07/16/2013 10:36 EDT | Updated 09/15/2013 05:12 EDT

Amazing Race Canada Premiere Recap: No Cheap Thrills, These Were Legit

Though the show is set in Canada, it does not look like, or resemble, what one would associate with Canadian reality production values, or a smaller-scale budget. The first episode was highly entertaining, and it even had a surprising ending.


How was the premiere of The Amazing Race Canada? It was gold, Jerry. Gold.

Or rather, the highly-anticipated series is certainly off to an excellent start.

Greeted by Jon Montgomery's infectious smile, the country's nine chosen pairs kicked off their 23,000 km., 10-leg journey in Niagara Falls, Ont., at the Oakes Garden Theatre Park.

"Alright everybody, Canada is waiting for you!" said Montgomery. "Good luck, race safe, and go!"

Though the show is set in Canada, it does not look like, or resemble, what one would associate with Canadian reality production values, or a smaller-scale budget. Instead, The Amazing Race Canada presents the same impressive crisp and kinetic camerawork of its American original, while creating ample suspense and conflict between the teams, and as a result of natural delays. Plus, who knew the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory would be such a scary place for some contestants?

Montgomery quickly introduced the teams to the Express Pass, an item similar to the Fast Forward, which any pair can use to skip one task prior to the seventh leg of the race. Two Express Passes served as one of the prizes for the first leg of the race -- the other being a trip to Sydney, Australia -- and the winning team has the option to gift another pair with the pass prior to the third leg, or to keep it for themselves.

Much like Big Brother Canada, The Amazing Race Canada is also rife with product tie-ins and sponsorship deals. The series premiere notably featured the Chevrolet Sparks, Interac Instant, Air Canada and the Chevrolet Equinox throughout its first leg. However, so far, this does not appear to be infiltrating the integrity of the race or its assignments, and is not very different from The Amazing Race, which prominently features tasks involving, say, the Travelocity roaming gnome.

Before finishing at the Quails' Gate Winery in Westbank, B.C., the pairs were forced to get their hands dirty, and complete two Roadblocks -- one for each team member. Immediately, instead of shirking responsibility until a later leg, each partner was forced to either don diving gear to scan the bottom of Lake Okanagan or tiptoe across a narrow plank to retrieve their next clue, and subsequently, take a leap of faith, hundreds of feet in the air. Yikes!

For the series premiere, in lieu of a traditional recap, here are the five best watercooler moments of the episode, in no particular order, in the form of a hashtag.


1) #GayCowboy

"Everybody loves a gay cowboy." You're not kidding. Jamie and Pierre, whose strategy is to play up their schtick and look "non-threatening," seems to be working so far. Cracking jokes and making friends, this Calgary duo provided soundbite after soundbite of hilarity, without venturing into the world of sinister manipulation, like The Amazing Race Season 1 duo, Team Guido. They may have finished in eighth place out of nine teams -- and by a technicality, no less! -- but these wisecracks and "strategery" certainly make them a team to watch.

2) #StarStruck

How can you not root for BodyBreak's Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod? Their race started off a bit shaky, as Joanne had difficulty getting into her Chevrolet Spark at the start of the leg, but they quickly sped-walked their way to a prime position, making it to the first flight from Toronto to Kelowna, B.C. by way of Vancouver, and even getting themselves into what may shape up to be the series' first alliance with three other top teams.

Plus, Joanne even yelled the BodyBreak tag, "Get fit and have fun!" while jumping from the trestle. Amazing. Still, of course, the best highlight had to have been when a starstruck Jet and Dave told the health-focused duo that, well, "We've been you for Halloween!" What's better than that?

3) #SecurityAlert

The Amazing Race, and now, The Amazing Race Canada, is nothing without silly roadblocks. And no, not in the form of chasing cheeses down a hill, or the actual Roadblock tasks. Instead, Jody and Cory got stuck at the Kelowna Airport due to a security alert at the door. Yes, talk about a compelling cut to commercial, and the most Canadian roadblock ever -- a polite wait behind a security door. Well played.

4) #WalkThePlank

The most gut-wrenching moment of all had to have been when the teams walked the Myra Canyon Trestles. Tim Sr. performed the task for the father-son team, and son Tim Jr. shed a tear while watching his father, who has Parkinson's, complete his balancing trek along the railway bracket. It was nervewracking, challenging, and truly great TV.

Not to be outdone in the drama department, Vanessa panicked and sobbed while walking across the shaking beam, just like her sister Celina did during the deep-sea dive.

5) #Race101

Two teams were hit with a time-related penalty in the first leg of the race, due to not properly completing the task at hand. Of course, the 30-minute punishments were the result of Tim Sr. and Jr. and sisters Treena and Tennille forgetting to pick up both clues at the Niagara Butterfly Observatory, before heading to Pearson International Airport. As a result, the Tims were bumped from fifth place to sixth, and Treena and Tennille were eliminated, thereby giving Jamie and Pierre even more opportunities to camp up the show.

Still, one would think that with 22 separate American incarnations of the show, that picking up, or looking for all possible clues would be at the front of each team's mind during any task, but alas, this was not the case for these two duos, and resulted in the end of the road for Treena and Tennille. Hopefully, this hashtag will not be in use for each remaining episode of the show.

Here are my projected odds for the rest of the season:

Team: Kristen and Darren, dating hippies

Current standing: 1st of 8

Odds to win: 3:2

Predicted entertainment value: 3 out of 5 Pit Stops

Team: Brett and Holly, married doctors

Current standing: 2nd of 8

Odds to win: 5:1

Predicted entertainment value: 2 out of 5 Pit Stops

Team: Jet and Dave, best friends

Current standing: 4th of 8

Odds to win: 10:1

Predicted entertainment value: 4 out of 5 Pit Stops

Team: Hal and Joanne, married fitness icons

Current standing: 3rd of 8

Odds to win: 15:1

Predicted entertainment value: 5 out of 5 Pit Stops

Team: Vanessa and Celina, sisters

Current standing: 5th of 8

Odds to win: 500:1

Predicted entertainment value: 5 out of 5 Pit Stops

Team: Tim Sr. and Tim Jr., father and son

Current standing: 6th of 8

Odds to win: 50:1

Predicted entertainment value: 4 out of 5 Pit Stops

Team: Jody and Cory, brothers

Current standing: 7th of 8

Odds to win: 100:1

Predicted entertainment value: 5 out of 5 Pit Stops

Team: Jamie and Pierre, best friends, cowboys

Current standing: 8th of 8

Odds to win: 50:1

Predicted entertainment value: 5 out of 5 Pit Stops

"The Amazing Race Canada" airs every Monday night at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Photo gallery 'Amazing Race Canada' Teams See Gallery