Since the Amazing Race did a Wednesday premiere before settling in on its regular night, you’re getting two recaps in pretty short succession. I hope this is a positive for most of you.
We open in Tokyo, with everyone having to spend the night in one of those tiny little hotels that’s basically just a place to lean over at a slight angle because Tokyo is all about packing as many people into as little a space as possible (in a good way). This bit is funny, but does contribute a bit to the developing feeling that this Race is going to be less about actual racing and more about watching these couples do cute couple-y things together. Maybe this should have been a special nightly marathon leading up to Valentine’s Day?
There’s about a two-hour span separating the 1st place team, Jelani and Jenny, and the 9th place team, Hayley and Blair, but this is cut a bit by hours of operation for the bullet train taking them to Nagano. The first train contains Jelani and Jenny, Laura and Tyler, and Jeff and Jackie. The second train has Aly and Steve. The third train has Bergen and Kurt, Harley and Jonathan, and Mike and Rochelle. The fourth train has Matt and Ashley, and Hayley and Blair. All these teams speed to Nagano (which has some beautiful scenery, by the way–the B-roll footage is great this week) for their first Road Block.
Meanwhile, Libby and CJ wake up and take a leisurely stroll through the streets of Tokyo.
The Road Block is pretty cool–each team’s chosen person has to unlock a classic Japanese puzzle box with a clue inside, the kind that my geeky brain admits I’m familiar with from Romana solving one in seconds in ‘City of Death’. None of the contestants are Romana, though, and Jelani, Tyler and Jeff have their work cut out for them. Laura delivers a “gosh, isn’t the Race exciting!” speech that makes me think that maybe she’s just from Stepford.
Meanwhile, Libby and CJ stop to take a selfie and miss their train. No, seriously. This is a thing that happened on the Amazing Race, a show where contestants have shaved their heads and eaten entire sheep’s heads to win.
Back at the Road Block, Laura and Jenny engage in a friendly argument over which of their partners is smarter and more likely to solve the puzzle first. Jackie is conspicuously quiet in this debate. Tyler solves his first, but Jelani isn’t far behind. Meanwhile, the Olympians get to the Road Block.
Laura and Tyler get to the Detour just before Jelani and Jenny, and are asked to choose between “Share” and “Chair”. “Share” is pretty much the easier option, albeit the least dignified; you feed your partner noodles while sitting in front of an electric fan. “Chair” involves the teams taking turns pushing their partner around an Olympic speed-skating track in a timed challenge. Laura is a bit nervous about eating, perhaps because she’s afraid the broth might start a fire in her vital electronic systems, but agrees to “Share”.
Meanwhile, Libby and CJ have somehow managed to slow their bullet train down.
The Olympians cruise, getting out of the Road Block in third, and now everyone from the first three teams are there. Mike is taking it for the Truckstoppers, while Harley is taking it for the New Kids. The Medical Emergency team (hey, they feel like a train wreck ready to happen) gets there along with the Hairstylists, and now everyone is pushing. Back at the Detour, Laura and Tyler finish a little bit ahead of Jelani and Jenny, but they let their cabdriver go and so give up first place to the lawyers at the Pit Stop. They wind up in second, and both teams have to undergo a lot of awkward and painful questioning from Phil about whether this “feels like love yet”. Hey, Phil, you know what doesn’t feel like love? Someone bursting in on your date every five minutes like an overactive Jewish mother asking if this is The One yet. I keep expecting him to ask if they’re ready to settle down and start giving him grandkids yet.
Meanwhile, Libby and CJ finally arrive in Nagano. They decide to kick back a little, and celebrate their success with a slow, languorous cab tour of the city.
Jeff and Jackie and the Olympians opt for “Chair”. The Olympians, unsurprisingly, get it done on the first try with twenty seconds to spare. This would be awesome, if Steve didn’t keep saying, “Good girl!” every time Aly did something positive, like she was a springer spaniel who’d mastered a new trick. Jeff and Jackie take longer, but decide to stick with it. (This will be a big reason for their drop from 2nd to 6th over the course of the leg.)
Harley and Jonathan get out of the Road Block and get a bonus prize, a trip to a hot spring instead of just a regular Pit Stop. Which is, I’ll admit, a pretty sweet deal. Meanwhile, Libby and CJ finally get to the clue box, and then try to get a new taxi, since they let their old one go the second they got there.
Blair helps Hayley with handy tips like, “Try to make progress,” and asking her, “Your strategy with it–do you know where you need to be going?” He’s understandably nervous, since they are sitting near the back of the pack, but he couldn’t be more condescending if he had special lenses on his glasses that only let him look down his nose. Nonetheless, she solves the puzzle box and they collect their clue in 9th.
Mike and Rochelle pick “Chair”, which will prove to be a mistake, while Aly and Steve check in to the Pit Stop in 3rd. Libby and CJ supposedly get to the Road Block at about the same time, but it’s around here that it becomes clear just how much Amazing Editing is going on right now, because they still don’t seem to have even bumped into another team in passing despite the show’s heroic efforts to pretend that they’re still remotely competitive.
The New Kids and Bergen and Kurt do “Share”, and although Bergen and Kurt snipe a little bit about the ease of noodle-slurping, they both come out pretty easy. Certainly they come out easier than Mike and Rochelle on “Chair”; they wipe out on both of their first two attempts, and it looks at first like they were pretty severe wipeouts. (They may well have been–Mike could easily have pulled a hamstring doing the splits on the ice, and although Rochelle didn’t fracture anything, she might have sprained her wrist.) They decide, wisely, to switch tasks to something more sedentary and food-based. Meanwhile, Jeff and Jackie finally complete their “Chair” task and head out.
Matt and Ashley show up at “Chair” just around the time Mike and Rochelle are splitting, but they don’t take the hint. They begin their pushing, but fall short on their first attempt. Hayley and Blair and Libby and CJ are both heading towards the Detour, in scenes that are probably two or three hours apart but presented at the same time. Harley and Jonathan check in to the Pit Stop in 4th, and Bergen and Kurt take 5th. Jeff and Jackie, as mentioned, take 6th.
Matt and Ashley finish up “Chair” on their second try, and head for the Pit Stop in 7th around the same time that Mike and Rochelle start eating their noodles. Hayley and Blair go chair-pushing, and miss the required time by somewhere around three minutes. This would allow Libby and CJ the chance to get back in the race, if not for the fact that their footage is being delivered by time-travel from the year 2016 by this point.
Mike and Rochelle check in to the Pit Stop in 8th. Hayley and Blair tweak their tactics a bit and beat their Detour. Libby and CJ wonder if they have time for a nap after eating all those noodles, but instead decide to go ahead and amble towards the Pit Stop. There’s an obligatory scene of Hayley and Blair wondering if they’ll make it (with Hayley wondering if Phil will “break them up”…I still picture him saying, “You’re Team Number Nine…but I’m sorry to tell you that you’re no longer a couple”) but they finish 9th.
Libby and CJ finally check in. The light is obviously different than the previous check-in, and it looks to be almost sunset. Phil unapologetically Philiminates them. (Oh, he says, “Sorry to tell you,” but I’ve heard Phil when he’s really sorry. He’s not sorry.) They don’t sound bothered. Maybe they just went for the free vacation?
And next week, they go to one of my favorite Race destinations, Phuket, Thailand. (It’s my favorite because I love hearing Racers try to figure out how to pronounce it as anything other than “fuckit”.) Oh, and apparently “the honeymoon is over” for Hayley and Blair. By which they seem to mean that she’s grown a spine. See you then!