Recap: The Amazing Race 26, Episode 1 – “Great way to start a relationship.”
Phil introduces this “very special edition” of The Amazing Race where six pre-existing couples will be joined by 10 singles who will be paired up as Blind Date teams.
With everyone at the Starting Line, Phil engages the blind date teams in some awkward banter before telling them all they will be flying to Tokyo, Japan. There are 8 spots on the first flight and to get those spots, teams will take part in a mud run.
The winners of this Leg will win an Express Pass. AND! There is a Blind Double U-Turn on this Leg as well.
Phil signals Go! and the teams jump into the mud and make their way through the course. On Flight #1 on Eva Air are hairstylists Matt & Ashley, Olympians Aly & Steve, New Kids Harley & Jonathan, pilot and flight attendant Jeff & Lyda and blind daters Jeff & Jackie, Laura & Tyler, Bergen & Kurt and Jelani & Jenny. On Flight #2 on China Airlines arriving 45 minutes later in Tokyo are #TruckStopLove Mike & Rochelle, Libby & CJ and blind daters Hayley & Blair.
Teams shower off and then hop into brand new Ford Fusion Titanium Hybrids. On the way to LAX, the blind daters get to know each other more. In addition to being given Fitbits for the Race, teams are also given brand new Microsoft Lumias to allow them to take selfies on the Race.
The first dates continue at LAX before teams connect through Taipei on the way to Japan.
Once in Tokyo, teams must make their way to Kanda Myojin. Jelani & Jenny hop in a taxi and arrive at the shrine first. Phil is there to introduce the first Detour.
For this Detour, teams will choose between Japanese traditions.
In Syncing Steps, teams will join the popular Japanese group World Order at Shinjuku Central Park and learn and perform a choreographed dance routine.
In Samurai Sake, teams will head to Nakano Sakaue Tavern and must memorize the names of 10 bottles of sake. After taking an order from a table of samurai, they will relay the drink to their partner at the bar who must retrieve the correct bottle.
Jelani & Jenny choose the dancing while Jeff & Jackie, who also took a taxi, choose sake.
As Jelani & Jenny start learning the routine, it takes Jeff & Jackie two tries to get the right bottle of sake. They open the next clue pointing them to Wakaba Higashi Park to check-in at the U-Turn board.
Matt & Ashley, Laura & Tyler, and Aly & Steve arrive as Jelani & Jenny go for their first attempt. Which they fail. Matt & Ashley also fail their first attempt.
Harley & Jonathan arrive at the bar and finish after one attempt. They leave the bar right as Jeff & Jackie finally find a taxi.
Everyone else has chosen Syncing Steps. Libby & CJ are having trouble finding the park. But even worse for the other teams, they are having trouble performing the dance.
Except for Tyler & Laura who manage to finish on their 2nd attempt. Jelani & Jenny get it on their 8th attempt.
Meanwhile, Harley & Jonathan get dropped off at the wrong location. That allows Jeff & Jackie to arrive at the U-Turn first and decide not to use it.
Teams must now find Phil in an empty parking space in the vicinity of the UDX Building in Akihabara.
While Aly & Steve finish the Detour on their 10th attempt, Jelani & Jenny and Tyler & Laura decide not to U-Turn anyone either.
Jeff & Jackie arrive at the UDX Building and decide to search the parking garage. On the way, Jelani & Jenny reread the clue and understand it as Phil not being inside the building, but somewhere close by.
Jelani & Jenny find Phil and do a little bit of their dance before they officially check-in as Team #1. Phil hands them the Express Pass. Jeff & Jackie take 2nd. And Phil points out that they, the blind dating teams, beat the regular dating teams.
Laura & Tyler, Aly & Steve, the lost Harley & Jonathan and Bergen & Kurt finish 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th respectively.
Hayley & Blair finish the Detour as Matt & Ashley are on their 25th attempt.
Libby & CJ finally finish the Detour. There are only 3 World Order dancers left to perform with the teams.
Rochelle & Mike arrive at the U-Turn board and decide to U-Turn Jeff & Lyda to ensure they are safe. Jeff & Lyda are in last place and have been at the Detour for 3 hours and 42 minutes.
The 10th team to finish the Detour, Mike & Rochelle manage to step on the Mat as Team #7.
Jeff & Lyda finish the Detour on their 23rd attempt, resolved to never give up. They head to the U-Turn and see there is one clue left so they decide to U-Turn Jeff & Jackie since they are the only team they haven’t seen. They proceed to the sake Detour.
Libby & CJ are struggling with directions again and cannot find a taxi that knows where the park is.
At the Mat, Hayley & Blair finish 8th and Matt & Ashley take 9th.
Jeff & Lyda finish the sake and Libby & CJ still haven’t found the park. Meeting the same sketchy taxi driver several times in the evening, they decide to take their chances and they get to the park in 10th before Jeff & Lyda can return.
In Akihabara, CJ & Libby go inside the UDX parking garage as Jeff & Lyda also arrive in the vicinity. But CJ & Libby realize their mistake and they return to ground level and find Phil to officially check-in as Team #10.
That means Jeff & Lyda are last and eliminated from the Race.
Well then. That certainly was not a premiere that needed the extra 16 minutes from a 90 minute slot. It basically felt like a normal pre-TAR25 contemporary episode of TAR. That is, barebones and slightly bland. It just felt like a normal TAR leg stretched out to fill 16 more minutes of airtime.
It certainly wasn’t a premiere that could’ve hooked any Survivor fans, that’s for sure.
We’ll get to the blind dates later. But right off the bat, the episode felt too long. Without the usual team introductions, we instead got almost 20 minutes (including the commercial break) of teams crawling through the mud. While the task itself could’ve been very fun to watch, they stretched it out too long and interspersing the unhelpful getting to know the teams just made it a very tedious start. TAR Australia vs. New Zealand did the “intro on the go” much better than TAR26 did here.
They could’ve easily shaved off 5 minutes from that opening task segment.
Then we get to Tokyo where the Detour was horribly imbalanced. And on the first Leg too! While I like that we finally get a Detour back in the opening Leg, it was really a horrible choice of tasks. Separately, again, they would’ve been great. The sake task could’ve easily been a Road Block with maybe teams needing to actually memorize four different orders instead. Then, the World Order dance task could’ve been an active Route Info task. Again, both pretty solid tasks on their own, but horrible as Detour choices.
I think they only came up with a Detour for this Leg just so they could use a BLIND Double U-Turn. Get it? BLIND?!
They definitely stretched out those runs to the Pit Stop as well. If TAR25 almost eliminated them, here, they put in too much.
The selfies are just more filler too. Especially when they aren’t even promoting Microsoft or the Windows phone anyway. Is it product placement or not? I’d actually be okay with the selfies if it were because of Microsoft advertising on the show, but there was no mention of them at all. So the selfies are really just another dumb idea related to this couples theme. Why bother if it’s not being paid for by Microsoft? And if not, then why didn’t they find some phone company to sponsor?
But let’s get to the blind dates. The idea of all couples only is already pretty bad. But when it was found out that there would be blind date teams, it reeked of CBS meddling and desperation. TAR has been collapsing in the ratings for years now, sure. But this is what they’ve come up with to save it? Incorporating NBC’s Jenny McCarthy-hosted 2 season summer series Love in the Wild? The Bachelor is still attracting a good sized audience on ABC, but it’s a concept that seems so cheap for TAR.
That is especially considering how good TAR25 was when a little more effort was put into the overall product. And also considering how international TAR has churned out better seasons in recent years than the mothership.
Now how to win back old fans, viewers and attract new ones is probably a problem TAR will never be able to answer. But just seeing them tweak the show’s format, even in just this little way still changes a lot.
And it’s pretty sad. This is what TAR has become. This could have been avoided if they were able to keep audiences engaged these last few years instead of churning out boring, subpar or downright horrible seasons that drove people away. But we’re here now. And while the premiere wasn’t bad, it certainly wasn’t good. And being more of the same TAR we’ve seen in recent years (except for TAR25) plus the blind date gimmick, things don’t look very bright for the once gold standard franchise.
My Subjective Team Rankings
Instead of having maybe one or two generic dating couples you can’t tell apart, now we have 11. Woohoo.
But at the very least, Jelani & Jenny have made the most lasting first impression. They’re both lawyers and they’re actually charming and likeable? Wow! They both seem very smart, but Jenny seems like she can be really awesome. And especially with this cast, it makes her and Jelani all the more interesting.
Blair & Hayley seem to have been presented as total opposites. So if there’s one thing to hope will happen with the blind date couples is to see some big fights and meltdowns. Hayley seems like a sweet girl, but Dr. Blair seems like he could easily get tired of or annoyed by her pretty soon. If so, then yay! I want to see that. If not, then, meh.
CJ & Libby were an absolute mess this Leg. No sense of direction, horrible luck, slow. And yet, I like them. They could be fun bottomgoddesses and fall forward far into the Race. At the very least, that is more interesting than the other generic couples.
Jeff & Lyda, the oldest team on the Race, could’ve been a good team. But they definitely had a horrible Leg and probably wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the others, which is sad. It would’ve been nice to at least have the older team do well in this sea of couples.
Harley & Jonathan are definitely not as annoying as they could have been since we all know how TAR treats celeb teams. But they were just alright this episode, though their troubles in this first Leg might not be a good look for the rest of the Race. Which would be sad since right now, I am liking them more than other teams.
Bergen & Kurt are no Tim & Te Jay. But we shall see if they can provide some fun moments. Rochelle & Mike also had a pretty bad Leg. They don’t immediately seem as full of personality as the other tattooed couples of the past, but again, I like them a little more than the rest.
Matt & Ashley, Tyler & Laura, Aly & Steve are all interchangeable right now. Even with one of them being Olympians. (Which one again?) And finally Jackie & Jeff. Jackie reminds me too much of Vanessa who was featured very prominently in that little montage at the start of the episode. That’s definitely not good for me.
Phil: “Did anybody get a tingly feeling?”
Hayley: “I’m filthy. It looks like I have diarrhea.”
Jeff: “Line dancing was invented by women to make men look stupid.”
Phil: “That’s a lot of screaming going on.”
Phil: “A lot of squealin’ going on threre.”
Libby: “You about to make me say some ungodly words to you.”
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