The Amazing Race: Season premiere (spoiler alert)
The premiere of The Amazing Race went unremarked here on the blog, partly because of vacation and partly because everyone's so darn busy, but my correspondent Astrid Lange is back. Here's her first post.
Apologies for the lateness of this recap. I returned from vacation on Wednesday and just got a chance to sit down and watch Sunday's episode.
The 20th season of The Amazing Race kicked off on Sunday, Feb. 19 with another pair of reality stars heading up the cast. Following in the footsteps of Survivor's Ethan and Jenna, Big Brother's Jeff and Jordan, and Survivor's Boston Rob and Amber, Big Brother 13 winner Rachel Reilly and her fiance and fellow BB contestant Brendon Villegas are the latest pair of reality show couples to compete in the Race.
Rachel and Brendon are competing against 10 other colourful teams, including married clowns Dave and Cherie, federal agents Nary and Jamie, border patrol agents Art and JJ, a set of good-looking twins, Elliot and Andrew ,and good ol' Kentucky "boys" Bopper and Mark (the oldest contestant this season at 45), whose accents are so thick, I think they may require subtitles. But their country "charm" makes me laugh, referring to cousins Kerry and Stacy as the girls from Mississippi with the badonkadonks! Yes, charming. And could they be any louder?
Teams began in Santa Barbara, California, by running through a vineyard and searching 100 mini hot-air balloons for one of 11 clues telling them that their first destination was Santa Barbara, Argentina.
Two planes of teams, two hours apart, headed to Salta, Argentina (the closest airport to Santa Barbara) by way of Buenos Aires. The first plane carried the twins, Brendon and Rachel (a.k.a. Brenchel), Nary and Jamie, Art and JJ, Iraq war vet Dave and his wife Rachel, and dating divorcees Vanessa and Ralph. The second plane carried, well, everyone else!
Once in Salta, teams made their way to Aeropuerto de Cafayate where their first Road Block required one team member to skydive from 10,000 feet (in tandem with someone who knows what they're doing!) while the other located them using a map. We saw an early alliance (or an "inter-agency co-ordination" between the U.S. Army and Border Patrol) form between Dave and Art as they helped each other with the map-reading. Maybe they should bring along federal agents Nary and Jamie too? But maybe not Brendon, who as someone half-Mexican, has already voiced his dislike of border patrol agents.
Despite some predictable stumbling blocks of fear of heights (JJ, country girl Stacy) and stick-shift issues (Jersey Boy/Guido Danny), teams fared well in the skydiving challenge. On the way to locate her sister Misa, Maiya took a wrong turn and got her Ford vehicle (product placement!) stuck in the soft sand but received help from a passerby who towed her out.
On to Patios de Cafayate, teams had to make 120 empanadas (60 meat, 60 cheese) and pay close attention to the different dough crimping patterns for each kind. Art and JJ were not adept at this task, having to constantly re-crimp the dough after the "empanada Nazi" judging their work told them their empanadas did not look right.
Dave and Rachel performed the task with speed and accuracy and finished moments before Brenchel. In so doing, they arrived at the mat first, winning not only the first leg of the Race, but also the Express Pass, which allows them to skip a task of their choosing on a future leg.
Brendon and Rachel were followed by Art and JJ, Nary and Jamie, Vanessa and Ralph, Elliot and Andrew, Kerry and Stacy, the married clowns (who brought rolling luggage?) and Mark and Bopper.
Misa and Maiya finished making their empanadas a few minutes before the Guidos Joey "Fitness" and Danny, but had to run back to the car to get their bags. They wasted time running around the property aimlessly looking for Phil and the Pit Stop. Phil even saw them at one point and wondered where they were going. This delay allowed the Jersey Boys to sneak in and beat them to the mat.
The sisters were eliminated from the Race and, to add insult to injury, Phil pointed out that never before on the Race, in a fight to avoid last place, had a team been so close to the mat, yet been overtaken at the finish. Wah-wah. Thanks for pointing that out Phil, I'm sure the girls really appreciate it!
And so it begins. This season, the teams will travel across five continents and 22 cities, visiting Paraguay and Azerbaijan for the first time in the history of the Race. Challenges include training with Masai warriors in Tanzania and a visit to the German castle that was the inspiration for the castle in Sleeping Beauty.
Stay tuned for semi-regular episode recaps. Semi-regular as I'm doing a bit of Amazing Race travelling myself in the upcoming months!
Until next week Race fans!
(The photo of Brenchel is by Robert Voets for CBS.)