Welcome to the Bates Battaglia edition of The Race! (Spoiler! Results at the bottom of this post!)
We start in L.A. at the Griffith Observatory with the 11 teams:
* The Country Couple. We'll call them the Mullet & Wynona. Besides having the bestest hair ever, our Hillbilly Samson also likes taxidermy.
* Bates & Anthony. The hockey players we know and we love. Anthony points out that besides being athletic enough to handle the race, they are "super good looking" just before smiling enough to reveal missing teeth. Later, they talk about being so close they finish each other's ... sandwiches, a joke that I'm guessing is part of a long-running routine. Also, Bates, it seems, is in charge of Anthony's false teeth. Now that's love.
* Derby moms. Naturally, they talk about how tough they are. If you watch the Race you know there's always a team that wants to be an inspiration to their children, to show them they can do anything. This is that team.
* Newlyweds. They've been married about a week; the Race is their honeymoon. They want you to know that they are cut throat.
* Father & son. They are the inspirational story. Both are in remission for cancer.
* Dating couple. She wants a ring bad. His response is "It's only been 4 years, what's the hurry?!"
* Twin doctors. They're both OB/Gyns and bless them, they sound like Steve Urkel.
* Asian girls. They're single but they don't want you. They want $1 million.
* Youtube stars. It's pretty clear they like being on camera and they're ready to perform for a bigger audience. This is a branding opportunity.
* Firefighters. They are from Gaffney, SC. If you watch "House of Cards" on Netflix, Gaffney is also the hometown of the fictional manipulative senator played by Kevin Spacey. Gaffney, my friends, has arrived.
* Blondes. They're country singers and they're looking for cute guys. We just know Bates & Anthony will hit on these two.
Last season's unsuccessful $2 million twist has gone away; this year, the team to finish the first leg first gets an express pass (which gives them the opportunity to go straight to the finish line during a leg of the Race), and an extra express pass that they must give to another team sometime before the end of the fourth leg.
First stop: Bora Bora. There are two flights, five teams can get on the first one.
On the way to the airport, Bates & Anthony begin their blondes quest. They might score with them, but they end up on the second flight.
The newlyweds play the political game, befriending folks so they can be candidates for the extra express pass, even though the wife basically hates people. Friendliness pains her. She's going to be fun.
The doctors, part of the group of five that makes it on the first flight, which is an hour ahead, comes up with a plan. With one of their group almost certain to win the first leg, they suggest the second pass go to the second team in their group who comes in second. All agree to the proposal.
Roadblock #1: One team member must tandem skydive from a helicopter while they other takes a water taxi and they meet to get the first clue.
Roadblock #2: On the beach, the taxi riding partner must search through 100 sandcastles for the next clue buried underneath. They must rebuild destroyed sandcastles that don't contain the clue. The sand is hot and it's more than 100 degree on the beach.
Anthony does the jump; Bates does the sandcastles. Bates finds the clue in the sand so quickly that although they were in the second group, they move up to second place overall, leaping ahead of the four other teams.
From there, the teams must row in a Tahitian canoe to the pit stop. It tips easily, but Bates & Anthony handle it. The dating couple gets the two passes, but Bates & Anthony get an impressive 2nd place finish.
The father & son come in 2nd in terms of the alliance. But it's already clear that the dating couple took the whole alliance thing metaphorically.
Meanwhile, the firefighters, the blondes and the newlyweds are still at the beach looking for clues and rebuilding sandcastles. One blonde has described the experience as what hell might be like, sitting on a hot beach building sandcastles for eternity, which is an impressive idea, particularly if just in the distance the hell-goers can see folks sipping cool drinks.
The trio decides they will quit the roadblock and all take the penalty. Although on the next leg that means they'll be 4 hours behind, at this moment, they each just have to beat the other two teams to avoid last place. The firefighters boast that they know they can beat those blondes; they are firefighters, so they can build things and they're men. But we know that boasting on camera is an offense to the reality show gods. So although they build their canoe first, the firefighters tip over their canoe twice.
They go down in flames. And last night, in a Gaffney firehouse, two men had fire engine red faces.