Welcome to the first official episode recap for Season 19 of The Amazing Race. I say "official" because you have undoubtedly already read my introductions to the teams and first impressions based upon interviews. To be fair (and more realistic), I should say “I really, really hope you already read…”
The Amazing Race Recap
By Daron Aldridge
September 26, 2011
Our master of ceremonies Phil Keoghan kicks off the season with shots of the Pacific Coast and settles in on the starting line of the race – a temple in Los Angeles. As the teams exit the charter bus that is discreetly wrapped to serve as a rolling billboard for the show, they waste no time and give each team about a 30-second introduction video package.
To recap them before we get to recap their first leg, we have:
Andy & Tommy – former Olympic snowboarders. They assure us that the slacker stereotype will fade when it comes time to compete. I feel good about already dubbing them Team Dude.
Ethan & Jenna – dating Survivor winners. Ethan’s bout with and current remission for cancer gives the "Survivor" tag more gravitas.
Laurence & Zac – father/son boating experts.
Ernie & Cindy – engaged corporate America flunkies. Okay, that "flunkies" part may be harsh and isn’t in their clip but their online interviews still resonate with me in that they could easily be labeled Team Middle Management.
Justin & Jennifer – brother and sister. They supposedly talk out their issues or yell them out but Justin slaps her with a “hothead” label that she seems to embrace with an unashamed, “I agree.” This pair could be entertaining and complete Race failures.
Bill & Cathi – married grandparents. They are confident that years working their ranch will prepare them for anything the Race throws at them. I hope they are wrong because I pegged them for first elimination.
Liz & Marie – identical twins. Let’s just throw it out there right now. I will not be able to tell these two apart. Maybe they could use their supposed psychic connection to help me keep it straight. I have a hard enough time when teammates aren’t twins. The ball is in the court of the producers to make sure they tell us which sister is performing which challenge.
Jeremy & Sandy – dating divorcees. Jeremy likens the Race to taking a car to the shop to have it checked out before buying it. So, we have our first bonehead who thinks the high stress environment of the Race is the ideal deciding factor about whether to marry Sandy. Just cut your losses now, Sandy.
Ron & Bill – flight attendants/domestic partners. Like I presume, they think their careers could give them an advantage.
Amani & Marcus – married parents. Amani doesn’t get any screen time (she may be mute for all we know) because the producers focus on Marcus’s 10 years in the NFL. I do agree that he does know how to compete and if that comes back to him; then they could be a force.
Kaylani & Lisa – former showgirls. Well, "showgirls" is a much more accurate way to describe them than their Q&A occupation of "cocktail waitress." We had Jeremy fill the void of the guy who thinks the Race will provide future marriage answers and now we have obligatory pair that thinks their beauty will make people think they’re dumb but claim to be really smart. Just like 50,000,000 Elvis Fans (or even 50 Phil Ochs fans) Can’t Be Wrong, if EVERYONE thinks they're not too bright, then there just may be something to it. Also, I doubt I will be able to distinguish between these interchangeable buxom brunettes, either.
Phil greets them and immediately springs a challenge on our unsuspecting racers. But first, he explains that the Express Pass is once again up for grabs to the first place team on this leg. Oh yeah, and the last team to complete the challenge at the temple will be saddled with a Hazard at some point in the first leg. Nothing else is explained about the Hazard, so it will just be an ominous question mark for teams.
While explaining the first challenge, it sounded much more convoluted than it turned out. The teams are shown the letters “W A N P E I” and must find an umbrella with three more letters (T A I) that will complete the name of their first destination city – Taipei, Taiwan. Unless they have an idea of those three letters, then it is total trial-and-error-and-error-and-error. Most of the teams just grab umbrellas and rush over to Phil, only to be denied a key to their…wait for it…the first piece of product placement…Ford Explorer. This may be a record for the Race – quickest appearance of forced marketing.
Snowboarders Andy & Tommy opt for the strategy of at least looking for an umbrella with vowels on it and are the first ones off to the airport. Thanks to the eagle eye of Amani that saw the boarders’ correct one had an ‘I’ on it, she and hubby Marcus are the second team out of the challenge.
With twins Liz & Marie and Survivors Ethan & Jenna on their heels, we have four teams heading to the airport and ultimately, Taiwan. Seems like a silly time to give us the official opening credits of the show, especially considering it features footage nearly identical to what we saw as the teams arrived.
The Phil Keoghan Navigation System in their Explorers informs them that there are only two flights. The first will carry eight teams and the second will leave about 20 minutes later with the remaining three teams. So, dictating flights immediately squashes the possibility that the first place teams could separate from the pack.
Next, we get a quartet of romantically involved teams – dating Jeremy & Sandy, engaged Ernie & Cindy, partners Ron & Bill and married Bill & Cathi – getting their keys. This leaves only a father/son team, brother/sister team and the showgirls behind.
That doesn’t matter too much because in mere minutes they have all gotten their keys but our Secretly Smart Showgirls Kaylani & Lisa have also gotten the Hazard as the last ones to leave. In their rush to not stay in last place, they stop by a Shell gas station for directions to LAX. I guess they thought the Race was already too easy for them and their high intellects, so one of them drops their passport on the ground getting back in the car and driving off. This must be intentional because remember, they assured us they are actually smart.
(Side note: If ever on the Amazing Race and I see a cameraman lingering around with his lens pointing at the ground, turn around as I have clearly dropped something that could prove critical – e.g. passports, clue, money, etc.)
(Side side note: I thoroughly enjoy when the producers throw a challenge at the teams at the start. It usually sets the tone for a high energy race and I hope that rings true this season.)
Leaving the temple has little bearing on when the teams arrive at the airport. Flight attendants Ron & Bill take the first seat on the first plane. I wonder if this is a result of their airport familiarity and some stealthy bat entrance to LAX the others didn’t know about.
They will be joined on the first flight by Ethan & Jenna, betrothed Ernie & Cindy, married Amani & Marcus, Team Regatta Laurence & Zac, siblings Justin & Jennifer, Team Dude Andy & Tommy, and dating Jeremy & Sandy.
These teams are already winners in my book because they won’t have to endure a flight to Taiwan with the angry showgirls, who have realized that Kaylani lost her passport. Even though they accurately surmise that it dropped out at the Shell, no one has turned it into the clerk. Shell’s new slogan, “Leave your passport here and we’ll make sure you have to drive, instead of fly.”
Foolishly (which is a given at this point already), Kaylani & Lisa head to the airport thinking that one of the other teams may have picked it up and taken it to the counter. I hope you were sitting down for this next shocker – no one turned in her passport. Lisa is mad (rightfully so) and Kaylani wants them to do something about it but offers no suggestion.
So, queue up the first set of commercials to help pay for the $1 million prize.
Back from paying the bills, for some reason, Ethan & Jenna think they can avoid being identified as Survivor winners. When you’re in the mix with this type of show which has so many crossover fans, that fact doesn’t need to be told. Someone will recognize you. And someone did and promptly told everyone, who accused them of being greedy. I wonder if they will label former NFL player Marcus the same way. He likely has made more than a million dollars himself playing a game.
Catching up to Kaylani, her plan appears to be wandering around the airport in hopes that a miracle happens. She gets her miracle in the form of a passport-finding, Team Dude direction-providing, Twitter-using guy in a knit cap. Upon hearing her name on the PA, she runs over to him and gets the story.
The same guy that pointed Andy & Tommy toward LAX found the passport and used social media to brag about it. The finder tweeted that he got randomly filmed helping one team and then found the passport of another. After tweet prodding from one of his followers to take the passport to LAX, the "good Samaritan" tracked her down at the terminal.
I know I am giving way too much thought to this but I feel I have to considering there will be people who blame producer-interference. But they do show the Twitter feed as he is telling the story. The timing between the first place Andy & Tommy and last place Kaylani & Lisa must have been only the amount of time it takes for the producers to get film consents filled out on this guy because his face was not blurred when helping the snowboarders. I will believe the story shown on this one. There is too much scrutiny and too much at risk for the show to gamble with credibility for a pair of dim bulb showgirls.
So, the last plane carries grandparents Bill & Cathi, Kaylani & Lisa and twins Liz & Marie.
As the first teams pile onto the first bus in Taipei heading to a commercial district, Ernie & Cindy ask Marcus if he’s a football player. He, of course, says "no" and then rationalizes that technically, he is not a football player. He’s a retired football player. Rightfully, he doesn’t want them to see him as a competitive person.
When the second plane arrives, the girl teams put a little distance between them and the gramps and grammy because the older couple is just not quick enough to catch the same bus.
The teams have only “look up for your next clue” to go on but viewers see that it is a huge electronic billboard with red and yellow circles and the clue written in Chinese. After a whole lot of wandering around, bickering siblings Justin & Jennifer take a stab at copying the characters on the sign and are joined by Amani & Marcus. A local translates it to: Taipei Confucius Temple.
Relationship test drivers Jeremy & Sandy get the same local to decipher for them and Ron & Bill are right behind them. Despite seven years of Chinese school, Cindy also has to find someone to translate for her team.
By now the second bus arrives and the Brunette Bimbos (Kaylani & Lisa) and Blond Bimbos (Liz & Marie) have joined forces in searching for the clue and inadvertently created the frighteningly ignorant Bimbo Brigade. Wherever logic and reason lives, they shall squash it without breaking a sweat. First on their hit list: the suggestion that the giant billboard with red and yellow circles on it may be the clue. One of the twits…er…I mean…twins deduces, “No, it will be more obvious than that.”
With that, they march on and Bill & Cathi arrive.
Ethan & Jenna get a passerby to translate the billboard with Team Dude next to them but the snowboarders are reluctant to accept that as the clue because the red and yellow are usually stripes only. Ethan & Jenna on the other hand bolt to the commercial district for the temple.
With the first five teams at the Confucius Temple, we get to our first Roadblock, which is a variation on the “Telephone Game.” A person has to dial a number, listen to a Confucius proverb and recite it back without taking notes. Seems simple. But probably is not so much.
Sandy, Cindy, Amani, Jennifer and Ron (I think) step up for the first solo task. When Ethan & Jenna arrive, Ethan takes the Roadblock. Many failed attempts are shown next and each is accompanied by a gong sound and a ginormous “WRONG” graphic. If only the teams had the benefit of such a jarring notice of their failures.
Cindy finally gets it right and her team is off and heading to a riverside park. Jennifer secures the clue for her and her brother next.
The second time is the charm for Team Dude’s Andy & Tommy, who previously ignored the correct billboard clue translation with Ethan & Jenna. With Team Regatta Laurence & Zac by their side, they head to the temple and decide the manly way of one will perform the Roadblock – Rock, Paper, Scissors. All decisions should use this infallible method. I think it’s Andy whose Scissors lost to Rock. Zac opts in for his team.
Next out of the temple are Jeremy & Sandy.
Back gawking at the billboard, one of the twins asks the question, “Are we idiots or what?” Yes, you are idiots. Don’t get mad at me. You’re the one who asked the question. I was just answering for the rest of America. But to be fair, I may argue their ignorance is the result of poor education, and you have to look no further than retired educators Bill & Cathi who have left the part of the town they started in and are checking the top floor of a skyscraper. They do resolve to not give up, which is commendable, and they haven’t turned on each other like the showgirls did at the airport.
Ethan gets the proverb right and passes Ron and Amani to put his team fourth out of the Roadblock. Ernie & Cindy are the first to the next clue and are greeted by the sight of several dragon boats. One person has to help the team row, while the other has to keep the beat with a drum. It seems like there is little opportunity for error on this task, since there are about a dozen other people on the same boat.
As Ernie & Cindy complete the task, Jeremy & Sandy and Justin & Jennifer are working on it also. The final clue of the leg points them to the Martyrs’ Shrine. The engaged couple is in first for now and looking squarely at grabbing the Express Pass.
Meanwhile, all the first flight teams have finished the Roadblock (Amani & Marcus, Ron & Bill, Laurence & Zac and Andy & Tommy), just in time for the Bimbo Brigade to dock at the Confucius Temple. I think it is Lisa that does the Roadblock for her team. I am basing this upon the fact that she appears to get it correct on the first attempt and there is no way that scatter-brained, passport-dropping Kaylani could perform that well. The twins, on the other hand, are struggling…as you may have expected at this point.
But it’s a bit of a hollow victory for the showgirls because they are now faced with their previously "awarded" Hazard. This involves them having to go to the Core City Pacific Mall and searching the 11th floor for the next clue. The Hazard is basically just another name for a SpeedBump, which as we’ve seen before, may prove to be a mere inconvenience or a game-loser. The Hazard for them requires one person to perform an indoor bungee jump. Kaylani steps up this time for the team. Factoring in the twins’ inability to memorize Confucius, the grandparents’ lack of clue finding, and how quickly a bungee jump will take, it will probably be just an inconvenience.
After her successful jump, Kaylani gets the attention of lonely millionaires everywhere by saying, “I said I would do anything for a million dollars and I meant it.” Take note, Robert Redford. You've finally found your Demi Moore replacement.
The other half of the Bimbo Brigade is living up to this moniker or rather a quarter of them. Liz continues to repeat the proverb incorrectly. Clearly, Marie hasn’t tapped that psychic bond to tell her the correct phrasing.
Meanwhile, Ernie & Cindy secure the first place spot and the Express Pass. Ernie credits Cindy’s control-freakiness (my word…not his) with the success on the first leg. They are followed by Jeremy & Sandy and siblings Justin & Jennifer.
As the Survivors finish the dragon boat course, the three more teams arrive and are neck-and-neck. There is a full-on middle of the pack race to the stay in the middle of the pack. At the back of the pack, Bill & Cathi are finally clued in to the big billboard’s message and heading to the Roadblock.
They arrive at the temple and barely miss Liz’s success on her 1,647th attempt (give or take a thousand). Without much effort, Cathi nails the Roadblock and they just may be back in the game or maybe not. Ethan & Jenna have taken fourth place at the Pitstop around the same time that Ron & Bill and Kaylani & Lisa arrive at the boats.
One by one the teams do the boats course and hit the Pitstop: Amani & Marcus in fifth, Laurence & Zac in sixth, Andy & Tommy in seventh, Ron & Bill in eighth, and Kaylani & Lisa in ninth. Fortunately for the twins Liz & Marie, Bill & Cathi spent more than four hours lost, so the girls do claim the tenth place.
Facing their presumed elimination, Cathi soaks in the sights on the river boat course. But that wily Phil Keoghan informs them that this is a non-elimination leg. They are spared but they will have the extra Speed Bump task. Then Phil drops this bombshell: The next leg will have a Double Elimination. Based upon the previews, this causes mucho stress for the teams next week.
Another premiere is behind us and I am exhausted. Methinks it’s gonna be a good season. As BOP’s David Mumpower summed it up, “That's the best season premiere they've had in a while in terms of fair challenges and competent players.” I agree but the jury is still out on the phrase "competent." Be safe, and see you next week.