Recap: The Amazing Race 24, Episode 1 – “Back in the Saddle”
The UCLA Bruin Marching Band plays a rousing rendition of the TAR theme as Phil introduces us to the 11 teams he, Bertram van Munster and Co. and some CBS meddlers think are worthy to be called All-Stars.
The so-called “All-Stars” are:
Jet & Cord, the annoying, self-righteous, homophobic cowboy brothers from TAR16 and TAR18.
Caroline & Jennifer, the country singers and Bates & Anthony tag-a-longs from TAR22.
Natalie & Nadiya, the Sri Lankan Twinnies from TAR21.
Brendon & Rachel, married and would-be winners had it not been for their HUGE blunder in TAR20.
Jessica & John, Oy vey! The dumbest Racers to ever run TAR, getting eliminated with an Express Pass in their pocket from TAR22.
Flight Time & Big Easy, the Globetrotters from TAR15 and TAR18 who love to quit the Race and pee on foreign national monuments.
Dave & Connor, father and son from TAR22 who had to quit after Dave ruptured his Achilles.
Joey & Meghan, ANOTHER team from TAR22. This time, the annoying YouTubers. More Joey than Meghan though.
Leo & Jamal, not-Tim & Marie, the Afghanimals from TAR23
Margie & Luke, aka Luke & Bob from TAR14 and TAR18. We are reminded it was Luke’s fault that they lost both times.
Bopper & Mark, the Kentucky boys from TAR20.
The teams run along the track to meet Phil who says he has an important announcement. One of the Racers had to meet the Race doctor last night.
Flashback to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. A doctor is examining Bopper who says he had a pancreas attack the day before they left to come here. Phil joins them and says the doctor doesn’t think he is healthy enough to Race. He has an inflamed pancreas and he could die.
They are devastated. But Phil says there is good news. They can find a new partner for Mark to Race with. He can still get the opportunity to win the million dollars. Bopper gives Mark his blessing to Race.
Back to the present. Phil finishes his announcement. Mark and Rachel are in tears.
Phil points up to the stands where Bopper’s replacement appears. It’s Mallory! Still Team Kentucky!
Bopper gives Mallory a bandana signed by his daughter and asks her to wear it. Brendon & Rachel run to hug their friend Bopper before he leaves the Starting Line.
It’s time to really start the Race. Phil says they’ll be heading to China and the two Express Passes are up for grabs this Leg.
Their first destination is Guangzhou. To get one of the four tickets on the first flight, teams must find band members with “Guangzhou” printed in Cantonese on them using the examples on two band members on top of platforms.
Once they get their first clues, they’ll hop into a brand new Ford Fusion Energi to drive to LAX where they must plug them in before leaving them.
“The world is waiting for you… again. Good luck, travel safe… GO!”
The teams run out onto the field. Leo & Jamal and the Cowboys find the right band members first. They plus Dave & Connor and Natalie & Nadiya get on the first flight.
Everyone heads to LAX. Mark and Mallory say it’s a little weird, but thankfully they have a whole flight to China to get to know each other. Brenchel and the Twinnies chat with Mark and say it’s tough what happened to Bopper.
The teams board their flights, the first through Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific getting in an hour before the second flight on Eva Air through Taipei.
Once in Guangzhou, teams must take either a taxi or the metro to Jiangnan Avenue, the avenue of wedding dresses where they must find one of three wedding dress stores each holding a limited number of clues.
Twinnies, Dave & Connor and Afghanimals take a taxi, but the Cowboys hop on the metro and arrive at the avenue first. The teams have no idea where to go, but the Cowboys stumble upon one of the shops.
They get a bag with a little bubble souvenir in it representing the bubble cars of the Ferris Wheel on top of Canton Tower. Their next clue is hidden in some of the bubbles.
Meanwhile, the second flight has arrived. Everyone’s hurrying to the metro. Brendon, Rachel and Mallory are cheering for the train, cheering for Margie & Luke and the Globetrotters when they make it and cheering when it goes, leaving Jessica & John, Caroline & Jessica and Joey & Meghan behind.
While Dave & Connor find one of the shops, Natalie & Nadiya and Leo & Jamal team up, but have no idea where they’re going. They get right outside one of the shops, but decide it’s not the right one.
There’s a nice Fern who leads Brendon & Rachel’s group to Precious One Shop where they take the four clues available.
Jet & Cord arrive at Canton Tower and head to the top choosing the #15 bubble. They find the clue behind the door, but they flip it open and it says “Try Again.” They have to do one circuit before hopping into another bubble.
They decide to just choose #16 and that’s where they get the next clue telling them to search “the stadium on the river below you,” Guangdong Olympic Stadium.
Back at the dresses, Natalie & Nadiya decide to ditch the Afghanimal “fools” and join up with Caroline & Jen. But the Afghanimals meet a new Fern who leads them right to a clue.
Still having to complete their circuit, Jet & Cord watch the other teams arrive. They laugh at the others not quickly seeing the clue behind the door. When they do, only Brendon & Rachel are lucky enough to hop in the right bubble. Mark & Mallory, Dave & Connor and Margie & Luke have to try again.
Leo & Jamal arrive at the bubbles and get the clue on their first try. Margie & Luke get it on their second.
At the dresses, Joey & Meghan and Jessica & John get to the right shop leaving the Twinnies and Country in last until they find their own Fern.
Leo & Jamal and Margie & Luke leave the bubbles as Dave & Connor and Mark & Mallory get into the bubbles they’ve just left. The last four teams arrive at the bubbles. Natalie thinks all the bubbles are the same, but when they get in and flip the clue, she is proved wrong. Ouch.
Down at the stadium, Jet & Cord open the next clue and it’s the Road Block.
For this first Road Block, teams must dress up and make their way up one of the tall towers of the stadium that hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Asian Games. They must perform five high wire flips while being hoisted 300 feet up the tower.
Jet decides to do the Road Block and he heads up just as Brendon & Rachel arrive. He gets back down as Brendon heads up and they maintain their lead as they head on foot to the Pit Stop, the Guangzhou Opera House.
Jet & Cord officially finish 1st and win the two Express Passes. Rachel cheers Brendon on as he finishes the Road Block and head to the Mat to officially check-in as Team #2.
Natalie & Nadiya are miserable in the bubble as the other teams except Joey & Meghan leave for the Road Block. The Twinnies debate over whether or not to hop into bubble #2, the next even numbered one. But they end up not getting on, putting them further behind YouTube.
Down in the stadium, Connor, Luke and Leo do the Road Block and they head to the Pit Stop. Dave & Connor finish 3rd, Margie & Luke take 4th and Leo & Jamal are 5th.
Mark & Mallory step on the Mat as Team #6 and Flight Time & Big Easy finish as Team #7. Jessica & John and Caroline & Jennifer finish 8th and 9th respectively.
Joey & Meghan run off from the Road Block to claim spot #10 leaving the NaNas, the Twinnies in last and eliminated.
Well, definitely plenty to talk about. (THE TEAMS! WTF!?)
But let’s go to the episode first. As much as I have been dreading and not been as excited for this season, I thought this was a pretty solid premiere.
I knew the horrible outcome of this first Leg back in November by following the live play-by-plays by local TAR fans (aka Ferns) who kept the internets updated. It was excruciating. Back then, the Twinnies had arrived in the middle of the pack at the Road Block where they struggled and of course ended up eliminated.
Very different storyline in the episode, which is interesting. This was the first time I’ve watched an episode after having followed live spoilers so it was strange to see what they edited out, how they edited things.
But at the same time, knowing that one of the few legitimate All-Star teams gets eliminated first really lowered my expectations for this season.
I mean seriously, these teams are a disgrace to the first All-Stars who actually deserved the title.
But back to the actual episode first and start at the Starting Line. Loved hearing the band playing the theme song. I wish the international versions of TAR each had their own remixed version of the theme like Israel does.
The Mark & Bopper drama. That seemed very overdramatic. I knew of the hybrid Kentucky team and it still is such an odd pairing and strange decision by the Bert & Co. Who knows if Bopper was even really sick?
Anyway, the Starting Line task was simple, but fine. The wedding shop task was great since it definitely screwed up a lot of teams. Even if it kinda sucked since the Twinnies were one of those teams. The bubble car task is a pseudoSwitchback to a TARAu (or was it TARA?) luck task that pretty much aims to screw teams up.
The Road Block was alright at a beautiful location, but they pretty much cut most of it out. Probably to remove whatever happened with the Twinnies.
But overall, it was a solid premiere. Good competition. Better than last season’s underwhelming premiere, but not as good as TARAS1 or TARUB’s premieres of course.
So, this cast. I mean seriously. What is this cast? There’s been talk and speculation and whispers about teams like James & Jaymes, Brook & Claire, Amani & Marcus, Trey & Lexi, Art & JJ, Max & Katie, Pam & Winnie and Tim & Marie as possible teams on the shortlist. All of which would’ve made better choices than half of the cast we’ve gotten now.
This cast actually would be okay if it were The Amazing Race: Redemption. But they went ahead and called it All-Stars. Absolutely crazy. And Phil’s justifications to TVGuide are unbelievable. Come on Phil.
Anyway, for my Team Rankings this week, I’ll first rank the teams in terms of All-Star worthiness then my rankings for the Leg.
GAP GAP GAP GAP
Brendon & Rachel, Natalie & Nadiya and Mark & Bopper are really the only three teams who deserve the “All-Star” title. And all three of them were on many fans’ wish lists even before TAR24 was announced as a returning Racers season. Brenchel and the Twinnies are love ’em or hate ’em teams who were strong competitors and brought the drama. They made good TV and drew strong reactions from both fans and haters. Mark & Bopper are one of the biggest feel good teams in the post-TARAS era. Not since David & Mary (also All-Stars) did a Kentucky, Southern team endear themselves to the audience as much as Mark & Bopper.
Now for whatever reason, we instead have Mark & Mallory. Mallory and her dad Gary would definitely be candidates for an All-Stars season. But they’ve already been invited back. They may be choices for three-peaters and would’ve been a more tolerable 3-timer than the ones we got here. But now we have Mark & Mallory. Which is an interesting team. If they make it far. Two halves of different All-Star teams put together doesn’t actually automatically make them an All-Star team in and of themselves.
Dave & Connor and Leo & Jamal are certainly in the All-Star discussion, albeit the 2nd tier especially if we went back to TAR13. Dave & Connor at least are a solid choice. Dave’s injury and winning Legs while injured coupled with their cancer story are definitely enough to get them invited back. The Assghanimals certainly left an impression last season and with Tim & Marie turning down an offer to return, they are the solid 2nd choice from TAR23.
And the three-peats. While TARUB certainly exhausted All-Star candidates from TAR13-TAR17, there still were other non-TARUB teams from those seasons who deserved an invitation back.
But these three are probably three of the most divisive teams. You’ve got the casuals in love with the Cowboys and Globetrotters vs. the hardcore fans who know they are horrible people and/or horrible Racers. And Margie & Luke who have certainly gotten into their fair share of drama. But three-peaters? Really?
Maybe because Unfinished Business was technically not All-Stars? But then why did they ignore anyone who Raced before TAR18? Another one of those TAR resets. No team exists before a certain season. Just like no team from pre-TARAS existed for TARUB. There are so many other worthy teams who should get a 2nd chance, yet TAR decides to give these three a THIRD chance. Not fair at all.
And then there’s the WTF choices. Caroline & Jen are boring. The only interesting thing about them in TAR22 was that they tagged along with their boyfriends and eventual winners. They are a safe, non-All-Star team.
Then there’s the two teams who have no business anywhere near an All-Stars list. First, Joey & Meghan. Meghan’s alright, but Joey must be one of the biggest TAR camwhores ever. Right next to the Assghanimals. And all three of them are unfunny, loud, obnoxious and annoying. Add to that Joey and even Meghan aren’t even that good at the Race and merely fell forward in TAR22 where they were rightly targeted for aligning themselves with the hockey bros.
Then there’s Jessica & John. They’d be perfect for an Unfinished Business or Redemption season, but not All-Stars. Yes, they made the stupidest, dumbest mistake ever on TAR. That does not warrant an All-Stars invitation. TARUB2 or TAR: Redemption. Definitely. TARAS2? Hell no.
My Subjective Team Rankings
And now my subjective team rankings for Leg 1 which are actually very different from that first list.
Brendon & Rachel were their usual selves this episode. I love Rachel. She is television gold. And when she’s not crying about fun and goodness, she’s hilarious and energetic and a great competitor. It’s a shame Bopper didn’t end up Racing. Brenchel and Kentucky have been good friends since TAR20 and it would’ve been awesome to see them in an alliance. Brendon & Rachel running to hug Bopper was just an example of that.
I loved Natalie & Nadiya‘s insanity in TAR21. Not only do they bring the insanity and hilarity, but they are great competitors. But boy did they screw up this Leg. I don’t know if it was screwing up at the wedding shops like the episode showed or at the Road Block like was spoiled, but either way, this was not a Leg like they’re used to running. Still, it was fun to watch them, even if just for one Leg.
I liked both Mark & Bopper and Gary & Mallory, so I’m fine seeing Mark & Mallory Race together though it is obvious they are not gelling together at all. They’re likely going to self-destruct sooner rather than later and that preview for next week gives A LOT away. But with the Twinnies gone, they and Brenchel are the only hopes to save this season. They MUST make Final 3!
And now it gets crazy. You know it’s a horrible cast when Margie & Luke are actually one of the more tolerable teams. WHAT!? Yup, they’re definitely the most tolerable of the three-peats. And they’re actually more tolerable than the rest of the 2nd-timers. Reliving Luke’s fails were hilarious, but there’s no denying they are strong competitors otherwise. Still it’s very sad when I’d rather watch “Luke & Bob” than seven other teams.
Dave & Connor are fine, but they just don’t have a spark. They’re just there. And now without the cancer angle and busted tendon, they’re just some blah parent-child team. We’ve had many great parent-child teams who should’ve been winners, including Ron & Christina and Gary & Mallory. But I actually wouldn’t be all too happy to see Dave & Conner be the first. Let’s hope they aren’t.
Leo & Jamal are still their horrible Assghanimal selves. They couldn’t even get through their intro video without being obnoxious creeps. Then they had to act like “fools” as they ran around with Natalie & Nadiya. Seems like their mugging will continue. And WTF at Jamal getting married since TAR23. So he was engaged while flirting with Ally & Ashley? What?
Caroline & Jen and Jessica & John are even more meh. Almost invisible this episode which is representative of their first seasons really.
Joey & Meghan, ugh. Joey hasn’t changed one bit and that is not a good thing. Next boots please.
Or actually, them or these next two for next boots please. Flight Time & Big Easy are annoying quitters. And also the predecessors for every camwhoring team to have come since them. Jet & Cord, the chosen ones, the “most beloved” as Phil described them… Oy vey. They are horrible. And the fact that TAR puts them on such a high pedestal, making Dan & Jordan seem like cheaters and tolerating them being petulant children, entitled snobs and apparently homophobes is disgusting. Ugh. Hope the precious Cowboys the casuals love so much lose a THIRD time and in big fashion.
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