a cluster from the food caches, most of the racers arrived right at the same time. Then, we saw Creighton get upset because Cool Moms made it to the cave about a half second before he and his ex-wife could. He turned to Paulina and threw a petty little hissy fit. He was like, “I don’t think you were giving one hundred percent.” Flash to a confessional, and we get an entire explanation of why Paulina decided to file for divorce. They’re just a little too different.


Creighton Baird standing in the forest on Race to Survive: New Zealand
Photo Credit: Brian Finestone/USA Network

All of the racers squeezed their way through the caves, and somehow, that wasn’t the hardest part of the race. The next part of the course was the “green maze,” a twisting section of forest with crisscrossing game trails and thorny foliage.

While most of the racers went headfirst into the maze, the River Guides decided to work smarter, not harder. They knew the perimeter of the maze had a geofence lined with pink flags, meant to keep the racers from accidentally walking off the side of a cliff. The River Guides decided to use that border as an easy route around the maze.

Oliver and Corry’s strategy of going around the maze added more miles to their journey, but it ended up working perfectly. While everyone else was cutting themselves on thorns and going in circles in the maze, these guys zoomed to the next checkpoint like two little geniuses.

But, unfortunately for the River Guides, the next part of the course was what they called a “dark zone.” They were going to have to traverse a few miles through a bouldery riverbed, and for their safety, the rules stated they needed three hours on the race clock before starting. The River Guides didn’t have that much time on their hands, so that meant they were forced to end Race 3, Day 1 right there at the checkpoint.

Shortly after, the Smokejumpers and the Hunters caught up to them and found themselves in the same predicament. The three fastest teams all ended the day stuck at the same checkpoint, despite all taking dramatically different routes to get there.

Injuries aplenty

The Ultramarathoners, Jeff and Coree on Race to Survive: New Zealand
Photo Credit: Brian Finestone/USA Network

Injuries on Race to Survive continued to take a toll on the contestants this week because, throughout the entire first day of Race 3, Coree complained that his head was hurting. The fall at the food caches was worse than it looked. Somehow, he still managed to dash through the cave, but as the day went on, he said his head just wouldn’t stop pounding. Cue the dramatic music. We all knew what was about to happen next.

Coree said that he and Jeff’s number one goal was to make it back home in one piece. So, after spending 11 hours with a headache, traveling through a cave, and traversing through over 70 miles of racecourse, the Ultramarthoners gave the signal that they were ready to quit the race. A helicopter came and took them back to civilization, and all of a sudden, we were down to six teams.

What’s extra frightening was that Coree wasn’t the only one dealing with an injury. Ashley twisted her ankle in Race 2, and she was struggling with it on Race 3. She said her brain and her ankle just were no longer on the same page as she hobbled through the unstable terrain of New Zealand.

By the end of Race 3, Day 1, Ashley and Rhandi grappled with the possibility that finishing the race might not be a possibility. As ultramarathoners, quitting doesn’t come easily for these ladies, but it might be the only option if Ashley’s ankle can’t magically heal itself. Meanwhile, Ashley just kept saying that if they could make it to the kayaking part of this race, they could still have a chance. That’s a big “if.”

Race 3, Day 2

Ashley Paulson from Race to Survive: New Zealand emerging out of a tent
Photo Credit: Brian Finestone/USA Network

When the clock started for Race 3, Day 2, every single team was on edge. For the usual suspects at the front of the pack, they were all stressed about trying to gain a lead. At the back of the pack, the racers who saw Jeff and Coree’s helicopter fly were feeling the pressure to stay out of last place.

The clock started on Race 3, and as the River Guides, the Smokejumpers, and the Hunters started booking it down the rocky river, you couldn’t help but worry about all of their joints. We’ve had two teams quit because of an injury, and another on the brink of the same fate, yet these guys were just hopping across these wet boulders like it was nothing. But, before you knew it, they had made it to their kayaks and were going into the next leg of the race.

Next week, Race 3 continues as the teams try to kayak their way to the finish line. The number of medallions that will be available in the Survival Crate remains uncertain, and it’s also not clear how much longer Ashley can stay afloat with this ankle. Will she even make it to the kayaks in her current condition?

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