In a new twist at the start of the two-hour season premiere, teams had to search a wall of license plates for tags from a specific Japanese region before they took off on the first leg of the journey from Los Angeles to Tokyo.
There were only 11 of those plates on the wall, leaving the 12th team, husband-and-wife Eric and Lisa, without airline tickets to Japan. In a tearful farewell, the vegans and yoga-studio owners, who have been married for 18 years, said their elimination had set the others free from the shame of being first eliminated.
The last couple to arrive at the first pit stop - poker players Maria and Tiffany - lost two of the 20 tourists they had to lead through the streets of Japan and thus incurred a two-hour penalty. They were not eliminated; however, they were given a speed bump on the next leg of the journey, which took teams to Vietnam.
They completed the task - making a Vietnamese soup for the dockmaster handily the next day - and, thanks to two contestants who had trouble herding ducks, arrived at the pit stop for that leg of the race, escaping elimination.
Both Brian and Erika and Jessica and Garrett had trouble in the duck pen and lagged behind the other teams. Brian and Erika edged Jessica and Garrett out at the last minute, becoming the 10th team to arrive at the pit stop.
A California couple who has been dating on and off for seven years, Garrett and Jessica called their elimination a tough loss and said they did not know whether they were any close to marriage as a result of their experience.