Brrrrrump! We float into Chicago, and then bang-zoom to Phil "Hey Ya" Keoghan, atop a tall building in a shot that strongly recalls the openings of yore, so that's kind of a good sign. In a moment that seems like less of a good sign, Phil calls Chicago "America's gateway to the Midwest." My hackles immediately rise, because, not to quarrel with Phil, but Chicago isn't a gateway to jack. Chicago leans as hard as it can to the east so that it can be the New York Sort Of By The Mississippi River rather than the Minneapolis Sort Of By The Atlantic Ocean. Take it from someone living in the actual Midwest: Chicago thinks it's too cool for us. It doesn't invite us to parties, and our last Christmas card wasn't even signed, and all it wrote in our yearbook was, "Have a great summer!" So if you want to get to know us, don't use Chicago as a gateway, because we will only roll our eyes. As you can see, I got myself rather worked up over this issue, until I realized that because the show has used almost exactly that line before, I have used almost exactly this response before. (Honestly, "gateway to jack" and "gateway to squat" are similar enough that they would cause copyright problems for the current me, if the previous me weren't also me, if you see my point.) So in the spirit of the new season, everything old is new again, and I am clearly a hack. Anyway, whoever writes Phil's lines apparently stopped at this point to refer to the book 10,000 Things To Know About Chicago's Secret Shadow Government and noticed that you will be imprisoned if you try to leave town without saying "Windy City," so Phil takes care of that. From here, he explains, 11 teams will race around the world, and blah blah million dollars, and COME ON, LET'S GO! Yeah, I am impatient. Cut me a fuckin' break; I've been recapping Survivor.
And then suddenly, we are watching teams skim across the water in speedboats, in a sequence that looks disturbingly like the beginning of one of TV's many Rupertfests, and I writhe with pain at the thought that this might be an omen. If Phil says "ahoy, matey" at any time, I am turning in my [BOMP], not that the thought of Phil with a parrot on his shoulder and an eye patch doesn't make me giggle. Phil says that the teams are zooming across Lake Michigan toward Chicago, and then he reminds anyone who's forgotten that each team is made up of two people who already know each other. And, in many cases, have already seen each other in their underwear, either in a catalog or otherwise. Would you like to meet them? Think carefully before you answer that; things have changed here on Waltons' Mountain since our idea of evil sounded like this: "[Clink.]" You never know whom you might find on the other side of that fourth wall.
Kris and Jon have been dating long-distance for a year, and, I suspect, are wearing out all the free smileys available through IM. They can even tell you the subtle difference between the regular smiley and the smiley with the teeth, and how improper use of Winking Smiley has doomed many otherwise healthy relationships. Anyway, they are separated by the vast expanse between California and Arizona, so boo hoo hoo, they probably talk on the phone while lying by the pool in the middle of winter, meaning that they can both bite me from here to the nearest frozen lake. As we watch them thoughtfully fondle each other in their swimsuits during what looks like a modeling shoot for Coppertone, she explains that they don't get to hang out together a lot. Therefore, the race will let them "get to know each other," as he puts it. Oh, yeah. It's a test of looooove. And I think we all know by now that when tested on reality television, love more often than not gets the paper back with a lot of red marks on it. But at least they're cute, even though I think her jacket is made from potholders and he has that tall, crunchy hair like Brennan.