The racers converge on the Los Angeles River. We've got married couple Brian and Ericka (one of whom, and I'm not saying which, was Miss America 2004); gym rats Lance and Keri; poker players Maria and Tiffany; friends Zev and Justin (one of whom we are told has Asperger's Syndrome, which should save viewers a lot of time diagnosing him); new couple Mika and Canaan, musicians and Christians; literal Harlem Globetrotters Flight Time and Big Easy; gay brothers Sam and Dan; father and son Gary and Matt; married yoga teachers Eric and Lisa; on-and-off couple Garrett and Jessica; Marcy and Ron, the token older couple, who met on the internet; and young blond couple Meghan and Cheyne. No, you're not counting wrong; that's 12 teams. But one of them won't even make it out of the block. Before driving to the airport, everyone has to do a needle/haystack challenge with a thousand Japanese license plates. Eric and Lisa are the ones left in the dust at the starting line, which is okay because I disliked them on sight. But not as much as I hate the runner-up for last, Lance and Keri. Well, you can't have everything.
So the usual eleven teams jet off to Tokyo, where they take part in a fake Japanese game show that requires them to eat wasabi bombs the size of a cannoli. Then they have to lead large groups of spectators through the crowded, confusing streets to the Pit Stop. Maria and Brian choke (almost literally) on the first try, but come through on the second try. Meghan and Cheyne make it to the Pit Stop first, while Lance and Keri's Philimination is sadly deferred. The last two teams-- Mika|Canaan and Tiffany|Maria -- have group cohesion problems, and ultimately the card sharps show up with a few people missing. But all it costs them is a two-hour penalty at a non-elimination leg; they're still in it.
We go right into the second leg, which takes them to rural Vietnam via Ho Chi Minh City. But first, Maria and Tiffany piss everyone off at Narita airport, first by getting on the same flight as everyone else despite their penalty, and then by being recognized as celebrity poker players despite having claimed to be non-profit homeless children counselors. After an operating-hours bunch, everyone takes a sampan ride to a fruit farm. Except Maria and Tiffany, who finish their soup-serving Speed Bump a lot more quickly than the mud-packing task seems to go for everyone else. Then it's a timed duck-herding Road Block before a footrace to the Pit Stop. That's a race that Gary and Matt win. Meanwhile, Maria and Tiffany survive their setback, and Ericka and Jessica are left sucking wind in a race for last place. That's a race that Garret and Jessica lose. They're out of the race, but it's inconclusive as to whether they're out of the relationship. Lucky for us, we don't need to care any more. Or at least we won't after the full recap, which, since this was two hours of racing, I hope you'll be patient with me.
"It's early morning in downtown Los Angeles," Phil narrates over aerial footage of, coincidentally enough, downtown Los Angeles. "And the temperature is rising fast in the movie capital of the world." From there, we zero in onto the Los Angeles River, which of course is a mostly dry concrete trough with a narrow trickle of water running through it. In case you don't recognize it on sight, Phil explains, "This is the Los Angeles River," as cop cars and a helicopter do some stunt-driving along the dry bed, "an iconic setting that's been used as a location for stunts in movies such as Grease and Terminator 2." Not to mention one of the first episodes of 24 I ever recapped. Finally we get an eyeful of Phil himself, walking toward the camera and explaining, "And from this legendary Hollywood setting, twelve teams will begin a race around the world for one...milliondollars.
Cut to a big tour bus with The Amazing Race painted on the roof and the destination sign, heading down a clear freeway. Exactly how early is it? Because the sun is up, but based on the traffic I'm thinking it must be about 3:30 AM. Phil says the teams are on their way. Time to meet them, but don't get too attached to a couple of them. Unfortunately, there are more than a couple of teams you'll find it easy to get attached to anyway.
Brian and Ericka enter the river through a tunnel first, dressed in yellow. Phil says they are "Married two years from Nashville." The first thing the show thinks we need to know about them comes in the form of some archive footage showing Ericka being crowned Miss America in 2004. In their pre-race interview, she says it has prepared her for who she is today. Brian says that as an interracial couple (he is white, and she is black) they look forward to showing America what being in love is all about regardless of skin tone. You sure you want to put that kind of pressure on your relationship right before we all see how the two of you react under pressure? Well, okay, then.
In maroon are Lance and Keri, who, as Phil tells us, are "engaged, from Salem, Massachusetts." Phil tells us. Over footage of them working out in the gym, Lance boasts, "We bring too much mentally and physically into this game not to win." Oh good, that means I don't have to watch them, right? No? Keri claims that Lance is "smaht," and he confirms that he's a trial lawyer, which I think is the one thing he could have said to make America like him even less. It's just a crying shame that the world of jurisprudence robbed us of someone who could have been the greatest Joey Buttafuoco impersonator of all time.