So here are the Season 14 teams: flight attendants Christie and Jodi; sibling lawyers Tammy and Victor; Margie and Luke, her son, who is totally deaf; Steve and Linda, who are from Virginia and thus fully expect to be dismissed as "hicks from the sticks;" sisters Kisha and Jen; dating control freaks Preston and Jennifer; Brad and Victoria, the older couple who have been married a mere nine years; Mel and Mike, gay father and son, the latter of whom is in fact Hollywood screenwriter Mike White; conjoined dating couple Amanda and Kris; vertically challenged sibling stuntmen Mark and Michael; and ex-NFL cheerleaders Jaime and Cara.
The teams depart from Los Alamedos, California to Locarno, Switzerland by plane and train, where they spend their first night on the race at a bug-infested campground before racing to a Goldeneye-style bungee-jump roadblock. Then it's off to Interlaken, where teams have to schlep fifty-pound cheese wheels down a steep, slippery hill, using these rickety wooden carriers that are worse than useless while locals laugh openly at them. Many cheeses escape at high speed, and many pairs of pants are ruined.
Finally, the sound of yodeling ironical guides Margie and Luke to the Pit Stop, where Phil carefully signs to them that they're team number one. Tammy|Victor and Mark|Michael arrive close enough behind them to witness Luke's emotional moment. The middle of the pack includes Mel|Mike, Brad|Victoria, Jaime|Cara, Kisha|Jen, and Steve|Linda, who barely recover from getting lost at the Pit Stop parking lot. Finally, it's a footrace for last place between the flight attendants and Preston|Jennifer, the latter of whom can now continue their petty bickering at home. Sounds great to me.
And fancy updated production features include jacked-up credits and theme song, new subtitle fonts, 24-style splitscreen transitions, and new map animations in which the Amazing Yellow Line is conspicuously absent. Hmmm.
As a pair of large military helicopters roar in over the Pacific Ocean -- presumably with 22 Amazing Racers inside them -- Phil gets into the spirit of the teams' mode of transportation towards the starting line: "0700 hours," he intones, "and the dawn of a new adventure." He tells us that the teams are headed for the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, California (not Los Alamedos, as my ignorant ass spelled it in the recaplet). Apparently some kind of race is about to start.
So it's time to meet the teams. We're starting with the blondes. There's always a pair of blondes, so we might as well get them out of the way. But in this case, at least they have a hook that isn't wearing pink all the time. Christie and Jodi are a pair of flight attendants who plan to use the travel knowledge they've amassed in their careers in order to do well in the race. I approve of that, even if "Flight Attendants" is harder to type than "Blondes." One of them also says that in foreign countries, "Blonde women can get away with murder," which they plan to take advantage of. I approve of that rather less. If that's how they're going to play it, it's going to take very little screwing up on their part to convince me to demote them to "Blondes Mark 14."
Tammy and Victor are siblings and lawyers, who apparently share a loft apartment and play the piano together a lot. Tammy explains that they both went to Harvard Law School, although not at the same time, since Victor is a decade older. "Nine years," Victor corrects fussily. Victor seems a little on the fussy side, if you know what I mean. He says that he's used to seeing his sister as the attention-seeking three-year-old she used to be, and she's hoping to show him that he can rely on her. First get him to stop shoving you off the piano bench, missy.
Margie and Luke are mother and son, and Luke is completely deaf. He also does not lip-read, so his mother is his translator. They demonstrate how this works for the interview cameras, as he uses American Sign Language to say that he's on the Race to show that deaf people can do it too while Margie translates. I don't understand ASL, but my wife Trash does, and I will be calling on her periodically throughout the season to make sure Luke is really saying what everyone says he is.
Steve and Linda are from Virginia, and are aware that they might fit some people's stereotypes of what Steve calls "hicks from the sticks." We see them hanging out in the front yard of what looks like a pretty isolated home, and doing some fly-fishing (they're at least sophisticated enough to own hip-waders) as Linda says that's fine, and Steve says it's also probably true. I'll not only try to avoid easy jokes predicated on hillbilly stereotypes, I'll also be the first to say that it's not Steve's fault that he bears a certain physical resemblance to Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.