Fewer mactors, more law enforcement officials. It remains to be seen whether this is an improvement.
Rachel & Dave: Some people benefited from the “this season on The Amazing Race” preview more than others, this team in particular. Based on this leg, I had him written off as a total BORE (his sole input being establishing some sort of temporary alliance with Art & JJ on the grounds that they’re all government employeezzzzzz….) and her as a shrill annoyance. I may well turn out to be right on that score, but at least the preview showed an epic upcoming spat between them, in which he snits to her that “silence is golden”, and she replies “then why don’t you SHUT THE FUCK UP?” Now THAT’s a team I could develop an interest in.
Brendon & Rachel: I have never watched a single second of Big Brother US (unless you count those awesome Julie Chen “But first…” montages on YouTube) so I had no preconceptions regarding these two, but I…kind of like them? At least, I like her – he seemed fairly absent throughout the episode, apart from the comment about being genetically predisposed to disliking the border patrol guys because he’s half-Mexican, which…yeah. Rachel, on the other hand, came across as a well-meaning goofball, which is among my favourite character archetypes on this show. They were also well-served by the preview, because I can’t wait for the moment where Rachel sobs “THE AMAZING RACE IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN AND GOOD!” in the way that only a person who never watched season 19 can.
Art & JJ: They’re border patrol cops! They’re kind of intense and meatheady, but in the way that generally serves you well on this show – for the early legs at least. I have my doubts about their form in the long-term – the error they made in the empanada task suggested that their impetuousness can lead to missing crucial details, and that’s just on the first leg, so I really wouldn’t be surprised by an epic flame-out before the halfway mark, caused by a failure to correctly read the clue. I have no strong feelings about them as people – they seem a little dull, and the prospect of an Axis of Bore with Dave worries me, but we shall see.
Nary & Jamie: For a couple with such an interesting hook and an above-average intro video (speaking of which, did those intro videos really have to take up half the damn episode? It was bad enough that Phil’s attempting to pad his part even more than usual with endless amounts of “I DUN AN EYEBROW” but all that crap was cutting into precious race time), they were awfully invisible this leg. I have feelings of goodwill for them based on pre-Race interviews, but that could well fade soon if they don’t actually do something interesting.
Vanessa & Ralph: Ralph I can take or leave, but I bloody LOVE Vanessa. She seems the sort of enjoyably indiscreet person who would be masses of fun to spend an evening drinking with, and her potted history of their on-off history at the top of the show was an early highlight. I worried that this might just be the magic touch of the editors, but then during the skydiving roadblock Vanessa gave us the immortal line “my uterus is in my throat!”, so yeah, I definitely want these two to stick around for a bit. They could be fun.
Elliot & Andrew: In a season full of ugly tattoos (seriously, what is this? Top Chef?), I think Elliot takes the prize for the worst ones. With that out of the way, I actually ended up liking this team a lot more than I expected to, from their early assurance that they were definitely not in a gay incestuous relationship (I’m sure that went down well with the scores of Republicans who cherish this show, if not so well with the slash fiction fans), they exuded a kind of self-conscious awkwardness that was rather endearing. I’m a little surprised that out of all the teams that made the early flight, they ended up being the last ones to check in at the mat, but whether that was just down to poor luck or bad racing is as yet undetermined. I guess we’ll have to wait until we’ve got a bit more of a handle on their skills in general.
Kerri & Stacey: Despite an early giggle-edit, these two came into their own towards the end and showed that they can turn it on when they need to in the empanada challenge. I was also impressed with Stacey, having already commented on her fear of heights, getting on and doing the skydiving section of the Roadblock with a fairly small amount of fuss. I mean, I could’ve done without all the inspirational “I’M DOING THIS FOR MY KIDS TO PROVE THEY CAN DO ANYTHING!” stuff she was gabbling as she plummeted earthward, but I admire anyone who can put their personal issues to one side and embrace the spirit of the race in the way that she did, so I’m hoping these two might surprise us all.
Dave & Cherie: Ugh, clowns. I’m already predisposed to not liking them because (1) ugh, clowns, and (2) I was no great fan of season four’s Jon & Al, whose “zany” “antics” quickly got on my nerves. Cherie got herself off to a bad start with me by sobbing in the back of the car because she couldn’t see any other teams – I just can’t get on board with someone who has that sort of pointless breakdown when you’re not even halfway through the first leg. Also, they’re another team that seem like they have the potential to be serious bores, so I’m not really a fan so far.
Bopper & Mark: Speaking of things that I don’t want to see in the first leg of the race, I couldn’t quite believe it when Mark was complaining that he was tired and aching before they’d even left the USA. That was even before we discovered that Mark has a carsickness problem and was spotted indecorously vomiting out the back of a product-placed Ford on the way to the first airport of the season. Bopper appears to be the more competent racer, but the less tolerable human being, given his general inability to speak in anything other than a klaxon-like holler. They reminded me a bit of Michael & Louie from TAR16, though I hope they’re not as mean-spirited. Or as dumb. Either way, I feel like they’re going to be around for a while because the show seems to be setting up A Journey for them, so I just hope Bopper sorts out an indoor voice at some point.
Joey “Fitness” & Danny: I can tell you now, those inverted commas are going to bug the shit out of me until they get eliminated. It’s either his name, or it’s not. This show’s never had trouble calling people by nicknames before (Kynt & Vyxsin spring to mind, as do Flight Time and Big Easy), so I don’t get the sudden urge to get all trigger-happy with the inverted commas. Anyway, the show didn’t even bother to pretend that they hadn’t been cast because Jersey Shore is a hot property right now, and these two lived up to the lunkheadedness required of them, right up to Danny’s refusal to learn to drive stick, even after his mother suggested it might have been a good idea. They’re only really still around thanks to the idiocy of…
Misa & Maiya: I don’t think I’ve ever gone from rooting for a team to thinking that elimination would be an act of kindness quite so quickly with anyone before. Not only did they stumble in the needle-in-a-haystack task that began the race (could’ve happened to anyone), but then Misa drove the car off the road and got it stuck in the sand (understandable, but a poor omen), then they decided to leave their bags in the car while doing the empanada task (idiotic) and then somehow managed to WALK AWAY FROM THE PITSTOP (epic fail). It’s not even that they didn’t see Phil – somehow they managed to ignore the entire production crew that would’ve been right there if they’d just turned their heads a fraction to the right. I liked these two and I really didn’t want Joey & Danny to beat them, but their performance on this leg – in particular their inabilty to spot a pit stop in plain view under 20 metres away – makes me think they just weren’t cut out for this race. It was a heartbreaking elimination for them, but they just made too many errors for me to be that cut up about it.