The Amazing Race is back and this time Phil Keoghan and co are doing something never done before on reality television. Former contestants from CBS’ ‘big-three’ reality shows: Survivor, Big Brother and The Amazing Race, have been chosen to compete on this brand new Amazing Race season. This has been one of the most anticipated seasons of The Amazing Race ever and the opening episode did not disappoint. Let’s get right into our episode recap for You’re In Our Race Now – episode one!
A TALE OF TWO SHOES
At the start line, the teams had a little bit of banter about what reality show was set up to do the best in the race. Essentially it was the Survivor and Big Brother teams going at each other about who was going to do the best, while The Amazing Race teams bit their tongues and laughed under their teeth. After searching through a large octopus sand-castle for their first clue…that’s right, a large octopus sand-castle….teams were off to Shibuya, Japan.
In the airport, Corinne and Eliza gave their brutal cast assessment of some of the other teams. Corinne is no rookie to “brutal cast assessments” (she has a recurring podcast devoted to them on RHAP) but it was interesting to see her comedic talent on a different platform. It was pretty telling to me that they only spoke positively (or rather neutrally) about Tyler & Korey. Perhaps, the Youtubers are a duo that the former Survivor villains are looking to align with moving forward.
When the teams arrived in Shibuya, the Survivor and Big Brother teams looked a bit out of their depth. Meanwhile, Leo & Jamal took the lead with a touch of smart maneuvering when they diverted other teams away from the first clue by pretending to fight with each other. They then made their way to the first roadblock of the season, alongside Season 5 veterans Colin & Christie. The first roadblock of the season was…a little odd to say the least. Racers essentially engaged in a game of chance as they had to pick shoes off a shelf, bite into them (and the wood they were placed on), hoping that one of the shoes would reveal a chocolate bar. They basically had two options: bite into a piece of wood that had no chocolate…or bite into a piece of wood that had chocolate. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Amazing Race Season 31. As someone who never goes to the dentist, this challenge would frighten me. On a more serious note, surely this would also be a risk of splinters in your mouth, which does not sound pleasant at all.
One of the most striking things about this opening segment in Japan was that Christie was participating in her first ever roadblock. All the way back in Season 5, Colin did every single roadblock and this resulted in two things: a) the duo making it all the way to the finale; and b) the race changing their rules to ensure no team would be able to do that ever again. It will be very interesting to see how they fare with Christie and Colin having to split up the work now, but early indications suggest they will have no problem doing so at all. Christie was always physically fit and could have certainly held her own fifteen years ago, but Colin is just a physical specimen that very few other racers in the show’s history have been able to match. So with that, Leo & Jamal and Colin & Christie had no issue with this task and breezed by it into the next.
Nicole & Victor were up next and the Big Brother pair showed the first sign of their inexperience. Victor was the one to pick this roadblock which meant Nicole was forced to do the more physical roadblock later on. Although Nicole is decent in challenges herself, Victor is a man who came back into the game on two separate occasions in Big Brother 18 through two different battle-back challenges. This task took Victor until his 43rd attempt, but fortunately for the newly-engaged couple (who weren’t engaged at the time of filming), 4th place Tyler & Korey had not even arrived at the roadblock at that point.
As the remaining teams scrambled and struggled to find the clue to the first roadblock, Leo & Jamal had arrived at the second roadblock of the season. Although the “Who Wants to Climb Mount Fuji?” task was likely deceiving in its difficulty, it seemed to take Leo a whole lot longer than most others. Even Rupert got it on his first try…
For the second roadblock of the season, teams had to climb Mount Fuji. Instead of the real mountain, racers had to climb up a slippery slope and claim a clue. This took first place Leo what seemed like a dozen tries to complete, but complete it he did and they were on their way before Colin could even get started. The pit stop then took place in Minato, Japan at the beautiful Atago Shrine, where Leo & Jamal cruised to first place. We now interrupt this recap to take a look at the favourites to win after week 1 – Leo & Jamal.
FAVOURITES TO WIN? – WEEK 1
They may look like they’re part of a Nike commercial, but Leo & Jamal mean business on this season of The Amazing Race. The favourites to win after week 1 are indeed none other than this leg’s first place finishers Leo & Jamal. The Afghanimals were eliminated on The Amazing Race 23 in Japan, and this was a fantastic way to redeem themselves. To top it all off, with their win Leo & Jamal claimed a seven day cruise to the French Polynesia.
Leo & Jamal are really smart racers and they have so much fun doing the race too that you can’t help but find them endearing. Their pretend fight to scare the other teams away from the location of the first clue was pretty genius and simply from having done the race twice before they are clearly very skilled navigators. Afghanimals always seem to mess up right before the finale, which is a sad thing for a team so skilled. They finished with two back to back 4th place finishes in seasons 23 & 24 and will be hoping to at the very least to make the finale this time around. Their biggest competition might just be Tyler & Korey, who finished third this leg, third back in Season 28 and have run the race much more recently. But it would be foolish to count out Season 5’s Colin & Christie.
Colin seemed to complete the Mount Fuji task on his first try, proving that he is still one of the most dominant challenge beasts the race has ever seen, even despite being fifteen years older now. When they arrived at the mat in second place, Colin claimed that they were even fitter than the last time they raced, which if its true is some feat. Colin & Christie, like Leo & Jamal, look so focused and determined to win this time around. You might not see the explosive, brash side of Colin this summer. He’s been practicing meditation and has quite clearly matured and mellowed. But the Season 5 racers definitely seem to still have a fire in their bellies.
BACK TO MOUNT FUJI…NICOLE & VICTOR SHOW THEIR INEXPERIENCE
Unsurprisingly, rock climbing champ Becca completed the climbing task in under five seconds to claim her clue. Becca & Floyd were a bit under the radar during this leg of the race, but they will certainly be ones to watch moving forward. The experience they and other TAR teams have in the race may be particularly key simply for knowing how to navigate the driving components in between challenges. I found it very interesting that Nicole & Victor left the first roadblock in third place, the second roadblock in fourth place and then found the pit-stop only in 6th place. If they continue to lose time in between tasks through substandard navigation, they might be in trouble later on. Although Nicole & Victor had a very good first leg, their sixth place finish meant that the first five teams all featured at least one returning Amazing Race contestant. Four of the five were prior teams (Afghanimals, Colin & Christie, Tyler & Korey & Team Fun), while Rachel Reilly led herself and Elissa Slater to a top four finish above Team Fun and the other teams. Other than Art & JJ, this was a really strong showing for The Amazing Race teams and a bit worrying for the Big Brother and Survivor contestants.
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE RACHEL REILLY
Early signs of this race indicate that Rachel Reilly is going to be severely underestimated this season. Corinne and Eliza’s unjust assessment of Rachel was that although she made it to the finale twice, that her husband Brendon Villegas had essentially carried her. Fans of the race will know that although Rachel suffered from several meltdowns and Brendon always did well to keep his head, Rachel is actually one of the strongest female racers The Amazing Race has ever seen. She essentially broke the mold on Big Brother when she made winning challenges an essential component to the game and she brought that into her Amazing Race career too on two separate occasions. Rachel is no slouch when it comes to challenges, but perhaps due to her fiery personality or simply being female, she is likely going to be severely underestimated in this season of the race. Although certainly not the favourites to win, Rachel & Elissa are definitely ones to watch this season too, just like Becca & Floyd.
ART & JJ’S DISASTROUS DAY
After bashing teams at the airport, Corinne & Eliza struggled throughout the first leg to stay within touching distance of the other teams. Corinne & Eliza along with Rupert & Laura had only just begun their first roadblock by the time Nicole, Victor, Tyler and Korey were all headed for the finish line. However, luckily for them, there was one team on the day who were far worse and that was former racers Art & JJ.
Art & JJ had a disastrous leg. So often in the race when teams mess up the very first challenge, it sets them on a trajectory for the rest of the leg where they just can’t recover. That is exactly what happened to the Border Patrol Agents and it only became worse when Art hurt his leg in the Mount Fuji challenge. From there, they decided to take a four-hour penalty, which is usually one of the worst things you can do on the race.
Funny enough, as many Survivor fans might have been able to predict, Rupert & Laura somehow had gotten themselves lost on the way to the second roadblock. It was kind of funny the way this all was edited because it really seemed to be Art & JJ battling themselves for last place the entire leg. Then all of a sudden it was like ‘Oh wait, we’ve forgotten about Rupert & Laura who are lost at a gas station.’ Ultimately though team tie-dye found their way to the finish line after Rupert’s motivating self-talk all the way up Mount Fuji (or whatever that thing was) in his very first try. This meant it was the US Border Patrol Agents who were sent packing out of the race, on what must be one of the most embarrassing legs a pair of returning racers have ever run. Art & JJ became the first team eliminated from the Amazing Race this season and after doing so well back in Season 20, we wish them well.
The leg design didn’t do Shibuya, Tokyo any favours as a tourist destination North American viewers might want to visit. However, the two roadblock challenges were pretty unique and the sandal eating challenge in particular was certainly something we’ve never seen before. The challenges weren’t necessarily the most entertaining, but the first leg should be more about getting to know the teams anyway. It is very likely that the tasks were set up this way in the first leg in order to get more time spent getting to know the racers and less time focused on the complexities and intricacies of the tasks. Still though, with the tasks being so utterly basic and both being roadblocks, the leg design for episode one gets a score of 4/10.
Bret is known for producing one or two funny moments in his time on reality television. But this was perhaps the funniest of all. Poor Bret got to the top of “Mount Fuji” in one try(!) only to, in classic Bret style, sit at the top of the slippery slope and yell “What do I do now?” He then slid all the way back down only to realize he was supposed to grab a clue at the top. It then took him several tries to get back up the mountain, which he eventually completed, allowing him and Chris to finish in 7th place.
Who Finished Where?
Janelle and Britney were severely under-edited this episode and finished in 9th place, while Tyler & Korey also received a quieter edit despite their third place finish. Here is the full table of who finished where for episode one!
|Team||Previous Show||Position in Episode 1|
|Leo & Jamal||The Amazing Race||1st|
|Colin & Christie||The Amazing Race||2nd|
|Tyler & Korey||The Amazing Race||3rd|
|Rachel & Elissa||Big Brother/Amazing Race||4th|
|Becca & Floyd||The Amazing Race||5th|
|Nicole & Victor||Big Brother||6th|
|Chris & Bret||Survivor||7th|
|Janelle & Britney||Big Brother||8th|
|Corinne & Eliza||Survivor||9th|
|Rupert & Laura||Survivor||10th|
|Art & JJ||The Amazing Race||11th|
Predicted Finish For Next Time – Leg 2
Nicole & Victor proved themselves to be skilled racers, although struggled with their navigation in between challenges. I do expect them to sort that out in the coming weeks and continue to be toward the top of the pack given their physical adeptness in challenges and general intelligence. Colin & Christie looked lazer-sharp focused in Leg 1 and that might take them to the top in Episode 2, while Leo & Jamal and Tyler & Korey are very unlikely to drop down significantly. Here is our predicted finish for episode two!
|Team||Previous Show||Predicted Finish – Episode 2|
|Colin & Christie||The Amazing Race||1st|
|Leo & Jamal||The Amazing Race||2nd|
|Tyler & Korey||The Amazing Race||3rd|
|Becca & Floyd||The Amazing Race||4th|
|Nicole & Victor||Big Brother||5th|
|Rachel & Elissa||Big Brother/Amazing Race||6th|
|Janelle & Britney||Big Brother||7th|
|Chris & Bret||Survivor||8th|
|Corinne & Eliza||Survivor||9th|
|Rupert & Laura||Survivor||10th|
This was a very fun opening episode of The Amazing Race 31 and I am very excited to be back writing about this show. Several of the teams boasted impressive showings in the opening leg and this really could turn into one of the most competitive seasons of the show we’ve ever witnessed. Drama is surely set to ensue soon and from the previews it looks like we’re even going to get some kind of U-Turn vote at some point during the season. TAR31 should be one for the history books and although Survivor and Big Brother Canada were already keeping me occupied, Wednesday nights just got a whole lot more fun. Hope you enjoyed this article and I will see you next time!
To see where some of these former TAR teams rank on our list of the best Amazing Race teams, see Top 28 Amazing Race Teams After 28 Seasons.