The Amazing Race Season 26 Recap - Episode 2
I Got the Smartest Dude
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
March 2, 2015

They're going to be camera shy in the future.

Previously on The Amazing Race, someone named Hayley hoarded all of the screen time while a nice couple of airline professionals failed to capitalize on the most natural competitive advantage in the game. Also, a bunch of people on their first dates outperformed some couples who have been together many months if not years. Under our sabermetrics scoring system, #TeamTinder is waaaaaaaay ahead of #TeamLongTermMonogamy, which bothers us as long term monogamists. Will the trend continue this week? We’re starting to suspect that the early energy of the blind date teams will propel them forward while the innate understanding and compatibility of the established couples will prove helpful later in the race.

Tonight’s episode begins in unusual fashion. Rather than show teams tearing open clues, some of the first timers explore Tokyo as a couple. All of them confirm that they’re exhausted, and Jenny continues to relish her victory with Jelani during the first leg. Since they have the all-important Express Pass, they should be on a natural high for a while. Jackie, on the other hand, is busy mentally evaluating partner Jeffrey’s qualities as a potential mate. He’ll be a lot hotter if he has the money that comes with winning the race, Jackie. Focus!

The series-long social experiment continues with further embarrassment. The break after the first leg occurs at an Internet café. The players will rest in tiny cubicles. The dudes cannot even stretch their full length in such tight quarters. The show’s producers have ensured that nobody will be ducking their partner tonight. Fortunately, everyone is a good sport about the situation. We…wouldn’t be.

Jelani & Jenny are first to depart at 5:30. They discover that their first leg tonight will require travel to Nagano, Japan, by bullet train. It’s obvious that Jenny has already asserted dominance in the relationship. She seems like a bit of a control freak, a net positive on The Amazing Race, while Jelani has decided that his life will be easier if he lets her call the shots. He’s a genius (at least as long as they continue perform well.)

These two teams plus Tyler & Laura are separated by only 15 minutes. Unsurprisingly, they catch an earlier train than the rest of the competitors. Their transportation departs at 6:30 a.m. local time. Olympians Aly & Steve walk up just in time to watch it depart. They become the only team on the second train, but none of the departure times are listed from this point forward. The third train includes Jonathan & Harley, Bergen & Kurt, and Mike & Rochelle. The last departure of this trio occurs at 7:15 a.m., which indicates there are probably a couple of hours between the two trains.

The divide in time schedules indicates that the following teams are in some trouble: Hayley & Blair, Matt & Ashley, and Libby & CJ. The news is especially grim for the Alabama team, as they are the last to depart at 8:20. They are running so late that they don’t even make the fourth train. The gap between them and the other stragglers is presumably significant.

We do get some relationship updates during this travel period. Laura announces that she and Tyler will be focusing on the race, which means she realized she came on waaaaaay too strong at first. Bergen & Kurt aren’t feeling it for a simple reason. They look too much alike, which is pretty high on the creepy scale. Mike has impressed Rochelle enough that she is calling their Amazing Race experience a Fast Forward for their relationship. Maybe he’ll get to meet her son in another year or so! Finally, Libby is still annoyed that CJ has yet to put a ring on it. He’ll have plenty of time to do so while they’re traveling in the back of the pack. We don’t even give them a 20 percent chance of advancing past this leg of the competition.

Jackie and Jeffrey are the first to arrive at tonight’s Road Block, which is called Think Outside the Box. People must open a trick box by performing a series of moves in a precise order. Once they open the box, a clue is hidden inside. It contains a message that must be relayed precisely to a nearby guard to gain the next clue. As further proof that this season will be a bit experimental, a random clue will also contain an invitation to Date Night, where a couple will enjoy a visit to Japanese hot springs during the next Pit Stop.

Something that was not emphasized in the clue is that loud drums are played during the puzzle attempts. It’s a challenge that should be sponsored by Tylenol. Then again, the biggest headache involves Libby and CJ. They spend too long discussing their experiences with the cameraman, emphasizing the fact that they plan to win this leg of the race. As they take a selfie to capture the moment, their train departs in the background. They get to spend another 15 minutes thinking about their stupidity. Did we say 20 percent? We meant 10.

A mathematically improbable series of events leads to three of the dudes on blind dates all competing to solve the puzzle first while their “girlfriends” look on. Jackie plays this up by adorably adding, “I’ve got the smartest dude.” Laura repeats the line, and then Jenny realizes she’s a jerk on national television if she doesn’t chime in as well. At least the first two seemed sincere. It turns out that Laura is right, as Tyler solves the puzzle first. Jenny knew it!

The next clue is located at Nishi-Guchi Zenko-Ji, which we think translates as “baby’s first gibberish sounds.” Back at the puzzle/Little Drummer Boy performance, the gong sounds, indicating that Jelani is finished. By this time, the Olympians have joined them, so the Smartest Dudes have all struggled for a while.

Laura and Tyler are well positioned to win this leg. Think of them as the anti-Libby & CJ. They reach the Detour before half the teams exit their bullet trains. Their options are Hitting the Ice or Noodling with a Favorite Dish. Of course, they don’t get such specific details, though. The ground includes the words Share and Chair. They pick Share, which is the Noodling response. Jelani makes the same choice, and then we cut to see that Aly has already finished her puzzle. Jackie overestimated her new beau’s abilities. He does finish moments later, though. There is an absolute chasm between the top four teams and the other six.

Continuing the romance theme of the season, Share forces teammates to feed one another a full bowl of noodles. Apparently, the noodles are scalding hot to the point that a fan is placed right beside the bowls to provide some cooling. In reality, the fan is there to push the noodles around, enhancing the difficulty of the Lady and the Tramp riff. Also, the only utensils are chopsticks, a less than ideal delivery system for noodles.

After several awkward moments, Laura & Tyler successfully manage to carb-load. Unfortunately, their taxi driver abandons them, allowing Jenny & Jelani to catch them. The legal team capitalizes to finish in first place once again. Of course, the situation could be much, much worse, Laura & Tyler. Remember Libby & CJ? They have just opened their first clue in Nagano. They are approximately eight days behind the full o’ noodles crew.

The first team to try Chair is, fittingly, the Olympians. Aly the short track speed racer spends most of her days on the ice. This challenge requires her to push her partner’s chair around a…short track speed rink for a full lap. This marks consecutive seasons when a professional athlete is asked to perform a task related to their sport. Last time, it was surfing by a surfer. This time, it’s skating by a skater. We don’t even have a punchline for this. It’s just grossly unfair.

During Chair, each partner must push the other, which only reinforces the gap between Aly & Steve and everybody else. Steve, a bobsledder by trade, pushes heavy objects as a crucial part of his craft. Together, they are able to finish 24 seconds ahead of the deadline on their very first try. We presume the next challenge will ask Aly & Steve to name members of Aly & Steve’s families.

In a cruel twist of fate for the other teams, pampered pop singer Jonathan and his partner, Harley, win the Date Night prize. This is the equivalent of handing Bill Gates 50 bucks. We presume the New Kids on the Block travel in a luxury RV complete with top floor hot spring. Smithers, have the Rolling Stones killed.

The various teams in the middle of the pack eventually complete the puzzle. The editing attempts to persuade us that Libby and CJ are not screwed. Alas, we cannot help but notice that no other teams are there when Libby solves the puzzle. We were too generous at 10 percent. It’s not even five. Meanwhile, the Olympians become the third team to reach the Pit Stop. Aly confides that she wanted to become an ice skater after watching the Nagano Olympics. The opportunity to skate on that track during The Amazing Race was a dream come true for her, which is pretty cool. Well, it’s cool for her, not the other teams. Right on cue, they show other teams failing to complete the task in under the allotted 3:55. It sucks to not be an Olympian.

The first blind date couple fight occurs during the noodle challenge. Bergen doesn’t mind the taste of the noodles. Kurt actively despises the flavor. Bergen tries to solve the problem by force-feeding Kurt, and that goes over about as well as when you try to make a toddler swallow paste that some food company liberally describes as apples. The disappointment of not being paired with a potential mate seems to be getting to both men, which is completely understandable. Now, they’re just racing a person they have to tolerate for several weeks.

Some of the long term couples aren’t doing any better. Rochelle sees that they are only a few feet away from completing Chair, but there are only a few seconds left. She pushes her partner to spring. He trips on his skates, the chair goes sliding away, she hits a wall, and then she tumbles to the ground. She immediately begins to cry and asks for a medic to examine her wrist. Oddly, she still declines the opportunity to switch to Share. Eventually, Mike stumbles across the magic phrase, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Based upon how melodramatic she was about her fall, we suspect this will not be the last time Mike says this to Rochelle. Eventually, she does relent and switch to Share.

The New Kids on the Block finish in fourth place and then celebrate their Date Night announcement, presumably by snorting a ton of blow off of Magic Mike. Bergen & Kurt complete the leg in much grumpier fashion, quickly followed by Jeff & Jackie. Jackie basically professes her undying affection to Jeff at this point, declaring that he’s “perfect!” He is flattered, but she clearly sets him up for a first kiss. Rather than relent, he forcibly pulls his head to the side to perform an awkward hug instead. He’s Just Not That Into You (Yet), Jackie.

Matt & Ashley have also finished Chair, and they claim seventh place. Meanwhile, Mike tries to reclaim Rochelle’s affection by shoving some noodles down her throat. Results are mixed. He regurgitates his noodles into her bowl. We…wish we hadn’t watched that. Still, they comfortably finish the challenge in eighth place.

The only two remaining teams are Blair & Hayley, the stars of the season premiere, and CJ & Lebya. Hayley has been largely invisible this episode, a stark contrast from last time. We presume that if there were any danger of her being eliminated, she would be the focus of the entire episode. Instead, they only show some ice rink escapades and a bit of flirty laughter between the couple. Their adoration isn’t quite as intense as Jackie’s, but there does seem to be a spark. The editing shows them fail a couple of times, but it’s all for show. We suspect the gap between the final two teams measures in the hours.

In the end, we wildly overestimated CJ & Lebya when we gave them a 20 percent chance of survival. In reality, it wasn’t even one percent. Their entire leg was over the moment they took an ill-timed selfie as their train drove away. While nobody will remember the mistake since it occurred so early in the season, it is possibly the biggest blunder in the history of the show. They were literally 10 feet away from their train. For no good reason, they just stood around and did nothing while it moved away. And in case you were wondering, Lebya did not get her engagement ring. Hell, she didn’t even get her selfie.