In the season 23 finale, teams chase a rhino and and vending machine in Tokyo, then end up in Alaska. And the winners are....

By Annie Barrett
Updated December 09, 2013 at 03:00 AM EST
The Amazing Race
Credit: CBS

Whew! Our final four teams have bitten into four continents, nine countries, hundreds of paczki, and a heck of a lot of Pinky’s favorite food, lettuce. On the 11th and 12th legs, the remaining teams — Afghanimals Leo and Jamal, RoboDocs Travis and Nicole, New Englanders Jason and Amy, and increasingly likable exes Marie and Tim — raced from Tokyo to Juneau, Alaska. They can travel anywhere they want now, but [Phil Keoghan voice:] the image of an improperly assembled large-scale robot…. may haunt them forever. Enough stalling: The winners of The Amazing Race season 23 are….

Boston Jay and Sock Bun!

Yep — dating couple Jason Case, 33, and Amy Diaz, 29, have won brahhhhgging rights and a million bucks. But let’s start at the very beginning…

Nicole, Travis, Amy, and Jason are all still mad at Leo and Jamal for being lying liars who lie and lie and lie. “We’re just not those people,” explains Travis for the hundredth time. UGH. TRAVIS.

So the tight-knit foursome shut out the Afghanimals and welcome Tim and Marie into their We Work Together fold. The plan is for these six to work as a team. It’s a dumb alliance we all know won’t last — and it doesn’t, as soon as the teams arrive in Tokyo from Indonesia (through Singapore). You might even say Nicole and Travis were… lying… when they gave Tim and Marie the impression they wouldn’t ditch them as soon as a taxi showdown occurred. That’s exactly what happened. (Why even bother announcing this fictional alliance? So silly!)

Leo and Jamal know they have a Speed Bump to deal with, so they are ruthless at the Singapore airport, trying to find any transfer that’ll get them to Tokyo a few minutes sooner. If only they’d been so competitive sooner, right? (Well, kind of. This season, the leg winners have mostly been determined by challenge winners instead of who gets the best flights. Most of the time everyone traveled together.) The point is, Leo and Jamal touch down 10 or so minutes before the Not So Solid Six and get a decent head start on the day’s zany Tokyo adventures.

NEXT PAGE: Human Bowling Ball Game!

Follow @EWAnnieBarrett Detour: Knock It Down or Call It Up? Leo and Jamal do not hesitate to live out their dream of competing on a Japanese game show — they’ve been gunning for this ever since witnessing season 20’s Bring That Chicken Home conveyor belt fiasco. But they struggle at first in the Human Bowling Ball game, which requires teams to score a strike by pushing each other down a bumpy red carpet and watching them flail in ridiculous garb. So it’s a pretty apt metaphor for what takes place on a Hollywood red carpet, too.

Suddenly, the guys remember what “bowling” means and come to the brilliant realization that going “right down the middle” instead of down the far left or far right side might be a good idea. Really, really solid wild guess there by Leo and Jamal. They finally strike, the crazy announcer guy gets his merry-go-round hug (maybe this entire segment is also another Japanese game show in which this guy is competing to see how many Americans he can get to twirl him around), then the Afghanimals cunningly put their costumes back so as to suggest to later racers that they were never there.

Hilariously, Tim keeps his bowling costume on until the end of this leg, even though it’s clear the teams don’t need to. Tim for MVP! Then, now, and forever.

Pinky and her punching bag — a.k.a. Marie and Tim a.k.a. 60 and 40 — are ditched by the get-along gang once Travis, Nicole, Jason, and Amy realize they’re in Kinuta Park and can therefore peel off (their clothes) and Call It Up instead. Amy’s powerful two buoys threaten to keep her afloat once she’s in the goldfish-swarming phone booth, but she soldiers on, relaxes her shoulders, and submerges like a champion Nemo to find the buttons. Meanwhile, Nicole might be the only one who thinks Travis looks super sexy in his orange speedo and little fish cap. But overall, the absurd visual delights on this Tokyo leg do not disappoint.

It’s unclear whether Nicole included the part of the phone message that was in Japanese (Wasabi taberu — let’s eat!) along with “Welcome to Tokyo” — I was kind of hoping she didn’t, and they’d get penalized. But maybe it was just weird editing. Everyone’s through to the Road Block without a hitch.

The RoboDocs do both point out how strange it is for machines like them to be utilizing their facial expression functions. “It put a smile on my face,” says Travis re: the “Welcome to Tokyo” message — and Nicole says she gave the clue-bearer “my big smile” and hoped for the best. Yuck! Since when is a big smile her best commodity? Let’s just move on before I think too hard about what might be another commodity beyond self-righteousness Nicole has to offer. Because I probably can’t. This paragraph is boring me to death, too. I’m sorry!

NEXT: Marie the Mechanical Marvel — new children’s toy? I love seeing Tim and Marie try and explain their relationship to a rapt group of Japanese game show audience members who are willing to cheer or boo wildly at just about anything. “She broke my heart,” Tim says, pretending he’s sad. (Correction: He is sad about it. He loves her. I bet he’d have done the Race with Pinky for, like, 15 percent of the winnings instead of 40. Or maybe even zero.) “It’s an American Horror Story!” Marie yells in triumph.

Road Block: While Amy and Nicole putz around working together yet again on Build a Robot, Leo and Jamal must complete their Speed Bump: Capture an escaped rhino from a local zoo. Like the Roaming Vending Machine they’d later encounter, this desirable creature was just a fabricated structure with live, human feet at the bottom. (“Human Rhinoooooooo!” yells the game show host in my mind.) There’s an elaborate process the Afghanimals need to follow — someone’s shooting at the rhino with a gun and they have to wait for like eight other guys to follow rhino-capturing protocol. But it’s darn good fun, and Jamal’s exuberant climb atop the rhino as Travis and Jason glower at him from across the playground is too perfect. Leo races over to join Amy and Nicole in the robot-building massacre.

Now, I’d significantly warmed up to Marie all season, especially last week when she sailed through that volcanic egg challenge because, as she explained, “I overcook things, it’s what I do.” But never have I rooted for a pink-haired mechanical genius-monster more than when Marie bounded onto the Road Block playground in last place, worked furiously on her large-scale model until there was practically magenta smoke puffing out of both of their ears, then ran away with a correctly built robot FIRST!

Bully or not, the woman is a marvel! And Nicole and Amy were totally the bullies here, giving Marie the silent treatment when she asked what the hell she was supposed to do. Like the dumbfounded Travis and Jason sitting helplessly off to the side during Build a Robot, I’m in awe of Pinky’s physical prowess. And I just like the way she thinks — her “Listen, I’m gonna blast you into the wall” plan for Tim during Human Bowling Ball was another great call!

As Nicole and Amy struggle together, Nicole cops an extremely icky Travis persona in the way she yells at Amy. “DO NOT LOOK AT HER. SHE’S GONNA DISTRACT YOU.” It’s getting very ugly — on the sidelines, too, as the guys lament their poor Road Block decisions. “Nicole kills us,” says Travis. “She’s just, like, weak.” I mean, he’s right in that Nicole has not been good at much of anything. But to say that out loud? Repeatedly? To her face, plus in voiceovers, confessionals, and probably to any passerby that’ll listen? He’s just awful.

And Jason’s not much better, as he can’t fathom that Marie “came in as a woman, 20 minutes behind these two girls that’d been working together from the stahhhhhht.” “Man, the unexpected, enlarged testicles on this female!” is the gist of what Jason is trying to say, VERY poorly. I kind of hate Jason now… just in time for him to win a million bucks.

NEXT: ‘This boat’ll give you hemorrhoids.’ A Roaming Vending Machine hilariously won’t give up the next clue until Marie (and everyone else who follows) says “please,” then Marie and Tim win Leg 11 at the Konno Hachimangu Shrine pit stop. Appropriately, a much-higher-tech, no-assembly-required robot greets them. “Um, that’d be the greatest parter in the world,” Marie jokes to Tim and Phil (except she’s also serious, another reason I’m loving her right now). The exes are going to Aruba! Well, probably separately. They’ll put Hawaii and Aruba in a hat to see who gets to seduce the Travelocity gnome in which exotic location. He’s got enough deep-massage skills to go around.

Second place: Jason and Amy. He’s steaming because she wasted “7 to 10 minutes” helping Nicole start from scratch on her miserable failure of a robot.

Third: Nicole and Travis. Some tricky editing suggested the Afghanimals might have outpaced the RoboDocs on foot, but in the end Leo had taken too long to notice that his robot’s buttons were on the back. Leo will never build a snowman again, is my guess. Too many painful memories. Or he just won’t put buttons on the next snowman he makes. Or he’ll put the buttons on the back. Which would be totally fine. Terrible analogy.

Most Cringe-Inducing Line of the First Hour: “I’m not used to this, man. I’m used to relying on me. And Nicole’s showing that she’s not the same as me.” –poor, advanced robot Travis, disappointed as usual in his selected companion’s “loser” prototype.

Leo and Jamal are out. It’s okay — they’ll reportedly be on The Amazing Race 24: All-Stars, so they’ll get to “run around the world like crazy” a second time! (At the finish line, affable northern California hippies Brandon and Adam hinted that they’d be part of the next cast, too. Yes!)

All alliances — fake or otherwise — are off in the final hour, as the final three teams travel on the same flight from Tokyo to Juneau, Alaska. There’s an intense boat race from Douglas Island Harbor — “This boat’ll give you hemorrhoids,” bots Travis, and you can trust him on that because he’s a doctor. And then there’s a Road Block involving push planes, which are just about the most adorable planes you’ve ever seen, from a TV viewer’s perspective. I loved how the little red section near the “mouth” looked like a wagging tongue. But enough about this major plot point. Time to simulate a supply drop!

Nicole (nooooooo!), Marie, and Amy compete to drop a bag of flour onto a giant target while flying 60 m.p.h. from 150 feet above ground. I would be absolutely awful at this, I can just tell. Amy gets it on her second try, while Marie surprisingly takes 12. But Nicole’s plane must whiz around her disappointed husbot a whopping 20 times before she finally digs deep and hurls it onto the target.

Aside: I feel for Nicole here. She’s the worst, in general, and at most things — but sometimes you are just not good at something and no amount of repetition is going to fix the problem. One day in junior high I tried to get up on waterskis around 60 times until well after the sun had set over Lake Michigan. The only people in the boat were my disappointed father and my talented water-skier friend Katie (eff you, Katie!), both of whom kept trying and failing to coach me through it. Eventually, they wanted to die. I wanted to die the whole time. Never made it up on those damn skis. It was an amazing race back to the harbor in tears. But I lived! Great story.

Amy and Jason gleefully wrestle a non-“TRY AGAIN” clue from a wall of ice, cross an ice bridge, and stomp through a glacier, which already feels like a victory lap as Jason cannot contain his enthusiasm for a million dollars. But he doesn’t say million dollars; he screams “YEAH, LOOK AT YOU! YOU’RE AN ICE CLIMBER!” I’m actually impressed at his restraint; I’d probably be so excited I’d just be involuntarily yelping “MONEY!” at every turn.

NEXT: As if things can’t get any worse, Nicole loses an ice pick Tim and Marie are in second place and amicably resigned to it. “I’ve never done this, and I’m not looking — so I’m just gonna hurl myself in this glacier hole and see what happens.” Beautifully said, Tim. And this is definitely a metaphor for his continued association with Marie. It works for them, I guess.

Is anyone else compelled to book an outdoor adventure in Alaska? Minus the supply-dropping part, I’d be so into all of this stuff. Especially just sitting around and gaping at the beautiful blue tones of the landscape. The treacherous ice bridge part I could give or take (my own life). It’s just gorgeous up there!

But back to misery: Travis is going on and on about how Nicole has “struggled so mightily” in her last four Road Blocks. “Sometimes not being successful is a hard pill to swallow,” Travis says gravely — and again, he’s a doctor, so you can trust him. After Nicole finally hits the target, the two share the most glacier-like eye contact in Amazing Race history as they helicopter to the actual glacier. It’s almost as terrifying as Nicole losing one of her picks as she climbs up the icy incline. Travis sees an opportunity to melt a little, and takes it. “Wow,” he concedes. “I know it’s tough if you have one pick.” WOW.

Jason asks a taxi driver in the United States if he speaks English, and they’re on their way to victory! But first they must do some more dreaded building: a set of totem poles which will spell out the names of all the currencies the teams have encountered in their travels. Amy has written down everything — things they’ve smelled, people they’ve met, smelly people they’ve met — except for the currency. D’oh! They sail through the challenge anyway. We’re made to think Jason’s poles are falling apahhhhht constantly and that Tim and Marie might catch up, but there’s not enough time. If it was Amy vs. Marie again, this would be a much different story. Eventually the RoboDocs show up and their interactions are so painful I can’t even. I won’t.

“You lost it already, Nicole,” he says. “Golly!” Nope, I can’t. Shouldn’t have tried.

And that’s it! Boston finishes Strong at North Douglas Island. It was always about teamwork, not the finish line, says Jason as he luxuriously wraps his limbs with strands of the finish line. Just kidding, he was just standing there. “This is definitely the beginning of my happy ending,” Amy gushes. Well, congrats to them. They were consistent throughout, and quickest when it counted. They deserve it.

I have had a blast recapping this show — I’m still not too clear on all those foreign currencies myself, but I do know how to assemble an angklung, which is one thing money can’t buy. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go finish my dinner, which is a cobra.

Thank you for reading here each week. See you for season 24!

Check out Phil Keoghan’s personal photos from the finale and his thoughts on the final four teams, here.

Happy with the winners? Hungry for Japanese vending machine products? Discuss!

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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.

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