Hi there and welcome to The USA Volleyball The Amazing Race Recap.
I am USAV Communications Manager B.J. Hoeptner Evans and I am very excited to take this journey on The Amazing Race.
In case you aren’t aware, the USAV beach and snow volleyball team of Maddison and Riley McKibbin are competing in this edition of TAR, which was filmed in 2018. I am very impressed that they haven’t told the world how they did (I am sure they had to sign something that said they wouldn’t).
Confession No. 1: I have never watched The Amazing Race before, so I will be viewing this whole thing with fresh eyes. I don’t watch a lot of “reality TV.” I did watch Dancing with the Stars when Misty May-Treanor was on it and continued to watch that season even after she ruptured her Achilles tendon. But I never really got into it after that.
Confession No. 2: When Television Without Pity was a must-see web site (Google it, kids), I was on it every day. Not sure if I can live up to the snark, but I can try. I am also fearful that I will find out that it is a lot harder to do these recaps than it looks.
So here we go. We open with the announcement that “this season The Amazing Race hits one-million miles,” so apparently it’s been on a long time and I am way behind.
After some clips from past races, we open with our 11 teams “from all walks of life” jogging into the Hollywood Bowl (aw, remember concerts?). The McKibbins are wearing bright yellow adidas shirts, so they are easy to spot.
The first team we meet up close is made up of retired NFL players Gary Barnidge and DeAngelo Williams. Both are wearing grey sweatshirts. Gary’s says “Sugar” and DeAngelo’s says “Cinnamon.”
Quote: “Everything we do is about winning.”
Next up are sisters Kaylynn and Haley Williams. They are young and both wearing pale pink T-shirts. They indicate that they should not be underestimated because they moved away from home in their teens.
Quote: “Haley and I are from the school of hard knocks.”
The team of Alana Folsom and Leo Brown met on Tinder 10 MONTHS AGO!! They did not get the memo about matching shirts and Alana is wearing a green tank top while Leo is wearing a grey T-shirt, but his shorts are green. Alana says they are the “nerdy team” because they both have Masters degrees and glasses.
Quote: “I hope they think we can’t run a mile. I hope they think we have no interpersonal skills.”
That’s enough of team introductions for now.
The teams line up in the Hollywood Bowl with host Phil Keoghan who asks them which teams they think are the ones to beat. Maddison points at Team NFL and says, “Start with those guys.”
Phil says: “You can’t just assume on this race that just because you are fit and strong, you can win it.”
We meet “boyfriends” (this is the show’s wording) Will Jardell and James Wallington. They are wearing matching purple shirts. James says he has “applied for this show nine times… Never in a million years did I think I would run this race with the love of my life.” (Awwwww!)
Quote: “I can’t imagine doing this race with anyone but (Will).”
There is a brief “up close” of “best friends” Nathan Worthington and Cody Buell. They are wearing different shirts, one orange and one brown, which is helpful because they kind of look alike with close-cropped facial hair.
Quote: “From the small Tennessee town like we come from, nothing like this happens.”
We will call them Team Catfish for reasons we will explain later.
The group is told that their first clues are waiting on top of their backpacks outside the Bowl. When Phil says go, they should grab the clues and the bags and then take a cab to the Los Angeles airport.
The clues tell our racers to fly to Trinidad and head for “the 24-hour fruit stand in St. Augustine” (is there only one?) where they will get their next clue.
After some shots of airplanes and scenes of Trinidad, we find our racers at the airport trying to find cabs. Once in a cab, we meet Jerry Lee Eaves, a basketball coach at Simmons College of Kentucky, and his son Frank, who apparently also played basketball but is now in luxury car sales.
Quote: “This is a bucket-list opportunity.”
Also in a cab, we meet sisters Michelle and Victoria Newland. They say they were born and raised in Louisiana and identify as “Cajun Asians all the way.”
Quote: “If you open my mom’s wallet, there is just a picture of me.”
Hey, somehow the cab drivers know exactly where this fruit stand is and The Beard Bros. get there first!
Their clues tell them to roll oil drums (the kind used to make steel drum instruments) a quarter mile down the streets of Trinidad to a Saturday-night street party.
Once there, they will have to find the Midnight Robber, who is all in black with a giant hat with fringe and sparkly skulls. I believe this is what Billy Porter might wear to a Raiders game.
The Midnight Robber has their tickets to their next destination: Tobago.
Sad fact: People from Tobago are called Tobagonians and not Tobaggans, as I was hoping.
Riley McKibbin informs us that the first seven teams to get their tickets will leave earlier than the other four.
We watch our racers rolling the barrels down the street. Maddison criticizes Riley’s technique. Riley complains that the pair has “overpacked” and “our back are breaking.”
After all this we go back to the trailing teams still in taxis and we meet the brother-sister team of Aparna and Eswar Dhinakaran. They are in last place because, Eswar tells us, “There was a lot of pushing and shoving in the front of the pack. Possibly, you could trip over something and then your race is kind of over.” We learn that they are both software engineers who went to UC Berkeley.
Quote: “Honestly, we’re really bleepin’ smart.”
While the Smart Siblings are avoiding bumps and bruises and trying to find the fruit market, Team NFL has arrived at the street party with their barrels in first place.
Phil informs us that Trinidad is known as the Rainbow Country because of its diverse population. “The people here just love dressing up and taking part in the greatest show on Earth, carnival.”
It does look like fun and several of the teams look like they might want to stay a while.
Team NFL finds the Midnight Robber first, followed by Team Basketball and then The Beard Bros., which means they will be on the first flight to Tobago.
As we wait for the rest of the teams to get their clues, we do briefly see Maddison and Riley dancing with the festive Tobagonians. Do I think this party was arranged specifically for the show? Yes.
The Smart Siblings are the last team to get the clue, meaning they are on the second flight to Tobago, which takes off about a half hour after the first. Eswar tells us that it is “demoralizing.” Um, you CHOSE to hang back and avoid possible injury. Live with it.
The first seven teams take a prop plane to head to Tobago at 7:40 a.m. the next day. The teams jump in taxis to Swallows Beach. Maddison tells us that it looks exactly like the “east shore of Oahu.” Now we “meet” Maddison and Riley up close with adorable photos of them as children. They say they decided to grow their beards while they were playing professional volleyball in Greece.
Quote: “I think my mom likes it.”
The teams get their next clues from “boat captains” who are going to take them to the Nylon Pools. Phil informs us that swimming in the Nylon Pools will give you “everlasting youth and virility.” Did the McKibbins happen to bottle any of that and bring it back?
Anyway, the teams have to go in the pools where there are 125 painted wooden fish. Each is unique. They have to find the fish that matches the one on their boat, then remember a four-number combination that was on the boat to unlock the fish.
There is a lot of going back and forth between fish and boats.
During the boat rides to the Nylon Pools, we find out that Team NFL bonded through cosplay. They have awesomely scary costumes from Alien vs. Predator (I think. I did not see this movie because I am a wimp).
We find out that Team Catfish bonded through “noodling,” which is where they stick their hands in holes and catch catfish by sticking their hands in the fishes’ mouths. Will this help them with the current fish challenge?
The show is really trying to emphasize the “fish out of water” theme with these two.
Quote: “It’s like getting bit by a pitbull with no teeth.”
While the teams from the first flight are trying to match fish and combinations, the last four teams are on their way.
We meet Kellie Wells-Brinkley and LaVonne Idlette. They both competed in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Kellie won the bronze medal. LaVonne did not medal.
Quote: “It was really bad, but it was Ok. I supported and I did her hair.”
The Cajun Asians find their fish first, unlock it and head to a boat where they get a clue that sends them to Pigeon Point.
The Beard Bros. find their fish second. Team Basketball is third. The Boyfriends are fourth.
We return to the teams trying to find fish and find out that Kellie of Team Hurdlers is dyslexic. She is also the one trying to enter the combination into the locks on the fish. This does not seem like the best strategy.
The Asian Cajuns and The Beard Bros. have moved on to the next challenge, entitled “Who can steel the show?” Each team has to pick one person to participate. We find out that person will have to learn how to play parts of the song “Day-O” on the “steelpan,” Trinidad & Tobago’s national instrument.
The steelpan musicians look happy and are wearing colorful shirts. But I am already feeling sorry for them having to hear this song over… and over. I wonder if it is like New Orleans jazz musicians hearing and playing “When the Saints Go Marching In”?
Maddison is the chosen McKibbin. He must learn the song by following numbers on a paper, and then playing those notes with rhythm on the steelpan.
Other teams are moving on to the steelpans so now there is a line for trying to play the piece with the group.
The first racer to play it right is Hung Nguyen, who is competing with his wife Chee Lee. One of the Asian Cajuns says, jealously, “He’s Asian, he probably played piano.” And sure enough, Nguyen says, “thank my parents for all those years of piano lessons. Thanks, mom and dad!”
And mothers around the country, including me, begin dreaming of the day that the kid we are forcing to take music lessons will thank us on national television.
Michelle of the Asian Cajuns is the second to get it right. She apologizes and says “I messed up and Chee beat me.”
Quote: “Maybe Chinese are better at piano than Vietnamese are.”
Maddison messes up again.
Team Hurdlers is the last to make it out of the fish area. Kellie volunteers for the next challenge. Oh no. Did I mention they have to follow numbers on a paper and she is dyslexic?
Maddison does it! The Beard Bros. are in third place heading to the next challenge.
Phil informs us that “Tobago is known as the goat-racing capital of the world!” Huh.
It all started in 1925 at Buccoo, which is a small stadium, where they apparently race goats. This means running next to the goat while holding on to its leash.
Phil tells us the last team to cross the finish line with a goat will be eliminated.
Hung and Chee finish first despite Chee slipping and hitting her head as she finishes.
The Asian Cajuns finish second and The Beard Bros. are third.
The are instructed that they are moving on to Bogota, Columbia.
Meanwhile, we have to watch the final four teams continue to struggle with playing Day-O over… and over.
Everyone finally makes it to Buccoo. I have to say that if there was a prize for running with a goat, it should go to Kellie of Team Hurdles. She has a beautiful stride and the goat is just trying to keep up.
In the end, Team Catfish finishes last and is eliminated. They are sad, but still happy with their friendship.
Tune in next week!