The familiar faces, all of whom have raced in seasons 12 and up, include cowboy bros Jet and Cord, mom Margie and deaf son Luke, newly engaged Amanda and Chris, Harlem Globetrotters Flight Time and Big Easy, father-son pair Mel and Mike, goths pink and black attack Kent and Vyxsin, Miss Kentucky Mallory and dad Gary, BFFs Zev and Justin, red-headed cheerleaders Jaime and Cara, sisters LaKisha and Jennifer, father-daughter duo Ron and Christina.
Right at the start linein Palm Springs, CAthings are different. Phil announces that first team to check into the leg's pit stop will win an express pass, which can be used before or during a detour they don’t want to finish in the race. He adds the show's trying to change it up this year. "Second chances don't come free," he says. For example, contestants must earn their first clue by solving the riddle "Queensland and Northern Territories" (answer: Qantas; guess where they're going?) and finding the answer written on paper airplanes attached to stakes in the desert ground. The first eight to get it right would receive tickets for flight No. 1 to Sydney, the rest have to get the second flight, which leaves 90 minutes later. To make the stakes even higher, the last team to complete the challenge will get an automatic U-turn and have to do both detours.
The engaged couple and Miss Kentucky and dad are the last two teams trying to figure out the answer. The couple end up getting a U-turn, a cruel twist since that's what did them in during their first race.
Meanwhile, everyone in the first plane is relieved for getting the jump on things, while those on the second plane—the sisters, the engaged couple and Miss Kentucky and her pops—stress out over their bad start. But then in the first plane, a non-TAR passenger suffers a heart attack, which forces an emergency landing in Honolulu. The delay helps the second plane speed ahead and creates a total reversal in the game.
In Sydney, teams must go to the harbor and take and take a ferry to Oceanworld Manly for their first clue. Miss Kentucky tells the other teams about the late plane and one of the sisters says she thinks she’s lying. Miss Kentucky doesn't hide her shock. "You been to Kentucky before—you know we don’t lie there." The three teams in the lead, which just were the last three teams of the race, hit a roadblock at the aquarium.
In this daredevil roadblock, racers have to plunge into a tank with 16-foot-long sharks and a scary stingray as big as a queen-sized bed to find an oversized compass. Then using the device, they have to decode a message made with flags bearing symbols. While Miss Kentucky is the first to fish around for and find the compass, the teams from the first plane struggle to get to the front of the pack. The cowboys end up being in last place, just missing the ferry to Oceanworld. When they finally get there, Jet isn't happy with the task. "I am from Oklahoma, I don’t do water," he says. "I don’t even take baths." Pink attack also had trouble in the water, finding it difficult to move around. But her partner cheered her on. "She was like a pink little mermaid in there," he says.
Miss Kentucky, the engaged couple and the sisters keep their lead. The decoded message sends them to the Manly 16 Ft Skiff Sailing Club, where they have to help sail a 16-foot skiff as they race across Manly Bay; teams must grab the next clue, which is hanging from a buoy.
Decoding the flag message ends up being harder and more time-consuming than groups anticipated. The cheerleaders align with old partners the mom-son pair to finish more quickly; the engaged couple works with the sisters. The Globetrotters only get a couple of words but decide to run with the others to the sailing club so they wouldn’t fall behind. Big Easy spots the BFFs leaving the sailing club, as his team nails the challenge, and asks them what the message is. "They are the Globetrotters, they are our boys," says BFF Justin, who's wearing a Globetrotters tee." We ran with them in the last race, they are good guys. We helped them out and now they owe us."
Turns out that the cheerleaders and the mom-son pair just can’t get the message right, so they head back to the flag station. They appeal to Justin for help, but he flatly turns them down. The cowboys didn’t get the whole message—only the directions half, so they also must return to the flag station.
The mom-son duo end up getting the message and revealing it to the pink and black attack. "It just makes sense to maybe have a team that we feel like we might be able to beat at the finish line, to help them along," mom says.
The poor cowboys go to the commodore for the second time with their decoded message, but again can’t get it right. They go back to the flags area hoping third time's a charm.
The sailing challenge ends up being easier than expected with none of the teams having trouble. Their clue tells them to head to the pit stop, Shelly Beach, one of the hottest Sydney surfing spots. Miss Kentucky and her dad run to the pit stop and arrive first. As they celebrate winning the coveted express pass, Phil ruins their party and informs them that they aren't done yet and hands them a yet clue. It's a pit stop fakeout. The engaged couple and sisters follow behind.
Ten of the teams check into the fake pit stop. When the pink and black attack pick up their clue at the pit stop, the cameras didn't focus on it, but we think that Vyxin slaps the shirtless Aussie surfer-dude greeter in the ass. Naughty vixen. The sole team to not check in is the cowboys. The 10-gallon-hat-wearing bros are still trying to decipher the flag message. "I am gonna cut all the flags down and take em with me so I don’t have to run back again," a frustrated Cord says. Jet, who is the one trying to decode the clue is also frustrated. "I have no idea what I’m doing."
We don't know! After Jet reveals he is completely at a loss, the screen cuts to: "To be continued..."
Will the last-place cowboys crack the code? What other crazy things will happen? We'll find out next week. Plus, the race takes a toll on dad Mel, reducing son Mike to tears.