How refreshing is the latest edition of The Amazing Race? After last season’s uninspired cast featuring Jonathan and Victoria (aka Team JV), this new, colorful bunch of teams is like a breath of fresh air. Yeah, I know Survivor’s famous couple of Rob and Amber are back, but hey, at least they’re interesting and serve as enjoyable villains. Thankfully, the good people at CBS casting opted to cut down the acting/model quotient in favor of memorable personalities. That’s not to say there’s no eye-candy this time around. Roommates Megan and Heidi quickly top the list of hottest Amazing Race women while brothers Brian and Greg offer a little somethin’ for the ladies. Still, despite the generally good genetic condition of this cast, there’s a sense that we can get behind several of the teams for any variety of reasons as opposed to picking the lesser of two evils. With that being said, let’s take a ride in the Way-Back Machine and relive season seven’s sprawling premiere.For this season’s opener, we found Phil aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. He once again welcomed us to the series with his usual brand of patrician charm and old money aloofness. Moments later, a small army of choppers descended on the location, and Jeff Probst walked out holding an immunity idol. Actually, that didn’t happen, but instead we finally met the new teams for this season.
First up were Debbie and Bianca, two Southern Belles who described themselves as goofballs and silly, silly, silly. This was followed with wacky footage of them apparently doing the boxstep in rollerskates and tube tops. Wacky indeed! Let me get out my slide whistle and calliope music. Spewing out of the next helicopter were two of West Hollywood’s finest, Lynn and Alex. If Chip and Reichen wanted to smash stereotypes of gay men, these two wanted to build them right up again. Prancing around sort of like the gay versions of Fred Savage and A.J. from the Sopranos, these two comfortably assumed the role of resident jokesters. Two snaps for that!
Survivor losers/winners Rob and Amber, or Ramber (it could be Romber, but that sounds sort of serious and analytical) emerged next. Rob boasted that the two have a profound friendship — as evidenced by them rocking in a hammock. You should see it when they watch TV together on the couch. Their friendship is mind-blowing then.
Two heavyset and docile hicks from South Carolina popped up next, and dang it if they weren’t wearing Lynn and Alex’s WeHo weekend outfits. That’s okay. They may have been wearing cut-off denim shorts and sleeveless shirts, but I feel badly bashing their oddball fashion style. You can tell these guys are just happy folk just looking for good, Dukes of Hazzard-esque memories. Their names are Ryan and Chuck, for all you wondering.
Next were Heidi and Megan, two “roommates” (cough, models, cough) who just happen to look exactly alike: flowing blond tresses, skinny but shapely physiques, and a certain disposition to giggling and tanning together. It’s official. Paris Hilton has spawned decoys.
Patrick and his mother Susan stepped off a helicopter next, and while they may have looked homely and sweet, they explained that they were actually quite devious. This was illustrated by Patrick stealing a cookie off Susan’s cooling tray in the kitchen. Oooh, devious indeed! I don’t know how I’ll be able to deal with such a saucy team!
Uchenna and Joyce, a late thirtysomething black couple, showed up next, I believe, and immediately laid out a sob story for us. They’ve tried to have a baby twice, but it didn’t work out. To make matters worse, they were each laid off from many corporations, and now they need the money to pay off their debts and have a child. Oh, and their favorite goldfish just died.
Filling out this season’s senior citizen dynamo were Meredith and Gretchen, and no, they weren’t a pair of wrinkly old lesbians. Meredith was actually a guy. I don’t remember much about them except that they have a penchant for rowing around in a kayak. Apparently they earn their living reenacting famous scenes from the L.L. Bean catalogue.
Next up were brothers Brian and Greg who announced they were big goofballs. This was evidenced by one of them trying to pull down the other’s pants while on rollerblades. Okay, so apparently roller-shoes are the de facto prop for general wackiness. Unfortunately, these brothers seemed to have been a fan of last year’s Big Brother installment because the mandanas were out in full force. Man, they better lose those real quickly.
Hey Uchenna and Joyce. You thought you had a sob story? Wait until you meet Ron and Kelly. She was a beauty queen. He was a POW in Iraq. Yeah, can’t really make fun of that. So let’s just move onto our final team: Ray and Deana. Yeah, these guys are pretty boring. They like martial arts and Ray is apparently strong-willed. Oh. One of those. Let’s start this race already.
Why, Phil must have read my mind. After a brief explanation of the rules, Phil kicked us off by saying “On your marks. Get set.” He then paused and raised his eyebrow seductively, almost as if to say “Hey camera. Maybe you’d like to get some drinks with me tonight. Afterwards, I’ll show you my collection of turtlenecks. Then, anything goes.” Once we were sufficiently disgusted/thrilled by Phil’s libidinous expression, he then yelled “GO!” and the teams were off.
After scrambling towards their bags, everyone ripped open their clues which instructed teams to fly to Lima, Peru via LAX. Rob and Amber immediately boasted that after all those nights on Survivor, physical challenges would be a breeze. Unfortunately, those pesky mental hurdles always get in the way as Rob struggled to open the trunk of his car. Yes, the complex world of locks, keys, and latches. I guess you can’t learn everything on Survivor. You know, like common sense.
With the teams racing to the airport, we segued into the opening credits which featured an encore performance by Bianca and Debbie in their rollerskates. You mean we have to watch that every week? Excellent. Meanwhie, the Alex/Lynn opening bit registered high on the campy scales as it featured the two guys excitedly bursting out of changing rooms in some vintage shop. They’re already funnier than the entire season of Joey so far.
After the credits, we returned to the racers who were navigating the route to LAX. Uchenna and Joyce felt confident that they’d have an edge up on everyone in the race since they were from California and therefore knew the roads. Oh that’s great. I’m sure that will be really helpful in PERU.
Speaking of Peru, Lynn tried his best to summon his knowledge of the country’s native culture. “Peru is like donkeys and blankets,” he said before his boyfriend reprimanded him for using such broad generalizations. Seriously, how could he not mention the pan flute? Well, they may not have known much about Peruvian culture, but Team Weho had an unlikely set of fans in Heidi and Megan who exclaimed “I just love them!” They then proceeded to nearly crash and die on the freeway. Seriously. Luckily the gals emerged unscathed, but chances are there were about five jackknifed tractor trailors sprawling across the freeway in their wake. Sensing that they were unsafe at any speed, the girls switched drivers, and I was fairly amused to see that they had pulled off in Compton or Inglewood to do this. Not many white girls have that sort of boldness, but maybe Heidi’s Crip roots gave her an extra sense of security.
Nevertheless, after the harrowing journey through the Los Angeles freeway system, teams arrived at LAX. Brothers Brian and Greg parked their car and hustled to the airport shuttle. “Wanna get a jog on?” one of them asked. “Jog” is apparently their pet name for “mandana.” Meredith and Gretchen showd up some time later, and when the last shuttle threatened to leave without them, Gretchen scowled, “God darnit! God darnit!” Man, I love old people. Fortunately for them, the shuttle stopped, much to Ramber’s chagrin, and let the senior citizens climb aboard. Golly!
There was some minor drama at the airport as teams had to choose between American Airlines or United. As usual, the flight leaving first arrived last. Tricky producers! There was lots of running, sweating, panting, and shuttle hopping, but eventually everyone sorted everything out. At the United terminal, POW Ron cornered Ray and explained to him how he had served in Iraq, was shot down, and now, if he wins the race, wants to donate all the proceeds to the soldiers. By the way, did he mention that he fought in the war?
In Peru, teams had to make their way to Plaza De Armus to receive their next clue. Debbie and Bianca immediately bonded with Patrick and Susan, although their reasoning was a bit odd. Apparently Patrick looked a lot like Debbie’s first boyfriend, and well, that’s good enough to establish trust! Hey, that old homeless woman has gray hair like my grandmother. She must make awesome matzoh ball soup!
Aided by Debbie’s fluency in Spanish, the two teams took an early lead and advanced to the next clue which had them take a bus to a town called Playa Hermosa, ride a rickshaw to a beach, then search three piles of sand for tickets to flights leaving at three different times. You know the drill – three piles, three times, try to get the earliest flight, yada yada yada. While the lifelong friends and the mother/son team zipped off for more adventure, the rest of the teams arriving on the first flight meandered through the streets of Lima, desperately trying to find the clue box. Ron, for one, was mildly disappointed with the city. Peru “looks like downtown Baghdad,” he said. Hey Ron, tell us about how you were a POW again. THANKS.
Soon the second flight of racers arrived, and luckily for Rob and Amber, some American who recognized them from Survivor and just so happened to be Mr. Peruvian Knowledge 2005, aided them with taxis, shuttles, and buses, ultimately resulting in the couple eclipsing nearly everyone and catching up with the first two teams. “We’ve got all of Peru working for us!” exclaimed Rob happily. Yeah, all of Peru. Or at least those paid by CBS to ensure the reality veterans/gimmicks don’t get eliminated after the first two episodes (what’s up, Alison and Donny!).
On the bus to Playa Hermosa, Debbie and Bianca fretted about competition from Ramber. “I’ve watched Survivor. He’s really as dumb as a rock. He can’t put a sentence together,” Patrick said. Oh this is great. We’re already getting rivalries. It’s too bad Rob wasn’t there to defend himself though. I’m sure it would have been a well articulated response like “Nice hair, fruit loop. Did you hear that Amba? I said ‘Nice hair, fruit loop.’”
Back in Lima, teams still struggled to find a bus to Playa Hermosa. Not even the aid of a random guy doing capoeira could help these people out. Finally they found proper transport, and in his excitement to board the bus, Meredith took a spill on the sidewalk. Ah yes. It’s not an Amazing Race premiere without an old guy falling over.
Patrick, Susan, Debbie, and Bianca arrived at Playa Hermosa first, although not before nearly leveling some little girl with a rickshaw. Luckily, Debbie and Bianca’s various experiences with rollerskates and tube tops prepared them for catastrophic incidents, and they managed to shout “GET OUT OF THE WAY!” in just the nick of time. Bianca then kissed Debbie on the cheek for about the twentieth time this episode.
Anyway, the available flights in the sand were 6:00 AM, 7:00 AM, and 7:40 AM. Team Devious and Team Rollerskates snagged two of the three early tickets and then took a seat to watch Ramber battle it out with Ray and Deana (who had since caught up) for the last 6:00 AM flight. Of course the Survivors won. Heidi and Megan arrived soon after and simply began digging in the 7:40 pile because it was the first one they had encountered. In a nifty bit of group psychology/stupidity, several teams saw the girls shoveling away and assumed they were digging for the earliest possible tickets. As a result, there was a sudden competition for the worst flight possible, and I rolled my eyes back in ecstasy as i once again remembered how wonderful this show could be.
Watching the racers dig through the piles, I was immediately thankful that Ron didn’t babble about how the sands of the beach reminded him of the dry terrain of Iraq. I did notice that he and his girlfriend wore a matching ensemble piece though. I wonder what inspired them. “When I was a soldier, we always wore matching uniforms—” Never mind…
After everyone had procured flight tickets, they spent the night around a campfire on the beach. Rob gushed that sitting around the campfire made him think he was back on Survivor again. I guess he would know, considering he’s been on TWICE. Shut up, Rob.
Around this time we paused for a commercial break, and suddenly manna from heaven descended on America as CBS unveiled its latest made-for-TV movie, SHARK ATTACK SPRING BREAK starring Shannon Lucio (Lindsay) from The OC. Wow. That looks terrible. I am so there.
Back on the Race, teams flew up to the high country of Peru where Patrick asked Bianca, “Do you feel weird?” Yeah, it’s almost like there’s less oxygen up in the mountains or something. WEIRD. Anyway, teams had to travel up to a small mountain town and find a dapper young fella named Philippe in a tiny Coca Cola shack. Man. I knew Coke sponsored the “Red Room” on American Idol, but do they really need to brand Philippe’s snack bar? I guess once Pepé opened up his Pepsi Twist juice stand, the war was on.
Anyway, Philippe handed over clues for the next event which was taking two ziplines across a major gorge. Fun times. Bianca, Debbie, Susan, and Patrick all completed this challenge with minimal difficulty and received their Detour instructions. Teams could either rope a llama (insert footage of a llama spitting) or rope a basket (insert footage of a basket spitting). Bianca, Debbie, Susan, and Patrick opted for the llamas which they were to chorale into a pen. After the stubborn beasts proved to be too much of a nuisance for the Southern gals, the ladies opted for the basket challenge which had them transporting thirty five pounds of alfalfa on their backs. Why is alfalfa such a funny word? And why is llama such a funny word too? Man, Peru, you crack me up.
Nevertheless, the various teams all arrived and took on the challenges without incident for the most part. I enjoyed Alex and Lynn’s impromptu song “We are racing in Peru”, but then again, I was taken to bouts of laughter at a lot of their Nathan Lane-ish schtick. Lynn, for one, seemed to be in a constant state of shock as he would frequently exclaim “Oh my god!” at the sight of a pebble or a blade of grass. Gretchen and Meredith meanwhile filled me with immense joy with their notable quotables, ranging from the predictable “GERONIMO!” call during the zipline to Gretchen’s seminal comment “This is what the kids call a wedgie!” We’ll be hard pressed to top that quote this season. Also impressive was Chuck who seemed to take out half the mountainside when his butt dragged along the ground with the zipline. Preparation H, we have your new spokesman.
Most teams seemed to get through the Detour easily enough. Gretchen and Meredith excelled with the llamas, and the models, despite some hijinx with their baskets, transported their alfalfa easily enough. The only one who seemed to have a truly difficult time was Deana who managed to choke herself with the basket rope around her neck. Hmmm… Maybe you should look into putting the basket down? Or maybe don’t strap the rope directly around your neck? Or maybe don’t be such a huge idiot? Yeah, that’s probably what it is.
Deana struggles to figure out why pulling the rope around her neck is strangling her.
Nevertheless, after the detour, teams took a delivery truck down to a market to find their next clue. Susan and Patrick diabolically agreed to help out Ramber, but only to afford them the opportunity to betray them later in the game. Why, these two are devious! (Extending pinky to the corner of my mouth…) Susan then revealed that she planned to tell Rob that his shorts were on fire, and then when he looks down at them, she would say “Now it’s out.” She’s got all sorts of tricks up her sleeve!
In the end, Debbie and Bianca managed to snag first place, and instead of the usual trip to Mexico, they actually won $10,000 off the bat. First purchase: diamond studded rollerskates. Susan and Patrick popped up in second place followed by Rob and Amber. The Bandana Brothers took fourth, followed by Lynn and Alex, Meredith and Gretchen, Ray and Deana, and Uchenna and Joyce. In the end, the POW, the Paris Hiltons, and the hefty rednecks sprinted for the Pitstop. Amazingly, the gals placed ninth, and in a heartbreaking ending, Ryan and Chuck came in only mere seconds behind Ron and Kelly. Yes, the bland, gimmicky casting couple stayed while the funny, interesting dudes were sent packing to an Early Show demise. The two guys choked back tears as they reasserted that the most important prize was having a best friend. C’mon. Don’t be such softies (please pass the tissues, I’m bawling over here).
What did you think about this premiere? How great are these teams? Did you like my loaded question?