Yeah, I wonder about producer manipulation. It would be pretty easy to make some calls to encourage people to go to a location, to encourage a "local judge" to vote a certain way, design a challenge that favors one team, or any number of things to get the result the show wants.
This show is not the same show it once was. They should go back to the original formula, and not try to incorporate elements of Survivor, Fear Factor, and Amazing Race. If this had been the first season, the show would have been canceled.