Here come Marcy and Ron in blue, "Dating, from San Francisco." They look like what would happen if someone put Larry David into suspended animation, woke him up when he and Tina Fey were the same age, and then set them up as a couple. Not that we should expect these two to actually be that funny. As they do archery together, Marcy says they've been dating for a year, and met on the Internet. They talk about how different they are, and my first impression bears this out, as she seems to be kind of a flake.
Oh, they're still coming. Here are Meghan and Cheyne. It's bad enough that I'm going to have to add "Cheyne" to my spell check dictionary, but knowing it's simply pronounced "Shane" doesn't help. Phil says they're "Dating from San Diego," which makes it sound like they're on one very long date from that city. Meghan informs us that she met Cheyne in grade school, beating him at tetherball. How very Napoleon Dynamite. Cheyne quickly puts her in her place, calling her "the best female athlete I've ever met." Meghan says she knows she's going to marry Cheyne, and that he's going to marry her. Well, can't have one without the other. Cheyne fake-cringes behind her back, and then says, "Of course." That'll go in the wedding scrapbook video, I'm sure.
So now we've met everyone, even though there is not a single team made up of blonde chicks. Someone's going to get fired over that. Finally, all twenty-four racers are lined up in front of Phil. He gives them the usual speech about the challenges and the obstacles they'll face, but it ends a little differently than usual this time: "There is a new challenge in this race that's going to have a devastating effect on one team. And for this one team, it will be a very short race." Phil tells them that their first challenge is waiting beyond their backpacks, and a graffitied canvas tarp drops away from a long temporary chain link fence covered with license plates. "The team that is unable to complete the challenge will be eliminated right here. For the first time ever, one team won't even get past the starting line." The teams take a moment to react to this news. Surprisingly, none of them offers to quit right now. Finally, Phil says, "The world is waiting for you. Good luck. Travel safe. Go!" If that "go" ever fails to give me chills, I'll know it's time to quit.
The dash to the backpacks ends in the usual montage-style reading of the clues by several teams. We learn right away that they'll be flying to Tokyo, but before that, they have to search the wall of license plates. Phil's starting his narrating duties early this season. He says that there are over a thousand license plates on that fence, but only eleven are from the Shinagawa District of Tokyo, which is where they'll be going. Alas, none of the plates, either American or Japanese, have the English spelling of "Shinagawa" anywhere on them. However, the Japanese characters for that word do appear at the top of the clue without explanation, so "teams with an eye for detail" should be able to find a match. A correct license plate can be traded for a ticket on one of two flights to Tokyo, "And the team left without a plate will be the first team ever eliminated at the starting line." And that is going to be one seriously bummed-out team. Or will it?