So the Amazing Race (also known as “The Only Reality Show I Like”) premiered again last night for its eighteenth season, also known as “Unfinished Business” due to its complement of returning racers. This time, we kicked off with a fairly serious bang; clearly, the producers’ attitude this time is, “You all know the rules, you all know how to play well enough to get fairly far along in the game the last time around, so we’re not going to mollycoddle you.” I’m trying to avoid spoilers, since it did air less than twenty-four hours ago, but suffice to say they had not one, not two, but three of the “shock twist” events that they usually space out over a whole season in the first episode.
Speaking of the returning racers, I figure I should go ahead and discuss them; for the most part, I like this group. I haven’t been watching the series since the beginning, so a few of them are “before my time”, but it’s for the most part a selection of sympathetic racers, and there’s very few people I’m rooting against. In greater detail…
Gary and Mallory: He seems nice but quiet, which does make you wonder how he raised such a vocal, chirpy, borderline insane daughter. Which isn’t to say she’s obnoxious (cue all the people telling me that no, no, she actually is very obnoxious) but she’s definitely a person who pummels you with the force of her personality. She’s hard to ignore, (I think) hard to dislike, and I’d like to see them go far. But I don’t think it’s going to happen; parent-child teams have a hard time, and they got flustered easily last time. (Incidentally, do you think that if a parent-child team wins this time, we’ll hear about how the teams were “stacked” with them and the Race just wanted one to win? Or does that only happen when both racers have XX chromosomes?)
Amanda and Kris: They weren’t memorable the first time, and they’re not memorable now. I honestly could not care less about them; I don’t like them, I don’t dislike them, they’re just sort of empty “Hi, we’re a couple!” filler. That said, I see them as middle-of-the-pack material, not an early exit. (And not Final Three material, either.)
Kisha and Jen: Oh, goodie. They’re back. I can’t quite say why they got on my nerves…they just seemed a little bit too prone to carp at the other teams (witness the “you’re a liar” moment in this season’s premiere, a totally uncalled for bit of rudeness), a little bit too whiny, a little bit too irritating. (It probably didn’t help that I was rooting for Margie and Luke, although I thought the production team made too much out of a minor scuffle and a minor verbal tantrum.) In any event, though, I think they’ll probably be on the Race much longer than I want them to be, and may even be Final Three material.
Zev and Justin: It’s very unfair of me, I know, to give in to the reaction to feel uncomfortable around people who are autistic simply because they’re not capable of giving the proper social cues and it’s hard not to be bothered by that because it’s hardwired into our hindbrains. But I’ll admit, I am. I wasn’t bothered when they were knocked off last time, I won’t be bothered if they get knocked off this time, and I suspect that’ll happen pretty quick because I don’t think that last time’s elimination was a fluke. But we shall see.
Flight Time and Big Easy: The exact opposite of Kisha and Jen for me; despite the fact that they played some pretty dirty pool last time out, I can’t get past how funny and charming they are. I’ll root for them until they go out, and I think that won’t be for a while. They’re smarter than they act, and they’re also fast and strong.
Jaime and Cara: Slightly less obnoxious than Kisha and Jen, but still not a team that I care much about. I think they’re a middle-of-the-pack finisher that will vaguely annoy me until they get eliminated, but not infuriate me. That said, that hair is amazing.
Margie and Luke: I like them, I’m rooting for them, I hope they’ll be the first parent-child team to win. Margie is a hell of a strong, determined woman, and Luke is smart and capable (and occasionally ruthless, but there’s nothing wrong with that when racing for a million bucks.) I definitely think they’ll be Final Three, and I hope they’ll win it all this time.
Ron and Christina: These two were “before my time”, and I have to say, they’re not making much of an impression now. They’re not doing anything particularly interesting, they’re not racing particularly well (or badly, it must be said) and I don’t think they’ll be around for long. But I have been surprised by “stealth racers” before; heck, I thought Nick and Vicki were going to be out in the second leg.
Mel and Mike: Awesome. These two are pure awesome, and I would love to have them as next-door neighbors and talk screenwriting with them for hours and let my wife bake them cookies…but he’s seventy. This is not a contest that caters to seventy year-olds. I don’t think they’ll last long, and I will be sad when they get Philiminated.
Kent and Vyxsin: Also before my time, but my wife has a huge, adorable, lascivious crush on Vyxsin (she likes Kent, too, but she lusts for Vyxsin) so I am duty-bound to root for them so that one day, they can appear at a con and we can kidnap her. (I really shouldn’t admit that, should I?) And actually, I think they can go pretty far; they made it to 5th last time, and I think they can do better on a retry.
Jet and Cord: I actually rooted for these two the first time out, but that was before I heard about some of the things they said about the sexual orientation of eventual winners Dan and Jordan. I realize they are from a very rural, very Southern area and are not usually exposed to cultural views other than their own, but this is the 21st century and that shit Does Not Fly. Unless I hear them saying something along the lines of, “Wow, we were homophobic assholes when we first started on this. We feel really bad about that,” I refuse to root for them. But we’ll see whether this is a problem for long…