Everyone collects their backpacks from where they're laid out behind the crescent of cars facing into the sun. Then they get into the cars and… have to figure out how to use the built-in systems to make a call. The first thing they hear from the cars are the four most terrifying words possible when you're in a hurry: "Please say a command." Of course, the last thing Ford wants in their big premiere product placement moment is amped-up racers having to start their first leg with frustrating-looking attempts to figure out their technology under pressure, so the teams have been provided with a full sheet of printed-out instructions, including what number to voice-dial. Good for Ford, bad for us. Team NFL seems to be the first to get through to a recorded, Latin-accented voice that says, "Hola! You are now heading to Iquique, Chile. Drive yourselves to the Los Angeles International Airport. There are only seats for a limited number of teams on the first flight. Don't get left behind!" Leo and Jamal, the Afghanimals (and I can't believe I'm going to have to add that word to my spellcheck dictionary), are the first to pull out. Other teams are hanging back to listen to the rest of the message: "When you land, come look for me, Javier." Soon everyone is on the road, excited as you'd expect. One day I hope to get on The Amazing Race just so I can say during this part, "Man, I feel a nap coming on." Instead, I just have to say it at home.
The opening credits and theme have been remixed yet again, with even more fast edits and the addition of jerky camera work and oversaturated colors. So now we know what it's like to travel around the world while being tased.
After that's over, teams are starting to realize that they want to get on the first American Airlines flight. Well, actually Tim and Marie are already bickering. Tim & Danny, the country mice from Oklahoma, find themselves closer to Dodger Stadium than the airport and end up pulling over in some neighborhood to ask directions to LAX. And guess what, the first person they encounter doesn't speak English. Yikes, language barrier even before leaving the country. Tim tries miming an airplane for her, as though she's going to be able to communicate anything helpful back to them anyway. Fortunately for the dignity of everyone involved she seems to realize that before they do.
Leo & Jamal are the first team to arrive at LAX and get their tickets. "No other crazy people like us have come through?" Jamal asks the ticket agent. Yes, you guys are sooooo crazy. Chester & Ephraim are the next to get on that flight, and are already talking about Express Passes and alliances. Unlike last season, we're not seeing anyone gather around to agree that the second-place team will automatically get the second Express Pass, because of how that ended up short-circuiting most of the drama (though John managed to bring some of it back by being John). Rowan & Shane, a.k.a. Team Bingo, nab the third set of seats, exes Tim & Marie take the fourth, the blondes secure fifth, and the baseball wives are the sixth team on the first flight. Tim tells us again that the prize for winning this leg is huge, with the two Express Passes and all: "One for you and one to make an alliance with another team." As if the Express Pass has been anything but a source of massive disappointment and regret for the vast majority of its existence. Married doctors Nicole & Travis are the seventh and last team to get on that first flight. So that leaves four teams who will be straggling on the second American Airlines flight, the first of which is Brandon & Adam. Adam, the one with the grayer and crustier-looking beard, says the seven lead teams will have a two-and-a-half-hour head start, but Brandon says there are still three other teams in the back with them (Jason & Amy, Hoskote & Naina and Tim & Danny) and they'll just have to be better than those. As for that last team, they're already feeling a long way from Oklahoma and they're only two time zones away.