The Amazing Race premiere recap: If the shoe fits, eat it
As a super fan of The Amazing Race, you’ve probably had to defend your choice to watch reality TV to naysayers a time or two (quick aside: imagine if it was your stone cold job!). Oh, I actually don’t even OWN a television, they might say to you. Suuuuper cool, bro—I guess you don’t enjoy FUN, or TRAVEL, or Phil Keoghan’s CHEST HAIR??? you might calmly retaliate. Well folks, get ready to get those defenses in high gear because reality TV just got…realit-i-er!
In season 31 of The Amazing Race, it’s not just any all-star season; it’s a reality all-star showdown among contestants from the CBS trifecta of Survivor, Big Brother, and of course, The Amazing Race. And some of the teams have even double dipped in the franchise waters! I appreciate that these different competitive reality experiences bring a new layer to the way that teams are able to size each other up, and I especially appreciate a couple of Survivor villains talking about how weak and dumb other teams are and then basically getting lapped by those teams in the end.
Ahhh, Chekhov’s villainous boasts: once only for Survivor—now featured right here, on The Amazing Race!
And you know one more thing I appreciate? That this premiere just embraced the zaniness of a reality-TV-based season and had these bozos chomping down on shoes for a few hours. I mean, that was simply wild. It has to be one of the most amusing Road Blocks I’ve ever seen, and I have ever so many questions about it, but before we can get to those, we have to meet our yet to be named teams (I have taken the task upon myself for now, but am highly open to suggestions):
RUPERT & LAURA (SURVIVOR), “Team Tie-Dye”: Oh Rupert, Rupert, Rupert. That presence! That voice! That omnipresent tie-dye! And now it’s all on The Amazing Race along with his incredibly kind and gentle wife Laura who also competed on Survivor: Blood vs. Water. I will note that Rupert and Laura both say in their CBS bios that “getting lost” is the thing that scares them most about traveling and…hey, facing your fears can be really healthy.
JANELLE & BRITNEY (BIG BROTHER), “The BBBlondes”: I will shoot you straight from the jump and tell you that I don’t watch Big Brother so I am at something of a disadvantage in assessing these teams. But of all the Big Brother Blondes, these appear to be the BBBlondest. Janelle seems to be something of a BB legend with three seasons under her belt and Britney is like her mentee that turned on her and got her evicted in their shared season. I am into this dynamic.
LEO & JAMAL (THE AMAZING RACE) “The Afghanimals”: Oh, hey fellas, it’s been too long! The hair is shorter, the egos (allegedly) toned down, but these are definitely the same spirited Afghanimals from back-to-back season 23 and 24. Now, these cousins have a daughter (Jamal) and a cat (Leo), so in addition to mature haircuts, they also now have mature motivations.
NICOLE & VICTOR (BIG BROTHER), “Team Vicole”: Is it my most creative team name ever? No. But I only know what these two have told me, and that makes them seem like they deserve an adorable couple’s portmanteau. They met on their season of Big Brother where Nicole voted Victor out three times, so he didn’t vote for her to win in the end, but she won anyway, and then they fell in looooove.
TYLER & KOREY (THE AMAZING RACE), “Team Torey”: That brings me to my old school fav portmanteau from the TAR social media season. Tyler has only gotten more famous (8 million YouTube subscribers!) and Korey handles all the behind-the-scenes production work for his best bud. They seem just as pleasant and hilarious as ever, but guess what else: they’re jacked now!!!
COLIN & CHRISTIE (THE AMAZING RACE), “Team Med”: Hell yeah, take it aaaaall the way back to TAR season 5 with that clip of Colin cursing out oxen: “My ox is broken, THIS IS BULLS—!” But listen here—Colin says they’re a lot less intense now. Thanks much in part to Christie’s career as a life coach, they practice regular mediation.
BECCA & FLOYD (THE AMAZING RACE), “Team Fun”: Becca and Floyd are new kids on the block in this lineup, fresh from TAR season 29, but they made a big impression, didn’t they? It’s hard to believe they were strangers when they started racing and now they’ve returned as total besties. Floyd jokes that they’re dating, but nope—just regular ol’ freestyle rappin’ BFFs.
ART & JJ (THE AMAZING RACE), “Team Patrol”: Art and JJ had a tough final leg in season 20 of TAR, sputtering out when they were just about to win the whole thing. JJ says they didn’t really talk about it for five years, but now they’re ready for redemption. I hope you’re not a fan of uplifting, full-circle narratives…
RACHEL & ELISSA (BIG BROTHER), “SisterSister”: Oh, our girl Rachel is back, and maybe having her sister alongside her is the key to being able to root for her. After all, if Brendon isn’t there, she can’t completely lose it on him! Now, Elissa, who has only competed on one season of Big Brother, is racing this first leg in a sensible bike short and sports top. Rachel is wearing a coordinating spandex outfit that is…a dress. She ran the first leg of The Amazing Race in a short spandex dress. In an episode where people eat shoes, it is the height of lunacy.
CHRIS & BRETT (SURVIVOR), “The Odd Couple”: These two! Bret the Boston cop and Chris the country lawyer might just deserve their own sitcom, but for now, we’ll have to settle for getting their clashing accents and very cute friendship in TAR bits and pieces.
CORINNE & ELIZA (SURVIVOR), “Team Villain”: Hey, they called themselves villains. And then they went all in on proving it. They talked about the time Corinne accused another Survivor contestant of faking tears about her deceased father, and I honestly can’t believe sweet little sister show TAR would roll the clip, but they did. Then Corrinne and Eliza listed all the teams they saw as “easy pickings” including Victor and Nicole for seeming dumb, Rupert for being old, and Rachel and Elissa for “looking like they lost a bet.” Let’s see how they fared against them, shall we?
Now it’s off to the rrrrrrace around the world, which begins in sunny L.A., where the 11 starting teams have to dig through a sand sculpture of an octopus to find their first clue. This doesn’t sound like a particularly difficult task until the teams sprint over to said octopus and it is huge and they have no guide, they just have to start digging. Dig they do, where they learn that they’re flying to TOKYO, JAPAN and being dropped off in the middle of Shibuya, home of the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing.
In this completely overwhelming atmosphere, the 11 teams have to hunt for their second clue at one of two places: Tokyo Tokyo Restaurant or ABC Lock & Security. But each only hold a certain number of clues, so they have to hope they choose the right place first. In many ways, the leg is won and lost in the race to find these establishments. Most of the teams that were slow here never fully recovered. The teams that had the most success with finding the clues were the ones that immediately charged out and started asking people to help them without allowing themselves to be overwhelmed by the sheer overwhelmingness of Shibuya. (Also the teams that got to Tokyo Tokyo Restaurant first because it was much easier to find.)
Once found, the clue led to the ROADBLOCK: WHO WANTS A NEW PAIR OF SHOES. This first leg featured two Roadblocks, the first of which was an absolute doozy. “Inspired by Japanese game shows that are famous for their cringe-worthy entertainment,” Phil tells us, one person from each team has to request a Japanese sandal from a room full of Japanese sandals and then bite into that sandal to see if it is made of chocolate or wood. Only 12 of the sandals in the store full of sandals are made of chocolate and they truly seem identical to the wooden sandals so there is no rhyme or reason to picking.
The record for the most amount of wooden sandals bitten goes to Victor with 43 attempts, and the least goes to Janelle, who does not have to bite a single wooden sandal, she hits chocolate on her first try. It is incredible. Worse than chomping into wood though, the contestants appear to have to eat the whole chocolate shoe once they’ve found it, which is…a lot of chocolate!
Especially considering the next ROADBLOCK: WHO WANTS TO CLIMB MOUNT FUJI. Phil, that jokester, briefly makes it seem like one contestant from each team is about to have to scale Japan’s tallest peak, but no—still in the tradition of a Japanese game show, they have to climb a 20-foot toy summit that’s slicked up, and holds the clue at the tippety-top on how to find the PIT STOP at ATAGO JINJA.
Oh yeah, and they’ll be wearing spandex unitards and giant wigs because, why not?! The Afghanimals arrive first and it takes Leo a few slides down the summit, but he eventually figures it out. Most everyone else seems to scale right up with no problem. That includes Bret, who somehow doesn’t realize he is supposed to get the clue at the top and shouts “Alright, I’m coming down!” much to Chris’ silent dismay. Then he has to get the energy to get himself back up there. Corrinne has a bit of trouble with her clue too but luckily moves pretty quickly because—if you can believe—for all their talk about how unprepared the other teams were, Team Villain struggled through each and every part of the leg.
But no one struggles more than Team Tie-Dye and Team Patrol. Rupert and Laura seem to have real directional issues, or maybe it’s context clue issues, but they wander around the park where the second Roadblock is for two hours before locating a map and finding it. It’s…unbelievable. And were it not for some rather wild circumstances, it would have lost them the game. Also hanging in the back of the pack was Team Patrol, but they made it to the summit well before Team Tie-Dye, and Art began his ascent…and Art began his ascent…and Art began his ascent…and he simply could not do it.
The man tried but he was having a complete physical breakdown. He was convinced he couldn’t do it, and then his legs cramped up and he really couldn’t do it. JJ told him they’d just have to take the four-hour penalty, and for a little while, it truly seemed like Rupert and Laura could stay lost in that park for four hours. Alas…
- THE AFGHANIMALS: Oh, I do love a redemption arc. The last time Leo and Jamal went to Japan, they were eliminated from The Amazing Race, and this time—they won the very first leg.
- TEAM MED
- TEAM TOREY
- TEAM FUN
- TEAM VICOLE
- THE ODD COUPLE
- TEAM VILLAIN
- TEAM TIE-DYE, Phil saying “because another team took a penalty, I’m pleased to tell you that you are team 10” sounded a liiiittle shady to me, but nothing could dampen the joy of Rupert and Laura just barely skating into the mat in a lubed up spandex suit.
ELIMINATED: ART & JJ. It was a brutal end for these two, as they clearly didn’t give the performance they wanted to. But I hope they had a good time and I really hope they talk this through before five more years roll around.
So what are your hopes and dreams for this season of CBS all-stars? Are you ready to reality rumble? Do you have better team names for any of the remaining 10? Have you ever eaten a shoe? Sound off in the comments!
Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.