The seventeenth season of The Amazing Race began with Phil Keoghan patrolling around Gloucester, Massachusetts, the oldest seaport in America. (Also the country’s oldest art colony. Who knew there were hippies in the mid-1800s?) Lobster boats carried the twenty-two contestants to the starting line. Let’s do a quick rundown of who we’re dealing with:
Brook and Claire: Home-shopping television hosts from Reno, Team QVC has the advantage of a great screen presence and the disadvantage of not being able to shut up ever. Well, Claire’s not so bad. But Brook can’t stop the verbal flow. “We’re such great communicators,” she said Reaganly, “We can manipulate anyone.” Even the French?
Chad and Stephanie: They started dating eight months ago, just purchased a home together, and Chad plans to ask for her hand in marriage sometime this season. “How adorable!” I thought. Then the race started, and Chad turned into Captain Anger. I give them until Eastern Europe.
Nat and Kat: A self-proclaimed “team of nerds,” the doctor pals seem more than capable in the physical challenges and have a collective 50 years of education. Like all doctors, they’re capable of running without sleep for days. Also, they administer blood-glucose tests while driving on an English freeway at 120 km/hr. Also, their names rhyme. My early pick to win it all.
Connor and Jonathan: From some clown college called Princeton. A cappella singers, but don’t hold that against them. Unless they constantly sing. Which, based on last night’s episode, they do.
Kate and Rachel: Bikinis!
Michael and Kevin: Michael is an immigrant. Kevin is second-generation Asian-American and a YouTube sensation. I’m intrigued to see how their generation/cultural gap plays out on the run, but something tells me these two are going far.
Nick and Vicki: Bikers with tattoos who seem uniquely ill-prepared to travel anywhere, but idiot savants have a good history in Race.
Jill and Thomas: A dating couple from Marina Del Rey, they look remarkably similar to Chad and Stephanie, except that Thomas’s face is stuck in a perpetual “I-am-the-Prince-of-Darkness” scowl. (He attended some clown college called Notre Dame.)
Gary and Mallory: Miss Kentucky 2009, but unlike last season’s semi-literate beauty queen, Mallory stole my brain-heart with her gun-toting blonde-bombshell act (her dad happily notes that he wanted a boy) and her tendency to scream at everything like Mickey Rooney in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Ron and Tony: Best friends from Los Angeles who met doing a performance of The Wiz. Ron attended some clown college called Stanford. Tony runs like the T-1000. After ten minutes, they were my pick to win it all. This is why I don’t gamble.
Andi and Jenna: Recently reunited mother-daughter pair. If I heard right, the race is only the third time they’ve actually been together. Expect either life-affirming achievement or magnificent awkwardness. Already christened “The Gilmore Girls” by Jonathan, so perhaps a Princeton education is still worth something.
Phil rocked the contestants’ world with a game-changing new element: whoever came in first today would get an Express Pass, a get-out-of-a-challenge-free card. Another curveball: the contestants could catch two flights to England, but one flight would arrive a half-hour early – and there was only room for three teams on that flight.
NEXT: They go to that picnic area with the big boulders.