The Amazing Race 28 takes flight with a few new twists

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The 28th season of The Amazing Race kicked off with eleven new teams ready to race around the world in 21 days, visiting 18 different cities along the way. The biggest twist this season is in the makeup of the teams — they’re all stars of social media, which has already angered some longtime fans of the show who have decided that this is an even worse decision than the Family Edition of the show.

I was also a bit trepidatious about people used to being in front of a camera being in front of the Amazing Race cameras, fearing they’d always feel the need to perform instead of participate in the race. Well, I think the naysayers and I were totally wrong on that count, at least once things got real for the teams.

In another twist this season, all of the teams started the race from their homes across the country. They had to hop into a waiting cab when Phil Keoghan sent them a message and had to get to a designated airport (Los Angeles, Dallas, Atalnta) and make their way to Mexico City to find Phil at the Monument of the Revolution. (CBS attempted to do a live stream of teams arriving at the time, but it ended up showing that the network was less adept at social media than the teams.)

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As teams arrived they got their first clue, which was the first Detour of the race. Teams had to choose between “Mariachi Madness” or “Great Bulls of Fire.” Half the teams chose the Mariachi challenge which required them to find one mariachi among 350 who was not really playing their instrument. The other half (plus one) chose the Bull which required them to construct a fireworks display on a papier mache bull. But, all of the teams got lost on the way to their tasks.

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The Mariachi challenged seemed impossible, requiring teams to almost put their ears up to the trumpet. Ouch! It turned out, however, to be the easier of the two challenges with the first five teams to finish the Detour all from the Mariachi task.

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The fireworks task was more time intensive as they had to build a structure to precise specifications before the fireworks could be set off and teams moved on. Interestingly, Burnie & Ashley were nearly incinerated when one of the wheels flew off of their display just as they were getting the clue from the judge. Should they have been made to rebuild it since it obviously wasn’t correct, or was it just the judge’s fault for not properly checking the structure?

Teams left their Detours in this order:

As each team got the clue to their next destination, it was odd that we didn’t get a voice over from Phil telling us where they were going. Wherever it was, the teams found a locked gate – it was the middle of the night – with a board with chips that had times on them for the teams to take in order of arrival. The first four teams got 7:30 AM, the second four teams got 7:40 AM and the last three teams got 7:50 AM.

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As each group entered the gated area (Erin, Sheri, Kurt and Matt first; Tyler, Marty, Zach and Scott second; Darius, Jessica and Burnie last), they were greeted with a Roadblock clue which required one team member to descend into a cave, go to a designated box, and sift through the dirt, as if they were mining, to find 13 pieces of a puzzle. They then had to follow the sound of drums and take those pieces to reconstruct an ornate mask. The problem was, and no one realized this until they had already gotten their pieces, was that there were more than 13 pieces in the dirt and not all of them worked with their particular puzzle.

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Not only did they have trouble with the puzzle pieces, but many of them could not hear the drums inside the cave. Scott and Jessica even came out of the cave to look for the drums, frustrating their partners who are not allowed to offer any assistance like “get back down in the cave, you big dummy!” Seriously, if you and one other person are the only ones out of the eleven traipsing around outside the cave looking for drums, would that not signal to you that the other nine people in the cave are in the right place? It’s silly mistakes like this that get teams eliminated.

Once the team member in the cave figured everything out, they finished in quick order with Matt, Tyler, Zach, Darius, Kurt, Burnie, Jessica and Marty exiting the task first. Sheri and Erin, who were in the first group, were getting so frustrated they actually considered taking a four hour penalty! With eight teams ahead of you and only one behind, that seems like the dumbest move possible. Fortunately, they soldiered on with Erin finishing and offering to help Sheri, who told her to go but she was not far behind. Poor Scott, who spent too much time wandering the grounds, left the challenge last.

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The next stop was the Pit Stop with the first eight teams finishing in the order they left the Roadblock. Interestingly, Dana & Matt didn’t seem to receive anything special for finishing first. No trip, no cash, no Express Pass. Nothing. For the last three teams, it came down to a cab ride with Erin & Joslyn getting the slow end of the stick, feeling more like they were sightseeing than racing. Even though they left the Roadblock ninth, they finished in tenth place with Sheri & Cole (who thought they were last) coming in ninth.

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That left Scott & Blair bringing up the rear because of his mistake at the Roadblock. But Phil had a twist in store for them with the news that this was a Non-Elimination Leg, so they will live to race another day … with a Speed Bump ahead of them.

Overall, the first episode of the season got off on a good foot. The teams were actually engaging and not always “on” for the cameras once they got into the race. Hopefully everyone who said they would not watch this season because of the cast did tune in, or will give the next episode a shot. I was prepared to be disappointed but things turned out a-okay.

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