Complete strangers team up to win a million dollars. Phil does not make it easy!

By Lincee Ray
March 30, 2017 at 11:00 PM EDT
Trae Patton/CBS

The Amazing Race

S29 E1
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  • TV Show
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For almost a decade, contestants on The Amazing Race have tested their limits running around the world, hoping to make themselves a million dollars richer by the end of their journey. The same is true with season 29. Twenty-two individuals will visit nine countries, 17 cities, and clock 36,000 miles.

Only this time, they will partner with complete strangers.

The competition begins in Los Angeles, where the master Phil Keoghan welcomes the gang with a simple challenge: Pick up a piece of luggage that has a Panama flag tag. He gives three quick directional instructions, and eager contestants fly off in a flurry.

Many do not know their east from their west. The wise ones follow Scott — an L.A. resident. Once in the luggage store, a second problem arises. There are dozens upon dozens of suitcases with flag tags that look similar to one another. Does anyone know what the Panamanian flag looks like?

Why yes! Floyd does! He memorized all of the flags because he’s a young whippersnapper who has time for such endeavors. (What did you do with your spare time today? I folded clothes.)

One by one, the contestants make their way back to Phil, huffing and puffing, carrying large suitcases. He checks each tag, makes Joey turn around and try again because he didn’t have the correct flag, and then lines everyone up according to the time in which they made it back.

Based on order, Phil allows No. 1 to choose his partner from the rest of the lineup. No. 2 is next, and so on. Let’s meet our teams!

Seth and Olive, #TeamAmerica
Police officer, meet the lady firefighter. Seth is strategic and picks the first lady across the line. Many rib Olive that he picked her for other reasons, but she’s confident she’s not his type. Newsflash: He has a boyfriend.

Matt and Redmond, #TheBoys
Matt is a professional snowboarder and has a gold medal from the X-Games to prove it. He’s looking for someone who will stop at nothing to achieve his or her goals. Redmond is an obvious choice since he has a prosthetic leg. If anyone has a “never give up” attitude, it’s this former Navy corpsman.

Shamir and Sara , #TheSandSExpress
Shamir straight-up admits he wants to team up with the hot girl. He’s a banker, and she’s a luxury real estate agent. He thinks Sara is smoking and she’s hyped that Shamir can speak Spanish. It’s a match made in pretty people heaven.

Scott and Brooke, #TeamBrookeandScott
Brooke is a lawyer and might have trouble if you keep telling her what to do or how to act. Scott wants you to know that he is smart and gay. Brooke enthusiastically screams, “Team Will and Grace!” That does not fly. Notice the hashtag. Within minutes, they are on each other’s nerves.

Becca and Floyd, #TeamFun
Becca is here for the F-U-N and picks “Urkel” as her partner. She lives in Boulder. He goes to the University of Colorado at Boulder. Both parties are pumped by this revelation. It rivals the excitement upon the discovery that they have the first Express Pass. I predict they will be fast friends and Becca will buy him beer.

Vanck and Ashton, #TeamVankandAston
Just as Ashton confesses she wants someone tall as a partner, nerdy Vanck chooses her to be his partner. He’s a numbers guy who is vertically challenged. He also speaks in math terms, like, “Take a 130-degree right turn.” There are not enough eye rolls in the world for Ashton, but I have high hopes that they will surprise viewers.

Tara and Joey, #TeamMomandDad
Tara is an Army officer who takes pity on Joey, a police sergeant, by picking him even though he comes in last place after the very first challenge. She said he looks mature. That’s code for old.

London and Logan, #TeamLoLo
London is a street artist. She loves to create things with yarn. Logan has a stellar smile. Viewers are going to ship LoLo. I imagine London is already picking out bridesmaid dresses in blush and bashful. I would be, if I were her.

Jenn and Kevin, #LongHairDontCare
Jenn and Kevin are both Asians who choose to “follow the white people” during the suitcase challenge. They are extremely laid back and joke about how they look like siblings.

Michael and Liz, #TeamLizandMike
Michael is an intimidating looking butcher who is immediately given the nickname Red Beard. Liz wears cowboy boots on her first day. This isn’t the farm, Liz. Rookie mistake.

Jessie and Francesa, #SwoleSisters
Jessie is a K-9 police officer who is technically stuck with U.S. Army solider Francesca. Jessie had “words” during the challenge after Francesca, whom Jessie was following, realized she was going the wrong way. Whatever. They will make the best of it because they are muscly and “swole.” P.S. Since they didn’t get to participate in picking a partner, Phil offers to drive them to LAX himself before the next challenge.

The first clue is in the luggage. Phil instructs everyone to take a cab to LAX. There are two flights, so if you want to make it to Panama first, you have to hustle. Once in Panama, teams have to pick up a rental car and make their way to the Panama Canal.

Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. Without signs to direct them, most teams have a hard time finding the Panama Canal. Many are frustrated that no one speaks English, which is odd since they are in P-A-N-A-M-A. At least Jenn admitted that she speaks better Spanish when she’s drunk. Pass the rum.

Seth and Olive are the first to arrive after hours driving the wrong way. The route information instructs them to drive to the Panama Rain Forest Discovery Center and search for a clue on top of the Canopy Tower. There they find our first DETOUR: SHOOT or SCOOT.

SHOOT: Get in a canoe, row to a bunch of wooden fish stuck on poles, and take two down using an old-timey bow and arrow.

SCOOT: Get in a canoe and go head to head with a bunch of professional rowers.

It’s a hot mess on both ends. Once contestants actually make it out to the wooden fish, they can’t execute the bow and arrow portion of the challenge. Only Becca is able to channel her inner Katniss Everdeen to get the job done. All the other teams who choose this first quickly detour back to rowing.

Like I said before, it is a hot mess. Luckily, producers give the rowers a few advantages, knowing that they would never be able to beat a bunch of professionals. Each time you don’t win, you can try again starting closer to the finish line. Many feel the burn. Several tip over in their canoes. Scott and Redmond kill it on their second try, which baffles Will and Grace, er, Brooke and Scott.

Olive and Seth are still in the lead, and after their third try rowing, they get directions to the PIT STOP. They take the Cinta Costera, a winding coastal beltway, and meet Phil and Miss Panama by the huge Panamanian flag.

RANKINGS:

1. Seth and Olive — Strong team who was in the lead the entire time.
2. Becca and Floyd — Becca has a literal fun meter. Floyd is mesmerized by her.
3. Matt and Redmond — They have the biggest chance to rally against Seth and Olive.
4. Brooke and Scott — He may strangle her when this is all said and done.
5. Shamir and Sara — I predict they will be a dark horse.
6. Tara and Joey — I’m not sure how they pulled ahead of others.
7. Vanck and Ashton — Vanck: “I shot a bow and arrow once in gym class.” I love this guy.
8. London and Logan — I agree with Phil. Both are easy to look at.
9. Jessie and Francesca — I hope they get BeFri necklaces.
10. Michael and Liz — I thought Michael was going to cry. But he didn’t.

Kevin and Jenn were technically the tenth team to arrive at the PIT STOP, but since they didn’t finish their rowing challenge before the sun set, they were penalized two hours. Michael and Liz came rolling in before the hours were up and claimed the tenth spot.

It’s okay. Team LongHairDontCare are currently sharing hair care products and styling secrets on the long flight back home.

What did you think of the season 29 premiere? Do you have a favorite team? Who are the LoLo shippers out there? That would be me.

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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.
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