It's going to take a while before this feels normal, isn't it?
Friday (September 28) marked a new time period premiere for “The Amazing Race,” which kicked off its 25th installment far from the Sunday 8 p.m. home in which viewers have become accustomed to football/golf/basketball delays throughout the year.
That means that instead of having Sunday come to an abrupt end in the late afternoon as I wait for “The Amazing Race” to start, a normal Friday workday just never ends. So… Yay!
Friday's “Amazing Race” premiere had the disadvantage of following a very good “Survivor” launch on Wednesday. I say it every year, but there's just not enough time in a single hour to properly introduce a full assortment of reality show contestants and also deliver satisfactory and fun challenges. So Wednesday's “Survivor” got to be 90 minutes and, perhaps as a result, I finished the premiere with a good sense of most of the castaways and a rooting interest in many of them. “The Amazing Race” stuck to an hour and I have only a cursory interest in most of the teams and a solid half of the episode seemed to be devoted to almost nothing — a series of Route Markers and flights — before the episode's lone task went a fair way toward separating favorites from fodder.
And yet, despite not being a wholly satisfying episode for its entirety, Friday's “Amazing Race” did have a rather awesome ending that left me giggling with glee, even as I was being disappointed on aesthetic levels.
Click through for what will be a quick recap, but then a listing of the remaining teams, with my first impressions…
As eye candy, I will surely miss Lisa and Michelle, highly rated realtors from Miami, who vowed to use their good looks to get ahead on “The Amazing Race.”
And for one episode, Lisa & Michelle did deliver more cleavage and pixelated crotch than some teams can provide in a full season.
But when it comes to “Amazing Race” Karma?
Oh, you've gotta love it when The Race Gods turn around and bite a team in the butt with this degree of efficiency.
Friday's episode began in Times Square and sent the 11 teams off to the finish line from the first “Amazing Race,” which none of them actually knew, but when you depart from a public space packed with fans driven by a Phil Keoghan tweet, countless strangers will be able to tell you to go to Flushing Meadows.
Through neither luck nor skill, really, five teams got on a first flight to the Virgin Islands and six teams got on a second flight. American got to be known as The Airline of the Leaders and Delta got to be known as The Rear Guard, proving that when it comes to plugs on “The Amazing Race,” there's no such thing as negative publicity.
Once in the Virgin Islands, teams had to sign up for seaplane journeys to lead them to the aforementioned assortment of Route Markers, which left them jumping off a cliff and meeting Blackbeard.
Jockeying for a place on the next-to-last plane, Boston Firefighters Michael & Scott seemed to have gotten to the sign first and Hottie Realtors Lisa & Michelle zipped in and plucked the marker from their hands. It was an aggressive move and probably not essential at the point they were at, given the inevitability that at least one Detour or Roadblock was still ahead, but if you're gonna play the game, you're gonna play the game and I would never begrudge The Realtors from coming out to play the game hard and The Firefighters got what they deserved for being too casual at the sign-in sheet.
This, of course, was mere foreshadowing for the end of the episode.
The Roadblock asked one player from each pair to use a liquid compass and shovels as measuring sticks to find their assigned treasure chest. The compass was counter-intuitive and the total number of people who used it with confidence was one: Dentist Jim, who taught everybody around him to use their compass and still raced into first with wife Misti, winning The Save, a powerful tool that means that any Leg in which they finish last before the 9th Leg will be a Non-Elimination Leg. I'm not sure that Jim & Misti will ever need The Save. They look strong. Of course, as I always mention: Boston Rob & Amber won the first three Legs of their second season and then went out in the fourth, so it never hurts to have insurance.
Anyway, though, the other teams either capitalized on Jim's help or stumbled to eventual accidental success.
That left “Survivor” Couple Whitney & Keith, The Firefighters and The Realtors on the beach struggling. Keith was whining and ready to give up. Lisa had seemingly determined that if she wasn't going to find the chest, she was at least going to get a good screengrab calendar out of the deal and was ineptly using her body as a measuring device. And I don't know what Scott was doing. As darkness fell, Whitney & Keith led a charge to have all three teams take a four-hour penalty and run for the mat, perhaps remembering that this strategy worked well for another “Survivor” team, when Boston Rob & Amber played the greatest mind game in “Amazing Race” history to get out an of eating challenge.
The other two teams agreed.
“We hope that fortune favors the bold,” Michael said, completely misunderstanding that phrase, unless you think giving up on a task is “bold.”
The three teams all went scurrying off toward cabs, yelling dollar amounts into their air.
At one point, one firefighter got to a shuttle, followed by the two Realtors and the Firefighters basically made it physically clear that the cab was theirs. From what we saw, there was every indication that the Firefight was the first to the cab and the first in the cab. Were the aggressive? Yes. Were they more aggressive than the Realtors at the sign-in? Perhaps. Did the situation require more aggression? Yes. Did the Realtors ask for the game to be played that way? HECK YES.
“Aren't they friendly,” snarked one of the Realtors, unaware of the irony.
The Realtors reached the mat in last and the pouting continued.
“You have to be ruthless and that's what we do in business and we should have done it here,” Lisa whined. Ummm…
“I would have never agreed to the penalty if I thought there was a 1 percent chance we could have lost. It's embarrassing,” Lisa continued.
Want to know what's more embarrassing? That a woman whose livelihood is presumably based on commissions couldn't calculate that by equalizing things with two other teams — two teams that seemed in no way notably weaker than her own — there would be at least a 1 percent chance of losing. I'd add that the penalty was four hours and the teams decided to take it roughly four hours, probably less, into performing the task. And they took the penalty when all three teams were within 10 feet of their chests, as a mocking graphic told them.
Farewell, Miami Realtors. You were pretty. And pretty bad at “Amazing Race.”
Anyway… Here's my initial reaction to the remaining 10 teams in the order they arrived at the mat.
FIRST – Misti & Jim (Team Whitening Strips) – I thought The Dentists seemed annoyingly cocky at first, but I tolerate cockiness when you can back it up. Jim was both the person most capable during the Roadblock and he was also generous and helpful to the other teams, knowing that even with his assistance, they couldn't beat him. This could become obnoxious very quickly, but for one episode, I'm impressed.
SECOND – Tim & Te Jay (Team… Dunno yet) – Tim never would have finished the Roadblock without Jim. Ever. Instead, he complained for a while — “I think my compass is broken… Medic.” — but capitalized on Jim's assistance. So far, I'm not impressed and I'm more than a little annoyed. I did like the “Hi, Mr. Phil” one of them shouted at Phil Keoghan on the beach.
THIRD – Kym & Alli (Team Premium Rush) – So far, these urban bikers talk a big game, but haven't done much and the talk is annoying, but at least I like them more than…
FOURTH – Robbie & Brooke (Team Wrestlers Who Think I Should Know Who They Are) – The very opposite of Misti & Jim, Robbie & Brooke talk a big game, but did nothing in this episode on their own, other than sink their own boat. Robbie was an absolute meathead on the Roadblock and never would have figured out his compass. Shelley from Team Flight Attendants helped him and he finished and then gloated as if he'd done anything himself. Blech.
FIFTH – Bethany & Adam (Team Soul Surfer) – Adam wasn't all that brainy on the Roadblock, but I've got no reason not to be impressed with Real World AnnaSophia Robb and her hubby.
SIXTH – Maya & Amy (Team Food Science) – I like the idea of enthusiastic scientists who specialize in candy and ice cream. I'll root for them. They did nothing of note in this episode.
SEVENTH – Dennis & Isabelle (Team… Dunno Yet) – Dennis was not impressive this episode. He wasn't bad enough for me to root against these two, though.
EIGHT – Shelley & Nici (Team Flight Attendants) – Shelley figured out the compass, she just wasn't able to translate her understanding into completion of the task and that frustration was funny. She didn't give up. So I can root for these two. At least a little.
NINE – Whitney & Keith (Team “Survivor” Contestants I Barely Remember) – Well… Keith was a quitter. Whitney was bossy. And Whitney was just a little incontinent. Blah.
TEN – Michael & Scott (Team Boston Strong) – I'm not going to root against a pair of Boston firefighters, even if they initially thought they were going on “Amazing Friends,” not “Amazing Race.” If it took The Realtors to kick them into game mode, so be it.
A couple other thoughts from this week's episode:
*** Oh right. Either Lisa & Michelle also tossed out an “Adios, suckers” as they left The Firefighters at the dock. Yeah, you can't do that and then play “Woe is me” if you get squeezed out of a cab.
*** Oh and Lisa also didn't know where the sun rises and sets.
*** The episode's title should have been “Take me North, bro” in honor of Robbie's compass stupidity.
*** Everybody this season spells their name funny. Well, not everybody. But your Kyms and Nicis and Allis and Te Jays and Mistis. Sigh. Also, I was never going to be able to tell Lisa and Michelle apart.
*** I believe I'm skipping “Amazing Race” exit interviews this season. I'll still be doing “Survivor,” though. That season's first exit interview will post later tonight.
What'd you think of the “Amazing Race” premiere? Who do you like? Who do you hate? What do you think of the Friday of it all?