The Amazing Race Season 29
We're Coming for You, Phil!
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
April 5, 2017

I'm lost.

Previously on The Amazing Race… um, we really can’t remember the last time we saw The Amazing Race. Presumably, it was sometime in late May of 2016. That season was a strong one, featuring Internet celebrities who were almost universally likable and fun. So what does CBS do to celebrate?

They push off The Amazing Race for almost a full year, moving it to Thursday nights and the 10 p.m. time slot. For a long time, we weren’t really sure if The Amazing Race would come back at all. Phil Keoghan would occasionally issue hopeful Tweets, and eventually we got the word that it would return. It doesn’t seem like CBS is enthusiastic about supporting the series, though. It’s slotted into the Training Day slot, a show that received low ratings and was dealing with tragedy in the wake of star Bill Paxton’s death.

This season features a new gimmick, which is sort of similar to the blind date concept a couple of seasons ago. None of the players this season know each other, but there isn’t the “love” concept that that season pretended to have. Not that it couldn’t happen, of course.

Before the players pick their partners, we start with an individual challenge (for the first time on the show). The players have to search out a backpack with a tag featuring the Panamanian flag. The shop with the backpacks is somewhere in the streets of L.A. Some of the players don’t do well with directions, but Scott, a recruiting manager, lives in Los Angeles and confidently points a couple of his fellow players the correct way. Then, he talks about himself a lot. A LOT. He points out his educational achievements and then explains away all of his shortcomings with, “I am a gay redhead.” Is that a thing? We didn’t know that was a thing.

Our early favorite contestant this season is Redmond, a Navy Corpsman with the Marines who lost his leg after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan. He has a wonderful attitude but what we instantly love about him is his sense of humor. On his real leg, he has a tattoo that says “I’m with stumpy” pointing to his prosthetic. Five minutes in and Redmond is one of the most likable contestants ever.

We’re going to skip most of the individual introductions for now, because we’d end up writing 3,000 words about the first five minutes. The one noteworthy thing is that a tall, muscular woman named Jessie becomes angry when she goes the wrong way. She follows the directions of a smaller but equally muscular woman before realizing they’re going the wrong way. She aggressively snaps, “I shouldn’t have followed her. My first mistake.” If the producers meddle, the odds of them being teammates just increased by a factor of 50.

Most of the players successfully track down a bag with a flag, and we’re particularly impressed with Floyd, a college drum major. He specifically studied all the flags of the world before coming on The Amazing Race.

The player who impresses us the most, however, is Seth. He finishes first, narrowly defeating Matt, a professional snowboarder who we know. Matt won a gold medal at the 2016 X Games for half-pipe. We’re actually winter extreme sports fans! (Really!)

The only person who has real problems is Joey, a police sergeant. After bragging about his attention to detail, he shows up with a wrong suitcase and has to go back and get the right one. The order of finish in the individual leg proves to be important. The Amazing Race devolves into a schoolyard pick of teams, with Seth earning the right to pick first. We’ll quickly note the teams, along with their hashtag/nicknames (as well as personal thoughts).

Seth picks Olive, a firefighter who finished third overall and was fastest among the women. The Amazing Race gives them the hashtag #TeamAmerica (fuck yeah!). Matt, who we already love for his snowboarding skill, wins our hearts anew when he chooses Redmond. Their team is called #TheBoys. We already love them.

Shamir, a Wall Street banker, does his best Wolf of Wall Street impersonation by picking the hot chick. His words, not ours. He and Sara, a luxury real estate agent, throw themselves into a hug, which means they might think they’re on the blind date season. Their weird hashtag is #TheSandSExpress. We read that as Sand Sex Press, which makes us flip through the pages of the Kama Sutra.

Recruiting manager Scott cheesily points to Brooke, a criminal attorney who has already pointed out that she’s a type-A control freak. It’s like Superman having first pick and choosing Kryptonite. Their highly original hashtag is #TeamBrookeandScott

Becca, a rock climbing instructor, adorably picks Floyd, who she calls Urkel. The two of them instantly act as if they’ve been best friends their entire lives. They’re named #TeamFun, so we have high expectations.

A hilarious moment unfolds when residential real estate agent Ashton indicates that she’s looking for a stronger player. What she really means is that she wants a muscular hunk. Her disappointment is total when Vanck, a Wall Street analyst, chooses her. What’s strange about this is that Vanck performed much better in the individual challenge than the guys she was lusting after. Still, she sticks Vanck in the friendzone and sulks noticeably. Again, the hashtag team must have run out of ideas, because they’re #TeamVanckandAshton. We would have chosen #TeamDoMyHomeworkForMe.

Tara, an Army officer, “goes with the underdog” in choosing Joey the police sergeant. Their hashtag is #TeamMomandDad, which is just creepy.

London the artist picks Logan the surgical consultant, and she unintentionally taunts Ashton when she says, “I need a muscle man!” Their awesome hashtag is #TeamLoLo.

Model Jenn takes athletic trainer Kevin, who somehow has much longer hair than she does. Their team name is #LongHairDontCare. We presume #TeamDeepThoughts was taken.

Michael the butcher and Liz the auctioneer join forces as #TeamLizandMike. If nothing else, these two have the most specific job titles of anyone this season.

That means that Jessie and Francesca, the two women who exchanged words earlier, are now the team of #SwoleSisters. The Amazing Race didn’t even have to meddle. It just happened organically.

Teams must now go to the airport and take one of two flights to their first destination. Because Jessie & Francesca didn’t get to pick their partner, Phil gives them the advantage of driving them to the airport.

Once in their cabs, teams open their bags, and #TeamFun is beyond excited when they find the Express Pass. Their clue also reveals that the teams’ destination will be Panama City. #TeamFun then realizes that they both have Boulder, Colorado in common. Becca lives there and Floyd goes to school at CU. It’s like if Matt Damon discovered that there was another astronaut stuck on Mars.

There are a couple of memorable moments during the “getting to know you” phase. We can’t decide if Phil is trying to ease tension or stir things up between the #SwoleSisters, but they have forgotten their earlier fight and certainly don’t hold a grudge. Brook & Scott are trying to find commonalities. Scott mentions that he’s gay, and Brooke doesn’t miss a beat by suggesting that they be called “TeamWillandGrace.” At that moment, CBS flashes the hashtag #TeamBrookeandScott. Either they hate Brooke’s name idea or they remembered that Will and Grace was an NBC series.

Jenn wins the title of first person to make a vague ethnic slur. She tells Kevin that he’s Asian, and all Asians look like they’re 12. The look on their Asian cab driver’s face is priceless.

The five teams who are unlikely to be eliminated tonight are Matt & Redmond, Becca & Floyd, Brooke & Scott, London & Logan and Seth & Olive. All of them are on the first flight and would have to screw up horribly. All the other teams are in danger.

Once in Panama, the teams discover that no one seems to know where the Panama Canal is – including the residents of Panama City. At the canal, the teams are instructed to drive to the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center, where they’ll search for a clue at the canopy tower.

The first team to panic is #TeamNotWillandNotGrace. They get lost and then stun us with their reaction. You’d think two accomplished professionals would handle adversity well. Instead, they panic and turn on each other.

On top of everything else, the second flight is delayed for an hour. Those five teams have no shat at finishing first. Ashton’s insecurities are on full display as Vanck navigates. He gives her an admittedly obtuse direction, telling her to look for a roundabout and then take a 135 degree right turn. In non-nerd, that’s like most of a U-Turn but not quite. She was promised that there would be no math on The Amazing Race. She tells him she has no idea what he means. Vanck’s reply is even more convoluted. We suspect he has picked up on her disappointment and is now trying to make Ashton feel stupid.

#TeamAmerica (fuck yeah!) arrives at the canopy tower first, where they are given their choice of Detour assignments – Shoot or Scoot. Shoot requires them to shoot makeshift arrows at some hanging artsy fish. Scoot means that they’re racing a professional rowing team. If they don’t win on the first try, they get an advantage. And then if they still don’t win, they get an even more significant advantage. Seth & Olive choose Scoot, while Becca & Floyd choose Shoot.

On their first attempt, Seth & Olive see the pro rowers breeze past them like the race is nothing. Brooke & Scott have joined #TeamFun at the arrow shoot challenge, and… well, Brooke & Scott are basically the antithesis of Becca & Floyd. They’re #TeamAntiFun, if you will. While they’re riding the boat to the challenge, Brooke is enjoying the sights, while Scott sulks and mumbles something about having to drive for three hours. Then, when he’s utterly unable to shoot the arrows, Brooke laughs at him obnoxiously. How do you think it’s going so far?

Becca & Floyd figure out the bow and arrow system pretty quickly, while Brooke & Scott ponder swapping tasks. Seth & Olive eventually finish Scoot on their third attempt, and receive a clue telling them to go ahead and go to the Pit Stop at Cinta Costera Tres. Phil is showing the Pit Stop at the 31-minute mark, showing how vast the separation is between the first group and the second group.

Like Brooke & Scott, London & Logan swap from Shoot to Scoot.

Meanwhile, #TheBoys show up for the rowing challenge and win on the first try. This frustrates Brooke, and she reveals her insecurity by telling Scott that he thinks she’s a physical liability. He pretends his disagrees in a way that confirms exactly what she’s thinking.

The first team to check in at the Pit Stop is #TeamAmerica (fuck yeah!), followed soon by #TeamFun. We forgot to mention earlier that Becca has a button that is a “Fun Meter.” She says that the meter is always over at maximum fun, and confirms that again as Phil checks them in.

Then, Matt & Redmond check in and they seem like perfect team members. Contrast that to Scott & Brooke, who finally finish their race and go to the Pit Stop. Phil needles them a little and it gets to them both a bit.

Shamir & Sara, a team we’ve barely seen this episode, are shown basically finishing in fifth. Vanck tells Ashton he’s super great at archery because he did it once in junior high school. She takes over, and he tries to give her instruction. Ashton suggests that maybe he should just be quiet and let her try it for a minute. Moments later, they decide to swap Detours.

A bunch of teams finish the rowing challenge – London & Logan, Tara & Joey, Vanck & Ashton and Jessie & Francesca are all finished and off to the mat where Phil is waiting for them.

That leaves Michael & Liz and #LongHairDontCare to duke it out for that final available spot, because Phil has noted that someone will be eliminated tonight. Michael & Liz aren’t able to shoot arrows, so they swap to the other challenge, where they almost instantly dump themselves in the water. Jenn & Kevin seem to be hopelessly lost.

Liz & Michael fail on their first attempt at racing, while Jenn & Kevin have finally arrived at the Detour. Liz tries to provide some pep for her team, and they finally grab a victory on their third attempt. They leave quickly, as Jenn & Kevin miss on their first try. At this point, they’re informed that the Detour will be closed for safety reasons, as it’s just too dark to compete. So, oddly, Jenn & Kevin arrive at the Pit Stop first, but they incur a two-hour penalty for not completing the Detour. Some SUPER fake drama ensues, but Liz & Michael obviously show up in time to send Jenn & Kevin packing. Jenn claims she’s gained a little sister in Kevin (eh?) and the two of them seem pretty breezy about their loss.