THE AMAZING RACE 18 “Head Down and Hold On” (Season Premiere) Recap

THE AMAZING RACE 18 "Head Down and Hold On"

THE AMAZING RACE 18 “Head Down and Hold On (Australia)” (Season Premiere) Season 18 Episode 1 – THE AMAZING RACE gets back to “Unfinished Business” as it gives eleven former teams a second chance to win the million-dollar prize. The starting line is at the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm near Palm Springs, California, and after a brand new starting line task, the teams head to Sydney, Australia.

Racers:

Ronald and Christina–father and daughter–season 12 runners-up who barely lost after Christina had a hard time with a puzzle

Kent (formerly Kynt) and Vixsyn, AKA the Goths–dating couple–came in fifth in season 12 after entering the India leg with a speed bump and using a U-Turn on a team that was actually in front of them

Jaime and Cara, AKA the cheerleaders–friends/former NFL cheerleaders–season 14 runners-up who lost by proving the existence of taxi karma

Margie and Luke–mother and son; Luke is only deaf contestant to date–came in third in season 14 after Luke couldn’t finish a puzzle

LaKisha and Jennifer, AKA Kisha and Jen–sisters–came in fourth in season 14 when Jen stopped to use a Porta Potty on the way to the Pit Stop

Mel and Mike–father and son–came in sixth in season 14 when a cab driver took them to the beach instead of the zoo to find a monkey statue

Kris and Amanda–now engaged; were dating–came in eighth in season 14 after Margie and Luke U-Turned them in Siberia

Herb “Flight Time” and Nate “Big Easy”, AKA the Globetrotters–friends and Harlem Globetrotters–Came in fourth in Season 15 after Big Easy couldn’t unscramble Franz Kafka during a Road Block and he gave up, incurring a four hour penalty

Zev and Justin–best friends–Finished ninth in season 15 after finishing first in the Cambodian leg only to be eliminated because they lost a passport

Jet and Cord, AKA the cowboys–brothers-season 16 runners–up who lost after Dan and Jordan upgraded to first class on the final flight

Gary and Mallory–father and daughter–finished sixth in season 17 after getting lost for nine hours in Oman

Starting Line:

The teams arrive at the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm near Palm Springs, California via dune buggies. After basically calling all the racers losers (ha!), Phil announces that in order to get their clues, the teams must complete a task. The first eight teams to finish get the first flight to Sydney; the last three are on the second flight, and the last team to finish gets an automatic U-Turn so that the next time they face a detour, they must complete both tasks.

This task brought to you by QANTAS:

Out of a field of flags, teams must find the one with the familiar name for the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services airline (QANTAS). Mel and Mike find it first and, along with (in order of task completion) Zev and Justin (loving their Globetrotter shirts), Jet and Cord, Kent and Vixsyn, Ron and Christina, Flight Time and Big Easy, Margie and Luke, Jaime and Cara, earn seats on the first plane. Kisha and Jen, Gary and Mallory, and Kris and Amanda are on the second flight with Kris and Amanda beginning their second Race the same way the ended their first: U-Turned.

In the air:

A man on the first flight suffers a heart attack, leading to an emergency landing in Honolulu, so the eight teams who originally had a ninety-minute lead are now behind. Kudos to the Globetrotters for showing some concern about the man’s health, by the way.

Sydney Airport:

Teams must take the train to Sydney Harbor and find the Manly ferry that will take them to Oceanworld Manly. Gary and Mallory, Kris and Amanda, and Kisha and Jen all take the same train and ferry and have a nice lead.

Once the second plane lands, Zev and Justin, Margie and Luke, Jaime and Cara, Kent and Vixsyn, Flight Time and Big Easy end up on the second ferry of the Race, while Ron and Christina and Mel and Mike take a third. Jet and Cord are all alone on an even later ferry.

Road Block:

Swim with Sharks: Each racer must find a compass on bottom of million and a half gallon tank with sharks and an enormous stingray. They then must decode a message written in nautical flags by matching each flag to a letter or number on the compass. Once they decipher “Manly 16 Ft Sailing Skiff, find the commodore” and tell that commodore the secret message “I am between the devil and the deep blue sea,” they will get their next clue.

Mallory, Kisha, Amanda, Justin, Flight Time, Christina, Mel, Jaime, Margie, Vixsyn, and Jet all do the task. Kisha still doesn’t know how to swim, so she’s slow but mostly steady. Vixsyn has a terrible time leaving the tank, but she is one tough cookie. The stingray and sharks are incredible and I think this is a terrific way to start the Race.

Things get tricky at the flags. Mallory seems to breeze through it, while Kisha and Amanda work together and figure it out. Justin does fine and then when the Globetrotters ask, he and Zev give them the answer. Margie and Luke and Jaime and Cara learn the perils of working together when they all give the commodore the same wrong “I am the devil and the deep blue sea” answer. Zev and Justin decline to help Jaime and Cara, but Ron and Christina do help them, along with Margie and Luke. I’m not sure if Mel and Mike got the answer on their own or if they also got it from Ron and Christina. Margie and Luke then tell Kent and Vixsyn the right answer because Margie thinks it’s a smart move to help a weaker team. Jet is in some sort of fog and only deciphers one third of the message. On his second try, he gets more of it, but he seems to have no clue about “I am between the devil and the deep blue sea.” This is KILLING me.

Order out of Roadblock (as of the end of the episode):

Gary and Mallory, Kisha and Jen, Kris and Amanda, Zev and Justin, Flight Time and Big Easy, Ron and Christina, Mel and Mike, Jaime and Cara, and Margie and Luke.

Help sail 16 foot skiff:

Upon the firing of seaman’s gun, teams must sail a crewed skiff on watercourse and grab (while skiff is moving) the buoy that has the next clue. This looks like fun and the ten teams (so far) have smooth sailing except Jaime and Cara who flip over once and say what I think should have been the episode’s title: “Off my foot. Off my foot. Off my foot. Thank you.” The buoy clue tells everyone to make their way to the next pit stop on Shelly Beach.

Fake Pit Stop on Shelly Beach:

Gary and Mallory get there first and win the Express Pass only to hear-duh, duh, duh-it’s a double leg and they are still racing. Awesome. Amanda and Kris are second to arrive and are reminded about their U-Turn. Kisha and Jen land in third, then Zev and Justin are fourth, Flight Time and Big Easy are fifth, and Jaime and Cara are sixth. Margie and Luke take seventh with Ron and Christina eighth, Mel and Mike ninth, and Kent and Vixsyn take tenth.

We leave with a surprising “To be continued” message with Jet and Cord headed back to the flags so Jet can try once again to decipher the message. Wow, what a disastrous leg for the cowboys. This is not the team I remember, that’s for sure, and I hope they can shake it off and come back strong for the rest of the Race.

Notes:

This is a crazy, fun, action-packed leg. Take a hideously long flight (with a medical emergency delay for eight of the teams), add in a roadblock with a very cool first half and mentally taxing second half and then cap it off with a “You’re still racing” pronouncement, and you get a very happy recapper with carpal tunnel syndrome. You also get exhausted racers, of course, but the second time around should be harder, right?

I am ridiculously excited about this Race. I love the idea of bringing back teams who came tantalizingly close the first time around, and I can’t wait to see how they handle a second The Amazing Race. Will my former faves seem as terrific this time around? Will teams I didn’t enjoy so much impress me more now? It’s going to be fun finding out.

So, what did you think of the first leg? Who are you especially glad to see back? Are there any teams you wish hadn’t been asked back, and if so, who would you have liked to see in their place? Are you as surprised by the cowboys’ stumbling as I am?

Follow me on Twitter @michstjame