The Amazing Race Premiere Recap: Love Is Blind

The Amazing Race Season 26 Premiere

With 25 seasons and 15 Emmys under its belt, The Amazing Race is now letting love lead the way.

For its 26th season, the CBS reality competition has recruited 11 dating duos for its next race around the world.

The catch? While six of this year’s twosomes have been dating for quite some time, the remaining five teams have been paired up as “blind date” couples, meeting for the first time on the race and hoping that their instant chemistry (or lack thereof) can carry them to the finish line.

Before we look at the finer details of Wednesday’s 90-minute premiere, here’s a breakdown of the competing couples:

* Aly Dudek and Steven Langton — Olympic athletes, dating for seven months
* Harley Rodriguez and Jonathan Knight — fitness trainer and former (er, current?) New Kid on the Block, dating for seven years
* Jeff Magee and Lyda Grawn — airline pilot and flight attendant, dating for four years
* C.J. Harris and Lebya Simpson — IT technician and medical support assistant, dating for 10 years
* Matt Cucolo and Ashley Gordon — hairstylists, dating for three years
* Rochelle Nevedal and Michael Dombrowski — contract engineer and truck stop manager, dating for two years
* Hayley Keel and Blair Townsend — nurse and physician, blind date couple
* Jackie Ibarra and Jeffrey Weldon — dancer and sales executive, blind date couple
* Laura Pierson and Tyler Adams — talent booker and mobile app developer, blind date couple
* Jenny Wu and Jelani Roy — lawyers, blind date couple
* Bergen Olson and Kurt Jordan Belcher — project manager and pageant consultant, blind date couple

I’ll admit: When I first heard about The Amazing Race‘s new twist, I was skeptical. Isn’t this show better than that? Did we really need to merge a clever competition series with the awkward drama of The Bachelor? We did not.

But, aside from a few superficial moments in the season premiere — seriously, how many times did Laura (who bears a ridiculously striking resemblance to Amy Adams) have to remind us how attractive her “man candy” partner is? — the blind date twist actually seems to be working out well.

The first leg of the race brought contestants to Tokyo, Japan, where they were given a choice: Memorize different brands of sake, or master a synchronized dance routine. Lo and behold, the first three teams to meet Phil on the pit stop mat were blind date couples, including Jenny and Jelani, who earned an Express Pass for their first-place finish. Whodathunkit?

One newly matched pair that does seem to be struggling, though, is Hayley and Blair. First, Hayley took her sweet time getting through the initial obstacle course that allowed players to pick their flights to Tokyo (“It looks like I have diarrhea!” she cried as she washed the mud off her legs). Then, Blair led his partner down the wrong street in Tokyo, choosing to ignore Hayley’s correct directions. And, in general, the pair seems to have a hard time making conversation, which might not bode so well as the race’s challenges get tougher.

That said, Hayley and Blair weren’t the least fortunate team of the day. That honor went to Jeff and Lyda, who struggled to perfect the synchronized dance moves, then found themselves the victims of a cold, cold Blind U-Turn. (I know Rochelle and Michael have a lot on the line, but seriously, who U-Turns another team on the first leg?!)

What did you think of The Amazing Race‘s Season 26 premiere and the blind date twist? Choose your three favorite teams (so far) in our poll below, then hit the comments to back up your choices!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Hipper says:

    One sure way for TAR to lose the Emmy this season is submitting this dreadful premiere. I am not liking this blind dating/selfie-enraged version of my show.

    • shelly says:

      Totally agree. Worst premier and I have always loved this show. Hated the selfies and that awful dance that went on forever. I couldnt believe that last couple never thought to switch tasks.

    • James says:

      I think they have plenty from TAR25 to submit for Emmy consideration. As for the premiere, it’s not really the worst I’ve seen in TAR history. Probably the one where one couple were disqualified on the starting line right out of the gate.

    • sanchopanza says:

      I have no problem with the premiere, but the blind date thing annoys me. At least when you have existing couples there’s a mix of types, older-younger, boho-conservative, glam-downhome. But as soon as I saw the single men – all reasonably good-looking and glam – I knew the girls would be fashion models with long hair and more than reasonably glam. Somebody apparently thought, “Let’s feed off the popularity of The Bachelor and Bachelorette.”

      • Yes, I so agree. It was funny to see that the Survivor preview had contestants who looked more genuine. Rochelle and Michael looked freakish because of it. (Maybe they are freakish– who dates someone for two years and doesn’t allow them to meet their child. Hmm.)

      • Polarcat says:

        Yup! Blind date couples are designed to be power couples and some of the existing couples are set up as fodder. Selfies HAVE to go!! Had to smile when CJ and Libby missed their train and, appropriately Episode #3……

    • JT says:

      Maybe they’ll drop the selfies after that AL couple missed their train doing one? Or maybe they’ll just call it a new road block…

      I also couldn’t believe that several couples stayed with the dance routine for hours when they had to wait for all the other couples to go. If you were the last to arrive and saw that the first team had missed over ten times already…

    • josfitz says:

      Gosh, I’m so sorry that you feel that way. I love this premier and furthermore, it is the episode that restored my faith in TAR. I loved the pairings, especially the pilot who announced early-on that those who did not know each other didn’t have a chance and then was himself responsible for being the first couple to lose. Pretty ironic or cleaver foreshadowing. Either way good TV. The Tokyo location is also great as I watch the show to see the places they visit. Lower Sloblovia doesn’t cut it but world class cities do.

      • josfitz says:

        However, you are completely right about the selfies and the dance routine. I believe that was done to emphasize the foreshadowing at the very beginning where the pilot said that those where were not couple didn’t have a chance. But the woman with him; all of that crying and carrying on when a person with half a brain would have just said, “Look honey, you are not terribly good at this, let’s try the other challenge”. So much more believable.

  2. Ray Proffitt says:

    Does anybody know where the opening location was for tonight’s episode?

  3. Funny the top 3 were the blind date couples. Get rid of the selfies and should be ok. Man…that Navy doctor just didn’t gel with that ER nurse. Yep truly picky and a bit douchey.

  4. dagargia says:

    I love TAR. I was very suspect of the new blind date idea, but after the premiere I am not so sure that this will be a bad season–especially since the blind daters did so well during the first episode. This show has won 15 Emmys for a reason and I think this is going to be a great season because now we get to see how new relationships develop–excel or crash and burn. I even wrote a post about in my tv blog The Recommendation Nation and explained my feelings about the season premiere. I will always love TAR because it is always so well produced and unpredictable.

  5. para says:

    I always love Olympians

  6. Karla says:

    I kinda like the idea of putting new vs existing couples. It will really show how teamwork plays a huge factor in the game. really looking forward to how this plays out as the show progresses.

  7. Dennis says:

    I thought it was a great premiere …looking forward to rest of season..

    • josfitz says:

      Me too. I thought that I was getting tired of the whole format but these parings along with Tokyo really made for some good TV. I fee the thrill that I felt during the first few seasons all over again.

      • Polarcat says:

        The old format was JUST FINE!! They have to use the locations they send teams to and the challenges they have to do to keep things fresh. I hope the BD couple thing fails at some level, just so we do not see this again. Sadly, it will NOT fail, the better teams, save the Olympians are BD couples. BTW, I hate Bachelor, one of the STUPIDEST shows EVER!

        • Tee says:

          Nothing can be as bad as the family addition. Part of that was having so many people on screen talking at once, and the lack of international challenge locales. I think TAR should have tried again with a family edition, staying with pairs, but making it a parent and a child, rather than making it a combination of different types of relatives.

  8. Gigantor says:

    When it’s down the wire, you have to do what you have to do to avoid elimination even though you didn’t want to do it. It’s for a million dollars and you don’t want to be the 1st one eliminated. It’s a game.

  9. Jan says:

    I was worried about the blind date aspect, too … also mentally comparing it to Bachelor. However, it wasn’t that bad …except the selfies got a bit too much. I didn’t like them having a U-Turn so early.

  10. Doug says:

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!! Get rid of the selfies! The people are SURROUNDED by cameras. Why do we need the selfies?

  11. josfitz says:

    Hayley isn’t a fay as she seems and Blair is reticent but can be had with persistence. Telling was the fact that Hayley had the right direction when they were attempting to get to their first destination, she was right. I think that Blair will come around to appreciate that she is not just a pretty face.

  12. Curly Girly says:

    Excuse me, but Jonathan Knight is still a member of NKOTB. I’m going to see them on tour this summer. Go #TeamNewKid!!!

  13. andrew lim says:

    It’s too early to decide. Perhaps when it’s whittled down to 5 teams.

  14. JOHN says:

    We have been fans for years.. except for this season. The gay couples are disgusting and nasty. We are glad we have many other channels to watch.
    Why T.V. chooses to promote this sin is shameful.
    God Bless America !!!

    • josfitz says:

      I think your view of gays is disgusting! Jesus was inclusive, never exclusive. So you now see yourself as knowing better than God? Good luck with that one. BTW nobody is promoting anything, people are who they are. I’m glad that you have other channels to watch as well. Perhaps you ought to try one that preaches Christian love and acceptance of others different from yourselves. Oh, and please stop trying to cherry pick phrases from the Old Testament that was written in a time when there were very few people, hence the emphasis upon creating more. The references about not spilling seed, not lying together and marrying a brother’s wife are historical and reflect the human condition at the time, not ours. Why not try to read the Bible as a whole and learn to live and let live. BTW God does bless America, that is why gay marriage will become the law of the land.

    • Tee says:

      Are you really a fan, because I’m fairly certain that there has been a gay couple EVERY season, so why you choose to have something against this season is beyond me. There have been at least two seasons where the gay couple has WON!

  15. CL.Kewayosh says:

    Love the show, but my question is why no North American Indians on your show??

    • anonymous says:

      They never have native Americans on these shows. And I find it amazing that even in this day and age they often have Hispanics playing characters who are supposed to be native on some shows which do feature native characters.

      • josfitz says:

        First of all. How would you know whether or not there are Native Americans or Hispanics. Do you think they have a neon sign on their foreheads. I find your comment to be very prejudicial even though I would imagine that is not what you may have intended. IMO you should stop trying to look for causes and just enjoy the show. I think that it shows a lot of diversity.

  16. Jade frank says:

    cj 10 years dating she not the one lol!!

    • Polarcat says:

      Pretty much defines “Friends with Benefits”……

    • josfitz says:

      Perhaps, but there are many reasons why some choose not to marry in this day and time. As long as it works for them. I suppose it depends upon where one is from. Where I live on the East Coast it is almost the norm for folk to remain single for extended periods of time and in some cases never get married even if they have children. Some have been married before and don’t need it anymore. Others are older and if they are not planning a family why bother? It all comes down to individual preferences. So much better than when I was growing up and it was a social mandate. Those who did not marry were definitely ostracized and often suspect of being somehow odd as if that should make any difference. I consider the view of marriage today to be far superior to that formerly held.