The Accidental Columnist: The Amazing Race 4 - Episode 1
by The Trades Staff
Published: May 30, 2003
"The world is waiting for you."
With these classic words, Phil Keoghan, host of The Amazing Race, gets
the contestant teams ready for a race around the world for $1 million.
I don't know about the world, Phil, but I've sure been waiting for this moment.
The Amazing Race is one of the best reality TV shows out there, and it's been too
long a gap between the end of season three and the start of season four.
For those who are new to the show, or for those who've forgotten the basics
during the long wait since last season, here's a summary. The entire race begins
with twelve two-person teams taking off from the same location. During the course
of the race, they must complete various tasks, and are guided by clues to "Pit Stops."
Each Pit Stop marks the end of a particular leg of the race, and after reaching a Pit
Stop, the teams are given a rest period to sleep, eat, and relax. Twelve hours after
each team reaches the Pit Stop, that team is sent back out for the next leg -- each
team, that is, except the last team to arrive at a Pit Stop. That team is eliminated
upon arrival (except on the occasion of a "non-elimination" round).
As a viewer, one of the initial challenges is to keep track of the various teams.
We've already posted our preliminary analyses of the teams,
so here's just a quick summary, in the order that Phil introduced the teams, along
with some nicknames (to be used either with or without the introductory "Team"):
Team Models: Tian and Jaree - A pair of female friends who are
models. They describe themselves as "adrenaline junkies."
Team Air Traffic Controllers: Steve and Dave - Older friends who are
employed as air traffic controllers. They think other teams will underestimate them.
Sounds like they plan to fly under the radar!
Team Gay Couple: Reichen and Chip - Married gay couple, who've
cemented their relationship the same as a heterosexual couple would. However, at
least at the start of the game, they are keeping their relationship private from the
Virgins (aka "Team Chaste"): Millie and Chuck - Another dating couple,
notable for having dated for 12 years and still being virgins, based on their biblical
beliefs. Millie seems eager for that ring!
Team Father & Son: Steve and Josh - A father-son pairing, looking to
find common ground. They clashed when Josh was younger, but feel they're ready
to connect now.
Team Friends: Russell and Cindy - A pair of friends who are so busy
being models and inventors and entrepreneurs that they haven't had much time to
spend together. Cindy's hoping that there will be "a lot of romance" between her and
Russell on this trip; Russell seems to have more trepidation about the idea of a
Team NFL Wives: Monica and Sheree - Friends who are both married
to members of the Atlanta Falcons. After years of cheering for their husbands,
they're looking forward to people cheering for them.
Team Best Friends: David & Jeff - Athletic pair of best friends. They are
very confident of their abilities.
Team Dating: Amanda and Chris - A dating couple from South Dakota,
prone to using profanity (I'm tempted to call them "Team Bleep"). They think they
might be viewed as "country bumpkins."
Team Engaged: Kelly and Jon - Another young couple, this one recently
engaged. We might need to change their nickname, depending on how their
relationship holds up over the course of the show, although they announced that they
planned to stick together, go home together, and "hopefully still get married."
Team Married Parents: Debra and Steve - A middle-aged married
couple. They introduced themselves as fat, forty, "but we're fun!"
Team Clowns: Jon and Al - Friends who've traveled together as
members of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey's circus. They're looking to
have fun, meet people, and "put a little competition in this race."
The race begins at Dodger Stadium, where Phil gives the contestants a
reiteration of the race rules. He then tells them that their first clue is on top of their
luggage, on the other side of the stadium. At his word, the teams race to their
luggage to get their clue (narrowly missing knocking Phil over in the process.
The clue tells the contestants that their first destination is Milan, Italy. As has
been the case in previous seasons, the first major challenge is to get to the airport
and wangle a good flight out. But, as the clue warns, seats are limited. They also
find that they've been given $200 for this leg of the race. The money they receive at
the start of each leg is to cover all of their expenses except for airline
After reading the clue, the teams each hopped in a waiting van and drove to the
airport. With everyone leaving at the same time, the contestants were jostling for
position. Reichen and Chip, from California, hoped that they could throw anyone
who might be following them. This might seem paranoid, if we hadn't seen Kelly
telling Jon, "Follow those California-looking boys!" Later, they counted a total of five
vans following them.
Not among those five were David and Jeff, who made several wrong turns, and
Tian and Jaree, who had problems with the hatch opening at the back of their van.
After several starts and stops, Tian and Jaree decided they needed a new van. Phil
explained to us in a voiceover that if a car breaks down through no fault of the team
or it becomes unsafe to drive, a replacement car may be given, but the team gets no
time credit and basically has to eat their own bad luck.
The most desirable flight was a 2:55 p.m. SwissAir flight, which was scheduled to
arrive in Milan first, at 1:15, but it only had enough seats for four teams. Three more
teams could take a Lufthansa flight that also left at 2:55 p.m. but arrived in Milan 40
minutes after the SwissAir flight, at 1:55. The remaining five teams would take a
KLM flight which left almost an hour after the other two.
Russell and Cindy were the first team to get their tickets, wisely requesting seats
as far forward as possible, but they got their tickets for the later-arriving Lufthansa
The cut-throat nature of these competitors was revealed when the NFL Wives
came running up to a shuttle that Dating (Jon and Kelly) and Gay Married (Chip and
Reichen) were already on. The boys on the shuttle all vociferously told the shuttle
driver not to let the NFL Wives on. While Kelly warned darkly of karma coming back
around, the guys seemed pleased when the shuttle took off without the other two
The Clowns (Jon and Al) were first at the SwissAir flight, and had the forethought
to ask when the Lufthansa flight got in compared to the SwissAir flight. They were so
delighted to learn that the SwissAir flight was first that Jon balanced a ticket on his
Millie and Chuck (Virgins) and Chris and Amanda (Dating) headed for the
Lufthansa counter, which was the first one they saw, and got the remaining seats for
that flight. Chip and Reichen attempted to force their way on to the list, but the ticket
agent remained firm about which teams arrived when, and refused to allow them
tickets. Line-up for second-arriving Lufthansa flight: Friends (Cindy and
Russell), Virgins (Millie and Chuck), and Team Bleep (Chris and Amanda).
Kelly and Jon were second on SwissAir, and Steve and Josh (Father/Son),
based on their position in line, figured they were also getting seats. Noticing the air
traffic controller hats of Steve and Dave and figuring that they'd be good allies to
have, Josh proposed that, if Father/Son found out there were enough tickets, they
would call up Team Air Traffic Controllers, even though the NFL Wives were in line
between Father/Son and the Air Traffic Controllers. The NFL Wives were upset, as
Josh tried to explain that Father/Son and Air Traffic Controllers were going to be a
"superteam". Steve of Air Traffic Controllers tried to make it up to the Wives by
pointing out where KLM's ticket counter was, but the Wives tearfully refused any
help. Heading off to KLM, they uttered the title line of the episode: "Cheaters never
win, and they cheated!" Line-up for first-arriving SwissAir flight: Clowns (Jon
and Al), Engaged (Kelly and Jon), Father/Son (Steve and Josh), and Air Traffic
Controllers (Dave and Steve).
That left the remaining contestants with no choice but the KLM flight. Line-
up for last-arriving KLM flight: Best Friends (Dave and Jeff), Gay Couple (Chip and
Reichen), Married Parents (Steve and Debra), NFL Wives (Monica and Sheree),
and, arriving last to the airport and bitching, the Models (Tian and Jaree). Many
of these teams scrambled to develop a strategy, already worried about being in last
place. Chip and Reichen approached Dave and Jeff about an alliance to make sure
that neither team would be in last place. The Models worked on lightening their
pack. Debra and Steve worried about their own position, being up against four young
teams. The NFL Wives just prayed.
The race among the teams on the first two flights was closer than the projected
arrival times in Milan would have predicted. The SwissAir flight was delayed, and
arrived in Milan only ten minutes ahead of the Lufthansa flight. All of the teams
hurried to find cabs to proceed to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II to look for their
next clue. Jon and Kelly (Engaged), both of whom have been to the Galleria before,
took the lead and reached the clue first. Their task was to search a mile of
storefronts for bus tickets hidden in crevices, under ledges, etc., for chartered trips
leaving at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., or 6 a.m. Once a team claimed a ticket by taking it out of
its holder, they were stuck with it and could not exchange it.
Kelly and Jon (Engaged) and Cindy and Russell (Friends) found tickets first, for 4
a.m. Not knowing where 4 a.m. was in the line-up, they decided to keep it. And, as
Kelly explained, she hadn't realized there was the option of not opening the
envelope -- she had just opened it, removing the possibility of rejecting the
On the other hand, Amanda and Chris found a 4 a.m. ticket, rejected it as a
"sucky time", and continued looking. Millie and Chuck found tickets for 2 a.m., and
decided to keep them. Noticing there were enough tickets for Amanda and Chris,
and wanting to keep them as travel companions, Millie and Chuck told them about
the tickets so that they could also take that bus.
At 3:20 p.m., the KLM flight landed with the remaining teams. The teams hustled
their way off the plane, with Debra (Married Parents) taking a tumble. "I'd like to say I
was tripped," she remarked wryly, "but I wasn't."
David and Jeff (Best Friends) and Chip and Reichen (Gay Couple) continued in
their alliance, but Reichen worried that Dave and Jeff, who are "obviously very
straight", wouldn't like them any more after he told them that he and Chip were a gay
couple. Based on information from David and Jeff, the alliance decided to take a
train, while the other three teams took cabs to the Galleria. The cabs, however, beat
the train there.
Married Parents quickly found a 6 a.m. ticket. The NFL Wives looked
desperately for someone who spoke English to help them. They ended up finding
Josh (Father/Son), the same person who was responsible for their ouster from the
SwissAir flight. Josh told them where they could find a 4 a.m. ticket (the earliest bus
they could take at that point), telling them "if we can help you out" -- seemingly an
attempt to rebalance his negative karma from the earlier episode (and, as he told the
camera, "I really don't want those two blond chicks with the fake tits up in there"). As
the only team from the last flight to make it on one of the first two buses, this
effectively nullified the handicap they'd received at the airport.
Waiting for the Challenge
Once all the teams had their charter bus tickets, the teams needed to find a
place to spend the night. The most popular hotel appeared to be Hotel Nuovo, which
requested 50 euros for a room. Debra and Steve (Married Parents) were concerned
about money, so they decided to wait and think it over. However, while they were
thinking about it, all the rooms at the hotel were taken. By the time they got back,
there wasn't a room available, and Steve chastised himself that he "blew it".
Fortunately for them, Chip and Reichen (Gay Couple) offered to share their
room, saying that they weren't going to let their good friends spend the night out in
the cold (prompting Steve to give Chip a smacking kiss on the cheek). Reichen
remarked in a voiceover that they still hadn't decided if they were going to let anyone
else in the race know that they were a gay couple if they haven't figured it out
already. Not much gets by Debra, though, who made a remark to Steve about
having a feeling the boys wanted to sleep together.
Despite the happy ending, Steve was upset about how the mistake at the hotel.
He broke down in quiet tears, and Debra comforted him by making light of his
situation and telling him how much she loved him.
Cindy and Russell (Friends), however, decided to forego the hotel entirely and
asked a police officer if they could wait outside. They argued over whether Russell
had adequately explained what they wanted to do (get out their sleeping bags versus
simply waiting on a bench). In stark contrast to the tender scene between Steve and
Debra, we heard Russell calling Cindy "dumbass".
High Altitudes and Zip Lines
The teams must board one of three buses to a (as yet unknown) destination. The first bus, leaving at 2:00 a.m. carries the following teams: Virgins, Dating, Father & Son, and Air Traffic Controllers. The second bus, leaving at 4:00 a.m. has teams Friends, Engaged, NFL Wives, and Clowns. The final bus, leaving at 6:00 a.m. has Married Parents, Models, Gay Couple, and Best Friends.
The teams are headed to the frigid Dolomite mountains to the town of Cortina D'Ampezzo. Once they reached this town, they had to take taxis to Cinque Torri and board chair lifts to get to the top of the mountain. After they hopped out of the chair lifts, the teams had to follow a marked path in the snow to find the next route marker.
The teams discovered the next task was a Detour. A Detour is a choice between two tasks each task with its own pros and cons. This Detour was Search or Rescue. In Search, teams needed to use a locator beacon to search a 160-acre snow area for key that starts a snowmobile. Then the teams had to ride the snowmobile on a special track. Finding the right spot for the key and running the snowmobile course could take a long time. It is no wonder that none of the teams chose this task. In Rescue, teams had to hike to nearby rock towers and cross an alpine bridge constructed with steel cables. Next the teams had to use a zip line to travel 250 feet across a ravine. A zip line, for those who didn't watch the episode, is a thin, wire cable that each team member used to move across the ravine via a harness of some sort.
There are several people in this race who have a fear of heights, Chris (Dating) being one of them. He crossed the bridge without looking down and shouted some encouraging words to Amanda who crossed the bridge after him. They were the first team to complete the Detour. Millie & Chuck were the second team. Neither team had any problems on the zip lines. Steve & Josh were the third team across the bridge. The team also completed the tasks pretty quickly.
Once the teams finished the Detour, they were instructed to go directly to the Pit Stop. In order to get to the Pit Stop, the Hotel Lajadira, they had to do a "grueling" hike back to the chair lifts, take the chair lifts down to the base of the mountain and find transportation to the Hotel. The last team arriving at the Hotel would be eliminated.
Steve and Dave (Air Traffic Controllers) were a seemingly distant fourth in finishing the Detour. As they were walking across the bridge, Dave was heard in a voiceover saying that he and Steve were old and not in the best of shape. This would be a recurring theme for the team in this episode. While they were finishing the Detour, the other three teams were starting their hike down to the chair lifts. Meanwhile, the second and third buses of teams were on the road to Cortina. Bus #2 arrived in Cortina as Steve and Dave finished the zip line task.
Fast Forwards and Leading Teams
Fast Forward (FF) is a task that only one team per leg can complete. The FF allows the team to skip all other activities in that leg of the race and go directly to the Pit Stop. Once a team uses the FF, that team cannot use a FF again. The FF in this leg of the race was to find a field in a nearby city, put on snowshoes and climb to the top of a hill. The first team to get to the route marker can claim the FF. Monica and Sheree decide to go for the FF when they learned the other 3 teams on their bus were ahead of them and were able to get taxis quickly. I am not sure that I agree with the NFL Wives using their FF so soon in the race, but I'm not sure this team will last very long in the race anyway.
Meanwhile, Amanda and Chris were hiking their way back to the chair lift, and Chris was not happy with how slowly Amanda was walking. So he yelled at her, "come on Flo!" Well, to be compared with Flo (the TAR "winner" from last season who was not a very nice person) would have sent me right over the edge. It seemed to send Amanda over the edge because she began a string of cursing at Chris. Chris' lack of support of Amanda was not very Zach-like (Flo's partner). Millie & Chuck passed Amanda & Chris and Chris was not too thrilled with that. I think Chris needed to understand which battles to pick. It isn't important to be first all the time at this point in the race. If teams are able to maintain a position in the top 5 for the first half of the race, that's a very good pace for a first place finish.
The NFL Wives had some trouble with the FF task. The snow was very deep and they fell several times getting to the route marker. In some ways it is probably a good thing they decided to do the FF because I'm not sure how well they would have done on the hike back to the chair lift after the Detour. They won the FF and they skipped all tasks and went directly to the Pit Stop.
On to the Pit Stop
Virgins, Dating, and Father/Son decide to work together to keep all three teams at the front of the pack. So Virgins sought out information about the location of the Pit Stop and share this information. Virgins and Dating also hold a cab for Father/Son even though that team was a couple of minutes behind the two leading teams. The Air Traffic Controllers (Steve and Dave) were left out of this alliance because, in part, they were so far behind the leading three teams.
Dave's right knee gave way as they were hiking down the mountain. At the point that Steve hurt his knee, my friend turned to me and said, "don't they have to take a physical to get on this show? It seems to me they weren't at all ready to be doing this race." You know what? I have to agree with him. Although Dave looked like he was in bad shape, he eventually was able to bend his knee and he and Steve made it down the mountain. Steve decided to kick out snow and make some steps in the snow for Dave so that his knee would not be so taxed. I thought that showed amazing cooperation on Steve's part. The leading three teams arrived at the Pit Stop just as Steve and Dave were trying to make it down the mountain. They won a trip to Hawaii by arriving first at the Pit Stop.
Team Engaged was the 5th team to do the Detour and the Clowns was the 6th team to complete the Detour. I think that the Clowns finished the wire bridge the fastest of any team and it might be because of their circus background. As they were completing the wire bridge task, the NFL Wives arrived at the Pit Stop.
Kelly started to freak out on the zip line, and she equated the scariness of zip line to getting married. Of course Jon said what all viewers were thinking, "Why did she equate getting married with the zip line?" How does that make sense? Is marriage the same as a possible fall to one's death? Hmm. Team Friends were the 7th team to complete the Detour.
The final bus arrived in Cortina just as Team Friends finished the zip line task. What was amusing about the footage of the final teams, is that Team Model (though I guess these two are really actresses) had some trouble getting a cab. One of the two (Jaree I think) decided to have coffee in a coffee shop while her partner was outside trying to hail a cab. I don't know what she was thinking
Reichen & Chip from the last bus were the first to go (8th) across the zip line. David & Jeff were 9th and Married Parents were 10th. The Models were in last place arriving at the Detour. In more foreshadowing, as we saw the teams running to the rock towers, both Debra and Steve fell in the snow as they were rushing to the towers.
David and Jeff made it through the Detour easily, but seemed to be a bit behind Reichen and Chip. Debra took a very very long time going across the wire bridge. When she was 3/4ths way, Tian started on the bridge and helped push Debra (when she got to the end) off the end of the bridge. At this point the Models passed Married Parents. Somehow David and Jeff got turned around in their hike back to the chair lift. They ended up in the snowmobile area and had to be told by a worker that they could not take the snowmobiles. They finally figured out the way back and made their way back to the chair lift.
As Jaree and Tian were hiking back to the chair lifts (the altitude definitely got the best of most of the teams in this leg of the race), Reichen & Chip arrived at the Pit Stop. Jaree was having a really hard time hiking back and she was mumbling that her lung capacity was small because of 20 years of smoking cigarettes. Tian attached a belt to Jaree and pulled her along the path like one might pull a mule. Debra and Steve were also not doing very well and hiked back down the mountain very slowly. Married Parents were the last to arrive and they were eliminated.
Here is the order that the teams arrived at the Pit Stop.
1. Virgins: Millie & Chuck, Dating: Amanda & Chris, and Father & Son: Steve & Josh
4. NFL Wives: Monica & Sheree
5. Air Traffic Controllers: Steve & Dave
6. Engaged: Kelly & Jon
7. Clowns: Jon & Al
8. Friends: Russell & Cindy
9. Gay Couple: Reichen & Chip
10. Best Friends: David & Jeff
11. Models: Tian & Jaree
12. Married Parents: Debra & Steve
Mary's final comments: This first episode really revealed some weaknesses in the above teams. At this point, I feel relatively confident in stating that I think there is no way in Hades that the Models or the Air Traffic Controllers will win this race. I would be shocked out of my mind if either team made it to the top 5. Something about the decision-making processes of Monica and Sheree also make me think they won't make it far into the race. I might say the same about some of the other teams, but I need to see more of Amanda & Chris, Steve & Josh, Kelly & Jon, and Russell & Cindy. The strongest team right now seems to be Millie and Chuck. They did a great job this episode and they seem to work well together.
Molly's final comments: Great start to the season. Models are
definitely out of there soon, and Air Traffic Controllers need to be sure to work
smarter, since they can't work harder. I don't think the NFL wives will make it to the second half of the season -- they're too emotional, too easily thrown, and now they've already used their fast forward. The biggest surprise to me was Chip and Reichen. While I applaud their generosity in sharing their room with Debra and Steve, their behavior in trying to force their way ahead in the line for Lufthansa tickets took me aback. There was a harsh edge to their tone then that makes me wonder what lies ahead from them as the field of competitors narrows. I was pleased at how well Steve and Josh have been doing, though, and look forward to getting to know all these teams better in the next episode.
The Amazing Race 4 is on Thursdays at 8:00 p.m.
Previous seasons of The Amazing Race.
On the Internet: CBS.com | SirLinksalot.net