Riddle me this, Batman. When is an All-Stars season, not an all-star season? When you gather 11 teams from less than half of the show’s past seasons, and include not a single past winner and several teams that didn’t really do all that well. And you call it – Unfinished Business. I have previously said that I like the concept – and I do – but let’s be clear, this is not an all-stars season. These are 11 past teams – only selected from five different seasons out of 17 past Races – who either got screwed or screwed up the first time around. Some of the “unfinished business” is clear, others are a bit of a stretch to rationalize the team’s inclusion. A quick review of the 11 returning teams – for more in depth, read this preview, and for a great play by play of the episode, read Laura’s top notch recaps here.
1-Jet/Cord – The Cowboys – Cut on line by the weasel brothers who won AR16.
Anyway, we had a bang-up first episode, or should I say half a first episode. Phil warned the returning teams that this season would be full of surprises. And he wasn’t kidding. First, the teams had a starting line task, the first one since the surprise elimination challenge two seasons ago. This time teams had to find a flag indicating the “Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services” airline. The first eight got on the first flight, the last three had to wait 90 minutes. And the last one had an automatic U-Turn at the first Detour. Ouch.
Amazingly, many teams could not figure out it was Qantas. Clearly, they have never travelled the world before…oh wait. Or ever saw the commercial with the koala bear. M&M Boys, Zev/Justin and the Cowboys got it first. Meanwhile, others were randomly guessing Pan Am. I knew who was going to lose from the start – just for the irony of it, but we kept going. Goths got it next, Christina got her dad to stop randomly guessing, and the Trotters got the sixth slot. Margie/Luke and the cheerleaders landed the final slots. And you saw it coming, right?
Kisha/Jen and Garlory got the last spots and Amanda/Kris, who got screwed by a U-Turn, got an automatic U-Turn to deal with. Isn’t it ironic? Dontcha think?
But wait? Cue the conspiracy theorists! The producers snuck a twist on the plane – they got someone to fake having a heart attack. Oh what? That really happened. Oh. I am sure all the teams lined up to express concern and didn’t think it was all about them. Oh, only Big Easy did. Right. That makes sense.
So, the emergency delayed the first flight, allowing the second flight to land first and completely negate the first challenge. And it was awesome, because that’s the Race. You can’t account for what happens along the way on the Race course. Dude has a heart attack. Who saw that coming?
The Roadblock was reminiscent of a past challenge (I think from AR4) where one team member had to make their way through a shark tank in Australia. The best part of this one was that teams had to find a decoder compass in the tank and then decode a long, complicated clue that took them to another dock where they had to tell a commodore (no, not that one), they were “Between the devil and the deep blue sea.” This expression meaning a dilemma of two unfortunate choices always reminds me of The Police.
Amazingly, teams just kept screwing this up. Margie/Luke and the cheerleaders lost “between” and clearly never heard of the expression or “Wrapped Around Your Finger.” They managed to team up with several other teams, primarily Ron/Christina to get the answer. The Trotters never even bothered and got Zev/Justin to tell them. It’s like the nerds doing the jocks’ homework all over again. Then the Cowboys just failed over and over again to get the answer. And they consider themselves All-Stars…oh, wait, they’re not.
The best twist of the episode – the premiere was actually a Super Leg. I’ve said it before – I don’t know why they don’t do more early leg twists like this. A couple of seasons ago we had the Episode 1 non-elimination episode. In AR9 there was a Super Leg on Episode 3, but other than that, it’s always three or four straight elimination legs. It enables us to get to know the teams a little more instead of the quick one and done some of them wind up getting.