Sorry this is a bit late, but it’s been a busy past couple of days. Anyway, “The Amazing Race” kicked off its 17th season Sunday on CBS. I thought it was a pretty good episode that bodes well for the season. It was an entertaining mix of self-navigation, challenging tasks and, thanks to the 90-minute airtime, it didn’t feel too rushed. Overall, it was the best opening leg since the classic cheese-rolling episode a couple of years ago. Some random thoughts:

Pow! Right in the kisser! (CBS photo)

— Gotta start with the watermelon. Wow. That looked horrible. Hilarious, since Claire’s face wasn’t smashed in and she managed to walk away, but still . . . ouch. It’s too bad CBS leaked the video online though. I had seen it before, so when it happened I just cringed a bit. But my girlfriend, who hadn’t seen it, exploded in a combination of laughter and “OHMYGODDIDTHATJUSTHAPPEN?!?!?” I think it would have had more impact — so to speak — for viewers everywhere if it had been a total surprise. Ehh, it was my own fault for looking at a spoiler though.

— BTW, MSNBC showed the clip to a doctor, who said Claire was very lucky — apparently the melon hit her in the forehead, like where you’d head a soccer ball. A little lower and it would have broken her nose. The doctor also suspected she had a concussion, based on her reactions. Click here for the story.

— It’s mean of me to say, but I kinda wish it had been Claire’s partner, Brook, who had been the one nailed in the kisser. Maybe it would have shut her up. Her constant shrieking drove me nuts.

— Speaking of shrieking, Mallory — Miss Kentucky — drove me nuts too, though slightly less than Brook. Her giddy sorority-girl level of enthusiasm for every little thing and everybody she met was a bit much. Hopefully these two will quiet down as the race drags on.

— My favorite teams so far: The beach volleyball players and the doctors, Nat & Kat. Gotta give props to someone who can run a quick blood test while she’s tearing down the motorway. I read a description of Nat & Kat being about as exciting as an Activia commercial, and yeah, they’re not exactly a thrill ride, but I can appreciate a quiet, efficient, effective team.

Easy, easy . . . glug, glug, glug. (CBS photo)

— Man, I loved that raft challenge. That was deceptively difficult, and I really liked how it required teamwork to balance each other effectively. The multitude of slowly sinking rafts never stopped being hilarious, especially when Angry Chad kept going down with the ship.

— Speaking of Angry Chad, he made it easy to pick out my least favorite team. His girlfriend with the Tinkerbell haircut seems OK, but he’s a blowhard who can’t go home too soon. I was snickering hard at how he led her on a wild goose chase around the castle grounds looking for Phil, when the finish line was just in the next field over. Looked like they dropped about five places because of that. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

— My next least favorite? Thomas, the guy who thinks he somehow has an inherent advantage because he went to Notre Dame. His girlfriend was forgettable, but he’s a poster child for why half the country roots against Notre Dame. Jerk.

— Nick and Vicki don’t seem like bad people, just exceedingly stupid ones. Never heard of Stonehenge? No idea what a battlement was? No idea what a medieval flag looked like? No idea what the rafts were? No idea what country they were in? (No, London is not a country.) How were these two even allowed inside a “smart car” in Worcester?

— Connor & Jonathan — Team Glee — were pretty much as annoying as expected. But I loved their finish, when one of them totally slipped and landed butt-first on the Amazing Bathmat.

— Not nearly as annoying as expected, though, was Kevin and his dad, Michael. I had low expectation based on Kevin’s Internet videos, but he wasn’t in performer mode and was very watchable. I like the dynamic between those two; I think I’d be bigger fans of them if I didn’t think they’d be eliminated pretty quickly. They just don’t seem nearly fast enough or strong enough to last long.

— I really thought the birth mom and daughter would be the first ones to go. Wow, it was painful watching her strip that manual transmission. But come on, who goes on this race without knowing how to drive a stick shift? It kills teams every single time, and by this point, there’s no excuse. If you don’t know how, learn before you go on the race. There’s absolutely no sympathy if you don’t.

— But in the end, it was the theater friends, Ron & Tony, who were the first eliminated. That was a bit of an upset — I had them pegged as my pre-race co-favorites. Self-navigation was their downfall; they missed the turnoff for Stonehenge and spent hours trying to make up the time they lost. What I want to know is, what happened to their compass? They were showing it off before the flight, but never seemed to use it in England, where, with the lack of signage and many traffic roundabouts, it seemed like the compass could have come in handy.

What did you think? What was your favorite moment? Who do you already love? Or hate? Onto Ghana and hopefully a meltdown or two next week.

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