The Amazing Race Season 22 Recap: Episode 1
By Daron Aldridge
February 18, 2013

We hope they're better at putting out fires than they are at the Amazing Race.

So we meet again, fellow Amazing Race enthusiasts. After seven seasons recapping this Emmy Award-winning show for BOP, I feel wholly confident in one thing: I am always wrong about who I initially think will win and who does win. This unpredictability of the show and Race is one of the main reasons I love it. The underdog can win just as easily as the expected frontrunners. It all boils down to who they are racing against and the challenges the producers conjure up for them. Oh yeah, they are also invariably at the mercy of surly cabbies and rigid airline schedules. Regardless of these race-altering factors, you never can REALLY know how a team will fare until it unfolds.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at my sure-to-be-wrong pecking order:

11. Pam & Winnie (Friends/Nothing to see here…move along)
10. Chuck & Wynonna (Married/Permed Mullet proponent): Nickname - Team Big Bad Hair
9. Matt & Daniel (Friends/South Carolina firefighters): Nickname - Team SCFD
8. Caroline & Jen (Friends/relatives of John Wayne and Daniel Boone): Nickname - Team Cowboy Royalty
7. Joey & Meghan (Friends/Internet personalities): Nickname - Team YouTube
6. Katie & Max (Newlyweds/Villain wannabes): Nickname - The Honeymooners.
5. Jamil & Idries (Brothers/Doctors/Twins/Muslims): Nickname - Team Dead Ringers
4. Mona & Beth (Friends/Roller Derby Moms): Nickname - Team Sock ‘er Moms
3. Anthony & Bates (Brothers/Pro Hockey players): Nickname Team Slapshot Lockout
2. David & Connor (Father/son/cancer survivors): Nickname - Team Livestrong
1. John & Jessica (Dating/adrenaline junkies): Nickname - Meghan & Cheyne 2.0 (or Team MC2.0)

Jump on over to the full-blown introductions with further explanation as to why I have ranked them as listed above. We’ll wait for you…

…Good…you’re back.

For the New Year and new season, let’s catch up to our reliable host Phil.

Sweeping shots of the Los Angeles scenery fill the screen and settle onto our man Phil on the grounds of the Griffith Observatory. This will be where this season gets under way and I love the fact that the producers didn’t offer up any transportation to teams to get to the observatory. They are starting the Race by having to walk/jog/run up the winding road leading to the observatory.

Based upon the brief introductions of the teams at this point, here are the revelations that stand out to me: 1) Chuck thinks his mullet is his power and he has a deep passion for taxidermy. 2) Beth’s roller derby name is Fiona Grapple. 3) Pam & Winnie are still uninteresting.

While last season offered the twist of one team competing for $2 million, this time around, the producers minimize their financial gamble with a different twist: The winner of the first leg gets TWO Express Passes – one for themselves and another they have to give a competing team before the end of the fourth leg. For once, I can endorse forming an alliance on the Amazing Race.

With that news and a hearty “GO!” from Phil, the teams are booking it out of the observatory toward their all new [INSERT CAR SPONSORSHIP] they will drive to LAX. Via the car’s navigation system, Phil informs teams they are heading to Bora Bora and will take one of two flights. The first five teams will get to arrive in Bora Bora an hour earlier than the remaining six teams. Let the mad dash commence.

At the airport, Chuck & Wynonna are shown boarding one shuttle and Jamil & Idries and Pam & Winnie are on another one. The girls quickly start the small talk, asking first if they are twins (dumbest question/statement of the season so far) and what they do for a living. Jamil says they are delivery men, which Winnie calls them out for lying on. He admits they are OB/GYNs, so technically he wasn’t fibbing. And my nickname of Team Dead Ringers is a bit more accurate now. Let’s just hope that the smiles and gentle nature aren’t hiding Jeremy Irons-like madness.

The next shuttle carries Caroline & Jen (Cowboy Royalty), Anthony & Bates (Team Slapshot Lockout) and David & Connor (Team Livestrong). The country music pair immediately catches the eye of our hockey players. That was fast, as Anthony is quick to offer them the seats next to them.

With John & Jessica also at the airport, simple math will show that two of these teams en route to a ticket counter will get their first dose of Amazing Race disappointment. And the odd men (and women) out are Team Slapshot and Cowboy Royalty. For the record, the five pairs on the first flight are Chuck & Wynonna, Pam & Winnie, Jamil & Idries, David & Connor and John & Jessica.

That means wannabe villains and confessed friendless Honeymooners Katie & Max, Team YouTube Joey & Meghan, Team Sock ‘er Moms Mona & Beth, and firefighters Matt & Daniel are all joining Anthony & Bates and Caroline & Jen on the second flight. Despite apathy to socializing and admittedly being unlikeable, Katie & Max attempt to play the friendly game. Well, Team YouTube falls for their faux sincerity and declares that they really like them. Poor naïve Joey & Meghan.

While waiting for their connecting flight from Tahiti to Bora Bora, Jamil & Idries make the bold move to remove jockeying for the second gifted Express Pass. They propose to the other four teams that if one of them gets first place and the Express Passes, then that team will give the second pass to which of the other teams on the first flight gets in second. Surprisingly, everyone agrees and there is a supposed very hush-hush alliance immediately formed ("You don't talk about the agreement...a la Fight Club"). Now one of these teams has to get first place. If any of these teams fails to honor this agreement, my money is on Pam & Winnie. They just don’t seem like team players and have the probability to be villain-esque.

In Bora Bora, we get our first Roadblock of the season. It is not for the faint of heart. One person will do a 10,000 feet tandem skydive from a helicopter, while their partner will take a boat to the landing zone. Only two teams can go at a time and the first two up are John (of Team MC2.0) and Dr. Jamil. Next is Connor (of Team Livestrong) and Winnie. That leaves Chuck and his glorious mullet flying solo.

Adrenaline junkie John is stoked beyond belief and Jamil gleefully declares, “This is what the Amazing Race is all about.” Yes, it is, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be terrified. When it comes time to jump, Jamil has to squash his fear and doubts to just do it, which he does but with less whooping and hollering than John.

Both guys are now on the ground and have their next clue directing them to take a water taxi to Eden Beach. John & Jessica get there first and are faced with another Roadblock that asks the questions “Who likes to play in the sand?” Well, it’s a rhetorical question because we know that when there are dual Roadblocks on a leg, the person who sat out the first one gets this one.

They have to search for their clue buried somewhere under 400 sandcastles. The catch (aside from the sheer number of castles) is that every castle they knock down when searching has to be rebuilt. This is likely going to be a long afternoon in the hot sun for some teams.

Jessica is up and elbow-deep in sand pretty dang quick. She just as quickly grasps the mental aspect of this task and describes it as opening a Christmas present only to find an empty box that you then have to rewrap. Idries is now there and is also resigned to it being a long, drawn-out task.

The second flight has landed and the enthusiasm of Caroline & Jen has not waned. Caroline and Anthony are the first jumpers from this group, followed by firefighter Matt and honeymooner Max. Bringing up the rear because she rushed through and didn’t put her name on the next line is roller derby Mona joining YouTube’s Meghan on the last jump.

Max’s placement is due to his new wife Katie spotting Mona’s error. With disappointment on Mona’s face, we cut to commercial.

David & Connor and Pam & Winnie are now at the second Roadblock and start their destruction and reconstruction of sand castles. The rebuilding process has brought Jessica’s and Idries’ momentum to a screeching halt because they can’t move on until the new castle looks like the others. This task just may be the lead-killing challenge the second flight teams need to stay in it. This has the makings of being the reincarnation of the infamous hay unrolling Roadblock.

The not-too-bright but good-natured Chuck fails to see the sandcastle challenge and they proceed to harass a local woman shelling coconuts for several minutes before looking down the beach. Wynonna is now taking on the sandcastles, which everyone is struggling with.

The crapshoot finally pays off for Jessica as she and John are the first ones to get their clue. They must attach a floatation piece to an outrigger canoe and then paddle to the Pitstop. John also reiterates their alliance’s plan to give the second Express Pass to the team that gets second place on this leg. They make short work of assembling the outrigger but aren’t doing as well with the paddling.

While they tread/paddle water, Team Slapshot and Cowboy Royalty are now at the next Roadblock, just in time to demoralize the other teams still struggling in the heat. Bates is surprisingly adept at rebuilding sandcastles for an ice hockey player. Not only that, he only has to go through a couple before becoming the second team out of the challenge. Anthony & Bates have leapfrogged four of the frontrunners and throw a kink in the alliance’s Express Pass plan.

Well, that decision is now in the hands of John & Jessica, who are officially the winners of the first leg of the season and the proud owners of two Express Passes. John explains that they want to honor their pact of giving it to the second team from their alliance to hit the mat but they recognize the conflict of just handing over an advantage to another team. Also, I am happy to report that I picked them to win the whole thing and they are off to a grand start. This may be an Amazing Race Recap first for me.

Paddling their way into second place is Team Slapshot, while Joey is bouncing around gleefully amongst the sandcastles. The teams that have been sweating it for that last few hours aren’t exactly amused or matching his level of excitement for the Race at this point. Everyone is now on the scene with Beth building for Team Sock ‘er Moms.

Livestrong pops David is the next one out of the challenge. He snatches it up and bounds off the beach. They are followed almost immediately by the former last place team of Mona & Beth. One by one, teams are finding success in their treasure hunt: next is Pam & Winnie (looks like I was wrong about them being eliminated unless they paddle in the wrong direction) and Team YouTube Joey & Meghan, who are getting on Idries’ last nerve.

Team Livestrong is checked in as the third team at the mat and Connor recaps (to the camera…not Phil) that IF John & Jessica live up to their word, then they will be sitting comfortably with the extra Express Pass.

Thankfully for Idries’ diminishing sanity from being baked in the sun, Team Dead Ringers is the next one off the beach with Wynonna finding hers next while envisioning refreshing vodka and 7UP. All the first flight teams are now done. Speaking of which, Pam & Winnie didn’t get lost and are checked in as number four. On their sand-caked heels is Team Sock ‘er Moms (Mona & Beth), who are number five.

Enemies of water Jamil & Idries take an unfortunate capsizing of their canoe, which allows Chuck & Wynonna to pass them by. On Phil’s beach, Joey & Meghan have staked claim to sixth place and the aforementioned Mr. & Mrs. Mullet are number seven. With exhaustion on their faces, Jamil & Idries are facing Phil as number eight.

Matt recaps the situation on the sand castle hell beach as “Then there were three.” This trio of teams could be the start of a bad joke: Firefighters, newlyweds and country singers walk into a sand bar. After three hours, all of them scream “Son of a beach.” (Hey, I warned you it was a bad joke.)

Except that each of these teams likely would opt for the more profane word that finishes out “son of a” at this point. I will back up and say that this challenge IS as arduous at the hay rolling task. And if this first hellacious leg is setting the tone for the whole season, I feel for these teams.

Wannabe evil genius honeymooner Katie concocts the plan for all of them to take the four hour penalty and let it be a footrace to the next task and Phil. Katie, unsurprisingly, feels that the other two aren’t challengers and they will get their first. Good ol’ boy Matt feels even more confident in their ability to canoe because they do it back home often. In a refreshing twist, all three teams take the penalty and sprint down the beach to the outriggers. The Race is truly on now.

Matt & Daniel are the first ones in the water with their boat and in the water flipping over. They are all paddling for their Amazing Race lives. Despite it being a narrow race, the firefighters keep capsizing; this is metaphorical for their Race performance. They couldn’t make up the ground.

Phil welcomes Max & Katie and Caroline & Jen as numbers nine and ten but points out that despite surviving, they will begin the next leg four hours behind. Of course, the egomaniac Katie beams with pride on her plan working. I do have to concede it was a smart move that only would have worked if both the other teams went along. But it was unprecedented since it was similar to Rob & Amber convincing the others to take a similar penalty, just so they wouldn’t have to bother with a task.

That means our firefighting South Carolinians are hopping on a plane back to the States and join the illustrious group of teams eliminated first on the Amazing Race. This list includes…who am I kidding…nobody remembers the first team eliminated.

Side note: I think I may have to rename Max & Katie as Cape Fear, since their names combined fittingly becomes the name of the film’s supremely evil villain Max Cady.

Next week: John & Jessica explain to presumed Express Pass recipients David & Connor that one of the aspects of the agreement was to not discuss it with any other teams. This means that the father and son likely did and John & Jessica are using that as an out to give it to a less competitive team. But an injury to David might just knock them from the Race anyway.

Until then, have a good week.