So it's All-Stars time at last -- or, we should say, "All"-"Stars," given that many of the consistently strongest teams of all time are missing, replaced by people like Dave and Mary, who are lovely people but do not belong here. As they head to Ecuador, many of the gamers from their original appearances are gamers still: Eric drags Danielle up from early lagging to late strong contention, Team Guido still knows how to get from Point A to Point B without freaking out, Danny and Oswald still possess divine powers, and Rob and Amber are still efficient and competent in the peculiar way they have that drives people crazy. On the other hand, the BQs are surprisingly slacker-y, Dave and Mary are as they were before, and Kevin and Drew kind of don't seem like they even want to be there, particularly. But in the end, after Rob and Amber taunt America by winning the leg, it is the lovely Jill and John Vito who take the first exit, apparently owing to some problems with maps and directions -- depressingly familiar territory for them, unfortunately. You are not alone if you comforted yourself with the thought that at least they're going to get a month-long vacation.
We fade in on a Miami skyscraper, where Phil "This Seriously Wasn't My Idea" Keoghan is strolling toward the camera in his usual hot-as-hell manner. It's been a while since I really, truly discussed my love of Phil, and I won't now, either, but Phil is aging very nicely indeed. Phil makes his usual overblown comment about the significance of whatever city he's currently in, claiming in this case that Miami is the "gateway to the Americas." This, I do not believe. Although I do believe it's the gateway to cigars. Phil says that eleven of the "most memorable" teams are back to race again. Please keep this in mind when the winner of this season eventually tries to claim that it is some kind of "best of the best" prize. Because it isn't, by a lot.
We cut to a water-skiing pyramid, like on the cover of Vacation, and I swear to God, I thought for a minute that the person on the top of the pyramid was Joe, from Team Guido. I don't know how I thought they'd get Joe on the top of the pyramid, but you have to admit that if anyone were up for precision waterskiing, it would be Team Guido. In fact, they would take the dog with, as we say in the Midwest. But in fact, the waterskiing pyramid is just for show, and the teams are instead flying along in a series of powerboats. Phil raises nitpick goosebumps on my arms by claiming here that these teams are indeed "the best of the best," which: not. Not to get all old-school with the decaying loyalties, but whatever you want to say about Esquire, you don't have "best of the best" without Ye Olde Original Wynners. Or even Flo and Zach, for that matter, who I understand were not invited to go together. Rumor has it -- I have no information, personally -- that she was invited to go with Twin Drew, with whom she is still Nerd-Lusty, if you can believe that (say what you will about her; she knows how to pick a sculpted fanny and stick with it), and she chose not to. I really don't want to get all bitter about the omissions, not that I couldn't (no Ken and Gerard? Stuff that in your multiple Emmys, dude), because we'll be here all day and it will make me That Person Who Complains About Casting, but whatever this collection of yahoos is, it's not the best teams ever. It's some of the best teams ever, and some... other people.
The first team introduced? Well, naturally, it's Kevin and Drew. And... okay, this is officially weird. Like, I don't know how to recap this, because I know these people. Like, Kevin calls me. I pick up my phone now and then, and Kevin's name is there. And then I always pretend I don't know who he is, which it's okay for me to say here, because I'm sure he's not reading this. But... you know what I mean? A few of them, like Kevin, I know. And many of them, I have met, as have many of you, and now it's all weird, and the fourth wall is bashed in, and I don't know what to do except disclose compulsively to avoid the appearance of impropriety, so I will offer you the Personal Bias Score, which will inform you of the size of the personal bias I carry toward any team based on factors having nothing to do with their behavior on the show at all. So Drew and Kevin have a PBS of +10, because... well, they rule, and they've been incredibly good to the site, and Kevin really is my favorite ever, to settle an old argument. WEIRD.