This season's players are Meghan and Cheyne, the beautiful blond couple; poker pros Maria and Tiffany, who bluff and say they work with the homeless to get the sympathy vote; Marcy and Ron, the senior lovebirds of the bunch who met online (those crazy kids); Lance and Keri, the obligatory bickering pair; Herbert and Nathaniel, better known as "Flight Time" and "The Big Easy," respectively, on the Harlem Globetrotters; son-father duo pink-spiky-haired Matt and Gary, a.k.a. Pinky and the Brain; Garrett and Jessica, the couple on the brink of breakup; Brian and Miss America '04 Ericka, the first interracial married couple on the show; Eric and Lisa, married yogis; Sam and Dan, gay brothers who hide their sexual preference and use their "hot guys" power against the all-lady poker pros; kind-hearted Zev and Justin, friends who strategically play up Zev's Asperger's to throw people off; and Mika and Canaan, the God squad, who think the power of prayer will give them the edge.
The starting point is the Los Angeles River, specifically the concrete basin that was the location for Grease and Terminator 2. There, TAR master Phil lays a bomb on the 12 teams before the race even begins: for the first time ever, one team won't make it past the starting line. The racers have to search a wall of more than 1,000 license plates and snag one from the Shinagawa District of Tokyo, which is their first destination. It takes the groups a while to realize that the Japanese symbols for the district are on their clue card, but 11 of the teams figure it out and drive to LAX.
Eric predicted he and his wife would be "numero frickin' uno," and they were—the first ones eliminated.
Teams either make an American Airlines flight at 12:45 p.m. or a United one at 1:15 p.m. Miraculously, the LAX flight arrives a half-hour early, so the second set of teams catches up with the leaders. Upon landing in Tokyo, the racers cab it to Tokyo Tower Studios. The God squad's killer cab driver speeds down the shoulder to get the couple there early.
In the TV studio is a set for a crazy-looking Japanese game show called "Sushi Roulette". Before the show starts, confetti falls and the colorful-visor-wearing crowd goes ballistic. One person from each team competes in Sushi Roulette. A host in a powder-blue suit with a ruffled white shirt spins the Wheel of Fortune-type wheel, which has nine sushi rolls and two tear-inducing wasabi bombs, an extremely hot Japanese spice, on it.
Contestants eat whatever lands in front of them, but must keep on going until they get a wasabi bomb. When they land on the huge w-bomb, they only have two minutes to shove it down to get the next clue. Ron and Cheyne take the lead. After failing to eat the w-bomb in under two minutes, poor Maria can't keep her poker face when she lands on the fireball again on the following spin. But she manages to wolf down the second one. The Big Easy, the most entertaining at the roulette wheel, eats three-quarters of the wasabi in his first bite. "Tastes like money!" he proclaims. After he finishes, he shimmies for the audience despite pissed looks from the other teams. Brian spits the w-bomb into his hands, wretches and doesn't make it under the time limit.
When the wasabi bombs are polished off, teams match colored flags with the visors of 20 Japanese tourists from the audience. Then the racers lead them through the jam-packed Shibuya scramble crossing. Brian carries one of his middle-aged ladies, as does Canaan for his team. Jessica and Garrett had to make a potty stop for one of their gotta-go tourists. The seniors lost time by rallying their group to say "blue, blue!" in Japanese.
THE PIT STOP
The pit stop for this leg is the Konno Hachimangu Shrine, a Shinto shrine that pays tribute to the city's fishing town past. The beautiful blonds come in first, winning a Travelocity trip to Aspen and Vale with hotel stays, lift tickets, rentals, private ski lessons, dinner and chances for ski biking, snowshoeing and tubing. They make out in celebration. Zev and Justin come in second and the bickerers take third.
The teary poker pals lose two of their tourists and decide to check in anyway. It lands them a two-hour penalty, but—surprise!—it was a non-elimination round. Lady Luck is with them, but they get a speed bump in the next leg in the race.
The teams head to Tokyo-Narita Airport, where bickerer Lance scoffs at the poker pals, saying, "Bastards should have been sent home." It seems harsh, but the other teams likely agree when they find out that the poker pals aren't homeless counselors when a guy in line at the airport recognizes Tiffany as a top-15 poker player. Game over, ladies. They all fly Japan Airlines into a practically flooded Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and have to find the Xe Mien Tay bus station, where they take a two-hour ride to rural Cai Be village.
One bus leaves at 3:30 p.m. and the second at 4:45, but the teams on the latter bus pool their funds to get the driver to leave early. When Ben Tau Du Lich dock opens, the teams hop on sampans and float through the Mekong delta to the mud pits. There they work together to carry nutrient-rich mud to a nearby orchard and fertilize a fruit tree to get their next clue. The locals laugh watching the silly Americans slip and slide all over the place. Miss America says she feels a little freaky in the mud and the beautiful blondes finish fertilizing first and take the boat back to dock and make their way on foot to the Cai Be Field.
While everyone jumps into the wooden boats, Maria and Tiffany hit a speed bump. They must find a soup stand and order ingredients for traditional Vietnamese soup pho. The pair must combine the ingredients at the dock and feed it to the dockmaster to his liking. This delays the poker pros and puts them in last place.
Back at the dock, there's some kind of hootenanny going on. For the roadblock, one team member joins the local farmer festival and uses two flags to herd 150 ducks from out of their pen, across a bridge and back again, returning them to their pen in under 10 minutes. "Shake a duck feather!" yells Miss America, as she tries to coax the duckies while her yellow thong sticks out in a very un-Miss America way. The hot guys get first place, Pinky and the Brain come in second. We find out that Zev is the Duck Whisperer, as he forgoes the shouting method people employ on the little ducks for a more gentle approach. When his fellow God squad partner struggles with the duckies, Canaan shows his dark side and says, "God, I wanna rip her head off right now." He'll be repenting later.
THE PIT STOP
The teams race through Cho Cai Be market to the dock for the Bassac III Riverboat. Pinky and the Brain come in at No. 1, winning kayaks; the hot guys are No. 2; the Globetrotters are No. 3.
Garrett knocks a guy off of his bike but the about-to-break-up couple still arrive last and get the boot. Cool-headed Phil asks Jessica about Garrett's anger issues, as he grunts and tries shaking the roof of riverboat. In the post-race wrap-up, the temper-tantrum-throwing Garrett says that although Jess is the best, he's still not sure if they are any closer to marriage after this experience.
The teams will stick it out in Ho Chi Minh City. Zev and Justin accidentally knock over a ginormous giraffe figurine, and Lance works out his anger by smashing stuff.
RECENT RACER'S RECAP by Kelly Crabb
Kelly Crabb competed in Season 13 of The Amazing Race, taking 6th place with her best friend, Christy. Coined as "America's Divorcee," this freelance writer and travel enthusiast lives life to its fullest in Houston, Texas and remains "bitchy with a heart of gold." This is her take on the show:
The premiere episode of The Amazing Race, Season 15, was uber-exciting, humorous, and all the while, disappointingespecially when married, middle-aged yoga instructors were eliminated at the starting point. Now we won’t have the opportunity to learn more about “Yoga in the Hood.”
Yes, for the first time ever, a team was eliminated just minutes after it began, bringing an interesting, new twist to the show. However, airports remained a typical bunching point for teams and new Racers probably found it frustrating that the production crews were actually the ones accumulating all those miles on American Airlines and United. Bummer!
I liked the late bus teams’ collective effort to pay the driver cash in hopes of an earlier departure time. Let’s just hope each team had enough money remaining to enjoy a bowl of pho during their down time at the dock in Vietnam. In my heart of hearts, I'm dying for an all female team to win for once, but I was actually perturbed when fibbing poker players, Maria and Tiffany scored a second chance with a non-elimination leg this early on in the Race.
Dating couple Meghan and Cheyne (although he really shouldn’t spell his name that way) did very well tonight and seem to have a patient respect for each other, as opposed to thrice-broken up couple Garrett and Jessica, who are about as close to walking down the aisle as I am to calling up my “ex-huzzband” and rekindling a violent love affair.
After Jessica’s failed attempt to successfully herd the ducks, they fought their way to a last place mat finish. Shocker! It was a happy ending however, as Garrett divulged to me that while the cameras weren't rolling after their elimination, Garrett proposed to Jessica.
I’ll be waiting on the edge of my seat to watch Lance the Lawyer absolutely lose it next Sunday night. All in all, I sincerely enjoyed watching all the teams slip around in the mud while fertilizing the fruit tree. On a side note, I temporarily fell in love with Justin of Justin and Zev and spent an alarming amount of time googling him after the show.