Recap: The Amazing Race 31, Episode 1 – “You’re in Our Race Now.”
The first ever Amazing Race Reality Showdown begins at Hermosa Beach. Phil welcomes Survivor and Big Brother alums, as well as returning Race teams.
For their Starting Line task, teams have to run over to a huge octopus sand sculpture and dig for their first clue which reveals their first destination is Tokyo, Japan.
Rachel & Elissa, Rupert & Laura and Nicole & Victor are the first three to find their clues. Tyler & Korey, Corinne & Eliza and Art & JJ are the last three. But it doesn’t matter as all teams are on the same flight to Tokyo and on the same bus to Shibuya.
Teams are given the next clue as they disembark from the bus and must now find one of two locations on foot (ACB Lock & Security or Tokyo Tokyo Restaurant). Each location has a limited number of clues.
The teams struggle to find either location in rainy Tokyo and through the busy Shibuya streets. But Rupert & Laura are first to find Tokyo Tokyo Restaurant with Chris & Bret right behind. The next clue tells teams to make their way to the 5th floor of the EDGEof Shibuya Building.
Rupert & Laura and Chris & Bret end up getting lost on their way to the next Route Marker. That allows Leo & Jamal to arrive first and find the Road Block: Who wants a sweet new pair of shoes?
For this Road Block, teams will take part in a Japanese game show-inspired task as they must bite into getas until they find one made of chocolate. Once they do, both team members must eat the chocolate shoe to receive the next clue.
Jamal decides to do the Road Block. Christie gets started soon after, but Jamal gets the chocolate shoe on his 7th attempt. Janelle and Victor arrive and start the Road Block. And Janelle gets the chocolate on her first attempt.
Leo & Jamal and Janelle & Britney can make their way to Onarimon Station and then Shiba Koen for their next clue.
Leo & Jamal arrive at Shiba Koen and find another Road Block: Who wants to climb Mount Fuji?
For this Road Block, the team member who did not complete the first Road Block must dress up in a funny Japanese game show costume and climb up a slippery slope to grab a clue.
It takes Leo a couple of tries to get the hang of it. But he is able to grab the clue and he and Jamal make their way to the Pit Stop, Atago Jinja.
Phil officially declares Leo & Jamal as Team #1. They win a cruise to Tahiti and redemption for their TAR23 elimination in Tokyo.
Christie, Victor (on his 43rd attempt), Tyler, Elissa and Floyd are next to find the chocolate.
On the other side of town, Janelle & Britney get lost on the way to Shiba Koen.
As Colin wraps up the not-Mount Fuji Road Block, Corinne & Eliza and Art & JJ are only just now finding ACB Lock & Security.
Colin & Christie check in as Team #2 as Korey and Nicole are next to finish the Road Block. Tyler & Korey check in as Team #3. But Rachel’s quick work at the Road Block helps get her and Elissa to the Mat as Team #4. Becca & Floyd take 5th while Nicole & Victor are somehow 6th.
Back at the chocolate getas, Rupert & Laura and Corinne & Eliza finally arrive. As Laura and Eliza begin chomping on getas, Rupert and Corinne can’t believe how badly they’re reppin Survivor. Laura finds the chocolate and she and Rupert leave. A frustrated Eliza cries in the cab after she and Corinne eat their chocolate, thinking they are last.
But it is Art & JJ who are currently last at the getas as JJ starts biting.
Over at Mount Fuji, Bret has already climbed up to the top and has taken a seat, unsure what to do next. Chris can’t help him at all and Bret decides to slide back down, only to realize the clues were right next to him at the summit.
Rupert & Laura arrive at Shiba Koen, but walk right past the Road Block location on the other side of the street.
Chris & Bret and Janelle & Britney finish as Teams 7 and 8, respectively. Corinne & Eliza step on the Mat and after Phil scares them a little, they are relieved to find out they are Team #9.
Art & JJ have arrived at Mount Fuji and Art gets started. He says he is in much better shape now than back on TAR20, but he struggles with getting a grip on the slope. Art then starts to get cramps on both his legs.
Meanwhile, Rupert & Laura have been walking around the park for TWO! hours.
Seeing Art in pain as he is tended to by medics, JJ walks over and suggests they take the penalty.
Rupert & Laura finally find Mount Fuji and are wondering why Art & JJ are just sitting there. Rupert suits up. Art doesn’t think Rupert can get up the mountain. But on his first attempt, Rupert is able grab the clue.
Rupert & Laura head to the Mat as Team #10.
A completely defeated Art & JJ get to the Mat as the last team and Phil officially eliminates them from the Race for the first time ever.
It feels like years since that horrible ending in Alameda for TAR30, but it’s only been 14 months actually. Nonetheless, The Amazing Race US is finally back with a chance to secure a real slot on CBS’ Fall primetime line-up.
That will depend on how the show performs in the ratings in the next few weeks. But if it were to depend only on this actual premiere episode, the chances would really be 50/50.
This was a pretty typical first Leg and premiere episode for contemporary TAR. That is, it was underwhelming and very barebones. Really just two tasks with the Road Blocks and lots of navigating, it appears.
Let’s back up to the Starting Line though. The Starting Line task with the digging in the sand was completely pointless considering all teams were on the same flight and even the same bus in Tokyo. But apparently, there was another part to the Starting Line task that ended up being edited out. That would make more sense. But that resulted in a very pointless start with very sloppy and rushed intros to the teams.
Once in Tokyo, it really felt like a replacement Leg. Tokyo is awesome and Japan deserves more visits (outside of Tokyo that is). But to visit Tokyo again for an opening Leg and have the only two tasks be Japanese game show-inspired tasks, it really felt a little tired. On their own, both tasks were fine. But to be the only tasks on this Leg really is emblematic of what’s been wrong with TARUS the last couple of seasons. Overly simple Leg Design.
If the “self-navigation” throughout the Leg was intended by the Leg design, then great! It definitely worked and in a way it was a nice “Welcome to The Amazing Race!” type of shock for the Survivor and BB teams.
But if it wasn’t, then TAR should be grateful the teams were horrible at directions and Art got leg cramps. Otherwise, this would’ve been a pretty hollow hour with barely any drama or tension.
If anything with all the walking, TAR should’ve just had teams actually walking around Shibuya in getas instead of eating them.
Elsewhere, the show’s editing continues to be another problem. Once one of the show’s strongest aspects has now become one of its weakest. After watching BBC2’s just completed (and now accepting season 2 applications) Race Across the World, some of TARUS editing and visuals really feels old-fashioned and in need of freshening up. It’s been six years since the last graphics refresh and the editing (transitions especially) feel very old and lack a certain sleekness that has actually been present on other TARs (Asia, particularly) in recent years.
And meanwhile, the season preview shocks everyone with Phil announcing the Must Vote U-Turn has finally arrived in North America. But like the Double Battle-to-Head-to-Head transition, I wonder how TARUS will screw up the Must Vote U-Turn too. It appears Phil presides over some kind of U-Turn Voting Ceremony Tribal Council with all teams present. That is as opposed to the normal way from other TARs where teams simply vote at a U-Turn board that pops up sometime during the Leg.
While this season is really the perfect one to introduce the Voting U-Turn in America (with the Survivor and Big Brother teams), having Phil at a podium while all the teams vote in front of each other would be very contrived. Why not just have the U-Turn board like all normal TARs, you know?
Overall, it’s still great to have TARUS finally back on the air again. It was a pretty forgettable premiere, which again, is typical of recent TAR. But the main thing is that TAR has a chance to show CBS that the network doesn’t need to take a swing at Hunted or The World’s Best or Million Dollar Mile. Instead, CBS should just nurture one of its blue ribbon reality shows. That is The Amazing Race. Let’s hope for the best.
My Subjective Team Rankings
Not much really on actual team insights. So really my rankings this week are more influenced by my pre-show perceptions still.
I was happy to see Rachel & Elissa do pretty well for most of the Leg. They kind of fell behind at the first Route Marker in Tokyo, but they were towards the front all other times this Leg. Hope that’s indicative of the rest of their Race!
Janelle & Britney was certainly one of the teams that suffered from bad on foot navigation. But tasks-wise, they had a great combination of luck and skill. The Mount Fuji Road Block is certainly a familiar type of task from Big Brother. Endurance comps are much more difficult that either Road Block lol
Fun to see Colin & Christie back in action after all these years.. Christie totally wasted the “…is broken” reference on such an inconsequential task though. They ran a pretty good Leg. We’ll see though if this new mellow Colin & Christie is just as fun to watch (or love to hate) as the TAR5 version lol
I actually like Rupert & Laura. And this is coming from someone who has only watched Pearl Islands, tbh. Lol But they seem to be great and fine with the actual tasks. It is navigation which could be a huge problem for them moving forward. Hopefully they can do better.
Corinne & Eliza seem to be in a similar predicament. Horrible at directions and Eliza prone to getting frustrated too easily. But I wouldn’t really count them out just yet.
A good win for Leo & Jamal. They were never my favorite team in either TAR23 or TAR24. But this was a good win for them. I will say they were very TAR23-like on this first episode and that doesn’t bode well for my liking them or not this season lol
Chris & Bret were a little quiet most of this episode. That is until the Mount Fuji Road Block of course. Being the only team I know nothing about, they left a good first impression on me. We’ll see how they do.
Nicole & Victor showed they might have what it takes to be a strong team on the Race. A little unlucky at the first Road Block, but otherwise, they had a solid Leg. Could be a big threat moving forward.
Becca & Floyd were just as annoying to me as they were in TAR29 really. Everything just feels so forced with them. But certainly not as bad as Tyler & Korey who, in their few highlighted seconds during the episode, were already grating.
But Art & JJ. Wow! What a major collapse for them. They were one of the strongest teams on TAR20. But they just had a horrible Leg from start to finish. It’s actually kind of hard to believe how horrible they did this Leg. It was a surprise. They certainly weren’t my favorite team on TAR20. Not at all. But I wasn’t completely upset at their inclusion on this season when first revealed. Now I see they might have been a waste of a spot, tbh. I was kind of sad to see them go out this way. But they just really had an uncharacteristically horrible Leg. Too bad.
Leo: “Not Tokyo again.”
Christie: “My sand is broken!”
Rupert: “This is way harder than Survivor.”
Janelle: “I’m a lucky bitch.”
Rupert: “I was not going to let a mountain beat me.”