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'The Amazing Race': Painting the town red

February 14, 2010 |  9:00 pm


98759_D1189 Get your paintbrushes ready: It's with a certain giddiness that I can say that the 16th season of "The Amazing Race" is already off to a great start. 

The season opener gave us an ex-beauty queen with an aversion to maps, a weightlifting granny, Stetson-wearing cowboys, tough-talking cops and a slew of other colorful characters to follow on a race around the world for a million-dollar prize at the finish line.

So far, I've yet to pick my favorite teams to root for but it's still early and the one-hour installment didn't give us all that much footage to pore over just yet. That said, the season premiere of "The Amazing Race" not only entertained and sated my desire to travel to Santiago, Chile, but it also made me roar with laughter in the particular way that only "The Amazing Race" can: by dangling a carrot in front of some competitive teams and letting the drama unfold when they screw up in every conceivable way.

This week's episode certainly brought some head-scratching behavior to the fore when the teams departed Los Angeles for Chile... and had to get to LAX using only public transportation. (Which in most cities wouldn't have posed a problem at all, but this being LA...) Some of the teams wisely booked it to Union Station to catch the flyaway bus to LAX while others weren't quite so lucky and got on the Metro. Not the smartest choice, as there were only three pairs of seats available on the first flight. But fate once again chose to intervene this week and mechanical problems meant that everyone ended up on the same flight to Chile.

But the confusion and cluelessness that clouded several teams' decisions started before the flight even took off. Brothers/cowboys Jet and Cord (you can't make up these names) exchanged their U.S. dollars for Brazilian currency, rather than Chilean, as it was the "closest" thing that the currency exchange had on offer. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that like trying to use Canadian dollars in the U.S.? Yes, the two countries are near each other but they are totally different nations with completely separate currencies. Odd.

Still, I like Jet and Cord. They're amusing, so they get a pass in my book. By that same token, dating models Brent and Caite do too, despite Caite's history as the former Miss Teen South Carolina. (If you haven't already, you must watch her hilarious answer to Aimee Teegarden's question about Americans not being able to locate the U.S. on a world map from the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant.) Caite said that she wants to overcome her flub (that's being generous) and prove that she is intelligent; the duo go on to not read their clue correctly and end up walking down the hill in Valparaiso instead of taking the funicular down, receiving a 30-minute penalty that knocks them down from a second-place finish to nearly the bottom of the pack. Ouch.

Still, Caite and Brent's snafu paled in comparison to that made repeatedly by former "Big Brother" contestant Jordan, who referred to Chile as "China" on several occasions, even going so far as to demand "tickets to China" from a ticket counter agent at LAX. (Something tells me that producers would have perhaps intervened to correct that error, should the agent have produced actual tickets to, say, Beijing.)

Better still, father-daughter team Steve and Allie wandered into a partially renovated house to paint the walls, despite the protestations of the construction workers there, after they failed to realize that they were in the wrong place. Their miserable efforts to emblazon the walls of this poor homeowner's house with crimson led me to believe that they should avoid any interior design work in the future. (Undercover detectives Louie and Michael, meanwhile, attempted to randomly paint over graffiti on the streets of Valparaiso.)

Ultimately, Jordan and Jeff came in first place in the first leg of the race, no small achievement in itself. But for married high school sweethearts Dana and Adrian, it was the end of the line after Adrian attempted to complete the Road Block, which had team members walk across a tightrope 120 feet above the city. Poor Adrian fell not once, but twice, during the challenge and the duo were greeted by host Phil Keoghan at the site of the Road Block to tell them that the other teams had checked in. Not the way you want to start off the race, really.

What did you think of the season opener? Which teams are you rooting for? Who would you like to see go home? And what was the most hilarious part of this week's episode? Head to the comments section to discuss.

-- Jace Lacob (Follow my musings on television, food, and more television on Twitter at @televisionary)

Photo: Jordan and Jeff attempt to decipher a clue on "The Amazing Race." Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton.

Related:
'The Amazing Race 16': Five reasons to tune in
First look: CBS announces 'The Amazing Race' cast

Complete 'Amazing Race' coverage on Showtracker

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