The Amazing Race Season 28 Recap - Episode 1
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
February 19, 2016

Off to the Races.

Previously on The Amazing Race, one of the best teams ever lost in a heartbreaker, and now they’re gone. The producers have not so secretly replaced them with a bunch of YouTube “stars.” It’s constantly shocking to us what passes for celebrity these days. We also lack the competitive advantage that other Amazing Race viewers have. We skipped YouTube and went straight to Twitch, so we’re not going to have any idea who any of these people are.

In order to make itself more viral, The Amazing Race is seeking the online streaming audience, which they hope will naturally progress into loyal CBS app users. In other words, this season is fairly shameless and likely to feature many. Shocking. Twists!

Right on cue the show starts with introductions from the contestants’ homes, along with the announcement that the show has started. Allegedly, this is a month before anyone expected. We question this since everyone is dressed in their team colors and has their bags packed.

We’ll describe our opinions of the teams as the episode begins. What’s important is that the teams are all rushing to the airport in order to go to Mexico City and the Monument of the Revolution. We quickly learn which teams are best at faking surprise. The answer is “none of them.”

Everyone starts from their own hometown, which tells us there will be some sort of evening out once they arrive in Mexico City. Otherwise it’s not fair.

We first meet Tyler & Korey, unquestionably the most popular of the teams this season. Even we know (of) one of them. Tyler claims eight million subscribers on YouTube, and is recognizable enough that his cab driver asks for an autograph. They seem incredibly nice and genuine, which explains their internet celebrity.

Next up are Dana & Matt, New York dancers. They seem to be decent people and slightly competitive with each other. Overall, they’re fairly innocuous during the episode, which is generally a good sign.

Erin & Joslyn very much want to be bubbly and energetic, but we expect them to get old quick, and not only because they spell “clever” wrong.

Married couple Zach & Rachel are the next online sensations, although Zach seems to do most of the heavy lifting in his videos. He makes quick edit Vines that appear to employ magic. Apparently Rachel is the first woman he ever kissed, and their wedding was earlier in the year. They’re a good-looking couple who smile with their teeth a lot. We hope they maintain that level of exuberance throughout the competition.

Papa Scott and his daughter Blair. He seems to be some sort of mutant doctor-lawyer. She does some sort of style/makeup tips channel. They seem to have the stereotypical father-daughter relationship from a 1950s sitcom. We hope there’s more to it than that.

Our next team is Sheri & Cole, and while it’s not usually easy to pick teams we dislike this early, this mother/son team grates on us quickly. They’re the cryingest team this side of onion farmers. Seriously, teenage girls didn’t shed this many tears when One Direction broke up. They say other stuff, but we’re not paying attention.

Brodie & Kurt win the award for the least interesting team. They make Frisbee trick shot videos. We’re going to boldly speculate that they need the prize money more than anyone else. They do have a lot of Ultimate Frisbee medals, though. We’re just going to leave this comment right here: “We deal with hot chicks all the time because we’re Frisbee guys.” Fill that One Direction void, fellas.

Wait a second. We know half of Burnie & Ashley! He’s one of the creators of Red vs. Blue, the long-running Halo web series. We even own some of his videos on Amazon Video, which makes us real fans. Ashley appears to be the woman he started dating after he got rich and famous enough to leave his ordinary life behind. Actually, that’s really pretty cruel, because they seem extremely comfortable together.

Brittany & Jessica are proudly InstaFamous. Their income stems from fashion designers mailing them sexy clothing, which they wear in photos on their feed. This is a good time to mention that the world has changed a great deal since Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook.

The final two teams don’t receive the same attention as the other competitors. We don’t know if it means they’re less famous, or that they’re going to last longer in the Race so there’s no need to focus on them yet. Darius & Cameron get virtually no screen time at the start and their videos are all over the place. Still, they have a Barack Obama video that is absolutely hilarious and easily the (non-Red vs. Blue) video we enjoy the most.

Marty & Hagan are a mother/daughter team, and it’s the mother who is the “celebrity.” She has a funny Southwest flight attendant video that went viral. Of all the teams, they feel the most “forced” as far as their presence. We almost wonder if they were a backup team after a more famous pair had to drop out due to time conflicts.

Some of the teams have stars in their eyes when they meet each other, so there is clearly some level of celebrity for at least a few of the teams. It seems pretty clear that Rooster Teeth/Red vs. Blue’s Burnie is going to get hounded for autographs as he’s recognized at airports. To wit, a nice young man in an Illinois State University sweatshirt (go Redbirds!) approaches him as they depart for Mexico City.

Since the race has technically begun, it’s first come, first serve at the clue box. To wit, Brittany & Jessica choose to hug Phil rather than grab instructions for the next round. While they celebrate by grabbing Phil in places they really shouldn’t show on television, Frisbee Rock Stars Brodie & Kurt head directly to the clue box instead, earning them first place. The women are second and not that bothered by the turn of events. They got their handful of Phil, after all. The order of the other teams is: Marty & Hagan in third, Erin & Joslyn in fourth, Burnie & Ashley in fifth, Dana & Matt in sixth, Darius & Cameron in seventh, Tyler & Korey in eighth, Scott & Blair in ninth, Zach & Rachel in 10th, and Sheri & Cole aka The Crybabies in last place.

The gap here seems insignificant. The choices on the Detour are Mariachi and Great Bulls of Fire. The former challenge requires contestants to deduce which of the literally hundreds of mariachi band musicians aren’t actually playing their instruments. It somehow sounds easy but seems impossible. The latter one is obviously more labor intensive. Teams have to build a bull…structure that includes spinning fireworks. When done correctly, the wheels will trigger the fireworks display. If done poorly, the wheels don’t move as the locals laugh at the suffering of “celebrities”.

Have you ever wondered if it’s strange to walk up to a musician and stick your ear in their instrument? Anecdotal evidence from tonight’s episode indicates that it is. One team, the Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook of Frisbee, is reduced to screaming, “WHO’S FAKE-PLAYING?!” The Amazing Race isn’t going to be that easy, dude.

As if on demand, they choose a player to take to the clue who is, in fact, playing his instrument. Loudly. If they have tinnitus, this moment is their Hell. Meanwhile, Sheri & Cole are close enough (or at least edited that way) that they pick a musician as well. Then, Sheri realizes that a dude who is actually playing his instrument doesn’t help them any. We’re lowering our expectations for Sheri & Cole this season.

Brodie & Kurt, disc spinners extraordinaire, find a fake player first, which makes them two for two in finishing ahead of everybody else. They’re more than simple Frisbee legends, folks. Their reward is a trip to Cuevas De Teotihuacan, which seems like the filming location for The Descent. It’s bold of CBS to kill a YouTube star in the season premiere.

Erin & Joslyn, who are screamers by the way, finish just behind the boys. They then hug the mariachi player, the second person they’ve groped during their brief time in Mexico. Meanwhile, the constant cuts to the other performers and their song make us hate Cielito Lindo the way that we previously hated Sheri & Cole. Mariachi is better in small doses.

Dana & Matt also finish without incident. Clearly, Mariachi was the choice here, and we say this even as we watch Zach & Rachel stumble through the crowd, suffering through the musical earworm of a lifetime. Meanwhile, the following teams try to be strong like bull. Tyler & Korey, Scott & Blair, Marty & Hagan, Darius & Cameron, Brittany & Jessica, and Burnie & Ashley all choose the slower side. One of them will likely be the first team eliminated.

Wait, we spoke too soon. The teams that wisely selected Mariachi receive their reward for a trombone to the ear. That reward is bunching. All teams will have to wait until the following morning, where they will start the next leg sometime between 7:30 and 7:50 a.m. We would definitely trade the 20 minute head start in exchange for never hearing Cielito Lindo again.

Due to the bunching, the next few minutes are irrelevant. Sheri & Cole cry again. That’s about it, and we’re starting to think that’s going to be their default setting this season. Otherwise, the only thing that matters is the starting time for each team. The 7:30 gang includes the dancers, the Frisbee throwers, the Crybabies (and yes, they cried over finishing in the top group), and the Clevver Girls.

The challenge is seriously the stuff of nightmares. One member of each team has to enter the catacombs below in order to “Pick up the pieces.” They are searching for 13 pieces of a mask, all of which are found inside through some careful digging. Once they have the pieces, the contestants must assemble the mask and present it to one of the super-creepy dungeon dancers behind them, many of whom are playing aggressively loud drums. There’s a fine line these days between an Amazing Race challenge and an Eli Roth gorno.

Whether the editing is misleading or not, it shows that as teams count their mask pieces for the first time, the fence opens in a different locale. Here, the 7:40 teams try to make up the ten minute difference. Tyler & Korey, Zach & Rachel, Scott & Blair, and Marty & Hagan comprise this group. We’re still not sure how big an advantage the head start is yet. This challenge doesn’t seem difficult, but we expect some teams to grow confused by the dizzying, claustrophobic underground warren.

The trick to assembling the mask is finding the correct amount of pieces. There are only two colors on this mask, blue and white. Some people fail to understand that getting 13 pieces of the same color is the only way to solve the puzzle. Others don’t grasp the core concept of the challenge. Dr. Lawyer walks around outside, shaking closed gates for no apparent reason. Surely he realizes that pieces aren't going to fall out of them, right? This goes back to the confusion caused by the subterranean setting. Alternately, he cheated on both the MCAT and LSAT.

Every Frisbee superstars can’t win every time. Matt the dancer completes his mask before anyone else. In fact, if the editing is reliable, they conclude the challenge only moments after the final three teams begin. That’s not good news for Darius & Cameron, Brittany & Jessica, and Burnie & Ashley since they need this challenge to stretch out. Fortunately for them, Dr. Lawyer may have accidentally left Mexico City by this point.

The dancers head to an amazing building named the Museo Soumaya. Phil informs us it’s the most visited museum in Mexico, and if you google pictures of it, you’ll want to go, too. Moments after they leave, Tyler & Korey finish their masks. Thus far, we understand their popularity. They seem like goofy, affable guys. They do not, however, catch the dancers, who win the first leg of The Amazing Race season 28. Tyler & Korey finish second.

Breaking news: Dr. Lawyer is still lost. He’s the only competitor in this challenge who is standing outside, which really ought to clue him in on the fact that he’s in the wrong place. What we find particularly mystifying is that he seems to picking up random rocks off the ground. We’re not sure he understands the directions for this challenge even as he watches the television episode tonight. He seems that lost. This team needs a miracle.

They don’t get one. Few teams struggle with the challenge. The magic newlyweds from the 7:40 group do very well on their way to a third place finish. Even more impressive are Darius & Cameron, who started 20 minutes behind several of their competitors. They still finish in fourth place. Burnie & Ashley similarly wreck the challenge, elevating them from last place at 7:50 to sixth place at the end of the leg, just behind Brodie & Kurt, who had been in first place at 7:30.

A few other teams deliver nondescript performances. Brittany & Jessica, Marty & Hagan, and Sheri & Cole reach the finish line in seventh through ninth place. Only the Crybabies received much screen time, and while the editing makes it seem as if they’re temporarily in danger, they’re clearly getting a non-elimination narrative.

That leaves two teams struggling for survival. Erin & Joslyn and Scott & Blair theoretically are in a race to finish in tenth place. There’s absolutely no mystery to this contest, though. Erin & Joslyn actually left before Sheri & Cole, and no team has struggled to find the final destination in this episode. So, it’s Scott & Blair, and it deserves to be Scott & Blair. Dr. Lawyer is never going to walk into a dark basement again, much less a subterranean cavern.

Oh wait, they did get one. The aforementioned break occurs when the father/daughter team reaches Phil. He informs them that – God, this show drives us nuts – the FIRST LEG of the season is a non-elimination challenge. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT???

So, that was a pointless hour of television. Thanks, CBS.