The Amazing Race season finale recap: Playing for All the Chips
”Neat.” That is the word Meghan used to describe how she felt after coming in first during this race around the world and winning a million dollars. Overwhelmed? Elated? Thrilled? Filthy f—ing rich? Nope. She opted for ”neat.” Wow, she really is Skipper.
Now, normally, I wouldn’t begin a column about the season finale with an announcement of the winner, but let’s face it: Meghan and Cheyne winning was about as predictable as a hot day in Las Vegas in July. They won a majority of the legs, dominated in every challenge, and Cheyne managed to keep his hair perfectly gelled all season. How could they not win?
Not that the Amazing Race producers didn’t do their best to play up the tension. In fact, each team spent some time in first place in the finale and had it not been for Brian and Ericka’s spazzy turn with the bungee jumping (more on that later), the underdogs might have taken home a check.
But let’s rewind back to the beginning of the show when Phil recapped much of the season. What, did they not have enough footage to fill an hour? Or did Phil think people would tune in tonight who hadn’t bothered watching every other week? Whatever the reason, we were reminded about Skipper and Ken’s dominance, Brian and Ericka’s love, and Sam and Dan’s ”bold game-changing moves.” Wow, that’s a euphemism for ”jerky, shady, bad-karma-accumulating” moves if I ever heard one.
In fact, when Sam and Dan saw Brian and Ericka (from whom they’d stolen a taxi) at the airport in Prague, Sam actually said ”It wasn’t our fault” as Dan offered ”Please blame your driver.” Um, what? It wasn’t your fault? Blame the taxi driver? If you’re going to be Team Evil at least own it. Don’t be Team Wussily Evil. And not just because Wussily is not a word.
But back to the race. All three of the teams got on the same flight to Las Vegas from Prague, which seems only fair. And in fact, it seemed more than fair considering, if my airplane seat skills are correct (and they always are — I’m a major frequent flyer geek), the teams were flying business class to Vegas. Probably a good move to dole out the dough, CBS… I don’t see anyone getting off a 6,000 mile-long flight in coach and be able to move, let along race. I wonder if any of them got wasted on the flight. Maybe Sam and Dan. I doubt Megan and Cheyne even asked for a refill on the warm nuts. They probably wouldn’t want to be ”rude.”
Speaking of rude, I’m about to be. All the teams went right to the Graceland chapel where an Elvis impersonator (I think) serenaded a couple about to tie the knot. I want to be nice here and celebrate this couple, but the bride was wearing black pumps with her white wedding dress. Sorry, some of you have told me I’m too mean, but I can’t overlook this fashion don’t to end all fashion don’ts. TV bride, because you clearly need the help, here’s my wedding present to you: Don’t wear a denim jacket with jeans, avoid shoulder pads no matter who tells you they’re having a comeback, and crop your wedding pictures from the ankle up.
NEXT: All they needed was ”Love”…and a little coordination
Though Brian and Ericka were in first place getting to the chapel, they were in third on their way out. I was hoping they would pull out an upset, but after this inability to grab a clue from Elvis, I was starting to lose hope.
Next up, the teams had to go to the Mandalay Bay for one of the most hideously scary- looking challenges I’ve ever seen: Walk face first down the side of a building. ”Today I am fearless,” Ericka said, once again in first place after an awesome taxi driver took Team Yellow on a faster route. Indeed, she was and it made me love the new Ericka who emerged in the final third of this race. Nothing like the bitchy, whiny, incompetent person who’d inhabited the early legs, new Ericka was competent and strong, even as the unnecessary doomsday music played in the background. ”I don’t think a lot of people would ever expect me to do this,” she said, adding how this act shatters some of the ”stereotypes about what a Miss America would or would not do.” Honey, after Carrie Prejean’s extracurricular activities, we’ve all stopped assuming what pageant contestants do and don’t do. But bravo to Erica because she gave her team a nice lead as she left the close-eyed Cheyne in the dust (or whatever dust can stick to the Mandalay Bay’s gold exterior).
As Skipper screeched, ”Keep going Cheyne!” all I could hear was the Globetrotters talking about how annoying her voice was. Just as I was thinking that her voice would make me want to bang my head against a wall, Cheyne banged his head against the wall. Maybe he was thinking the same thing? Meanwhile, Sam might not be the nicest guy, but he sure can work a wall. ”Step aside, Tom Cruise. Step aside,” he said with justifiable cockiness, before then negating all coolness with, ”Look at my little legs going.”
Next up, the teams had to ”join the cast” of Cirque du Soleil’s ”Love” and one team member had to launch the other one with a bungee cord to get a bouquet of flowers. Brian and Ericka had a nice lead and seemed to have an understanding of what needed to happen to finish the task. Alas, Skipper managed to get there first, with the brothers scoring their flowers soon after. Poor ”New Ericka” didn’t stand a chance when she saw her nice little lead disappear a mirage in The Mirage. ”GET ME DOWN!” ”I DON’T CARE!” ”I WANT TO SWITCH!” ”DON’T GET ME PISSED OFF!” ”I’M NOT TALL ENOUGH!” old Ericka said, having a full-blown meltdown, which looks both scarier and funnier coming out of someone who’s bouncing up and down. Somehow they managed to finish, but not before losing way too much time. Luckily, Brian knew Geography 101 and when the next clue said to go to a ”famous casino in Monaco” he knew exactly where to go.
Which is more than we can say about our other two teams. Sam and Dan scored good intel, while Meghan and Cheyne got answers they didn’t trust until they successfully wasted enough time hearing ”The Monte Carlo” from both a valet attendant and a concierge.
NEXT: Meet Mr. Las Vegas
But one thing Skipper and Ken were able to do in Vegas — and consistently throughout the race (let’s just ignore a little hay challenge, shall we?) — was stay calm. And sure enough, though they arrived last, they were the only ones to successfully count $1 million worth of poker chips on their first try. As they scored their cab to the MGM Grand, Cheyne offered to pay a taxi driver ”hundreds” if the guy got them there quickly. I wonder if that driver was watching and if he cashed in. The brothers left second and our poor underdogs couldn’t seem to finish their addition task. ”How does this happen to us every single time?” Ericka wonders. Um, ’cause you melt down and cry and take too long to do things that other teams can do more efficiently without the histrionics? Oh, wait. Sorry, Ericka. Was that a rhetorical question?
You had to know Wayne Newton would pop up sooner or later and sure enough, there he was handing out a clue in all his cheesy glory. Skipper wanted nothing to do with Mr. Las Vegas other than score a clue, but ol’ Wayne went in for the hug and she obliged. As we know, she doesn’t want to be rude. Sam and Dan opted for being rude, however, when Sam said, ”How do I not know what your name is?” I thought Wayne would frown or show annoyance, but for some reason* he kept smiling. (*For some reason = for reasons I won’t state for fear of being sued).
At this point, the producers clearly gave up hope that Brian and Ericka were contenders and didn’t even bother filming them anymore. Did they even get to meet Mr. Las Vegas or did ol’ Wayne storm off with his everlasting smile and rant about how Las Vegas allowed people to visit who couldn’t recite his name on demand.
With Team Yellow out of it, it was a race to the finish line for Skipper/Ken and the brothers. I always get choked up when I see the teams from the season, even though I can’t ever remember their names. Ooh! There’s the fighting couple with the bad accents! There’s the token older couple who made kinda-senile decisions! Hi there, poker girls! Nice to see you again, candy apple-red-haired guy and your dad! It was wonderful to see my faves, Flight Time and Big Easy, again, though it made me wonder what would have happened if they’d been running this leg. In the end, everyone politely applauded as Skipper and Ken made their predictable entrance. As I said, Meghan decided to channel 1978 and use the word ”neat” while Cheyne pointed upwards, apparently assuming that his god was following this season of Amazing Race.
The brothers were chipper and, for one of the first times, genuinely sweet when they checked in. ”We bicker… we kick each other… but at the end of the day we’re still brothers… you know you have a great family whenever you look up to your younger brother…I just love him so much,” Sam said. Awww.
Brian and Ericka were in decent enough spirits too by the time they made it. ”I just hope they fully accept him for who he is,” she said, referring to her mother who apparently disapproves of Brian. Mrs. Miss America’s mom? The fact that Brian is still head-over-heels in love after the way your daughter acted on some of these legs, I think you should probably reconsider.
And so another season is over. It wasn’t the best race, but it wasn’t the worst. I’m neither happy about the outcome nor angry. I guess all in all, it was pretty neat. What did you all think of the finale? Did Meghan and Cheyne deserve to win?
Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.