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The Amazing Race Goes Viral

Social media superstars from the world of Vine, YouTube, and Instagram converge on Mexico City to kick off a brand-new gimmick designed to get youngsters to care about this show.

Come And Knock On Our Door

Whenever the first thing out of Phil's mouth is the fact that the upcoming season's going to be "special," you know nothing good's going to happen after that. And indeed, this one's a doozy: each of these teams consists of the "biggest social influencers" the internet has to offer. YouTube screenshots are shown, and the new contestants are touted, as if these are household names to anybody over the age of 16.

"Teams are at home," Phil continues, "and have no idea the race is about to start." Because all of these jokers definitely always kick it at home in matching athletic gear, with full backpacks conveniently on the floor in front of them, a local taxi parked out front, and a camera crew staring them in the face. (Well, these ARE YouTube stars...so maybe there always IS a camera crew there. I admit I don't have the inside scoop on the lifestyles of the rich and internet-famous.) Video messages from Phil direct each team to head for Mexico City, where he'll be waiting to hand them their first clue, and a side-by-side shot of eleven front doors simultaneously opening and closing, like the moment in Big Brother when those contestants pretend to be surprised that they're going to be on CBS.

Online Superstars, That Is What You Are

Absurdly coiffed YouTube superstar Tyler Oakley -- who, I'm given to understand, is one of the bigger names in this particular cast -- is heading to the airport along with partner Korey. Their cab driver pauses to ask for their autographs, though it's unclear whether he's doing this because he's an avid YouTube viewer or because he just saw TV cameras and wanted to cover his bases in case this guy is some kind of real-world A-lister.

And now comes the part of the season that you all HAVE to watch, or you may spend the rest of the season trying to remember who all of these people are. (Well, you might anyway, but let's give you the best fighting chance.)

Dana and Matt, "Engaged Dancers," have been engaged for three years but have never managed to set a wedding date. Erin and Joslyn, hosts for Clevver Media, describe themselves as "snap snap snap, slay," whatever that means. Newlyweds Zach and Rachel are Vine producers. Blair runs a beauty channel, and her father, Scott, is an OB/GYN. She's hoping to flirt her way through the race, and hopes having her dad along will not be too much of an obstacle to her doing so. Cole is another Vine star, but he's roped his mom Sheri into being in so many of his videos that she's kind of a social media star by proxy. Kurt and Brodie play Ultimate Frisbee. Burnie and Ashley run Rooster Teeth, a channel about videogaming.

Instagram models Jessica and Brittany, who describe their occupation as "Instagram models," turn out to be big fans of Cole, and he's into it. Cracking a joke about his Mormonism, he says he's totally fine with the idea of dating them both.

As random fans in the airport ask Tyler and Burnie to pose for selfies, Viners Darius and Cameron pretend to be impressed by Hagan and her mother, Marty, who has only one viral video to her name.

Ay, Yi, Yi, Yiii'm Gonna Need That Song To Stop Now

Despite the fact that the teams were allegedly on three different flights to Mexico City, all eleven of them have somehow managed to arrive at exactly the same time so that they can sprint out of the airport in tandem.

Phil does a terrible job of pretending it's okay to hug him as he explains the first Detour. Once again, Production spent all of five minutes brainstorming things that remind them of the country they're in and came up with mariachi music and piñatas to represent the great nation of Mexico. In "Mariachi Madness," teams will have to search among 350 musicians to find one person who is only pretending to play their instrument as each subsequent rendition of "Cielito Lindo" drives them incrementally closer to the edge of sanity. "Great Bulls Of Fire," besides being a great pun, requires teams to build a papier-mâché bull to be loaded up with fireworks for a local celebration.

For now, though, everyone's just getting lost. We cut to commercial on a hazy montage of the sort that used to invoke drug trips in 1970s movies.

'Cause Bull-y, You're A Firework

In lieu of 350 mariachi musicians all playing in tandem, Cole and Sheri have located one random man lugging a guitar through the streets of Mexico City, and they spend a great deal of time fruitlessly trying to convince him that he is, in fact, part of this task and just doesn't know it.

Kurt and Brodie, and their strategy of running through the crowd demanding "who's fake playing?" don't fare all that much better at first, but they eventually find their guy, and Erin and Joslyn, and Dana and Matt, are right behind them, meaning all three snag the earliest departure times for the next morning's Roadblock.

The bull task is slightly harder, but Tyler and Korey manage to knock it out in record time (supplying their own triumphant music cue in the process). The Instagram girls, Rooster Teeth, and Cameron and Darius bring up the rear. The reward for correctly assembling the bull and its framework is evidently to set your hard work on fire and watch it burn, but everyone seems more delighted than disappointed by this.

Digging This The Most

For this Roadblock, Racers traverse obstacles to locate puzzle pieces -- so basically, it's like every other challenge you see on Survivor. Unlike latter-day Survivor seasons, though, there actually DOES seem to be some attempt to give the task a sense of local color: for one thing, the task takes place at Teotihuacan, the pieces are styled as artifacts in an archaeological dig, and teams have to locate their puzzles inside a giant cave. Also unlike latter-day Survivor seasons, most people spend the majority of this task aimlessly wandering with very little urgency, making it perhaps not the most exciting thing to watch.

Find some pieces and do a thirteen-piece puzzle? Sounds pretty straightforward, except that it turns out there are way more than thirteen pieces to be found, and you can't just grab the first thirteen you see. Teams also find lots of other new and innovative ways to screw up the task that even Production may not have anticipated: Scott drops half of his pieces on the front lawn of the place; Jessica forgets to enter the cave and just starts digging in a random dirt pile; Marty injures herself; several teams don't understand that "follow the drums" means "listen for the sound of drums" and not "look for drums scattered along the path."

After a tense footrace to the mat, Dana and Matt lock up Team #1, with Tyler and Korey hot on their heels.

In Which Nobody Caves In

A few more teams nail the Roadblock (or at least I'm guessing they did; pretty sure I didn't even see half of these people down in the cave), leaving an increasingly desperate Erin, Sheri, and Scott to bring up the rear. Erin and Sheri begin pondering taking a penalty, but when she sees Scott still struggling, Erin decides to give it one more try. Naturally, that's the attempt that matters, leaving Cole's mom and Blair's dad. "I love your parents!" she calls out to Cole and Blair as she runs off.

It's impossible to tell how close the final sprint to the mat actually was, but Sheri and Cole check in seconds before Erin and Joslyn, and some time after that, Scott and Blair roll in. Good news for them, though: it's a non-elimination leg, meaning they'll live to see at least one more leg.

And just in case you managed to get "Cielito Lindo" out of your head between the end of the Detour and now, Production has brought it back one more time to play over the closing credits.

Verdict

The most compelling reason to give this one a pass isn't the fact of its strangely thirsty-seeming gimmick designed to court a younger audience. It's not the tasks (those are actually pretty okay). It's not even the fact that nobody winds up going home! No, it's the fact that it's going to take you actual days to get that damn song out of your head.

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