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A Viewer’s Guide to The Amazing Race’s Reality Showdown

Don’t follow Survivor or Big Brother? Here’s a primer on the reality stars crossing over into the Race.
  • The Amazing Race's "Team Fun" Becca and Floyd
    The Amazing Race's "Team Fun" Becca and Floyd

    It’s true that The Amazing Race has never shied away from casting contestants from other reality shows. But after Big Brother alums Jessica Graf and Cody Nickson ran away with the Season 30 victory -- to the delight of a very invested Big Brother fanbase -- CBS is doubling down on the crossover concept for their latest season, which they are dubbing a “reality showdown.” Six teams in the forthcoming season have competed on at least one other CBS reality show — either Big Brother or Survivor — and they’re up against five fan-favorite Amazing Race teams, ensuring that viewers loyal to any of the three shows will find at least a couple of familiar faces in the mix.

    Still, not all Survivor fans watch Amazing Race, and not all Race fans watch Big Brother, and round and round it goes. Bottom line: there’s a good percentage of the season 31 audience who will have significant blind spots. So here’s a quick primer on season 31, based on which shows they’re coming from … and how we might expect its veterans to fare on this race around the world.

    What You Need to Know About The Amazing Race Veterans

    As in previous returnee-based Amazing Race seasons, the veterans are mostly strong competitors with a score to settle from their previous races, but unlike previous seasons, there are comparatively few teams in this cast that are true head-scratchers. Every Race alum here has won multiple legs in their respective seasons, and three teams even made it to the final leg (though none ended up winning the million dollars).

    Fan favorites like season 29’s Becca Droz and Floyd Pierce (eliminated when Floyd collapsed from heat stroke after a grueling task) and season 28’s Tyler Oakley and Korey Kuhl (eliminated by a badly-designed Roadblock in the finals) were practically guaranteed to be asked back at some point. After finishing just shy of the final leg twice, Leo Temory and Jamal Zadran (the “Afghanimals”) are ready to break their streak. Art Velez and JJ Carrell, who may not have topped a lot of fan-favorite lists, came within a few minutes of winning season 20, but let’s be real -- there’s a big chance they’re actually here because of their potential to clash with season 20 castmate Rachel Reilly.

    Colin Guinn and Christie Woods, who last appeared on the show in 2004, may not be top-of-mind to recent fans, either, but those who’ve watched from day one have been shocked every time they haven't shown up in an All-Star season. While they’re best-known for Colin's livestock-induced mental breakdown in Vietnam ("My ox is broken!" was a meme practically before memes were a thing), they also racked up six first-place finishes and came very close to winning the whole thing back in season 5. Fifteen years does not appear to have slowed them down.

    What You Need to Know About the Survivor Veterans

    Speaking of relics from 2004, Rupert Boneham has been synonymous with Survivor since its seventh season (we’re currently on season 38, for comparison’s sake), so it's no surprise to see him crossing into Amazing Race territory. While he finished in the top six on two different Survivor seasons and was arguably the franchise’s biggest character for most of its glory days, Rupert's given viewers diminishing returns. On his fourth and final Survivor appearance, in which he competed alongside his wife, Laura, neither Boneham lasted long, and at 54 and 49, they're the oldest team in the pack. So while old-school Survivor fans might be excited to see them, that excitement is likely to be short-lived.

    On paper, the other two Survivor-alum teams don't necessarily seem poised to dominate, either, but that doesn't necessarily seem to be the reason they're here in the first place. Corinne Kaplan and Eliza Orlins, who've clocked two Survivor appearances each, were both better known for their sharp tongues than their challenge strength -- a reputation they've maintained well past their appearances on the show. Look for Chris Hammons and Bret LaBelle to be great narrators as well. Neither made a lasting impression on Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X, but Bret, in particular, has established himself as a bombastic, snarky presence via social media, podcasts, and fan events.

    What You Need to Know About the Big Brother Veterans

    Newly engaged couple Victor Arroyo and Nicole Franzel of Big Brother 18 fame (she won; he placed third after being voted out -- and winning his way back in -- twice) might be the toughest competitors out of the Big Brother set. Both have proven themselves exceptionally strong challenge competitors in terms of both physical prowess and tolerance for public humiliation in the form of bizarre costumes (increasingly a staple of The Amazing Race as well). With youth and experience on their side, they’re poised to dominate.

    Rachel Reilly, who competed in Big Brothers 12 and 13 as well as seasons 20 and 24 of The Amazing Race, is the only veteran of two different CBS shows in this cast and perhaps the most polarizing character in the entire CBS universe. Love her or hate her, fans of either franchise are well aware that she brings strategy, strength, and drama in equal measures. But it’s anyone’s guess how she’ll fare racing with her sister, Big Brother 15’s Elissa Slater, rather than her now-husband (Brendon Villegas, with whom she ran her two previous Races). It will be interesting to find out exactly how much of Brenchel’s powerhouse reputation can be attributed to Rachel and how much was on Brendon’s shoulders. Our guess? Rachel’s better at this game than she gets credit for.

    Janelle Pierzina, who made deep runs in two of her three seasons and racked up a record number of competition wins, is another Big Brother alumna to watch. She’ll be running the race with her Season 14 castmate Britney Haynes, another two-time veteran with a reputation for an insanely strong social game.

    Team That Could Win: Victor and Nicole
    Team That Could Surprise: Colin and Christy
    Don’t Get Too Attached To: Rupert and Laura

    Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, The Herald Sun, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: The Amazing Race, Big Brother, Survivor