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'The Amazing Race's Ernie and Cindy get off to strong start in premiere


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 09/26/2011 

The Amazing Race's "Engaged Couple" Ernie Halvorsen and Cindy Chiang got off to a strong start during Sunday night's premiere of the CBS reality competition's nineteenth season.

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Ernie and Cindy finished the first leg of The Amazing Race's nineteenth edition in first place and received the Express Pass as a reward. However, after they arrived at the Race's first Pit Stop, the competition's 11 teams learned the first leg was a non-elimination leg but they must face a double elimination at the end of the Race's second leg.

"Control Freak Cindy on the Race is actually a pretty good teammate," Ernie said after his team secured their victory.

"It should have been obvious. Hopefully it extends through the next few legs of the Race," Cindy added.

The first episode of The Amazing Race's nineteenth season began with the Race's 11 teams meeting with The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan outside of the Hsi Lai Temple in the foothills of Los Angeles before beginning their race to the first Pit Stop.

The 11 The Amazing Race teams included Ernie and Cindy, "Siblings" Justin Young and Jennifer Young, "Twins" Liz Canavan and Marie Canavan, "Domestic Partners" Ron Zeitz and Bill Smith, "Dating" Couple Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca, "Grandparents" Bill Alden and Cathi Alden, "Friends and former Olympic Snowboarders" Andy Finch and Tommy Czeschin, "Married Couple" Marcus Pollard and Amani Pollard, "Friends and former Vegas Showgirls" Kaylani Paliotta and Lisa Tilley, "Father/Son Adventurers" Laurence Sunderland and Zac Sunderland, and "Dating Couple" Jeremy Cline and Sandy Draghi.

Phil then explained to the teams that the winner of the first leg would earn the Express Pass, which would allow the couple to skip one challenge at any point in the Race that they would not want to complete, giving them a big advantage.

The teams then learned in order to earn their first clue, they would be required to solve a word puzzle in which the teams needed to use six letters, WANPEI, that appeared above multiple rows of brightly colored umbrellas and combine them with three specific letters -- TAI -- which they must find on one of the umbrellas. Using "TAI" twice, the teams were instructed to combine those letters with the six letters above the umbrellas to discover their first destination of Taipei, Taiwan.

If the teams retrieved the correct umbrella, Phil would give them each a set of keys to a Ford Explorer parked in front of the temple. In addition, the last team to solve the word puzzle would receive a Hazard, a new The Amazing Race penalty in which a team would be forced to complete an extra task within the first leg of the Race.

The first team to solve the word puzzle was Andy and Tommy. They were then followed by Amani and Marcus, Liz and Marie, Ethan and Jenna, Jeremy and Sandy, Ernie and Cindy, Ron and Bill, Cathi and Bill, Laurence and Zac, Justin and Jennifer, and Kaylani and Lisa. Kaylani and Lisa then realized they must face the Hazard penalty at some point during the leg because they finished the task last.

Once the teams hopped in their Ford Explorers, Phil instructed the teams via video message to head to the airport and get on one of two flights to Taipei, Taiwan. The first option would allow only eight teams to travel by China Airlines on the first flight 20 minutes ahead of the second Eva Air flight, which would carry the remaining three teams.  

While all the teams rushed to the airport to book their flights, Kaylani and Lisa stopped at a gas station to ask for directions. Because they were in a rush, Kaylani dropped her passport on the ground without noticing. After traveling for a little while, Kaylani realized it was missing and the team had to back-track to the gas station in the hopes of finding the passport necessary for travel.

The team did not find the passport at the gas station but was not ready to give up. Kaylani and Lisa decided to drive to the airport in the hopes that another team may have found the passport.

Meanwhile, Ron and Bill, Ethan and Jenna, Ernie and Cindy, Amani and Marcus, Laurence and Zac, Justin and Jennifer, Andy and Tommy, and Jeremy and Sandy all booked seats for the first flight, which forced Liz and Marie, Bill and Cathi and Kaylani and Lisa -- if Kaylani could find her passport -- onto the second flight.
Kaylani and Lisa appeared to be doomed in the Race until the unexpected happened. Kaylani was paged to the information desk where she was greeted by a man, Ryan Storms, who claimed he had found her passport at the gas station where she had dropped it.

Ryan told the girls he had given directions to Andy and Tommy before he had found the passport and realized they were all competing on The Amazing Race. He sent out a message on Twitter asking where the contestants might be and learned they were at LAX, the airport.

The girls were thrilled and immediately booked seats on the second flight.

The eight teams who arrived in Taiwan first all boarded a bus heading to the Ximending Commercial District. Upon arriving at the district, the teams then needed to figure out that, instead of looking for a cluebox, they must "look up" to figure out their next destination. They were clueless at first that they were searching for an electronic billboard featuring red and yellow balloons -- the colors of The Amazing Race.

The sign was written in Chinese characters, which the teams could only translate with the help of locals. After discovering the lit sign, Justin and Jennifer were the first team to successfully translate the name of their next location -- Taipei Confucius Temple.

Following Justin and Jennifer were Amani and Marcus, Jeremy and Sandy, Ron and Bill, Ernie and Cindy, Ethan and Jenna, Andy and Tommy, Laurence and Zac, Kaylani and Lisa, Liz and Marie, and finally Bill and Cathi.

Bill and Cathi had a horrible time trying to find the electronic billboard, as they blindly wandered around the commercial district. Bill later admitted it took them about four hours to find the sign they were supposed to translate, a misunderstanding that put them way behind the rest of the pack in the first leg. They even rode up a skyscraper's elevator in search of the clue.

The teams then hopped on the subway and made their way to the Taipei Confucius Temple. Jeremy and Sandy were the first team to arrive, and they were followed by Ernie and Cindy, Amani and Marcus, Justin and Jennifer, Ron and Bill, Ethan and Jenna, Andy and Tommy, Laurence and Zac, Kaylani and Lisa, Liz and Marie, and eventually Bill and Cathi.

Upon opening their clues, the teams learned they would have to complete a Roadblock task.

The Roadblock task required one member from each team to dial 1-800-CONFUCIUS on the temple's pay phone and listen to a Confucius proverb they were instructed to memorize. The team members must then recite "In all things success depends on previous preparation. And without such previous preparation there is sure to be failure" word for word to a monk, who would hand him or her the teams' next clue.

Cindy, Amani, Ron, Jennifer, Liz, Ethan, Cathi, Andy, Lisa, Zac, and Sandy all opted to do the Roadblock task for their teams.

Liz really struggled with the Roadblock, as she kept repeating the same proverb to the monk without noticing which words she was leaving out or mis-stating. Marie got very frustrated with Liz because she thought Liz lacked focus and wasn't paying close enough attention when listening on the phone. However, Liz finally got it. The team lost a lot of ground, but they were still ahead of Bob and Cathi.

Ernie and Cindy were the first team to complete the Roadblock and they were soon followed by Justin and Jennifer, Jeremy and Sandy, Ethan and Jenna, Amani and Marcus, Laurence and Zac, Ron and Bill, Andy and Tommy, Kaylani and Lisa, Liz and Marie, and Bill and Cathi.

Upon opening their clues, the teams learned they had to travel by taxi to Dajia Riverside Park. However, it was time for Kaylani and Lisa to face their Hazard penalty for coming in last place during the first challenge. The clue instructed the girls to travel to the Core City Pacific Mall and discover their clue on the eleventh floor of the mall.

Once at the mall, Kaylani and Lisa were required to choose one team member to bungee jump head first into the crowded mall. Kaylani volunteered to take on the challenge, but she admitted she was very scared. She quickly completed the extra task and the team moved on to Dajia Riverside Park.

Ernie and Cindy were the first team to arrive at Dajia Riverside Park and were then instructed to join a dragon boat race team. They were followed by Justin and Jennifer, Jeremy and Sandy, Ethan and Jenna, Andy and Tommy, Laurence and Zac, Amani and Marcus, Ron and Bill, Kaylani and Lisa, Liz and Marie, and Bill and Cathi.

One member from each team was required to paddle with the crew, while the other member had to bang a drum in the rhythm of the rowing.

Ernie and Cindy finished the boat race before any of the other teams. Jeremy and Sandy then completed the task and they were followed by Justin and Jennifer, Ethan and Jenna, Andy and Tommy, Laurence and Zac, Amani and Marcus, Ron and Bill, Kaylani and Lisa, Liz and Marie, and Bill and Cathi.

The teams then received their next clue and were instructed to find the Race's first Pit Stop at National Revolutionary Martyrs' Shrine.

Ernie and Cindy arrived at The Amazing Race's nineteenth season's first Pit Stop and learned they had come in first place.

"Ernie and Cindy, you are team number one and I have some good news for you. As the winners of this leg of the Race, you have won the Express Pass, and obviously that gives you a huge advantage over everybody else in the Race. That's got to feel good!" Phil told the team.

"It feels really awesome to be in first right now!" Cindy said.

Jeremy and Sandy were the next team to arrive at the Pit Stop in second place and they were followed by Justin and Jennifer in third place. Ethan and Jenna then arrived and secured fourth place, while Amani and Marcus made it to the mat in fifth place.

Laurence and Zac were the next team to be greeted by Phil in sixth place, and they were then followed by Andy and Tommy, Ron and Bill, Kaylani and Lisa, Liz and Marie, and Bill and Cathi.

Stepping onto the mat in last place at Martyrs' Shrine, Bill and Cathi were expecting their elimination. However, Phil revealed the first leg of the Race was a non-elimination leg and they could continue competing. Bill and Cathi then learned they would be facing a Speed Bump in the subsequent leg as a result of coming in last place, while all the teams must anticipate a double elimination at the end of the second leg in which two teams would be ousted from the competition.

"To keep racing after the day that we had? Oh my gosh. We can put all of our energy into positive ideas about tomorrow," Cathi said.

(Photo credit CBS)


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