The Amazing Race 7: Episode 1

By Reagen Sulewski

March 8, 2005

But they're cousins, identical cousins!

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BOP proudly announces a new feature as we begin our coverage of The Amazing Race 7, the only other reality game show on TV worth watching besides Survivor (and sometimes you can leave that one off).

Our 11 teams arrive by helicopter on the deck of the cruise ship the Queen Mary in Long Beach harbor, ready to race around the world in the quest for one million dollars and a chance to view the best scenery you can from the back of a taxicab.

Phil Keoghan, our host, introduces the teams as they arrive:

Debbie/Bianca - Lifelong friends. In their intro video, they are drinking appletinis (in what looks like the middle of the day) and twirling each other around on rollerskates (somewhere, Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci nod in approval).

Lynn/Alex - Boyfriends. From West Hollywood (cliche alert!), for these guys, the Gay Pride Parade isn't just once a year, it's every single day. They would scratch your eyes out, but don't want to break a nail (hey, their words!)

Rob/Amber - the second CBS reality show crossover contestants for The Amazing Race after Allison/Donny from Season 5. Hopefully they will be able to go more than five seconds in the show without mentioning Survivor... too late. As an ill omen, their intro clip is at least twice as long as those of the previous two teams.

Ryan/Chuck - Best friends. Woo dawgie, that's some accent those boys have. Hailing from rural South Carolina, this team is actually carrying on another Survivor tradition of having at least two unintelligable contestants.

Megan/Heidi - Roomates. a.k.a. the Boobsey Twins or Team Hilton. Although they aren't related, they look more alike than some twins I've seen. They don't do their image much favors by having extended shots of them walking on the beach and suntanning. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

Susan/Patrick - Mother/Son. This is the first time we've had this dynamic on the show. Patrick lets a whole eight seconds go by before announcing he's gay. Their hobbies apparently include her working out while he watches, and walking while wearing sweaters.

Meredith/Gretchen - Retirees. One thing these two would like to remind us is that they are old. Oooollld. "Fond memories of voting for Woodrow Wilson" old. However, at some point Meredith is suppossedly going to tap Gretchen on the shoulder, and then she turns into a mother tiger. I can't wait to see her carry another contestant by the neck in her teeth.

Brian/Greg - Brothers. A couple of goofball surfer/skatepunks, they are the second team, after Megan and Heidi, to sport matching headbands.

Uchenna/Joyce - Married. Team Desperate & Bitter, their hook is that they both worked for Houston-based companies that went bankrupt from shady accounting practices, namely Enron and WorldCom. They also desperately want a child. Uchenna also looks amazingly like Matthew St. Patrick from Six Feet Under.

Ron/Kelly - Dating. This couple comes with a backstory that could fill a dozen shows, as he is a former POW in Iraq, while she is a former beauty pagent winner. In a twist for the show, these two are the only "something/model" team, of which there are normally three indistinguishable teams.

Ray/Deana - Dating On and Off. a.k.a. Team Dysfunction. We'll be watching these two closely to make sure they don't turn into another Jonathan/Victoria. Tellingly, Deana's first words are immediately to half-apologize for what a competitive jerk he’s going to be. Their "Day in the life of" clips are amusingly syncronous.

And... we're off, after Phil flashes a little People's Eyebrow to the camera, and the contestants race to their backpacks and their first clue, which directs them to fly to Lima, Peru from one of two LAX airport flights. Megan (or Heidi, I'm not sure which is which yet) apparently hasn't realized this is a race yet, and waves another competitor ahead in their rental car. Rob & Amber struggle with the car, and for a brief moment look as though they're about to become the first contestants eliminated because they didn't know how to open a trunk.

Uchenna & Joyce clearly have some adrenaline flowing, as they are quite visually more excited about *everything* than every other team, including the fact that they know the super secret location of the Los Angeles International Airport. Yeah, it's not like they have signs for it or anything.

Other teams lay claim to their race stereotypes, as Ryan and Chuck try to evade Sherrif Roscoe P. Coltrane and Brian & Greg become Team Laid-Back, while Lynn & Alex make an early start at the Ugly American label, saying Peru is full of “donkeys and blankets”.

Our first bit of drama occurs as Heidi nearly wrecks on the freeway after missing the exit. The cars are not friendly to the racers early on. Losing valuable time, they pull over and Megan takes over behind the wheel. Meanwhile, Rob is contemplating a fast-food run.

It’s Hot. Parking. Action. Featuring “The hillbillies” vs. “the happy boys”, Ryan & Chuck and Lynn & Alex’s mutually given nicknames as all the teams pull into LAX. This kind of sequence is what wins Emmys.

Later on, Brian & Greg start to play the meta-game, letting Megan & Heidi’s “cute little pink butts” go ahead of them in the lot. Clearly Greg is angling for some extra-curricular activity.

Now, the big choice, American or United? Ron & Kelly choose the American Airlines flight because they are “the all-American couple”, quickly setting off gag reflexes around the country. This, however, is the correct choice as although it leaves later, it arrives in Lima almost an hour and a half earlier. Obviously having watched the show previously, several teams remember the “late flight/early arrival” trick that the producers often spring on teams and head for the American counter. Bianca makes early use of a stranger’s cell phone to confirm this fact.

Back in the parking lot, Rob & Amber and Meredith & Gretchen finally arrive, with Romber playing the evil card early by grinning at Meredith & Gretchen’s failure to get on a shuttle. Way to tempt that race karma. After a tension-filled commercial break, they eventually get on, which, you know, is crucial, since there’s so few shuttles at an airport.

The two groups of teams meet and greet in the airport line. Bianca attempts to butter up Patrick by comparing him to her first boyfriend, to which he responds, “did he end up being gay? Because I am.” Yes, Patrick, everyone that looks like you has to be gay and it is your single defining characteristic. Does he do this with everyone? “Hi, I’m gay Patrick, and I’d like the gay Cheeseburger and Fries, oh and with a gay diet Coke? Could you super-gay that for me”?

Meanwhile Debbie & Bianca share an… interesting kiss on the cheek and hug, which starts some speculation among Brian & Greg as to whether the “friends” part of “lifelong friends” needs air quotes when you say it.

Uchenna & Joyce and Brian & Greg miss out on the first flight and are forced to join the short bus teams at the United counter. Back at American, Ron reveals to Ray that he was a former POW and what he plans to do with the money if he wins, which is to give it to a Veteran’s fund. Not only does this make Ray’s “hookers, crack, and Ferraris” plan look shallow, every other team in the race now officially hates freedom.

The first group arrives in Lima, and aside from one team, looks like lost little puppies. Bianca, bucking show tradition, actually speaks the local language instead of just randomly shouting foreign-sounding phrases at the locals. In the shocker of the show so far, Chuck speaks fluent Portuguese, which is close enough to Spanish to work for their purposes. All the teams end up on the same bus to Plaza de Armas in downtown Lima. As they run toward it, Ron displays a goofier run than Hugh Grant, but it seems like it’s because Kelly is having a tough time keep up.

From the first checkpoint, the teams get to further experience the Peruvian Public Bus System, traveling to Playa Hermosa (from my first year Spanish: Pretty Beach) in Ancon, 30 miles away.

Debbie & Bianca quickly realize that this is not a sightseeing tour and give the other teams the slip, but bring Susan & Patrick along for the ride. The other four teams on this flight find out they’ve been Keyser Sozed, and I think Ray is starting to consider cannibalism as an option. D&B and S&P find their bus and are off.

Meanwhile, the second plane has landed, and Rob & Amber start(?) to capitalize on their Survivor fame, picking up a guide who recognized them in the customs line. Craig, their guide, convinces a bus driver not to pick up more people, and they’re quickly off from the airport. I’d say this isn’t that fair, but then every pretty girl team has used batting of eyes and thrusting of chests to get help in every other year, so I don’t have much of a problem with this tactic.

On the first bus to Ancon, Patrick starts his second theme for the night, “Boy that Rob is dumb”. Now, while, singling out one team in an 11 team race is a dubious strategy at the best of times, singling out the team that won a game based on screwing over competitors seems especially dumb to me.

Meanwhile, R&A are on the second bus to Ancon, where Craig, who apparently has enormous mojo within the bus system, gets this bus driver to only drop people off on the way, which I imagine mandated some exchange of cash. You may have a million outside the show, but inside the show, cash matters.

Eventually, the next four teams find a bus. Ray, for the first time, contemplates the idea of racing for a million dollar prize in the midst of poverty, but the crisis of conscience is short.

The final five teams find the bus station in Lima, where the heat begins to affect Lynn’s brain, as he calls the conditions “muy caliento”, which is almost but not quite Spanish for “very hot”. Uchenna & Joyce walk instead of taking a cab and end up on the last bus.

Debbie & Bianca and Susan & Patrick arrive by rickshaw within minutes of each other at the beach, which requires them to dig through three piles of sand to find plane tickets. Unlike other years where the tickets are seeded randomly, this task requires only the skill testing challenge of figuring out which is earlier, 6:00, 7:00, or 7:40. Both teams pass this test, getting tickets on the first flight.

In the second group, Ryan & Chuck bring a little Deep South to South America, pulling their rickshaw and turning it into a NASCAR race. However, they’re forced to jump back in at one point and their, how shall we say it, enormous girth shows down the poor driver and makes all that effort completely pointless.

Rob & Amber (& Craig) arrive third, while Patrick looks on in disgust that a man apparently so dumb that he might forget to breathe could catch up to them. It’s the season of jumping to conclusions! Ray & Deana arrive next and there’s fierce competition for the last early flight. Rob & Amber find it, to the dismay of all teams present. Alas, it's the end of the line for Craig, unless he's planning to travel around the world with them.

Megan & Heidi don’t even bother to check the last sand pile and dig at the 7:40 pile, securing themselves an important tie for last. Sadly, they are not the only teams to make this mistake, as Ryan & Chuck also don’t bother to check. Ron & Kelly also take the 7:40 flight, but only after a needless disinformation tactic by Bianca and Debbie, who tell them to go to the wrong pile. There’s no need to make enemies this early. Ron, for his part, declares “Game On”, but dude, you were actually back in California when that happened. Welcome to The Amazing Race.

Brian & Greg are next to arrive and have their minds blown by the fact that there are more 7:00 flights left than 7:40, questioning which comes first. Proving they passed first grade math, they continue on with digging in the 7:00 pile. Fun with math continues, as Meredith and Gretchen choose the wrong pile, while Lynn & Alex choose correctly. Uchenna & Joyce bring up the rear but actually gain the last spot on the second flight by virtue of the other teams entirely botching this first task.

The flight is to Cusco, capital of ancient Inca, but since the flight is in the morning, the teams share a campfire on the beach for the night, leaving Rob to worry that he’s about to be kicked out of the show again.

The 6:00 flight goes off without a hitch, but in a stunning reversal, the 7:00 flight is delayed, for what eventually looks like two hours. All the teams negotiate passage on the 7:40 flight, so that whole business on the beach ends up being for absolutely nothing (get used to this).

At 3399 meters in elevation, Cusco is the two-mile-high city, and the racers start to feel the altitude. Outside the airport, they pick up what is apparently the Peruvian equivalent of Red Bull, which I understand contains actual coca (as in cocaine) leaf.

They’re then sent to a small market called Huambutio, which then leads them to the Extreme portion of this leg, taking two zip lines down a 1400 foot gorge. This leads them to the first Detour of the race, which has them chosing between carrying a 35 pound basket of alfalfa (my allergies act up just thinking about this) or herding two llamas up a hill. I have to imagine the alfalfa is easier, as fighting with animals on the show is never a great choice. Debbie & Bianca are first down and immediately start to bicker, while Susan & Patrick, second down, make a quick decision to go with the llamas, as do D&B, eventually. Rob & Amber are shortly behind, although Rob accomplishes one thing no one else has yet this leg; start a catch phrase. “Holy Cannoli!” indeed.

Getting off the second plane early proves to be crucial in this part of the race, and Brian & Greg get that plum position, getting in a goofy joke about knowing one word in Spanish. Megan & Heidi are last off and forced to play catch up.

Two decently annoying events occur on the way to the check point for the second group: Lynn & Alex start singing a song about Peru, and Ryan & Chuck do their best impression of a carnival horn urging their driver to go faster.

Back at the Detour, Debbie immediately regrets the llama choice and throws a bit of a fit until Bianca agrees to change tasks. Susan & Patrick continue on while getting covered in llama spit, which sounds like fun to me. Rob & Amber have at this point already made it up the hill despite the handicap of funny hats, and get the next clue first. This takes them to a local police station, where they catch rides on a delivery truck to the town of Pisac, which my inner third-grader informs me is a very funny name for a town.

Conditions in the trucks are, shall we say, rustic. Rob & Amber and Susan & Patrick end up in the first truck back together, with Debbie & Bianca’s delay in choosing a task pushing them back to third.

The nature of the zip line task keeps teams from passing each other for the most part, so the second group stays more or less in the order they got off the plane, with Brian & Greg well ahead.

Most of the second group’s detours are uneventful, however Ray makes his play for Boyfriend of the Year, telling Deana to repeatedly “suck it up” as the rope around her basket starts to choke her, which is always a good motivation technique. That, or a good way to get smothered in your sleep. Another option would be to not carry the rope around your windpipe. Mercy is for the weak, Ray!

Back in Pisac, it’s the ever-popular “hunt in a crowded market for your clue” task, although this doesn’t prove to be too difficult. Finally, it's time for the pitstop, which is back in Cusco. There is apparently no Roadblock in this leg, even though it’s a tiring two hours long on TV.

The zip line task has proven to put some real separation between the teams, as Uchenna & Joyce and Ryan & Chuck are just getting to the Detour, and both teams choose the llamas. Ryan sees the need to see if he’s got a boy or girl llama, then heads off. Both these teams make a crucial tactical error of bringing one llama at a time, losing even more ground.

Oh look, it’s the return of the Peru song from Lynn & Alex! Seriously guys, cut that out.

Rob & Amber hit Cusco first, but get stuck in traffic jam. In a wonderfully proactive move, Rob gets out and pushes a stalled van out of the way. Susan is getting entirely too wound up in her taxi for the first leg of the race, as really at this point, it’s just about not losing.

It’s a classic Sam-Ram-o-Cam finish for the show as the producers try to build some artificial tension heading into the pitstop where… Debbie & Bianca have pulled ahead and finish first. Instead of a bonus trip, they instead receive ten grand each. Susan & Patrick make it into second, while Rob & Amber take third, foiled by the traffic jam. Brian & Greg, the muscular Zach Braff look-alikes, come in fourth, and Lynn & Alex arrive fifth.

Uchenna & Joyce and Ray & Deana are still heading into the market but having left Ron & Kelly, Megan & Heidi, and Ryan & Chuck behind them in the last truck, they’re safe for now, barring a monumental screw-up. On the other hand, one of the three teams from the last truck is almost guaranteed to be out.

A hectic search in the market ensues, with all three teams finding the clue almost simultaneously. It all comes down to taxis.

Around this time, Meredith & Gretchen take sixth spot, and seem overjoyed not to have had a heart attack on the way. Ray & Deana are seventh, after slightly screwing over Uchenna & Joyce in the market by leaving before letting them know where the clue was like they agreed on the truck ride back. They come in at number eight.

It's back to NASCAR Cusco, as Ron & Kelly’s driver makes a daring uphill pass of Megan & Heidi as they’re stuck behind a truck. Ryan tells Chuck to open his door in the way of anyone trying to pass, but I think we all know this really wouldn’t work and would be a pretty bad idea. On the other hand, Megan & Heidi blow past them as they head into the city. Their taxi driver then finds them a shortcut and beyond all logic, the blondies take ninth spot. This is apparently the hardest thing they’ve ever done, which doesn’t bode well, since this is just the first leg of the race. It’s now down to Team Freedom and Team Yee-Haw for the last spot. It’s a race through the streets of Cusco and Ron & Kelly come in just seconds ahead of Ryan & Chuck, eliminating the major comic relief of this season right off the bat.

In their exit video, it’s a little dusty in the room as Ryan & Chuck declare themselves “best friends forever”. But hey, as Jeffrey Lebowski once taught us, “strong men also cry. Strong men also cry!”



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