Host Jon Montgomery had a lot riding on his performance and he was, well, I guess the only term that fits is, Mostly Harmless. It was pretty obvious right from the onset that TV hosting isn't his best skill. His presentation was a bit wooden, reminiscent of Allan Wu, the Amazing Race Asia host, especially when describing tasks, etc. But thankfully it didn't take away from the show. However, his work on the mat, greeting teams at the end, was up to snuff. In fact, the way he eliminated the losing team was quite shocking. He didn't hold back, didn't pause from dramatic effect, he just cut to the quick and eliminated the losers in a ruthless fashion. It was jolt to watch, probably even more so for the teams involved. I thought it was great and based on that and other moments on the mat, have some hope for improvement in Jon's performance as the series progresses.
But back to the start of the race. Niagara Falls, one of Canada's iconic geographic features, was the perfect start for our first ever Amazing Race Canada. Visually stunning with some great shots of the teams riding the jet boats to the start. The team introductions were short, but props to the producers for giving us viewers a decent look at the teams in such a short period of time. This kind of quick storytelling is hard to do and those folks did an excellent job. The background bits, especially for Brothers and Sisters, were quite fascinating. TheGay Cowboys were funny, especially how they completely understand the juxtaposition of their team and how they'll use that to their advantage. My wife liked the Hippies (they were bit bland but cool), correctly predicting they would win the leg. And like his wife predicted, I didn't like Brent from the team of Doctors when I first met him. He may grow on me as the show goes on because he seems to be the most strategic player out there.
The first task, grabbing a couple of envelopes out of various terrariums in a butterfly farm, seemed innocuous, but had devastating effects on the rest of the leg. Obvious this was no accident on the producers part. They probably hoped that the teams would be all hyped up from the start so that some of them would forget the most important rule when competing in the Amazing Race: Read the Clue. But they didn't and the Bicep Friends chose a terrarium with less dangerous creatures and lost a chance at getting on the flight to Kelowna that landed 90 minutes earlier. Other teams also didn't read the clue and suffered greatly as a result. More on that later.
Then we had a few ads for Air Canada, Interac, Chevy, the sponsors for the show, as the teams made their way to find a Blue Bear in Kelowna, BC. The pre-loaded Interac card instead of cash was an interesting concept. But I wonder how that's going to work in places where teams have to pay cash. Or if the Interac card will not be used in every leg. Might be a moot point because this is Canada and Interac machines are used almost everywhere.
So as the teams found the Blue Bear in Kelowna, it was pretty obvious that the kiosk for the jet skis was going to be closed for the night. Thankfully, teams had to grab a number so that getting on an earlier flight would have made little difference. They then settled for the night and an alliance was made. Just like in Season 22 of TAR, the first four teams decided that if one of them would come in first and win the two Express Passes, they would give the second one to whichever team came in second. We'll see if the alliance holds and the Express Pass is given according to the agreement. And if the alliance continues throughout the race. Nice move on Brent for coming up with this plan. It might help his team.
Once the sun rose and the kiosk opened, one by one the teams headed out with jet-skis onto Okanagan Lake to find Ogopogo. They actually had to find a diving place, get fitted up with gear and head underwater to search for statue of the mythical creature which held their next clue. Some teams did this pretty fast, while others struggled, either with the task itself, or in the case of the Gay Cowboys and the Twins, in finding the diving area. They both got lost. It's a pretty big lake (135 klicks long and 4-5 wide) so that's understandable. Good thing they didn't go too far.
But two things struck me while watching teams do this task. First, the Hippies did something that seemed unexceptional but was probably an Amazing Race first. What usually happens if a mixed team has to drive something like a jet-ski, motorcycle, quad, or some other vehicle like that, the male member drives. Just like the Doctors and Body Break did. But with the Hippies, Kristen drove the Jet-Ski while Darren hung on. Both ways. Not a race changing event, but I thought it should be mentioned. It also got me thinking that my wife is probably right about these guys. And maybe they won't end up being too bland.
Also, because Jodi from the Brothers had to remove his prosthetic legs to ride the jet-ski, you got a true sense of the extent of his injuries, how much he's probably had to overcome since he was injured in Afghanistan, and how his brother has been a major support for him. That scene where Cory piggybacked Jodi to the jet-ski was quite touching. That was further driven home in the next task when Jodi had to walk across the skinny, swinging beam on his prosthetic legs to get the hanging clue. I hope those competitors who complained about being so afraid of heights, and how walking across the beam was one of the toughest things they ever done, were humbled when they watched the episode and saw Jodi walking along that beam on his prosthetics. They had it easy compared to him. And compared to Tim Sr. of the Timmies. You could him shake because of his Parkinson's but he didn't complain at all. In fact, he was probably one of the most steady ones up there.
It was in this task though where the show got bogged down, save for the scenes of Jodi and Tim Sr. The editing in some parts of this section was so contrived that it was frustrating. First, you had one player on the beam, complaining of the heights and the commenting that she couldn't finish the task. Then commercial break, intimating that this situation might make or break them. Then when they come back, the previous scene is rerun but she just jumps off, showing that there was no real cliff-hanger here. Just a contrived one. And that's okay because that's typical Amazing Race editing. But then they do it again. Almost exactly the way it happened before, breaking for commercial after another play says she can't do it. But after commercial, she jumps almost without hesitation. And then another scene of the exact same situation with another team. thankfully they didn't break for commercial a third time at the same point.
So after the teams finished jumping off the beam, it was a race to the Pit Stop. The Hippies were in control of the situation and with some good map reading, along with some fake Phil-style pointing from the Mat by Montgomery, were Team # 1. They won an Express Pass for themselves and one for another team. They were part of the alliance but we'll see if they pass it onto the Doctors, who came second. I'm guessing they will. They also won round trip airfare for two to Sydney Australia. Only airfare though, no hotel or spa (or Spah as Phil pronounces it), but still pretty cool. So was Montgomery's use of the Canadian "eh" in his conversation with them. A nice accidental touch.
The rest of the teams dribbled in, Body Break and Bicep Friends coming in together, and then the drama began. The Timmies beat the Sisters but because the boys didn't take two clues from the butterfly place, they were given a 30 minute penalty. The reaction by Vanessa, calling the Timmies "suckers" for screwing up while she celebrated beating them was outstanding. And Tim Jr.'s retort — "Time will tell, baby." — showed there's gonna be some interplay between those two.
The Brothers came in afterwards, and finally, the last race to the Mat between the Gay Cowboys and the Twins. Since the twins were track athletes, they were supposed to beat anyone in a foot race. But one cowboy beat one of the twins so maybe their track skills have faded over time. Still, they got to the mat as a team first so it looked like the boys were last. But since the twins also didn't get two clues from the butterfly place (an odd mistake since both their jobs rely on an attention to detail), they were penalized. So the Gay Cowboys were in and the Twins were out. A shocking ending, made even more so but Montgomery's quick and deadly elimination style. I thought the Cowboys showed that great Alberta character to be just as saddened as the Twins by the turn of events. The hugs were sweet. But I didn't mourn because I didn't warm up to the Twins as a team. No doubt if the tables were turned and they beat the Cowboys, they would have celebrated before offering their condolences. But it's homeward for them, although in reality, they probably stayed at the winery/resort for the rest of the race.
Next week, the teams must navigate the metropolis of Vancouver. The promo makes it look like some kind of crazy ordeal but it's Vancouver, not Seoul or Mumbai. Shouldn't be overly difficult. Then again, you never know.