In the last several seasons, there have been plenty of teams who didn't win the Amazing Race, and eleven of them are coming back. So now it's time to re-meet the teams who are here to wrap up their "Unfinished Business:" Jet & Cord, the cowboy brothers; Margie & Luke, the deaf guy and his mom; Kris & Amanda, who got U-Turned by Margie & Luke in Siberia; Harlem Globetrotters Flight Time & Big Easy, the latter of whom gave up on a Kafka-themed task in Prague; Mel and Mike, who got lost i4n Thailand; "dating Goths" Kent and Vysjzyxen, who Phil says "self-destructed in Italy;" former Miss Kentucky Mallory and her dad Gary, who spent their last day in the race lost in Oman; Kisha and Jen, the latter of whom made her Pit Stops in exactly the wrong order in Beijing; Zev and Justin, one of whom has Asperger's Syndrome and the other of whom lost their passports in Cambodia; Ron and Christina, who lost in Alaska; and former NFL cheerleaders Jaime and Cara, who ended up with a bad cabdriver in Hawaii. But then you probably knew all that.
The race begins at a Palm Springs, California wind farm, where teams have to search among a field of paper airplanes. They're looking for one to swap with Phil for their first clue, and for one of only eight berths on the first flight out of LAX. The second flight ends up carrying Kisha/Jen, Gary/Mallory, and Amanda/Kris -- who as a result of finding their clue last will be automatically getting U-Turned AGAIN! Those two are U-Turn magnets.
Of course, the vagaries of air travel mean that the "first" flight doesn't necessarily arrive first, and in this case a heart attack diverts it to Honolulu, allowing the three bottom-feeders to arrive in Sydney before the "leaders." The Road Block requires racers to scuba-dive to the bottom of a shark tank and find a large compass with a coded message leading them to a sailing club. There, they need to help sail a 16-foot skiff out to a buoy in the harbor. Then it's straight to the Pit Stop at Shelly Beach. Gary and Mallory get there first, just ahead of Kris and Amanda. That means they win the Express Pass -- but the leg's not over, so they're still racing, and that U-Turn is still hanging over their heads. Further back, Vysixdfjn has an underwater panic attack and several teams have trouble with the decoding, but none worse than the cowboys. Team after team checks in while Jet is so baffled by the Road Block that he's still working on it when we're told this is "To Be Continued." Not for one team, I'm thinking.
Welcome to the season known as "Unfinished Business," because that's catchier than calling it "Eleven Do-Overs." Actually, I like how they're not billing this season as another "all-star" race, partly because I would not agree that not all of these teams are stars, and partly because they're all teams who ran it since the first all-star season. It must be exciting for these teams, all of whom failed to win their respective seasons for varying reasons, to have another crack at it. But there's one unavoidable truth: considering how far most of them got in their first go-round, it's a near-certainty that a lot of them will do worse this time than they did before. At a minimum, for example at least half the teams who originally came in second are going to drop in the rankings. So, I hope they're not all betting on redemption here. In fact, one team is going to come in last for the very first time, and that? Is going to be a downer for them. Whoever it ends up being. Because I don't want to spoil anything.
The sun rises over a valley filled with so many whirling wind turbines it looks like God's electric razor. And there's Phil, blissfully unaware that his hometown is going to get socked by an earthquake hours after this airs. Sorry to hear about that, Phil, seriously. Everyone else, there's this. Phil tells us, "This is Palm Springs, California. Built in a rugged valley, it is the second-windiest place on earth." Good place for a wind farm, then, and Phil confirms that it's "in the forefront of modern energy technology." The camera sweeps past the turbines and to Phil on a hillside, with a flock of much smaller white things fluttering behind him at about shoulder-level. At first I think they're some kind of white land-flamingos, but then we get a closer look and it's evident that they're actually large paper airplanes on tall wire stakes. Which makes more sense than a flock of white land-flamingos, living on a wind farm, but not by much. Phil tells us that from here, "Eleven teams of Amazing Race favorites will embark on one more race around the world...one more chance to win the Amazing Race, and one million dollars." And I wish the best of luck to some of them.
Cut to a caravan of dune buggies rolling along a dirt track through the desert, as Phil says they've all returned to "settle some unfinished business." I wonder how long it's going to take me to grow weary of that phrase? I'm thinking not long. The first team is cowboy brothers Jet and Cord from TAR16, heralded by the Heroic Cowboy Theme on the soundtrack. Phil describes them as having been "cut in front of by eventual winners Dan and Jordan at the Shanghai Airport." Flashback to our heroes obliquely threatening to kick some teeth in. And of course, that's not what cost them the race anyway, but I'm going to have to impose a limit on how much old shit I'm going to allow myself to dredge up. Cord says they don't need to cheat to win (and I'm sure he's not implying that Dan and Jordan only won the final leg as a result of some schoolyard bullshit at the beginning of that leg on the other side of the world), and that nice guys don't always finish last, and he thinks he's a nice guy. "Keep thinking that," Jet says. Jet can say that, because he's still the one in the black hat.