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*The start from the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles is one massive pileup of players and cars, enlivened when half the teams end up speeding the wrong way. But being first at the airport doesnt mean being first off the ground. As this episode proves, so much of the Race can fall on sheer chance.
*The stress of the competition heightens existing tensions in some couples - as with dating duo Nathan and Jennifer, who turn on each other with numbing frequency, and draws out devotion in others, such as 58-year-old father Ronald and his daughter Christina. The Amazing Race doubles as travelogue and psychology test - asses be damned.
*In the debut, the contestants jet to Ireland, where they must bike across a high wire over a 200-foot drop above the Atlantic Ocean. The stunt seems insanely dangerous, yet each team checks its fears and attacks it with gusto.
*In the climactic showdown of the 12th season opener --the 11 teams are forced to pick donkeys to carry peat to a checkpoint.
It doesnt sound funny on paper, but its hysterical on video.
This hack cant attest to whether donkeys have souls, as one contestant says, but they definitely have personalities - and they seem to be excellent judges of character.
A couple refuse to budge no matter how much pleading, pushing and pulling from the contestants.
But The Amazing Race is more than just watching asses, four-legged or otherwise, behave badly.