The Amazing Race is trying to pretend that season 29 is a brand-new twist with its cast of all strangers. Everyone would like to forget the Blind Date season, but it did happen. The thing that does separate season 29 from the maligned Blind Date season is that the cast gets to pick their partners this time around. This new wrinkle occurs by having the race “begin” before the teams even get off the start line. This “hit the ground running” theme is emblematic of the whole season premiere as these pairs of strangers are aggressively ready to play the game, and it couldn’t be more entertaining to watch.

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Meet the Teams

The challenge that begins the race in the premiere, titled “We’re Coming for You, Phil!” is that each individual contestant must race to two luggage stores. Once inside the stores, they must find a suitcase with a Panama flag, which is the race’s first location. The contestants must take their suitcase back to Phil on the start line. It’s a first come, first pick situation, so the contestants get to pick their partner in order of when they bring the suitcases back to Phil. Once the suitcases are delivered, the teams are ordered as follows:

  • Seth (one of our many police officers this season) and Olive (a female firefighter)
  • Matt (a former X-Gamer) and Redmond (a Navy veteran with one leg)
  • Logan (a generic good-looking guy) and London (a generic good-looking girl)
  • Shamir (who is so the villain this season) and Sara (Shamir calls her “the hot chick”)
  • Scott (a self-described gay redhead) and Brooke (she wants to be the Grace to Scott’s Will)
  • Becca (a dorky rock climbing instructor) and Floyd (a dorky drum major)
  • Ashton (who wants a strong hunky partner) and Vanck (who is neither of those things)
  • Jenn (an Asian model) and Kevin (an Asian surfer dude)
  • Michael (a genius who looks like a biker) and Liz (who is lost in the shadow of Michael’s beard)
  • Jerry (a police officer who comes in last place) and Tara (who takes pity on Jerry) 
  • Jessie (a literal Amazon woman/cop) and Francesca (a slighter shorter Amazon woman/drill sergeant)

Jessie and Francesca are stuck with one another, not getting to pick, so they get privately chauffeured by Phil to the airport. (It doesn’t do much to help them.) Meanwhile everyone else gets acquainted with one another and realizes that they have (or haven’t) made a huge mistake. The quick and immediate partnerships form between Seth and Olive, who are the actual Will and Grace of the season; Matt and Redmond, who are undeniable physical threats; and Becca and Floyd, who are just adorable nerds. Jenn and Kevin also get along quite well, but they seem helplessly dazed and confused from the jump. 

On the other side of the coin, there are plenty of other teams who are not feeling the love. It becomes very clear that Scott has no desire to be Brooke’s gay best friend. The life slowly leaves Ashton’s eyes as she learns that Vanck is king of the nerds and not anywhere close to the hunk she wanted. Michael doesn’t seem particularly pleased with Liz either, but Michael doesn’t seem particularly pleased about anything. 


Scoot or Shoot (Me in the Head)

With all the interpersonal drama going on, The Amazing Race doesn’t bother with the usual challenges. There is just one Detour before the first Pit Stop. During the Detour, the teams must take to the Panama River with a choice of Scoot or Shoot. In Scoot, the teams must hop in a canoe and race against a professional oar racing team. In Shoot, they have to shoot wooden fish sticking out of the water with a crude bow and arrow.  

Shoot looks like the most fun for the teams, but Scoot provides the bigger enjoyment for the audience. In Shoot, only one member of the team really has to shoot all the fish, so there is not much teamwork involved at all. In Scoot, it is very much a team effort, and having to race against professionals really brings out the best and worst in the teams. Seth and Olive take a few tries — each failed attempt gets the teams a new head start — but they do end up getting first in the race overall. They are the obvious frontrunners. Matt and Redmond completely smoke it in Scoot, though, and cement themselves as the physical threats.

As good as Seth and Oliver, and Matt and Redmond, do, Scott and Brooke equally cement themselves as the two that will constantly be bickering all season. Scott and Brooke’s squabbling is small potatoes to Ashton and Vanck, however. These two try both Detours, but neither option gives them both what they really want: a new partner. In fact, Ashton may need a new partner if she is going to survive this season based on the lifeless thousand-yard stare she has every time she finishes a conversation with Vanck.

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The Panamanian Waiting Game

Ashton and Vanck might hate each other, but they at least finish the leg in relatively good standing. Michael and Liz are a complete disaster, on the other hand. Liz has never used a paddle in her life, so she is the exact opposite of an asset on the water, and Michael doesn’t take well to having to be the star of the team. (Though, in all fairness to Liz, Michael seems to be just as much a hindrance to their success as she is.)

Michael and Liz might suck at the Detour, but they do find it. Kevin and Jenn are not so lucky. Kevin and Jenn are a lot of fun together, but they are dreadful at navigating. They are hopelessly lost the second they touch down in Panama. They don’t make it to the Detour until the sun is setting, and Michael and Liz have failed so many times that their head start is basically at the finish line. 

Kevin and Jenn get one attempt at the Detour, but afterwards it is completely dark. For safety reasons, they can’t compete again. So they get to drive right to the Pit Stop. They do beat Michael and Liz to the finish, but because they couldn’t complete the Detour, they incur a two-hour penalty. ‘Penalty’ does seem like a harsh word for it because The Amazing Race producers are the ones who forbid them from competing, but it is understandable. It sucks, but they should have some limitations pushed on them because Michael and Liz did complete the Detour. 

The two-hour penalty ends up being Jenn and Kevin’s doom. While Michael and Liz are a mess, they aren’t that much of a mess to be three hours late to the Pit Stop. They easily come in under Kevin and Jenn’s time penalty. Kevin and Jenn are the first team eliminated from this season of the race.  

I’d much rather have seen Michael and Liz go, but what do you think? Who are you favorite teams so far this season? Are you happy that Michael and Liz made it or would you rather have seen Kevin and Jenn stay? Should any team have gone home in this first leg or should it have been a non-elimination round? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.


The Amazing Race season 29 airs Thursdays at 10/9c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Amazing Race Facebook page.

(Image courtesy of CBS)