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The Amazing Race 29 is finally going to air.
Commentary by by RTVC Senior Staff Writer Kathleen
September 26, 2015

Amazing Race 29
Do you believe it? The Amazing Race 29 is finally going to air.

Rumor has it that the race was actually run almost a year ago. What I think is amazing is that the racers have kept quiet about the race and it’s results.

Or maybe they didn’t. In any event, it escaped my notice.

But, finally, we launch.

The twist this season is that all the racer are strangers to each other. As twists go this one should be good for the viewer. The race list is well filled with first responders and the military. Toss in recreational athletes and you have a majority. The females all seem to have been selected based on looking good in a tank top.

You may log that as my first snarky comment of the season.

I’m going to let the racers introduce themselves as things progress through the race, but I have one guy I’m going to be watching. His name is Vanck and you will recognize him when you meet him. He’s the stereotypical nerd. Good at math and details and puzzles. Has the awards to prove it. From the video clip I’m betting that he can bench press a medium size text book.

If he gets paired with a strong person with good listening skills, this will be a team to watch. If he gets paired with an alpha dog, we won’t have to watch them long.

Just sayin’.

We’re in Los Angeles. The location is Grand Hope Park. There are nearly two dozen people, strangers to each other, jumping up and down and expressing excitement. Among them is Phil Keoghan attempting to impose order.

This is the launch of the race and our first opportunity to get a glimpse of who these people are. If you are a regular Race watcher, you know that the bios posted by CBS tend to be self-serving and must be taken with at least a grain of salt.

There are 22 people who will make up eleven teams. According to Phil they have never spoken to each other before.

The Race objective is to form a team of two who will race through nine countries, seventeen cities and more than 36,000 miles. The first team to cross the finish line wins one million dollars.

As Phil explains all this we get some mini-clips from various racers. Teasers as to their character, racing strategy and background. More of this will be revealed to us during this initial challenge.

Yes, we have to create teams still so a priority for doing the picking has to be established. It will take longer for me to write up and for you to read about the personalities involved here than it will for them to do the tasks, but oh well. We have to start somewhere.

The instructions are: Go across the way and through a gate; then go two blocks southwest and then seven blocks southeast. There you will find a luggage shop. Each piece of luggage has a tag showing a national flag. Pick a suitcase displaying the flag of Panama and get back to Phil.

That’s it. They showed us the flag of Panama but did not show it to the Racers. I’d have been screwed right there. I know a lot of flags but Panama isn’t one of them. I also get very lost as to North South directions unless I have a mountain range or an ocean to guide me. Among the sky scrapers of downtown LA, I’d be screwed again. But, it’s ok. I’m writing not racing.

And on that note, Phil says “what are you waiting for? Go.”

The racers scurry and scatter. Some take off solo. Some form loose partnerships with whomever is running nearby. It’s a chance to assess strengths and weaknesses. Sort of. Mostly they are running, breathing, counting blocks and trying to obey the rule of pedestrian traffic

We get to meet the racers. I’m actually not sure we got them all, but it’s ok. Remember the rule of camera time. You will see the person who does best, the person who does worst, and a couple of people who are interesting. If there is someone you never see, he or she will still be here next week.

First we meet Seth. He’s a police officer (one of several). He comes across as calm and logical. He also appears to be large and fit. All good.

Next on our screen is Brook. A female criminal attorney. She is prepared to lead but will defer to someone else if they seem better qualified for the task. This also bodes well.

Then comes Scott who is a recruitment manager, whatever that is, and refers to himself as a gay red head. He seems personable and quick. Beyond that, we shall see.

Redmond is a veteran. As a Navy corpsman he lost a leg in Afghanistan. He uses a prosthetic and is a competitive athlete. Aside from the aw shucks factor for someone who has overcome, he seems to be a good candidate for doing well.

Now they introduce us to Vanck. He’s the person I picked on in my intro. He’s still describing his intellect and thinking. I’m still very unsure if brain without brawn can win this thing.

During the early bio bits we met Jessie. Jessie is 6’3” and a female police officer. K-9 type. At that point she made a snarky remark about not wanting to be paired with “that Asian Barbie” who is here to get by on her looks. During the run to the luggage shop she was running with a female Army Drill Sergeant named Francesca who made an error in directing the run. There were words. Jessie has opinions and doesn’t hold back.

Remember this.

The racers have arrived at the luggage shop. There is the turmoil and scrambling that you might expect and those who believe they have the right bag are on their way back to Phil.

And while they are running we get to meet a few more racers.

Matt is a snowboarder and a medalist from the X games. Floyd is positive person who is looking for a partner who feels the same. He actually memorized flags of the world before he came on the Race. No time lost here for Floyd.

Becca, recognizable by her pigtails, is a rock climber and just wants to have fun. Michael has an enormous red beard but says don’t be fooled by appearances. He says his IQ is 140. Liz is a country girl and an auctioneer. I don’t know that talking fast has ever been a task on the race, but maybe. And then there is Jenn, the Asian Barbie that Jessie complained about. She flat out says she’ll use her looks to get ahead.

Too many people. I’m sure I’m missing several. Some of whom are probably important.

And here they come. Phil checks the tags as they arrive and if they have the right tag they are directed to form a line in the order of arrival.

Seth, Matt, Olive (a firefighter – I think I missed her), Sara (real estate) Scott, Becca, Vanck and Joey.

But Joey has the wrong bag and has to run back to the shop and make the correction. Poor Joey. He’s a cop also. This time from Boston.

In due time Joey makes it back (he was the only one with an error) and it’s finally time to pick your partner.

I’m sure you have already given this your serious consideration. What makes up a successful team? What makes for a disaster. At least this season we are not stuck watching dysfunctional families trying to repair a life-long dynamic or any other hopeless quests.

So, with what is probably less than one hour’s experience, they get to choose their million dollar partner.


Seth arrived first and gets to choose his partner first. He picks Olive. He had good reasons for picking her. A pair of first responders. There is potential here unless one or the other suddenly goes super alpha.

Matt, our snowboarder, picks Redmond our Navy veteran. Matt also had some nice reasoning citing strength determination and maturity.

It was Olive who arrived in third position so we skip to Shamir. He’s a Wall Street Banker, or so he says. He picks Sara because he wants to be “paired with a hot chick”. Sara says she’s a luxury realtor from the Virgin Islands.

I’m going on record right now that I hold out very little hope for this pairing. Just getting a very frivolous vibe.

Next up is Scott (self-described gay red head) who picks Brook the attorney who is open to being flexible on who is leading whom.

Becca of the braids picks Floyd but calls him Urkel. A good giggle is had by all.

Vanck is next and picks Ashton. Poor Ashton. She’s in real estate and we don’t know one other thing about her except that she wanted to be paired with someone tall and strong. Vanck misses the mark on both those points. I hope, for his sake, she’s not as shallow as that sounds.

Tara who is in the army picks Joey the cop who came in last. Nice reasoning for picking him although she may want to be careful. When he was back for do overs in the luggage shop he revealed a little chip on his shoulder for his supposed humble origins.

An artist called London paired herself with a surgical consultant named Logan. The word “artist” can cover a lot of ground. I can say that. I am one. And what the heck is a surgical consultant?

Bear with me. We’re getting to the end.

Jenn who is a swimwear model has settled on Kevin who is a surfer from Hawaii. The sad part is this is the woman who was called an “Asian Barbie” by another Racer.

Michael, the butcher with the giant red beard picked Liz the cowgirl. He said nice things but his options were, at that point, limited.

And finally in the “stuck with it” position we have Jessie the opinionated K9 Cop being paired with Francesca the army drill sergeant. They have already had words and are starting out on a poor foot, but hey. They both have world class muscles even if Francesca is about a foot shorter than Jessie.

Whew. That part is done. In the past I’ve been able to shorthand the teams by some color they have chosen to wear or some other identifying word. Not this time. At least for now I have to know names So you can print this out and hang on to it for scrap paper.

Back to the race, Phil is giving out important information. Each suitcase has a clue. And one case has the express pass.

If you are new to the Race, the Express Pass is better than gold. It can only be used once. It can get a team out of an impossible situation by letting them skip a task and move directly to the next thing. The only time it’s not gold is when the team leader decides to hang on to it and gets sent home with it in his pocket. Yes, it happened.

He also tells the racers that they are to take a taxi to LAX. There are two flights only to the next destination and one will arrive sooner than the other. That’s the one you want (obviously).

Then he gives Jessie and Francesca the news that because they didn’t get to actually choose partners, they get to go to LAX with Phil in the driver’s seat. That’s an advantage, believe me. Here come Phil’s words: The world I waiting; Good luck; Travel safe; GO.

And they are off. Scuttle and scramble down a little hill and out onto the street where there are not a lot of taxis. Actually there are not a lot of cars period. Does production get the streets closed off surrounding their filming? Maybe. There is a lot less traffic around than in almost any small town much less Los Angeles. Nevermind. Just a stray observation.

Jessie and Francesca jump in with Phil and they are off.

The sound of zippers is heard as racers check their clues hoping for the Express pass.

Then, screaming. The express pass belongs to Becca and Floyd. (or Pigtails and Urkel if you prefer.)

The rest of the teams are reading their regular clue. “Fly to Panama City in Panama”.

Note: I’ve just realized that the teams have names that display with hashtags. I’ll try to use them. Becca and Floyd are #teamfun. Matt and Redmond are #theboys.. I’ll try to capture others as we go. Or not. My laptop has a problem with my dropping hashtags into my text. Sorry.

Important stuff is going on in taxis as team mates get to know one another. Jenn our swimsuit model just sticks her foot in her mouth but it probably is noticed only by me. She asks Keven (the surfer type) how old he is. He says 30. He tries to cover for her by saying that he looks young. She says “well, you are Asian. All Asians look twelve. Their cab driver, who appears to be of Asian heritage, rolls his eyes. Barbie just babbles on.

At the ticket counter the first five teams get on the first flight. Matt and Redmond; Becca and Floyd; Logan and London; Scott and Brook; and Seth and Olive.

Traveling with Phil didn’t buy much for Jessie and Francesca. They arrived in sixth position which puts them on the second plane.

When they arrive in Panama City they pick a car and head for the Miraflores locks on the Canal.

OK … here we are. Standard Operating Procedure. The street signage is insufficient; the whole world is under construction; and traffic is more or less at a standstill most places. Yep. They could be anywhere but they are in Panama City Panama so toss in a language thing also.

It’s trial by fire for our new racers. OK, trial by traffic.

Someone said that Samir speaks Spanish. I haven’t seen him. Are they having trouble too?

Seth and Olive have found not only the Panama Canal (which some people said was impossible) but the Miraflores Lock. Olive appreciated Scott for being calm because she said she wasn’t. Their score on my teamwork meter is going up.

They race past Phil (who is standing there talking to us) and pull a clue from the marked Clue Box. FYI, “Clue” is what everyone calls the bright yellow envelopes which contain EVERYTHING you need to know for the next little while. Technically, it’s called “Route Info”.

This clue directs them to the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center. Find the Canopy Tower. Gamboa was mentioned as part of the destination name.

As Seth and Olive gallop past Phil, he says “you are in first place”.

Next to arrive at the clue box are Becca and Floyd and Brook and Scott.

Brook and Scott thought they were in last place because they had been lost in traffic for three hours. When Team Fun (they never stop smiling) told them there were “lots of clues” I the box, Brook began to cry, while running, of course.

As they leave the parking lot, Scott tells Brook to calm down. She shares with him that telling her to calm down makes it worse. Scott rolls his eyes and mutters “I can tell”.

Now LoLo (Logan and London) are pulling their clue, followed by Matt and Redmond.

And the second flight which is said to have been delayed one hour which puts the arrival more than 2 ½ hours after the first plane.

Our 2nd flight passengers are running into exactly the same troubles as the first. Except, Vanck is navigator and Ashton is driving. When he says “when you get to the roundabout make a 135-degree right turn” she just shakes her head in bafflement and says I don’t know what you just said. Sigh. If that’s the way this is going to go for them this pair is doomed

We leave the confused and baffled to their troubles and head to the Canopy Tower. Seth, bless his heart, stops momentarily at the bottom of an enormous staircase to read a sign and make sure they are in the right place.

He’s a police officer, right? Next time I need help, I’m calling him.

At the top of the tower there is a basket with information. There are two little signs with arrows. Scoot pointing this way ad Shoot pointing the other.

I don’t see a notice that this is a “detour” but it sure seems like one. Yep. Here’s Phil to explain.

The subject is dugout canoes. And unless they post the word in the captions, I am not going to attempt to spell it

One option on the detour is Shoot. The team must paddle a traditional, probably hand made, canoe down the river and successfully shoot two targets that look like big silver fish. Shooting is to be done with a bow and arrow. The other option is Scoot. The team must paddle a modern high tech version of the canoe in a race against professionals and win.

I didn’t see anything in the bios that pointed to any of these racers being north country hunters or outdoorsmen. WOW.

Team America (aka Seth and Olive) are going to Scoot. On their way to the launch they pass Team Fun (aka Becca and Floyd – who it turns out both live in Boulder , Colorado … small world.)

Both Team Fun and Brook and Scott who got to the top of the tower next have chosen Shoot.

A quick note, if you are new to this fun. If a team finds that their choice in a detour I just too darned difficult, they can abandon the task and go do the other one. There have been teams in the past that switched back and forth a number of times although it usually costs so much time to do so that its pointless.

Back to the second flight of racers. Nothing much new. They are still looking for the Panama canal. The cowgirl cannot read a map. Jenn seems to know one word of Spanish but confesses that she only speaks Spanish when she’s drunk.

Oh, Joey has a lucky hat.

Now we’re down by the river. The local person is teaching Becca and Floyd how to use a bow and arrow. This is not a compound bow with sights and bells and whistles. It’s a stick and a string. Elsewhere along the river, Team America has arrived for scooting.

Scooting is going to be less formidable than I had feared. Three tries. First heat they start even. If they lose they can go again with a head start. If they lose again, they get a bigger head start. Oh, it’s a 400 meter sprint.

As Becca, full of confidence, stands in her canoe to shoot a fishy, she misses. Then the horn sound for the race, so we leave her to it to go watch.

Not so good there either. Olive’s technique isn’t good (which she admits). They got left in the dust.

The archers are having no luck at all. Neither team. I just noticed that there are no feathers on these arrows. I don’t know much about much, but I think that’s why the arrows fly sideways.

Just as Scott and partner decide to give it up and change tasks, Becca kills a giant silver fishy and a tiring Olive and Seth fail on attempt two. Closer but no winning. Seth knows now that it takes a coordinated paddling stroke. Olive is just trying to power it.

And, Red Beard as Michael is coming to be known, is still trying to find the Panama Canal and may break down completely.

Back on the river, Olive and Seth have proved that while practice may not make perfect in three tries, it does get the job done. Hooray.

Their reward is a clue that sends them to the next pitstop.

Where, you ask? Panama City has an enormous ring road that encircles the city. Somewhere along that road, under a huge Panamanian flag, is Phil. Drive until you find it? I guess so.

Back on the river, Olive and Seth take that bit of news and head out. We then see Becca slay her second silver fishy. They will be hot on the heels of Team America.

Scott and Brook have begun their canoe racing adventure. Scott is trying to call the pace and Brook is getting hyperactive. Their first heat was a fail.

Just to keep things balanced, we check in on the teams least likely to finish today. That would be Kevin and Jenn and Michael and Liz. Kevin and Jenn are getting more camera time (which is occasionally meaningful) but Liz is as silent as an old shoe in the back of the car. There is nothing there for the camera guy to work with.

On the river, LoLo are shooting to no avail. I don’t know how long they’ve been trying but it appears they may be about to switch to scooting.

Matt and Redmond are about to start their race. Scott is really fed up with Brook’s incessant cheerleading.

30 minutes into the first leg of the race and things are breaking down already. Yep? Normal.

Redmond and Matt got their win on their first heat. Brook is amazed. I’m not. Two men. Both athletes. Well done guys.

The back of the pack teams are beginning to pick their detours and Jenn and Kevin are languishing in last place. And Jenn is still making remarks about being Asian. I guess, according to her, Asians don’t get lost. I think I’m offended by her, but it’s not worth my time to be so.

The flag along the ring road is easy to spot. Seth and Olive jog to the mat in fine style. They say nice things about working well together. Phil says nothing about a prize to the first place team. Maybe next time. Team Fun showed up and are still having fun.

On the river Brook and Scott are making their third try at the race. Brook was kind of like those sports fails that show up on YouTube were the runner gets beaten when he begins to celebrate too soon. Fortunately, Scott continued to dig deep and they made it.

At the pit stop mat, Redmond and Matt said nice things about each other and are officially in 3rd place today.

At the tower, Jessie and Francesca who are in 9th position (out of eleven, remember) are going to try the Scoot. With their strength, I think I agree.

At the Miraflores Lock on the Panama Canal, Kevin and Jenn have received instructions to go to the Rainforest Center. Jenn hopes they are not too far behind. I’m pretty sure Kevin has seen “hopeless” written over their heads.

At the pitstop mat Phil tried to sucker Scott into saying Brook wasn’t the best choice of team mate. Scott chose discretion and said she was a good choice. He is, by far, the more mature of the pair in my opinion.

On the river, Tara and Joey are Scooting. Tara is criticizing Joey and he’s paddling and then sploosh. Team overboard.

Déjà vu for Vanck and Ashton. A while back Vanck said that he rowed crew or something along those lines. I wondered at the time. Now I wonder no more. He barely has his nose above water when he says “do you want to switch?” The answer is yes.

Shamir and Sara succeeded on their third try.

Vanck is his own worst enemy. He shot a bow and arrow once in 8th grade. Ashton has shot a cross bow. He insists that his resume on the subject is stronger. I’m beginning to appreciate Ashton. He wants to micromanage her every move. She is attempting to handle the situation and hasn’t killed him.

But she’s also very compliant. Now he wants to switch back. Paddling is technique not strength he says. Yes it is. Did you not know that the first time Vanck?

Sorry, the man has landed on my last nerve.

We have three teams paddling. Lolo almost made in on heat two. Joey and Tara ditto. Jessie and Francesca failed on heat one.

Oh My Sweet Lord. Kevin and Jenn are now lost on foot in the rainforest, looking for the tower. Everyone else saw and passed a big map. What have these two flapdoodles done?

Four teams on the river are done. Their racers are headed out for Phil in this order: LoLo in sixth; Tara and Joey in seventh; Vanck and Ashton in eighth; and Jessie and Francesca in ninth.

If no one gets lost on the way, all four of these teams will be safe to race again next week.

On the other hand, Red Beard and his silent partner could be in trouble. They just got to the river. They could screw up badly enough for Air Head Barbie and her surfer dude to catch up. Sure enough. Red Beard is shaking badly when trying to shoot, so they are going to switch. Liz says she’ never paddled. It’s going to be all on him.

After we watch Samir and Sara check in as team five, we are back to the rainforest where Kevin and Jenn are slightly less lost and then back to the river.

Red Beard the giant sits in the canoe and over she goes. He’s not happy.

Kevin and Jenn have found the top of the tower and chosen to scoot. They are tired. Heck, I’m tired just following them around.

Team Red Beard gets crushed in heat one and then flips out and dumps them in the drink again.

Hm… Just had a thought.. River. Central America. Aren’t they usually pretty will populated by crocodiles? I guess not in this place. Like I say, I’m tired.

And we break for commercial as Michael is declaring them “done”.

But he’s not. Sucked it up. Ran the third heat. Failed. Now what?

Oh, I guess the heats where they capsized don’t count as fails. Soooo .. third time is the charm and they pass. Good thing because Jenn and Kevin are on the river and about to begin their first heat


Red Beard and Liz are driving to the pit stop. Jenn and Kevin have been kicked off the river because of darkness. They were handed their pit stop clue.

Now in seasons past Phil would have imposed a time penalty for not completing the task.. Let’s see what happens here.

It’s dark. Phil is peering off into the murk. Yep, it’s Kevin and Jenn who run to the mat. BUT, the penalty is two hours. Jenn’s eyes are as big as dinner plates.

Now let’s talk through this. Michael and Liz were driving when Kevin and Jenn who have been lost a hundred times today got handed their clue. How did they arrive first? Are Michael and Liz in Nicaragua or someplace? Surely they are not so lost or compromised that they cannot make it in two hours.

Ha ha. They did get that lost. Not in another country but going the wrong way on the ring road.

They have been given a gift of immense proportions.. And if Liz continues to sit quietly in the back seat when she is aware that Michael is going the wrong way, this team will need a regular supply of gifts.

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