Season 17 of The Amazing Race takes off in Gloucester, MA. Right away we meet our 11 teams, Brook and Claire (the home shopping hosts), Chad and Stephanie (the fast movers), Katie and Rachel (the volleyball players), Connor and Jonathan (the Gleeks), Nat and Kat (the doctors, STAT!), Michael and Kevin (the asian sensations), Nick and Vicki (the tattooed dimwits), Ron and Tony (Broadway BFFs), Jill and Thomas (the . . . normal couple who is perfect for this show), Mallory and Gary (Miss Kentucky and Dad Kentucky), and Andie and Jenna (the biologically reunited). And our host, Phil, who kind of looks like a vampire, but only because that's popular these days.
There's a new twist this season: The Express Pass. If a team wins an express pass, they can use it at any time with any challenge they don't want to complete. So basically they can skip a whole task. Immediately everyone is thinking back on times this season when a team could have used that blessed pass. Phil drops another bomb: there are two flights leaving for their first destination but one of them leaves thirty minutes earlier and there's only room for three teams on board!
So, with $100, the teams will fly to London to visit Stonehenge (this is Amazing Race slow pitch--they speak English in England). And they get to drive SmartCars to the airport. Already the home shopping hosts Brook and Claire are driving me nuts. It's their job to always be talking and making "cute" conversation, so you can't blame them for doing what they know best. It's just annoying.
Ron and Tony are first to the ticket counter, securing them a spot on that first flight out. Chad and Stephanie arrive second but mistakenly wait in the wrong line, which immediately sets Chad off and sets him apart as the biggest doucher this season. Jill and Thomas get on the first flight, followed by Chad and Stephanie. Katie and Rachel, the volleyball biotches, are in a near fourth and must catch the second flight. The teams meet each other at the airport and share the nicknames they've already given the other teams ("Sunshine" and "Team Glee," for example). Also, Connor (or is it Jonathan?) looks like Harry Potter.
Once the teams arrive in England, they all realize they have to drive on the other side of the car, and they must be able to drive a stick, left-handed. Pretty much everyone gets lost, but only Chad gets angry within seconds. Stephanie excuses his behavior with "he was a football player." So what? he has 'roid rage? In the car, we learn that Nat has diabetes but it's not slowing her down at all. You go, girl doctors! While other teams are getting lost, Andie and Jenna (who the Gleeks are calling "The Gilmore Girls") are having trouble driving a stick shift and the car dies in the middle of the street.
Nat and Kat are the first to Stonehenge and get a clue sending them to Eastnor Castle. Jill and Thomas, and Katie and Rachel are close behind. Meanwhile, no one is more lost than Ron and Tony. The Gleeks and Team Kentucky Pride decide to work together to find Eastnor Castle.
At Eastnor Castle, the teams must "storm the castle" (climb a ladder while having actors yell at and dump muddy water on them) to collect a flag and the next clue. After that task slows no one down, the teams must find a boat and carry their flag across the water. Meanwhile, the Gleeks leave Kentucky Pride behind as they are stuck changing a flat tire. The "boats" turn out to be shell-shaped husks that sink very, very quickly. Balance is key, and troublesome for Chad and Stephanie (he used to play football, you know). The volleyball mean girls have elected to call Chad and Stephanie "Tinkerbell and the Boyfriend," which works just fine for me.
Ron and Tony, their confidence shaken, are just now getting lost on their way to Eastnor Castle. And Chad is yelling at Stephanie because the boat keeps capsizing. It's obviously ALL HER FAULT; GOD, STEPHANIE! There's hope for Ron and Tony, because Andie and Jenna and Nick and Vicki are also lost. Vicki says, "I need kindergarten directions, obviously."
After making it across the pond (har har), teams must ride a horse with the knight matching their flag, topple a suit of armor with a watermelon slingshot, and get a clue from a jester who probably doesn't get paid enough. For some reason, everyone thought this Road Block was all about riding horses. But of course, we know from the internet that this is all about the watermelon slingshot. And we clap our hands together giddily, "it's coming!"
Jill and Thomas are the first to topple their suit of armor and find Phil in a meadow with good news and the Express Pass. Soon after, a watermelon has bad news and a headache for Claire. Really, no one could have known this would happen (and I'm still not sure I understand the physics of how it DID happen). But one giant hemorrhage and a meaningless sentiment ("they don't call it The Amazing Race for nothin'") later, Claire topples the knight and we wish we could put a watermelon in Brook's mouth. Just let them finish so we don't have to listen to her anymore! Kat and Nat come in second, Connor and Jonathan in third, with Brook and Claire in a close fourth. Katie and Rachel come in fifth.
Michael and Kevin, in a charming father-son moment, try standing up in their little round boat. Andie and Jenna, Nick and Vicki, and Ron and Tony are still driving. No one had more fun storming the castle than Gary and Mallory, who quickly won a place in my heart. Gary and Mallory float easily past Michael and Kevin, who learn by example how to balance the boat. Chad and Stephanie can't find the Pit Stop, running around even searching inside the castle. It's interesting, because the other teams found the Pit Stop pretty much right away. Nick and Vicki beat Ron and Tony to the castle, but have trouble figuring out what a "battlement" is and can't find their flag. And the flag was literally right in front of them. "Oh my god, we're so dumb, it was like, right there!" Vicki says. Self-awareness is an important first step.
As Nick and Vicki fail to find the boats right in front of them, Chad and Stephanie continue their search for the Pit Stop. If The Amazing Race is providing an accurate sample, we can determine that prolonged exposure to hair products affects two out of three hairstylists. Nick and Vicki finally find their boat, as Ron and Tony storm the castle. Gary and Mallory and Michael and Kevin arrive at the Pit Stop in 6th and 7th place, respectively, beating Chad and Stephanie who finally meet Phil to come in 8th.
Unfortunately, Ron and Tony have a weight discrepancy that prevents them from floating right across. They sink, in every way possible, as Andie and Jenna come in 9th and Nick and Vicki land their tattoos in 10th place. Phil asks Nick and Vicki, "what's the name of this country?" Vicki says, "we're in London, right?" We just have to move on, you're still in the race, Nick and Vicki. Ron and Tony come in last, and I want to cry because I really liked them. But what a first episode! We've got some real contenders, and some real idiots this season.
What did you think of the premiere? Are you sad to see Ron and Tony go (or Nick and Vicki stay)? Who are you rooting for? Check back tomorrow for the biggest face-palms of the night!
(image courtesy of CBS)