For most of the history of The Amazing Race, the show was content to cast anonymous pairs who had a pre-existing relationship. There was one big exception: Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich, who were cast in Season Seven and the subsequent all-star season after they had first met, fallen in love, and dominated on the first Survivor all-stars.
But in recent seasons, TAR has begun casting people with a small measure of fame, if not outright celebrity. Season 14 last winter featured the father and son pair of Mel and Mike White: a former spokesman for the religious right turned gay activist, and his screenwriter son. The most recent season gave us the pair of Nathaniel "Big Easy" Lofton and Herbert "Flight Time" Lang, members of the Harlem Globetrotters; Miss America 2004 Ericka Dunlap, who raced with her husband; and professional poker players Tiffany Michelle and Maria Ho.
Season 16 filmed last month and premieres on February 14. While spoilers had been rampant, its cast was just officially announced, and it is highlighted by one pair which follows in the footsteps of Romber in that it is made up of a reality show winner and her main ally, and it features another racer who is one of the biggest viral video stars of all time.
Caitlin Upton, who is now apparently going by the name Caite, is the former Miss Teen South Carolina who became a national laughingstock during the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant when she delivered an incoherent answer to the question of why young Americans had such little knowledge of the world. Upton has yet to turn 21, which is the show's stated age limit, but the opportunity to cast someone like her for a global race was an irresistible brainstorm for the TAR producers. The exposure will work to Upton's benefit also, as she has -- try not to be shocked -- chosen to supplement her academic career and is now an aspiring model. She will be racing with her boyfriend Brent Horne, also a model.
Also racing this season will be Jordan Lloyd, winner of last summer's Big Brother 11, and Jeff Schroeder, who became her show boyfriend. The pair were obvious fan favorites on Big Brother; Schroeder in particular won all that season's popularity polls. However, it is safe to say that neither was famous for their intellect or curiosity about the world, so seeing them cope with foreign cultures and even with the occasionally ambiguous race clues could provide lots of humor. There is also the fact that the race is invariably stressful, and Jordan and Jeff have only known each other since July. Here too the race has bent its rules in order to cast them, as it prefers to use pairs that are either related to each other or have been involved somehow for at least a few years.
The new TAR cast includes a few other semi-public figures. Steve Smith, who is racing with his daughter Allison, is the third base coach for the Cleveland Indians. And there are brothers Cord and Jet McCoy -- yes, those are their real names -- who are a professional bull rider and a "cowboy," respectively. It's always smart to bet on the teams of young men on this show, so look for either the McCoys or brothers Daniel and Jordan Pious to be the team hitting the finish line first.