When the watermelon face-smash video went viral, I hoped something special was coming. The first episode did not disappoint. In fact, this was the best first episode I have seen in a while. Why did I love it so much? Because the first leg was tough! Teams not only had to overcome the typical airport jockeying and start-of-the-race chaos, they also had to drive stick on the "wrong" side of the road, navigate confusing country roads that go in circles, storm a castle, figure out a tricky capsizing "turtle shell" boat, and tackle an outright dangerous watermelon slingshot. Watching as an ex-racer, I kept screaming, "Are you kidding me?" Even though I knew to practice driving a manual transmission as I prepared for my season of the Race, I would not have been prepared for this.
Even though the Race itself was the star, the first episode gave us a great sense of all eleven teams. Precisely because the leg was so challenging, I think we have a good idea who the favorites are.
First episode spoilers and outright speculation ahead!
There is no doubt in my mind that the all-girl teams will define this season. No one can match Katie and Rachel (volleyball players from what must be a different Jersey Shore) in terms of overt competitiveness. Nat and Kat (surgeons from Arizona) exude the cool competence it takes to win the whole thing. And Brook and Claire (the home shopping network hosts) prove you cannot underestimate gregarious, pretty television personalities. After getting nailed in the face with a watermelon, Claire overcame pain, conquered a legitimate fear of getting hammered again, and proved they belonged with the top teams. The leg one victors and my favorites, though, are Jill and Thomas. This couple has the total package and (no offense) Thomas reminds me of me. These four will battle to the end. Ron and Tony, on the other hand, were the best out of the gate, but their other weaknesses (i.e., navigation) doomed them, taking them from first to quick elimination.
My thoughts on the other teams: Michael and Kevin demonstrated why I would never race with my dad. Connor and Jonathan were called "Team Glee" but I'd call them "Team Jinx" because pairs that worked with them were immediately saddled with bad luck. Andie and Jenna teamed up with them and stalled in the middle of a busy highway. Gary and Mallory worked with them and got a flat tire. We will see if a pattern develops. I found myself rooting for Nick and Vicki (the tattooed couple from Las Vegas). I have never seen people call themselves "dumb" with such self-deprecation, love and good humor. My heart went out, though, to Chad and Stephanie. Perhaps I saw myself (and nightmares of Romania) in Chad when he said, "I guarantee it's on the other side," as he led Stephanie on a detour around Eastnor Castle before the pit stop. He learned his lesson in humility early (just as I did in my season), and I hope that will help them. Needless to say, this episode set a high standard and I can't wait to see what happens next.
Tell us: Was it just me or does this season seem extra special? Who are your early favorites? What do you think of the new Express Pass? And is this finally the year for an all-girl team to win it all?