Recap: The Amazing Race 35, Episode 1 – “The Amazing Race is Back!”
The 13 teams of the 35th season arrive in front of the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, California. Before flagging them off, Phil has all the teams introduce themselves before teasing the return of the Express Pass as well as a now-mandatory U-Turn vote. “Airports are back in play” as well as teams will no longer be using charter flights.
After getting all that out of the way, Phil says “Go!” and teams run down to the nearby neighborhood to find the next clue inside waiting non-sponsored cars. That clue directs teams to drive to the Biltmore Hotel.
Engaged couple Joe & Ian, brothers Greg & John and college friends Andrea & Malaina are the first to arrive at the hotel where they find the Road Block: Who wants to be above it all? For this Road Block, teams must cross between the two towers of the hotel on a tightrope and then unscramble the name of their first destination city. If they have the correct name, Derek & Claire will hand them the next clue.
Greg, Joe and Andrea decide to do the Road Block. Todd, Rob, Chelsea, Anna Leigh are next to cross the tightrope followed by Morgan, Liam, Victor, Joel and Iliana.
Joe is the first one to figure out the scrambled words are “City of Angels,” referring to Bangkok, Thailand. There are two available flights. The first six teams at the airport will be on the first flight arriving 90 minutes ahead of the second.
The next group of teams decide to work together, saying they will be on the first flight anyway even if they share the answer. But Rob comes in behind them and quickly unscrambles the worlds before all of them.
Fifty minutes after Joe started trying to figure out the clue and all the teams end up catching up. All 11 remaining teams are standing around not knowing what to do. It is Victor who figures it out next and he decides to tell a couple of the other teams in the back of the line.
Tood is 6th line and asks to cut in line if he tells the ones in front of them. They say sure and he moves up. All the teams submit that answer and hurry to the airport.
On the first China Airlines flight are Greg & John, Rob & Corey, Jocelyn & Victor, Ashlie & Todd, Andrea & Malaina and Morgan & Lena. Everyone else ends up on the EVA flight.
Upon arrival in Bangkok, teams must head to Wat Paknam. Sisters Morgan & Lena arrive first and open the next clue telling teams to travel by
Longtail boat and tuktuk to Wat Suthat But! Teams also get the opportunity to win an Express Pass.
To get it, both team members must each eat a plate of fried insects at a nearby marked vendor. Morgan & Lena quickly find the vendor and get started.
College friends Andrea & Malaina arrive 2nd and run over to the Express Pass, but decide to pass on the insects. Father and son Rob & Corey decide to go for it, but get lost. That allows Jocelyn & Victor to arrive before them. But Morgan & Lena have already claimed the Express Pass.
Jocelyn & Victor are the first to get on the longtail boat. The other teams get on boats just as the second plane arrives in Thailand.
Jocelyn & Victor arrive at Wat Suthat and open the next clue revealing the Detour: Sword Play or Spa Day. In Sword Play, teams must learn and correctly perform a 30-second darb routine, first learning it using wooden sticks. Not knowing that they will perform with actual swords. In Spa Day, teams must endure a painful 30-minute Thai massage from a professional masseuse. If they stop the massage at any point, they must start over again.
Jocelyn & Victor, Rob & Corey choose Spa Day as do most of the other teams. But Andrea & Malaina decide to do Sword Play when Malaina points out a deep tissue massage is very painful.
While getting the massage, Todd unwittingly has the masseuse stop so he and Ashlie have to start over.
After the Detour, teams can head to the Pit Stop at Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Worawihan. Jocelyn & Victor step on the Mat as Team #1 and win Expedia cashback rewards enough for a trip to Patagonia. Rob & Corey are Team #2.
Meanwhile, Andrea & Malaina go for their first performance attempt and are shocked to see them be handed real swords. They decide to just switch Detours instead of having to go back and learn again.
Greg & John and Morgan & Lena finish 3rd and 4th, respectively. Todd & Ashlie have to settle for 5th.
Of the second flight teams, all the teams except Joe & Ian and Alexandra & Sheridan choose Sword Play. Andrea & Malaina arrive at the massage parlor with some of the second flight teams already getting their massages. Iliana & Elizabeth are in last, not being able to find the massage parlor. And when they arrive, there are no more masseurs, so they are feeling defeated and unsure what to do. Iliana says to stay since it’ll be the same if they go to the other Detour anyway.
At the other Detour, Joe & Ian go for their first attempt and get the thumbs up.
Steve & Anna Leigh take 6th followed by Joel & Garrett in 7th. Teams 8 through 11 are Liam & Yeremi, Joe & Ian, Andrea & Malaina and Robbin & Chelsea.
It’s now down to Alexandria & Sheridan and Elizabeth & Iliana. The mother and daughter finish their massage while the siblings pass on their 9th attempt.
But it is Elizabeth & Iliana who arrive to officially check-in as Team #12. That means Alexandria & Sheridan are last and the first team eliminated.
A solid premiere. Now, when the news about 90 minute episodes ALL season long first came about, I think the common worry is whether or not the show actually would have enough content to fill the longer runtime. This first episode wasn’t that comforting though as the first 30 minutes (sans commercials)/45 minutes of TV time was actually really tedious.
On one hand, having teams perform a task first in order to determine who will get on the first or second flight is actually good. It’s not just who’s the fastest to drive to LAX like in the past. So a “Starting Line” task is definitely a good thing.
But the way it was edited, and needing to mix in the team introductions, felt really just drawn out. It kinda dragged on and on. I’d probably have just inserted the personal stories during the Road Block and then later in Thailand. Cut down on the introductions before even a single task if it’s not just the old school style of running through the teams before Phil flags them off.
Anyway, this all unique to just the premiere episode. So we’ll just wait and see how, if any, extra tasks they will include in the now longer Legs. Or if they will just fill the extra time with more of this TAR Canada-esque personal stories that can be hit or miss.
The most refreshing thing about this episode and Leg is probably the fact that we have a westward route and an Asian destination for this first Leg that isn’t China or Japan (or Taiwan). Very nice having so many teams Racing in Thailand. (When can Korea and the Philippines enjoy the same experience? Huhu)
Also great having this season seemingly be more Asia-focused after its absence during COVID.
If you really look at it though, the Leg was pretty simple. But with 13 teams, I guess that’s okay. Though I had unsettling flashbacks to the most recent TARAu seasons where with the 35 teams, they had to just speed through completion of tasks. Like, where they just run through teams finishing one after the other at the end of the episode lol
As for the tasks. The Road Block was slowed down by the introductions. And unscrambling really triggered memories of TAR32 for me lol I was really afraid of what might happen. Even though it’s just the first task of the Race with the plane equalizer coming up anyway.
The City of Angels part of the task was clever though with LA = Bangkok.
The Express Pass was actually really easy. They were teasing before the season that they were going to return to more challenging and even far away Express Pass Route Markers. But this one seemed quite easy. Especially since Morgan & Lena pretty much finished when the other teams arrived.
Nice boat and tuk-tuk rides. But the Detour! That was not a balanced Detour at all. Obviously the massage would be faster than learning and then performing the routine. The massage was actually kind of a meh task. Far from being the hilarious moment in TAR14 or even TAR25. They probably should’ve paired it with a different task.
The Sword Play Detour would’ve been better as an Active Route Info task where everyone had to do it instead. I think that could’ve been a better task to shuffle teams on this first Leg. Especially with so many teams. Oh well.
Now let’s get to some other items. First, the U-Turn. When they teased something new with the U-Turn, I thought it was going to be something bad. But a Must Vote/Mandatory U-Turn Vote is okay. I guess it would be very new for people who don’t watch international TARs. Even with TAR31 whose first U-Turn vote was absolutely horrible. At least it looks like the U-Turn vote this time will match the mechanics of the other international TARs. Which is much better. None of this Survivor-type tribal council nonsense like TAR31.
Next, why has TARUS resorted to static shots in the opening credits. None of the sweeping drone shots or kinetic urban stock footage. The opening credits have become a bit boring, which is sad.
But yay! Nice updated maps:
Overall, great to have TARUS back. This premiere was fine. Nothing overly amazing. Could’ve been a bit better. But it’ll be more interesting to see how the next episodes will look like.
All of the 13 teams were actually alright. A good and strong first impression from the cast as a whole.
The teams that made the strongest impression on me were definitely Jocelyn & Victor, Malaina & Andrea, Rob & Corey and Morgan & Lena. For Jocelyn & Victor, it’s great seeing married parents do very well. And on the first Leg too! But Victor giving the answer to the other teams was kinda scary. Malaina & Andrea seem like they have great, big personalities. So they should be fun to watch. Rob & Corey have the chance to redeem father-son teams on TAR and I think they have a good shot at that too. Hehe. And Morgan & Lena really did a great job this Leg. You can see that they might be a contender.
As for the other teams, Liam & Yeremi seem cool. Big, alpha male-looking guys. But with personalities that seem atypical of their appearance. So that’s good. Joe & Ian also gave off an alpha male vibe at first. Like they were just going to dominate this Leg. But then they kind of fell back into the shadows later. So we’ll see how they fare in the next Legs.
With Steve & Anna Leigh, I feel like the episode just scratched the surface of what they can offer. They could be a big darkhorse team. I get that vibe from them. With TARC just wrapping up last week, I get a TAR Canada vibe from Ashlie & Todd. They just feel like a team I just watched for 11 weeks during the summer. Lol They’re okay though.
Robbin & Chelsea were also a bit quiet. Though Robbin’s story was really inspiring and I’d love to see them do well. Greg & John were also a bit reserved so far. But I can easily see them doing well later on. Joel & Garrett seem like a fun team who I know will embrace and appreciate their experience on the Race. And it was fun hearing their story about watching TAR while serving the country.
Finally, Elizabeth & Iliana also seemed like a team that would provide some fun moments with their strong personalities. But they were sadly trailing most of the Leg. Alexandra & Sheridan absolutely remind me of TAR13 Terence & Sarah. They immediately came to mind for me. But their sibling dynamic could’ve been fun to watch. Too bad.