The 20th season of The Amazing Race comes to a surprisingly entertaining conclusion, although it doesn’t start out that way. The opening segment is certainly filled with incident, as teams have to catch a plane, a bus, a train, and finally a ferry to reach their first set of clues. Although leads change several times, with Team Big Brother missing the first bus, and Rachel and Dave missing the last ferry of the night, none of it amounts to anything. Seasoned Race viewers know, as the show goes to its first commercial break, that Rachel and Dave aren’t in any trouble at all. After all, how often does a challenge actually start in the middle of the night?
Sure enough, the first clues arrive with the morning sun, by which time Rachel and Dave have caught up with the rest of the pack. Thus, the first 20 minutes of the finale prove to be a complete waste of time. At this point, my hopes are not high for the rest of the episode, especially after the teams make a stop in Hiroshima for no other reason than to gaze at the Peace Memorial Park and utter all the Deep Thoughts that come into their heads. Reaching for these moments of significance is usually a bad idea on this show, and this proves to be no exception.
Fortunately, the mood changes drastically at the first Roadblock: a Japanese game show called “Bring That Chicken Home.” One member of each team has to run along a colorful treadmill, jump and grab three dangling rubber chickens, and bring them across the finish line as an enthusiastic audience laughs at their antics. I don’t know how appropriate this is, coming minutes after our moment of reflection on atomic horrors, but any opportunity to see Art fall on his face repeatedly is always welcome. (And as it turns out, there’s plenty more where that came from.) I did gain some respect for Vanessa as she persevered to complete this task despite her injury, but of course, gaining respect for a team usually means they’re done.
Indeed, Ralph and Vanessa (or “Conan and Kardashian,” as the Border Patrol dub them) are the final eliminated team, while Rachel and Dave pick up their record-tying seventh first-place finish. The remaining three teams fly together to Honolulu for the final leg of the race, each team grabbing a cab from the airport. It’s at this point that Team Border Patrol get the comeuppance they so richly deserve, as they instruct their cabbie to follow the taxi containing Rachel and Dave. What’s that, Team Border Patrol? You’re followers now? After bitching so often about Team Big Brother following you everywhere? And, whoops! Looks like Rachel and Dave have given you the slip and you have no idea where to go! Ah, sweet schadenfreude.
The season finally recaptures the sense of adventure from earlier Race installments with a classic challenge: rappelling up and down the side of a 40-story building. By now, Rachel and Dave have a decent lead, and it looks like their victory is inevitable. But as foreshadowed in the previews, they make a crucial mistake and accidentally skip the final Roadblock, getting the bad news from Phil at the mat while all the loser teams look on in mock shock. Combined with Team Big Brother’s mistake in not traveling on foot to the helicopters, the door is open for the Border Patrol to make a final push to victory. Fortunately, Art is not yet finished with his comical pratfalls, as his attempts to ride a Hawaiian sled down a hill result in him falling ass over teakettle many, many times. Honestly, I could have watched this all night.
Even with their big blunder (which they take surprisingly well, considering how every little thing seems to set them off), Rachel and Dave are able to pass Art and J.J. and arrive on the mat as the winners of The Amazing Race and the million dollars. At this point, I have no idea what to make of these two. I’ve tended to blame Dave for the friction in their relationship, but this week it seemed Rachel was an even bigger jerk than him. Yet at the finish line, all they can talk about is how this experience has strengthened their relationship. Sure, they’re still basking in the glow of the million bucks, but maybe it’s just that these two deserve each other.
Regardless of how I feel about them as a couple, there’s no doubt that Rachel and Dave deserved to win the race. They basically dominated from beginning to end. Still, it was clear the producers’ hearts were with Bopper and Mark, as they almost got the last words tonight. No doubt we’ll be seeing them on some future all-star season. As for this season, it was probably one of the weaker ones overall, but this action-packed finale made up for a lot.
- I didn’t even have time to mention the sushi/sumo Detour. My main complaint with that one is that the teams weren’t forced to dress up in giant sumo wrestler diapers.
- Dave pronounces gravity “gray-vity.” I’ve never heard that before.
- Vanessa: “I’m hoping another team got lost. Or abducted by aliens.”
- That helmet-cam shot of Rachel crawling on the ground was like something out of The Ring.
- Hey, look! It’s the clowns! Remember them? Me either.