It’s almost ‘go’ time: The 15th installment of The Amazing Race kicks off Sunday night on CBS. To get you in the spirit of celebrating the big 1-5, we offer a peek at the contestants’ route (see: above), along with a few teases supplied by executive producer Bertram van Munster (see: below).
• The action begins at the Los Angeles River, and for the first time in show history, a team will be eliminated mere yards from the starting gate. The challenge involves a fence with thousands of license plates—some of them from Japan (which serves as the first destination). “Twenty four people run up and frantically start grabbing license plates, but they’re wrong because as usual they don’t read their clue,” chuckles van Munster. “Eventually a team gets eliminated—they see the cars drive off and it is bye-bye. We told them 100 times, ‘Read your clue. Repeat after me: Read your clue.’ They don’t read the clue. It’s unbelievable. Nothing has changed.”
• Once they get to Tokyo, Racers find themselves on a Japanese game show, and they have to eat a tear-inducing Wasabi bomb. Notes van Munster: “Even the Japanese are horrified by it, which is good. If the Japanese are horrified by another game show, then we’re on the right track.”
• When contestants arrive in Vietnam, they face down a Roadblock involving 2,000 ducks. “You have to show how good you are in guiding these ducks from one end of a soccer field, across a little bridge to the other end, turning them around and bringing them back into the pen,” explains van Munster. “It turns into total duck madness. It’s just hysterical… I’ve tried for eight years to integrate it into the show, and we never succeeded in getting [contestants] to do it. They know it’s too difficult. So I said, ‘Roadblock!’”
• In Dubai, competitors will be presented with a chilling Detour: They have to take snow from an indoor ski area and build a snowman outside in the scorching Middle East heat. “The quality of the snow changes instantly the moment you bring it out,” chuckles van Munster. “And the snowman can’t be a little one—it has to be five-, six-foot-high snowman with eyes and a real carrot in his nose.”
• In another first for the show, one of Race’s most infamous Roadblocks is revisited. “It is so crazy and difficult to do, and it was so amazing the last time we did it,” says van Munster. “And it’s just as crazy and amazing this time.”
• Although this Race takes place over a relatively brisk 21 days, van Munster insists that it won’t be any easier. “Very often in the middle of the series, [the contestants] get kind of cozy with each other and there could be a little bit of a lull,” he notes. “In this race, there is no lull. There is pedal-to-the-metal competition. They’re constantly overtaking each other. Every time we stand at the finish line we were blown away who gets eliminated and who stays in.”
• Among the contestants to watch:
-Herbert and Nathaniel from the Harlem Globetrotters. (“Great sense of humor.”)
-Justin and his best friend Zev, who has Asperger’s Syndrome. (“The things Zev says are so right on the money and they come from left field… You’re gonna love that team.”)
-Professional poker players Maria and Tiffany. (“They are incredibly shrewd. They are tough as nails… They’d do anything to win. They blew me away.”)
-Keri and her aggressive lawyer-fiance Lance. (“He’s so combustible. He whacked a piece of wood so hard, he opened his hand.”)
• Van Munster adds that he prefers to feature fresh contestants rather than familiar faces on Race. “I was never fond of ‘All-Stars’ and stuff like that,” he explains. “A cast like this is proof that to have new people is always a good idea, because every time we find new characters, new stories, new energy, new karma, you name it.”
More Amazing Race and reality-TV from EW:
The Amazing Race: Should it stop being so darn Emmy-winning?
Realite, EW’s new weekly roundup of reality TV, debuts with special guest Kris Allen!