Recap: The Amazing Race 29. Episode 1 – “We’re Coming For You, Phil!”
^^^A season of strangers. Strangers Things! Get it? No?
After series low ratings benched it for almost a year and drove it to the brink of death, The Amazing Race returns on a new night and later time. And it starts off with the show inexplicably attacking the audience with a clip of the worst winners in the history of the American Race.
Phil explains that this season will see 22 strangers team up at the Starting Line in, of course, Los Angeles. To decide who teams up with who, teams must retrieve a suitcase with the Panamanian flag from a nearby luggage store and bring it back to the Starting Line.
Sergeant Michael gets back to Phil, but with the wrong suitcase which drops him to last.
Partner choosing begins with Seth choosing Olive, the top finishing lady, to form #TeamAmerica. Pro snowboarder Matt chooses Former Navy corpsman Redmond and they’re #TheBoys. Wall Street banker Shamir chooses the lady next to him, Sara to become #TheSandSExpress.
Recruiting manager Scott picks criminal attorney Brooke and they’re generically #TeamScottandBrooke. Rock climber Becca wants “Urkel” Floyd to help her be #TeamFun. Vanck is next and he chooses Ashton who wanted a strong, hunky guy like Logan instead of a nerdy Asian. They’re #TeamVanckandAshton.
Artist London ends up picking surgical consultant Logan to become #TeamLoLo. Army officer Tara chooses “underdog” Joey and they are #TeamMomandDad. Model Jenn picks trainer Kevin to be Team #LongHairDontCare.
Michael the butcher choose “cowgirl” Liz to form #TeamLizandMike. That leaves K9 police officer Jessie and Army vet Francesca, who had a little bit of exchanged words earlier during the first task, as the last, forced team of #SwoleSisters.
Now that that mess is over with, it’s time to get to actually Racing. Teams can now hop into taxis, except Jessie & Francesca whom Phil himself will drive to the airport. Their first clues are inside the suitcases with one suitcase containing the only Express Pass of the Race (found by Becca & Floyd).
Teams learn they will be flying to Panama City, Panama on one of two flights. Catching the first flight are Matt & Redmond, Becca & Floyd, Brooke & Scott, London & Logan and Seth & Olive. Phil only manages to get Jessie & Francesca first on the second flight with everyone else.
Once in Panama, teams must pick up a non-sponsored Toyata rental car to drive themselves to Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal.
Apparently, it’s very difficult to drive to the Panama Canal. But Seth & Olive arrive first and open the clue telling teams to drive to the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center in Gamboa. The next clue is at the top of the canopy tower.
And that clue reveals the Detour: Shoot or Scoot.
In Shoot, teams will row a traditional Panamanian cayuco and use a bow and arrow to knock off two silver fish from a bamboo post.
In Scoot, teams must race against a professional crew in a modern cayuco. For every lost race, teams will get a larger head start in the next one.
Seth & Olive choose Scott while Becca & Floyd choose Shoot. Brooke & Scott choose Shoot, but quickly decide to switch.
Seth & Olive beat the pros on their 3rd attempt and can now hurry to the Pit Stop at Cinta Costera Tres where they finish 1st. Becca & Floyd are Team #2. Matt & Redmond just kill it at the Scoot Detour on their first attempt and finish Team #3. Brooke and Scott get snippy with each other, but they get over it, finish the Detour and make it to the Pit Stop as Team #4.
Shamir & Sara win the Scoot on their 3rd attempt and finish as Team #5. Tara & Joey take 6th.
After some frustration on Ashton’s part and switching Detours twice, she and Vanck finish as Team #7. London & Logan are 8th and Jessie & Francesca are 9th.
Liz & Michael struggle with the Shoot Detour, but decide to switch to Scoot. It takes them three attempts and considering quitting to finish the Detour. Jenn & Kevin are in last and after one race are told they cannot attempt the Detour anymore because it is too dark.
Jenn & Kevin end up arriving at the Mat in 10th, but are issued a two hour penalty for not completing the Detour. That allows Liz & Michael to check in as Team #10. That means Jenn & Kevin are last and eliminated.
You know you should be a little worried when even Phil, who usually talks up a season even though it’ll eventually suck, actually warns fans and potential audience that the season starts off rough.
He says it’ll pick up around Episode 3, but will people stick around that long? We’ll see.
Anyway, I guess it’s great that The Amazing Race US is back finally. But with TAR Canada 4 (meh) and TAR China 3 (great) and TAR Asia 5 (amazing!), I didn’t really have any Amazing Race withdrawal while TARUS was on the CBS bench. The future of TARUS and all that is saved for later.
For now, let’s talk about this very underwhelming season premiere. Even with the strangers gimmick, this premiere certainly didn’t provide anything big or new to hook viewers. For me, knowing this season was all strangers since last year as the Race was actually running, I guess whatever small initial shock I had dissipated quickly. TAR26’s blind date gimmick was bad, not for the strangers aspect, but the forced “love” aspect that kept getting shoved down our throats. Instead, we have normal people here who just happened to get thrown together at the Starting Line. Other than that, the Race proceed as normal.
What will make or break the season itself (not the series itself, mind you) is whether the teams can provide some dramatic spark. Casting has been a big problem for TARUS in recent years. So if these stranger danger teams can contribute more to the overall enjoyment of the Race. Then yay! So far, that wasn’t the case in the premiere. But we can only hope and trust Phil that people start yelling at each other and being uber competitive against other teams and amongst themselves once they lower their guards.
As for the episode, I think they actually spent too much time at the start and could’ve easily done intros throughout the episode instead. The episode was very heavy in front while the rest of the barebones Leg made the ep lose steam fast. I wouldn’t be surprised if the half-hour ratings showed a big dropoff because in addition to the editing, as soon as teams magically arrived in Panama, everything slowed down. Then the tension of Kevin & Jenn actually passing Michael & Liz to the Pit Stop was completely lost with the poor editing at the end after a huge chunk of the episode had no sense of time and almost no action with teams just sitting in the river.
The TAR message board class were actually worried that there would be no time to introduce teams and hoped the first hour of the originally two hour premiere would be devoted solely to teams meeting each other and paring up. Um… yeah. That would be the easiest way to drive away potential viewers, a group that is already pretty small to begin with. In reality, the original Friday two hour premiere was likely just the first two Legs.
I would assume that maybe part of the two hour premiere was because this first Leg was so barebones that they needed to pair it with Leg 2 just so actual competition actually happened on the season premiere.
First off, I did enjoy the 3 seconds of Phil driving Jessie & Francesca to the airpoirt. There should’ve been more of them and less of the Instagram photos of every single one of the 22 strangers.
The Detour was okay on paper, but being the only legit task of the Leg made it seem worse than it actually was. Tightening up the Detour scenes and the long intro scenes would’ve allowed at least one more task at least.
Now the “too dark to do anything” penalties are always dumb. Sure, blame the teams for poor Leg design. While it’s teams’ fault for getting horribly lost, I’ve always felt TAR should design tasks and Legs that can be completed regardless of time of day. Especially current TAR which highly structures their Legs to have as little logistical concern as possible, they should’ve easily designed this Leg to ensure teams would reach the Detour before nightfall.
But really, TAR has had teams rowing themselves out in open water in the dark plenty of times before. TARAu2 immediately comes to mind with teams floating on single pieces of bamboo in the Philippines at night… in the first Leg! (Please come back TARAu!)
It also would’ve made sense to make this a Non-Elimination Leg to allow for any possible tension brewing between teammates to last at least two Legs. But TARUS has an aversion to first Leg Non-Eliminations, for whatever reason. You’d think in a format that would limit the “getting to know you” stage with the teams, they would let all 11 teams get the chance to present themselves to the audience, just this once.
Overall, it was a very underwhelming premiere. Though certainly not a surprise if you’ve watched any recent TARUS season premiere. Some messy editing, a poorly designed Leg. All typical of current TAR and really indicative of why TARUS was on the CBS bench in the first place.
My Subjective Team Rankings
With the strangers format, you are looking for Hayley & Blair-type teams who hate each other, but can’t do anything but Race together. There are a few possible teams of that type here. I hope they can deliver.
Kevin & Jenn are definitely missed potential. I feel like they weren’t hustling as much during the Leg. No sense of urgency, but that could also be attributed to the poor, schizophrenic editing all episode. They’d randomly pop in for a few seconds, but we never really got the sense of how lost they really were. Otherwise, they were a fun, likeable team. Laid back… maybe too laid back? Sure. But other than their direction skills, they could’ve been a nice, competitive team you could root for who wouldn’t turn into Racebots.
Jessie & Francesca, I have high hopes for. That little exchange between them during the first task and then them forced together was fun. But afterwards, they seemed to gel quickly and showed some great potential to be a strong team both physically and personality-wise. Tara & Joey are my underdog picks. Joey started off on the wrong foot with the wrong suitcase, but I think they can easily find themselves in the thick of the Race alongside everyone else. They could be a sleeper team who goes all the way. They’ve got that vibe.
Vanck & Ashton and Scott & Brooke are the teams that have the potential for sparks to fly. And by sparks, I mean frustration and annoyance of each other. The eyerolls, the sighs; if they can pair those with solid Racing, they will be fun teams to watch.
Mike & Liz were an interesting team. Kind of bottomgoddessing their way through the Leg, but I could see them possibly just doing enough to survive a couple of Legs before breaking out and doing very well. Didn’t like the consideration of quitting, but they didn’t, so that’s fine.
Seth & Olive, Shamir & Sara, Logan & London and Matt & Redmond were all pretty quiet overall. Which probably means they’re either next to go or will go far. Compared to the others, these teams were kind of blah so far. Becca & Floyd are definitely no #TeamFun for me. Their rapping and over-enthusiasm feels too much like playing to the camera. And that’s never appealing.
Jenn: “All Asians look like they’re 12.”
Scott: “This is an Amazing Race nightmare.”
Jenn: “My Spanish is actually better when I’m drunk cuz that’s when I learned my Spanish.”
Jenn: “How do two Asians get so lost?”
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