For the first time in 29 seasons, “The Amazing Race” is being run by 22 complete strangers (season 26 had five blind date couples among the 11 teams.) To pair up, the contestants had to complete a seemingly simple challenge: get to a luggage store nine blocks from their meeting point at a park in downtown Los Angeles, find a suitcase with a Panama flag tag, and make their way back to Phil Keoghan.
Following simple directions proved tough for some. Those who fell in behind Los Angeleno Scott Flanary had an easier time of it, at least until the got to the store. One, Boston cop Joey Covino, was stymied by the flags while another, college student Floyd Pierce, had memorized all of standards in the world.
The players got to pick their partners in the order that they returned to the starting line. First up was Seattle police officer Seth Tyler, 37, who went with third place finisher Olive Beauregard, a 24-year-old firefighter from Providence, who was the first woman in contention. The show tagged them as #TeamAmerica.
The rest of the teams in order of selection are:
Matt and Redmond, #TheBoys
Matt Ladley, 25, is a professional snowboarder who won gold at the 2016 X-Games. He chose Redmond Ramos, a 28-year-old Navy vet who lost a leg to an IED in Afghanistan.
Shamir and Sara, #TheSandSExpress
Wall Street banker Shamir Arzeno, 28, was on the lookout for a looker and went with Sara Fowler, a 27-year-old realtor from Baltimore
Brooke and Scott, #TeamBrookeandScott
Flanary, 34, may have known his way around the city but he took a misstep when he selected Brooke Camhi, 36, a high-powered criminal attorney. They rubbed each other the wrong way from minute one.
Becca and Floyd, #TeamFun
Compare that to the chemistry between rock climbing instructor Becca Droz, 26, and fellow Coloradan, Pierce who, at 21, is the youngest contestant on the race. She dubs this college student “Urkel” and he is the one who find the only Express Pass in his luggage.
Vanck and Ashton, #TeamVankandAston
Financial analyst Vanck Zhu, 28, opted for beauty to match his brains and picked Texas realtor Ashton Theiss, 25, who was obviously underwhelmed with her partner.
Tara and Joey, #TeamMomandDad
Army officer Tara Carr, 38, threw Covino, 46, a lifeline and picked him despite his being the last to qualify. They are the oldest contestants on the race.
London and Logan, #TeamLoLo
Artist London Kaye, 27, found a perfect model in Logan Bauer, a medical devices salesman. They are the same age and their names start with the same two letters. Will LoLo end up in love?
Jenn and Kevin, #LongHairDontCare
These two Asian-Americans, Jenn Lee and Kevin Ng, made merry from the outset choosing to “follow the white people” to the luggage store. Lee, 25 is a model, while Ng, 31, is a personal trainer.
Liz and Michael, #TeamLizandMike
Michael Radbo, 37, ditched corporate life to be a butcher. He liked the cut of Liz Espey, 24, a fifth generation livestock auctioneer.
Jessie and Francesa, #SwoleSisters
Last but not least are these two powerhouse women, who were thrown together as a team. Jessie Shield, 28, is a K-9 police officer and Francesca Piccoli, 33, is an Army drill sergeant. Because they didn’t get to pick a partner, Keoghan drove them to the airport. However, he wasn’t fast enough as they ended up on the second flight to Panama.
From the airport in Panama, teams had to make their way to the Miraflores Locks on the canal. This iconic landmark proved hard to find for most of the teams. Seth and Olive were first to arrive and get the route info to drive themselves to the Panama Rain Forest Discovery Center and search for the clue at the top of the Canopy Tower.
The choices on the Detour in the Gamboa rainforest are:
Shoot: Row a primitive canoe out on the river to a series of wooden fish sitting atop poles. Knock two of them off using a simple bow and arrow; and
Scoot: Row a sleekly built canoe against a professional pair in a race down the river, with a 50 meter head-start being added each time a team loses.
While Shoot sounds simple, only Becca was able to master the archery and finish this task. The other teams that had chosen it quickly abandoned ship in favor of the race.
Of the 10 teams to complete that challenge, only Matt and Redmond edged out the professional crew in their second attempt. Seth and Olive, who were first to the detour, also finished first (despite needing three tries) and got the directions to the Pit Stop, a point on the coastal beltway Cinta Costera marked by a large Panamanian flag.
While Jenn and Kevin were the 10th team to arrive at the Pit Stop, they had to wait out a 2-hour penalty incurred when they couldn’t complete the Detour. Before that wait had elapsed, Liz and Michael made it to the mat. In the end, this was one tangle that Team LongHairDontCare couldn’t unknot.
Which team do you think will win the “Race”? Cast your vote below and sound off in the comments section.