Welcome to the third all-star season, which means it's only appropriate that we're re-meeting teams who are doing this race for the third time. Among these are cowboy brothers Jet & Cord, who are joined by blonde country singers Caroline & Jennifer; Sri Lankan twins Natalie & Nadiya, one of whom has helpfully colored her hair to make it possible to tell them apart; the ridiculously irritating Brendon & Rachel; Jessica & John, the only team ever to be eliminated while in possession of an Express Pass; Globetrotters Flight Time & Big Easy, who are also third-timers; father & son David & Connor, who had a winning streak even after David blew out his Achilles tendon but couldn't keep it up because, you know blown Achilles tendon; YouTubers Joey & Meghan; cousins and self-proclaimed "Afghanimals" Leo & Jamal; and additional third-timers Margie & Luke. The final team is Kentuckians Bopper & Mark. Or is it? Due to a pancreatic illness, Phil had to make the unprecedented move of Philiminating someone in a doctor's office, the night before the race even started. Phil's got good news for Mark, though, which is that he can offer him a fresh partner. There are plenty of tears, but Mark is paired up with fellow Kentuckian Mallory (also on her third Race, after running two with her dad Dave), so Mark will still get to race for as long as his susceptibility to motion sickness and heat exhaustion will allow.
From the football stadium at UCLA, where the Bruins marching band is on hand to play the Amazing Race theme song, Phil tells the teams that they're going to Guangzhou, China. First, however, they need to find members of the marching band who have Guangzhou's Chinese symbol on their hats. It's a race for seats on the first flight, won by the Afghanimals, the Cowboys, Dave & Connor, and the Twinnies. Everyone else ends up on a flight an hour behind, but they all have to start off in Guanghzhou by finding a place called the "Street of Wedding Dresses," a whole district of bridal boutiques, to find the few stores that contain clues. The Afghanimals and the Twinnies team up early on, but Natalie and Nadiya soon hate them as much as everyone else does, and switch to partnering with the country singers as soon as they arrive. As anyone would. Well, with Caroline, at least.
Jet & Cord take an early lead to find Canton Tower, the tallest tower in China. There's a rooftop Ferris wheel of sorts, and the racers have to ride it to find their next clue, whether their car contains a valid clue on the inside of the door or not. The Cowboys are amazed to see teams from the second flight show up next, like Margie & Luke and Team Big Brother, but Jet & Cord hold onto their lead, with Brendon & Rachel close behind. Meanwhile, the country singers and the Twinnies fall to the back of the pack behind on the wedding dress challenge.
From Canton Tower, teams head to a nearby stadium where they have to do part of an aerialist act, starting with Cord doing five backflips while suspended by wires 300 feet in the air. He & Jet are the first team to reach the Pit Stop and receive the two Express Passes, and after Brendon completes the task as well, he and Rachel come in second. Connor, Margie, and Leo also manage it, coming in third, fourth, and fifth respectively. At the rooftop Ferris wheel, Natalie & Nadiya are soon paralyzed by bickering and indecision, cementing their last-place position going into the final task.
Mark & Mallory come in sixth, proving themselves a viable team, with the Globetrotters right behind them. Jessica & John are happy to come in eighth and not have to worry about another Express Pass debacle. Joey performs the flipping with a predictable amount of shrieking and brings Team YouTube in tenth. So the Twinnies end up having a spectacular failure of a day, getting that dreaded first Philimination of the season. At least they realize after the fact that they did horribly.
Okay, this is actually pretty cool. We're looking down at the football field at UCLA, where the Bruins marching band forms the letters "TAR 24" while playing a brass-and-drums-heavy version of the Amazing Race theme. Damned hospitable of them. Phil comes running out onto the field among them, saying this band has been playing for more than 90 years. Wow, and they look so young. Phil adds, "Today, this is the start of an epic adventure for eleven of the most memorable teams looking to rewrite their Amazing Race history." Or, in most cases, just adding another sad chapter to it.
The first team to come trotting down the bleacher steps are Jet & Cord, the brothers-slash-cowboys from Oklahoma who made it to the final three in TAR 16 and returned for TAR 18, which unlike this "All-Stars" season had the more accurate title of "Unfinished Business." Obviously they didn't win that one either. There's a sepia-toned flashback made to look as though we're peering through the mists of time to a supercut of them riding yaks and saying "Oh, my gravy." In the present, Cord (the redheaded one) tells us that he got married the day before their second race, and Jet had a two-year-old at the time, so their heads weren't entirely in the game. But this one will be easier, he promises. "Definitely back in the saddle," Cord says. I'd suggest that the Amazing Race is more like riding bareback, but then I'd have to bring up Jet & Cord's offscreen homophobia and nobody wants that.
Next are Jennifer & Caroline, the blonde country singers from Nashville. Jennifer admits that they were "a little boy-crazy" the last time around, thus the flashbacks of them hugging shopkeepers and flirting with TAR 22's eventual winners, Bates & Anthony. Caroline says, "We have no boyfriends on this race to distract us." Or to help them either, so it'll be interesting to see how they do without them. I'm sure another team will be happy to step up. You'll see who I mean.
Natalie & Nadiya are also back. They're the identical twins who were born in New York but raised in Sri Lanka, and even Phil is referring to them as "Twinnies" now. Natalie has helpfully added some blonde streaks to her hair so I can tell them apart now, as she interviews that they can be loud and obnoxious. The flashbacks of them arguing with each other during TAR 21 are certainly bearing that out. Nadiya freely admits that they were "a hot mess" then, but are now "more focused on productivity." Natalie tells her to shut up because if you're not a hot mess you're not racing right. This bodes well.