As usual, Phil wastes little time introducing us to the racers: Tony and Dallas, single mother and son from Northern California; Nick and Starr, siblings from New York and Texas; Ken and Tina, a nearly-divorced couple from Tampa, Aja and Ty, a long-distance dating couple (and it must be very long distance indeed, since apparently neither of them has a city of origin); Melissa and Brooke, "southern belles" (they actually make Phil say this) from South Carolina," Frat boys Andrew and Dan from Phoenix; Anthony and Stephanie, a four-year couple from L.A.;Anita and Arthur, married beekeepers (and hippies) from Oregon; Kelly and Christie, recent divorcees from Texas (you can divorce Texas?); Terence and Sarah, a new couple from NYC; and Mark and Bill, geeks/best friends from San Diego. Go!
The race starts at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and have to choose from one of two flights to get to Salvador, Brazil. The obligatory LAX scramble follows. Once the teams get to Salvador, they have to wheel an awkward, narrow snack cart over busy, bumpy sidewalks, and then spend the night at an army camp, where Terence and Sarah arrive first. The next morning, everyone leaves in one of three groups, each at a different time, then go to Pelourinho, where they have to choose between climbing church steps on their hands and knees, and descending a 200-plus-foot cargo net. Then it's off to the first pit stop, an old island fort. Team Spartans is the first to arrive, winning a trip to Belize. They're followed by Ken and Tina, Terence and Sarah, Team Geek, and Toni and Dallas. Only the frat boys attempt the stairs, and have to try again when they biff the question at the top. Still, they come in seventh, followed by Aja and Ty, and it's a race for last place . Ultimately, Anita and Arthur will be going back to their bees.
So that's your basic outline, because there's too much going on with some of these couples to mention before the full recap. But worry not, there'll be plenty of time to get into the eagerness of the geeks, frat boys, and southern belles to fulfill their stereotypes; Terence's insecure beta-male issues; the failure of Tina's myriad cosmetic procedures to hide her pain that her ex-footballer husband cheated on her; Stephanie's tick-tock desperation to marry her Luke from Gilmore Girls boyfriend; and whatever vibe I may or may not be picking up from Nick and Starr. See you then!
I don't claim to have watched every episode or even every season of this show, but during the vast majority of the episodes I did see, Miss Alli was on the couch next to mine. Little did I know, when she used to come over every week and kick off her shoes at our front door, that I would someday be attempting to fill them. I guess my point is that as much as you're feeling her absence right now, I might just be feeling it more.
From the top of a skyscraper, a leaner-than-ever Phil welcomes us to this season's host city for the starting line, Los Angeles, California, calling it a "global entertainment capital." I think it was that even before Phil and the racers showed up there. "Eleven teams will embark on a race around the world for one million dollars," he says. I can't think of a more succinct way to put it. The racers are riding in "classic cars" (as in a whole fleet of shiny, classy 1930s models, as opposed to the waxed-up doorstop Memphis won on Big Brother this summer) to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which Phil calls "the only stadium on Earth to host the Olympic Games twice." Already, we're learning more about the world!
So let's meet the racers, shall we? I'd like to tell you that I've researched them all in advance, or that I deliberately refrained from same as a way to preserve the purity of my viewing experience, but it's a little early to be turning my new digs here into a house of lies. I just never got around to it, is all. So now, let's enjoy my unspoiled experience as we meet the racers, jogging through the coliseum's tunnel and out onto the field two by two:
Toni and Dallas have apparently chosen red for their team color. They're a mother and a son from Northern California. He's quite large and beefy and gelled, and it's kind of a challenge to imagine him ever having come out of this tiny little woman. In their as always completely-unstaged-and-totally-spontaneous glimpse into the racers' daily lives, we see them playing one-on-one basketball, making PB&J sandwiches, and hiking through the countryside. Toni says she's been a single mom for Dallas's whole life, and is proud of how he turned out. He vindicates her remark by saying that in return for all of the sacrifices his mom has made for him, he's going to go all out on the race. We'll take him at his word for now, at least until he drops into a desultory jog for a train as retribution for an R-rated movie he wasn't allowed to see when he was 15.