“The Amazing Race” Premiere: Couple Up And Deal

Welcome to The Amazing Race: Couples Counseling! Because if 25 previous seasons of The Amazing Race have taught us anything, it’s that the best Races involve watching couples hashing out their relationship drama as the racearoundtheworld. This season features six couples in established dating relationships and in a perverse and horrifying twist five couples who literally meet for the first time at the starting line. This season’s Racers are:

Daters:
Mike & Rochelle
Aly & Steve
Libby & CJ
Harley & Jonathan
Jeff & Lyda
Matt & Ashley

Blind daters:
Bergen & Kurt
Blair & Hayley
Jeffrey & Jackie
Jelani & Jenny
Tyler & Laura

Stunt casting is at a minimum, with Jonathan Knight of New Kids on the Block being the only famous face. Aly & Steve competed at the Sochi Winter Olympics but are not exactly household names. Hashtag nicknames are back this season; I have no idea how they got #TruckStopLove past Standards & Practices. Racers have also been given camera phones this season and the selfless need to stop, like, yesterday.

On the shore of California’s Castaic Lake, Phil explains that the winner of the first Leg will win the Express Pass, which they can use in a later Leg to bypass a task. Teams will also face a blind U-Turn. On Phil’s signal the teams sprint for a mud run, at the end of which are tickets to two flights to Tokyo. Hayley starts checking off the girly girl boxes quickly, squealing and complaining about getting dirty and wet. Her whining and general slowness cost her and Blair the last seats on the earlier flight. They join Mike & Rochelle and Libby on the second flight, which will arrive in Tokyo 45 minutes after the first.

tylershirtlessAn after mud run shower allows Tyler to serve up
the race’s first slice of beefcake. Thank you Tyler!

On the way to the airport Lyda expresses her confidence that her team will have a huge advantage over the teams who just met. The gods of karma say, “what now?”

Upon landing in Tokyo teams are directed to Kanda Myojin, a 1,700 year old Shinto shrine. Jelani & Jenny are the first to rip their clue for the Detour. Teams have the choice between Syncing Steps and Samurai Sake. In Syncing Steps, teams must learn a slow motion dance routine, Japan’s latest entry in the “Jesus, Japan is weird” sweepstakes. In Samurai Sake, teams learn the names of ten sakes. One team member takes a sake order from a table of samurais and relay it to the other partner, who has to pull a bottle of it to be delivered to the table. Everyone except Jeffrey & Jackie and Harley & Jonathan opt for Synching Steps. They each knock it out on their second attempt The stepping teams complete it in fits and starts, several of them taking advantage of the Race’s historical leniency on dance challenge judging. After watching it a dozen times the stepping becomes weirdly mesmerizing and many of the guys look oddly hot doing it.

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dance5

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Following the Detour teams are directed to Wakaba Higashi Park where their next clue and the double blind U-Turn await. Thankfully teams for the most part do not have moral crises when considering whether to use it with only Bergen & Kurt fearing that people might think less of them. They pass up the U-Turn as do most of the other teams.

Past the U-Turn teams rip their clues directing them to find Phil at “one of Tokyo’s rarest commodities, a parking space”. Teams must search for him in the “vicinity” of the UDX Building in Akihabara. teams for the most part have little difficulty locating the building but several make the critical mistake of going inside the building’s parking structure instead of searching the vicinity. Jelani & Jenny realize they need to stay outside and locate Phil and the Amazing Mat first, claiming the win and the Express Pass. Jeff & Jackie, who searched inside, arrive moments later in 2nd place.

Laura & Tyler check in as team number three, Aly & Steve finish 4th and Harley & Jonathan bring it in in 5th. Bergen & Kurt are team number six.

Back at Syncing Steps Rochelle is about to melt down but fights through it on the team’s 14th attempt. Lyda suggests switching Detour tasks but declares the team is too exhausted to remember ten sakes. She better hope not because Mike & Rochelle, knowing there’s one team definitely behind them, decide to U-Turn Jeff & Lyda. Team TruckStopLove goes on to check in next, in 7th place, followed shortly by Blair and Hayley in 8th and Matt & Ashley in 9th.

After four hours and almost two dozen attempts, Jeff & Lyda finally master the dance. When they arrive at the U-Turn they realize that there’s still another clue in the Cluebox and U-Turn Jeffrey & Jackie (who have already checked in at the Pit Stop). They best the sake challenge in one shot and momentarily berate themselves for not choosing it in the first place. Meanwhile, Libby & CJ are still wandering the night, dodging Japan’s sketchiest cab driver. They finally get their clue to the Pit Stop but wasting time inside the parking garage allows Jeff & Lyda to catch up. They can’t quite overcome the deficit and Libby & CJ squeak in as team number 10. Jeff & Lyda arrive shortly thereafter and are Philiminated.

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The Amazing Metrics

Philiminated With Extreme Prejudice: Jeff & Lyda. Karma? Is a bitch.

Hopelessly Lost But Making Good Time: Libby & CJ and Mike & Rochelle. Team Tuskegee spent more time wandering the street and train stations of Tokyo than it did engaged in Race tasks. And while Mike & Rochelle didn’t get lost, Rochelle’s near-meltdown cost them time and could have cost them a lot more.

Don’t Make Me Come Back There: Blair & Hayley. We get it Hayley, you’re a blonde and a ditz, could you try not being a blonde and a ditz for a while?

Cruising: Jelani & Jenny. Team Legal put their training parsing statutes to work to become the first team to figure out that “vicinity” means “outside”. Really, any of the blind date teams could be here, with blind daters taking the top three spots and no blind date team finishing worse than 8th.

I was seriously prepared to hate this season and everything associated with it. Dating couples on the Race are often the worst and with very rare exceptions their relationship drama is boring as hell. While the first twenty minutes or so were irritating with all the “getting to know you” stuff and Phil was pushing the “Is this love that we’re feeling?” vibe a bit too much but there’s a good mix of teams, the tasks have so far been on point and Team Gay survived the Leg intact. I give this episode close to my highest ranking, Four Phlying Phils!

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The Amazing Race moves to its regular time this Friday at 8:00 EST. I hope you’ll join me Saturday morning for the next Amazing Recap!