Prior to tonight, I had no idea what a Northern Trust Open was. Now I know it’s a non-football related program that runs late and pushes back the East Coast premiere of The Amazing Race, forcing me to sit through the last third of 60 Minutes. Apparently some guy in Norway is quite the chess player. I’m much richer for that knowledge, so thanks, 60 Minutes.
The season 20 premiere kicked off with Phil telling 11 duos that at the end of the first leg, one team would win an Express Pass, another would be eliminated and the others could just scramble around for the other rankings.
Three teams stood out immediately from the pack: Dave and Cherie, because they’re married career clowns, and Brendon and Rachel, who are also career clowns, but of the reality TV variety (they met on Big Brother and are engaged now). Two fortysomething best friends from Kentucky also made an impression, but that was mostly because one of them is named Bopper. Hellllloooooo baaaaby!!
The first challenge turned out to be surprisingly problematic for half of the duos, almost to the point that it seemed unfair. The 11 teams were set loose on an uphill vineyard filled with hot air balloons: Some baskets had clue cards, most didn’t.
Five teams found clues and were rolling immediately, following instructions to drive their ambitious behinds to LAX and head to Argentina. While several teams were already at the airport, others huffed and puffed around the field pulling down one empty balloon basket down after another. For a first challenge, it really seemed to have to do more with luck than skill, but I suppose no one said reality TV life is fair.
Once in Argentina, the teams found clue cards forcing them to decide which team member had the best sense of direction. I was surprised how quickly each team made the decision without any squabbling. In the case of the couples, it was nearly always the man whose directional abilities were singled out, as per the old stereotype.
The directionally challenged contestant was given a harrowing mandate: Jump out of a plane from 10,000 feet. Several contestants were very nervous about skydiving, including J.J., who along with Art shall henceforth be known as the Team Border Patrol, as per their day jobs patrolling the U.S. border in Southern California.
NEXT: 10,000 feet of terror give some competitors cold feet