The Race is on! Flabby frat guys. Comic-book geeks. BlackBerry-wielding divorcees. Sunday's premiere of The Amazing Race -- starting in L.A. and moving to Salvador, Brazil -- gave a good, long look at this season's 11 new teams who are vying for a $1 million prize. There will likely be no cult favorite for the 13th season of The Amazing Race (coming off a sixth Emmy in a row for best reality show), a la 2007's Kynt and Vyxsin -- but many colorful possibilities, and a wide spectrum of ambition and cooperation.
Age was more minus than plus on Sunday's premiere. Anita and Arthur, 60-something beekeepers and organic farmers from Eugene, Ore., came in last place and were eliminated, despite endless good vibes. They traded group hugs and had a non-type-A, casual attitude -- not quite right for The Amazing Race. As usually happens with the Race, couples under stress, and with rocky chemistry, bickered and pushed their comfort boundaries. Terrence and Sarah, two polar opposites from New York City, were challenged by Terrence's whining about Sarah not "holding" him and "connecting" at day's end. Jeez.
Sarah apologized, unnecessarily. "As soon as we get there, Sarah was talking with other teams," Terrence said. "She's engaged with them, and that was very frustrating for me." Could be some team weakness there.
First place belonged to formidable brother and sister Nick and Starr, who made snide asides, shunned front-running teams, and formed an alliance with an older team they (somewhat) affectionately called "mom and dad."
Here is how the teams fared in each Race challenge:
1. The plane flight to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: The Rat Race-like car trip to LAX had teams taking different paths, including the car-pool lane, speeding between lanes … and Terrence's risky idea to avoid the freeway. The beekeepers -- with driver Anita gripping the steering wheel with a death vise -- lagged on busy roadways. "The other teams might see us as old hippies, not competitive," Arthur says. (That's what we were thinking.)
2. The cab drive from Rio de Janeiro to Salvador, find the marketplace O Rei do Pernil, and then reach a military base for a good night's sleep -- in a mosquito-net tent: Some pairs speak Portuguese with cab drivers well; some are superior problem-solvers, such as managing small boxes on their carts. "Bees are much calmer than all of this," Anita says -- lamely. At a first night party at the Brazilian military base, sparks start to fly between Starr and young, muscular Dallas, who prefers to relax shirtless. Could it be romance? "He's the most attractive guy in the race," Starr says. "I'm not expecting any great sparks or flings, but who knows. Anything could happen."
Starr's definitely playing him to her advantage.
3. The journey to Salvador's historic center Pelourinho: Two options exist once they arrive: "hard way up" or "soft way down." Translation? Hard way up entails climbing 53 stone stairs to the top of a hill (reminiscent of Sylvester Stallone's run up the Philadelphia Museum of Art's stairs in Rocky), as drum players bang loudly. Very distracting. Soft way down, which 10 of the 11 teams chose, was descending a cargo net ... 240 feet from the ground. "I can't even enjoy the view because I'm about to pee in my pants," Marisa (one of the pink-clad Legally Blonde ladies) said. Both Arthur and Anita even scaled the 24-story net, and got applause at the bottom -- for not dying?
The only pair to take hard way up? Frat brothers Dan and Andrew. When they could not answer a question about how many steps they had just climbed, they even had to do the challenge twice.
4. The foot race to the floating Forte Sao Marcelo: Host Phil Keoghan was waiting to tell teams one through 10 to stay. Last place got two tickets home. Strolling slowly hand in hand to Keoghan, Anita and Arthur were told they didn't make the cut. "We had hope," Anita said, smiling and hugging her man. "We know that we gave it all we had, and that's the most important thing." -- Nicholas White
Tell us: Who looked strongest on The Amazing Race premiere? Who doesn't stand a chance? Did you like Anita and Arthur?