Welcome back TAR historians—27 seasons, can you believe it?! Though last season experimented with pairing strangers together to drive Phil crazy with the anticipation of eventually getting to officiate a wedding born of The Amazing Race (damn you, Chris Harrison!), this season is back to the normal TAR we’ve grown to love through 26 seasons of life-threatening massages, impossible memory challenges, and more helicopter rides than the Bachelor franchise could ever hope for (hah, take that, Harrison!).
Well…it’s mostly back to normal. The goal of the casting folks this season seemed to be to get as many bonkers occupations in one cast as possible—goat farmers and Globetrotters be damned, paparazzi has to be the most unexpected occupation we’ve seen yet. And we’ll get to the TMZ employees… oh, we’ll get to them. Personally, I’m feeling very excited about this cast. Even though the most obvious Villains have already gone home, there are plenty of solid Underdogs left to root for, a few obvious Frontrunners, and some Seemingly Silly Teams That Just Might Surprise You—SSTTJMS for short. I find something very endearing about those cheerleaders and their masters degrees and their crocodile tears and the way they say “fustrated” with only one of the Rs. (Sadly, the risk we ran of TAR‘s first-ever homicide with Hayley and Blair has almost entirely diminished this season)
So let’s get right down to the 11 teams who have come together at Venice Beach—possibly the hippest beach in the world, according to Phil, wearer of cargo pants and a Panama hat—to compete for $1 million and the glory of being the 27th champion of this rrrrrrrrace around the world!
GREEN TEAM, Justin & Diana: These two are fans of The Amazing Race. Justin tricked now-fiancé Diana into thinking they were competing in an online version of the Race, hired a cameraman, planned Road Blocks and Detours over six states, two countries, and 5,000 miles to propose to her under the Northern Lights in a video that went viral. And while Diana was probably like, “So… we’re not on The Amazing Race, then?” it’s still cool, and hey, they’re here now! Jason’s personal, uh, passion for the Race will become abundantly clear throughout the episode.
THE TEXANS, Tanner & Josh: This episode’s titular beefcakes say flirtation is “probably our biggest strategy.” While that is a truly useless TAR strategy, and I doubt they’re exactly Parvati from Survivor, I will give it to these bros that they can really wear a tank top.
COUSINS, Alex & Adam: These cousins have a form of dwarfism called Pseudoachondroplasia, but they’ve never let it slow them down; they say they’re planning to be a sleeper team.
THE DOCTORS, Cindy & Rick: We’ve had our fair share of doctors and dentists lately, but Cindy (the dentist) and Rick (the OBGYN) seem to be slightly more laidback than the typical Type-A TAR MDs (TATARMDs, for short).
TEAM ALABAMA, Denise & James: Okay…these two have some things riding on The Amazing Race. Denise and her son James were close as could be when he was growing up, and they have the ’90s karate mall pics to prove it. But Denise didn’t originally handle James coming out as gay very well, and while she’s grown a lot now, they still have some room to go: “I used to be his hero and I don’t feel like I’m his hero anymore, but maybe after this race, I will be again.” Oh my gosh, PLEASE LET THIS WORK OUT OKAY!
THE RUNNERS, Jazmine & Danielle: Sporty, spunky, and gorgeous, part 1, Jazmine and Danielle were champion track runners and college and best buds now.
TEAM PAPARAZZI, Logan & Chris: I am just fascinated by this profession, and especially, these two people in it. Logan and Chris seem totally laidback and nice, and not at all like the jerks professional celebrity photogs are often depicted to be. But they’re pretty clear about why they chase Kanye and Bieber for a living: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.
THE CHEERLEADERS, Krista & Tiffany: Sporty, spunky, and gorgeous, part 2, Krista and Tiffany are former NFL cheerleaders from Staten Island and New Jersey, but they say not to be fooled by the makeup and perfectly teased hair… they’re smart cookies with the will to win.
REPORTERS, Kelsey & Joey: These news anchors from Santa Barbara have the unfortunate task of talking like news producers anytime the producers tell them to, which includes, in the cab, getting off the plane, at the Pit Stop mat, etc.
TMZ SMACK-TALKERS, Kelly & Chevonne: Okay. OKAY. I’m not going to say that these two aren’t funny sometimes—they are. But it’s hard to root for a team whose background footage has one of them saying, “She’s, like, the most awful pregnant person,” and then following it up with this explanation of their job as TMZ gossipers: “We’re truth-tellers.” Even Team Paparazzi is like, “These effin’ guys…”
STREET DANCERS, Ernest & Jin: On the opposite end of the lovability spectrum, but equally full of eye-bugging quotes are these professional street performers: “A lot of people get eliminated, they get to go back home. We get eliminated there’s no home to go back to.” H’oh boy These earnest pals are living in their cars right now, dancing for a living. Rarely is there such a solid reason to root for a team to take home the million.
NEXT: Fast Forward to Rio!