The Amazing Race season finale recap: Josh and Brent win
The final three teams hoof it to New York City, where one wins cars and another wins the million
After a two-leg final episode that included vats of raw meat, straightjackets, headfirst bungee jumping and some completely reckless, off-the-charts use of the word “babe,” we have our season 21 winners: The Fabulous Beekman Boys.
Yep! That’s not even a typo.
It happened thusly: At the point at which some of the other top teams began to unravel and become panicky, flustered hot messes, the Beekmans more or less just continued on with their underdog ways and slowly but surely made their way to the front of the pack just in time to leap into Phil’s waiting arms at the Pit Stop. If that sounds like I’m suggesting the Beekmans lucked into their win, I don’t mean it that way. Sure, they got lucky on the Race at various points — specifically the non-elimination leg and the Rockers’ passport to-do — but good luck and bad luck both are a rightful part of the game. The Beekmans succeeded because, as they said themselves, they hung on week after week, then gained momentum at just the right moment. It helped some that in these last few legs, the Beeks were able to draw upon their skill-set (familiarity with French, self-driving, farm-y tasks, a finale on home turf). But maybe there’s also something to be said for low expectations. Sure, the Beekmans have a competitive spirit. It surfaced now and again and especially at the end, when the Twinnies awakened it. But the Beekmans clearly were not as alarmingly competitive as were Teams Texas or Twins or Abbie/Ryan. Their attitude was always more just kinda like “nowhere to go but up!” They always expected to be in the back of the pack, and this lack of pressure allowed them a certain calm demeanor which helped them greatly towards the end of the race. It just goes to show that sometimes the underdog role is a great place to be. And you know what? Winning the most legs doesn’t matter. You only need to win one. And that’s just what these guys did. They won one leg the entire season, but it was the one that mattered. Meanwhile, I’d said in previous weeks that these guys wouldn’t/couldn’t win; now I (happily) eat my words.
First up, Leg 11, and the Loire Valley, France. What a pretty place to claw each others’ eyes out!
That train ride from Barcelona was so awkward and uncomfortable. I felt like I was watching a badly-acted stage performance of “High School: The Jerk Years.” Enough with the Dream Team Alliance! It’s so lame. Fine that they aligned to cooperate on the U-Turn. Strategy-wise, I thought theirs was a brilliant, creative plan, and they succeeded in eliminating their toughest competition in Abbie and Ryan. But now that that’s done, move on. Hanging on to the Alliance idea after that just reeks of cliqueishness and insecurity. It actually reminded me of middle school, when girls are incapable of even going to the bathroom to touch up their lip gloss without bringing their friends along, when everyone’s always waiting for someone and monitoring where people are and coming from and going to. This is a race, yo! Do your own thing! Focus! (not a plug for #Ford) Plus, the whole notion is somewhat illogical to me in general. If they really think they’re the three strongest teams, why are they so desperate to race against one another? Wouldn’t it make more sense to try to box out the teams that you think are the strongest, so you can compete against weaker teams?
NEXT: “The gays are coming!”
With Abbie and Ryan out, the Twins immediately adopted a new raison d’être, which was to annihilate the Beekmans. Despite all their ranting about what a waste of space and oxygen the Beekmans are, the Twins were obviously feeling threatened by them, especially in light of the Speed Bump. It was fascinating to watch the Twins get increasingly angry that the Beekmans were still in the race; comments were made about their “hanging around for no reason” and “taking up a spot” and “coasting through” and “hanging on coattails.” Oh, and the “tricks up the sleeve” stuff. My favorite line, though, was the “adding insult to injury” one. What’s the insult? That you have to compete against them at all? What’s the injury? God knows. But it was pretty fun to see the Twins descend into such a frazzled and insecure place. I liked the way Brent and Josh played to their panicking and let them “stew in their nerves.” It was an effective strategy. As was taunting “The gays are gonna beat you!”
Once in France, there was more driving and navigating to do, which is good because we haven’t had enough of it this season and also because this allowed the Chips to perform that short yet persuasive commercial for Ford.
Some clue pickups happened and then the Twins’ Speed Bump happened during which they roughed up a French woman and kneed her in the small of the back. During the Twins’ absence it was interesting and totally unsurprising to see that the Alliance broke down indeed. Those two are so the Regina George of the Race.
When it came to the Detour, there was a lot of to-do about which teams would do “Chow” and which would do “Plow.” Eventually Texas and the Chips took on “Plow,” where they had to use a traditional horse and plow to make four furrows in some very troublesome-looking dirt. This looked super exhausting for the person holding the plow and super relaxing for the person moseying along making kissing noises and speaking French to the horses. Nothing much to see here except some adorable, scarved French farmers. And that dear moment when Jaymes gave his horse a merci smooch!
The Beekmans and Twins tackled “Chow,” where they had to prepare a raw meat buffet extravaganza for a pack of hungry hunting dogs while simultaneously semi-fake trash-talking each other. Their banter was a cringe-worthy, highly compelling piece of entertainment. I don’t know exactly what you’d call this type of exchange — theatrical trash talk?– but it was pretty silly. Evil gays! You’re faking your ankle injury! Evil twins! During this time I was deeply distracted by/concerned for the girls’ hair, which kept dangling dangerously close all that meaty meat. I suppose that’s no big whoop to them, considering that their hair’s already been coated with fish twice this season. But I was quite impressed with the way the Beekmans remained completely unfazed by all the flak. They seemed in command, between their meat-prepping strategy (they’re farmers, after all) and solid psychological warfare strategy. “I think we actually confused the twins a bit by joking with them,” Josh said. It did seem that the Beekmans distracted and befuddled their competition. “The gays bloody beat us,” one of the twins said in disbelief as the boys sped away. Gayly. Right, girls?
Next, teams were on to Bourré to La Cave Des Roches. The Roadblock asked “Who’s a fun guy?” (Jaymes is!) and required Racers to search a subterranean farm for mushrooms and collect samples of three distinct types. The clue card said that Lexi, Brent and Jaymes had to do the challenge; they must have been behind on the Roadblock tally. The twins had no such instructive. So down everyone went into a cave that was cold, vast and fungusy – and totally ripe for a major claustrophobia meltdown if you are me or at all like me. Especially when the lights went out. I thought this was a really good challenge for a lot of reasons, one of them being that you could get a little glimpse of what these guys would be like if they became crazypeople. Down in cave universe, everyone grew a little frantic and loopy and started muttering to themselves. “What YOU got goin’ on?” I’m pretty sure Jaymes asked some mushrooms.
Chips and Texas finished first and made it to the Pit Stop at Château de Chenonceau in first and second place, respectively. The Chips’ embrace was fantastic. James went limp in Jaymes’ arms and looked like a baby koala clinging on to its parent. Ford Escapes for each Chippendale! Mama James gets some wheels! When Natalie finished the mushroom challenge ahead of Brent, I assumed it was all over for the Beeks right there. But the Twins had navigation issues en route to the Pit Stop, and the Beekmans finished third, ensuring their spot in the finale. Josh’s stunned disbelief was so delightful. I mean, his face! Come on! As Phil would say, he seemed to be “litrally” in shock.
I wasn’t sorry to see the Twins go, but it was still sobering to see them eliminated. Love ’em or hate ’em but Natalie and Nadiya are such strong personalities — so vibrant and energetic and confident — that their goodbye seemed poignant. It was strange to see these loud, brassy girls quieted and stopped dead in their tracks like that; it was like seeing a cat all off balance with its whiskers cut off. But they weren’t serious for too long; in typical Twinny fashion they were quickly back to laughing at themselves. I liked that montage of Twinnies Fun.They should rent themselves out for parties.
“Alliance doesn’t matter when you’re knee deep in hamburger patties.” – Josh Kilmer Purcell
Leg 12 — the finale! And we’re off to NYC!
Question for you, TAR experts: Are the teams kept separate at the Pit Stops? I always thought they were free to do whatever – and mingle if they wanted. But on last week’s episode, it wasn’t until Barcelona that the top three teams knew that the Beekmans, not Abbie and Ryan, were the fourth team. Likewise, tonight, Texas and Chips didn’t know whether the third team would be the Beekmans or the Twins until they all arrived at the airport. Do they not see each other at the hotel or whatever in between legs? (She said “in between legs!”)
NEXT: All tied up
The aforementioned reunion at the airport was rather underwhelming, yes? I guess the group deserved a minute to mourn the disintegration of their Dream Team Alliance.
*Just want to interrupt myself here with this update from the internet rabbit hole I’ve just slid down: As of Friday, the Beekmans and Abbie-Ryan are at the Beekmans’ farm in upstate New York to. Abbie said they just had the “best dinner.” I learned this from Twitter, a place that I like to stalk as a means of recap procrastination. You might like to know that happening right now is the Chips’ party at “The Martini” in Vegas. Thank you.*
To Coney Island! It took everyone awhile to find the clue at the boardwalk, partially because it wasn’t very obvious or very red and yellow — which is what people were looking for — and partially because the pressure was on and Racers were starting to freak out. When the Chips were the only team still wandering around, did anyone else have a flashback to their bonkers abacus search in episode one?
How I love a dog in sunglasses!
The Roadblock at the Brooklyn Navy Yard — “Who’s up for an Amazing Escape?” — took my breath away. The challenge, based on a Harry Houdini classic, required Racers to be strapped into a straightjacket and suspended upside down 15 stories up. Once they figured out how to escape the straightjacket, they’d be plunged into a bungee free fall. Head first! It’s a really good thing this challenge came in the finale; no one could afford to wuss out. Trey was scared despite his big muscles. Brent in the straightjacket looked like a tiny baby in a swaddling blanket. Jaymes, apparently a thrill-seeker, was totally jazzed (hands) by the whole thing. Just writing about it makes my hands clammy. I was so impressed that all three boys just went in and got it done-did like that.
The next clue sent everyone to NYC’s first pizzeria, Lombardi’s, and Lexi said “Omigosh, I hope I don’t have to eat pizza!” because that would be so horrible. It’s so awful when people make me eat pizza. It turned out the challenge had nothing to do with eating, though. Teams had to memorize three nearby addresses and the corresponding pizza orders and then deliver the pies on foot. The Beekmans had to re-do two of their deliveries when Josh mixed up the orders, and it was then that the Beekmans’ bickering reached its apex. These two are self-proclaimed varsity bickerers, and tonight Josh’s mistake sent Brent into full on beeyotch mode. Dr. Brent can do passive-aggressive really well! He was right though — it was funny that Josh made Brent carry all the pizzas the second time around. You guys!
The pizza re-do was resolved quickly, and even though Lexi and Trey maintained their lead, the three teams met up shortly at the U.N. Headquarters shortly for the final Roadblock — and final challenge — of the season. “Who has a way with words?” the clue asked, and the memory challenge required Racers to i.d. “hello” and “goodbye” from the nine countries they visited on the race, then pair the words with the corresponding flag by hoisting them up a pulley. The clue stated that if you did the Houdini Roadblock you couldn’t do this one, so that meant Lexi, Josh and James went at it while their counterparts looked on.
NEXT: After 3 continents, 9 countries and over 25,000 miles…
“This is gonna be so time consuming, babe!” said Lexi. “Don’t get frustrated, babe!” Trey replied.
This challenge was pretty thrilling to watch, because adrenaline (mine included) was pumping, and for a while it seemed like the race could conceivably go in any direction. For Team Texas’ part, Lexi was a good match for the job. It’s true that she sometimes doesn’t know things (like who Houdini was, or that the clue depicted is the symbol for the U.N. and not a “target”), but she’s proven herself to be really methodical, systematic and organized as a Racer. For the Beekmans’ part, Josh was well-suited to the task, too. He’s good at languages – and I thought what he said about turning the challenge into a math puzzle after a certain point was smart. For the the Chippendales, Jaymes would have probably been a better match for this task. All season long he’d been learning basic phrases for each of the countries they visited.
I loved so much about this challenge: it had a “full circle” quality to it, was both mental and physical, and the location was obviously symbolic and significant. And the three teams being out there together on a warm spring night seemed peaceful, somehow, despite the high stakes. But eventually Lexi started to crumble. She’s normally unflappable, but here, her frustration at not being in control really set in, and as the Beekmans and Chips calmly chipped away at the challenge, Team Texas slid from default front-runner to no-can-do. Then she got hit in the head by zai jian. My fingherrrrrrrr!!
BTW, who’s hungry for a footlong merhaba?
“I love the world!” Josh exclaimed when he finished, and then it was off to the Pit Stop at Gotham Hall. The Chippendales were in hot pursuit and it then we had ourselves a taxi race between these two spectacular, lovable teams.
Inside Gotham Hall it was a scene as good as in any movie. The Beekmans — yes, the Beekmans! — ran in to cheering from all their cast-mates (Remember all these people we never knew?) and accepted their win with the humility and gratefulness that’s been their bag all along. I loved seeing Abbie and Ryan nearly jumping out of their skin with excitement. The Twinnies cheered warmly as well. “We were underdogs,” Josh said to the group, “and what I hope this proves to people — whether they’re a minority or they’re out of work or they’re losing their house or whatever — if they just keep going and keep working as hard as they can, people will help, and at some point you will win.” I love this movie!
I was surprised at how tickled my heart was at the sight of Big Rob. Now that I don’t have to hear him yell at cabbies I have a weird affection for him. I loved what he said about how the Beekmans changed his views. Also, what’s wrong with Will?
The Chips arrived soon thereafter. Obviously I rewound three times to confirm it: Ryan did not clap for them. After all, the Chippendales cheated Ryan out of the two million dollars that was rightfully his, remember? You don’t? I don’t either. Meanwhile, Jaymes looked so utterly, tenderly verklempt. Both Chips seemed really moved, and though they didn’t win the one million that Jaymes wanted so much for help with his dad, they did score a couple cars and a trip and a whole new pack of BFFs who can come out and see their shows in Vegas. “Maybe the world will have a different view of Chips now,” Jaymes said, as if this had been one of their objectives on the race: to raise awareness about Chippendales discrimination. Aw. I would have loved for them to be able to win that money. But something tells me they’re gonna be just fine. Jaymes is a star as charming as they come, and I’ve no doubt he’ll get scooped up by something good. Now: once more for good measure. A goodbye/Hanukkah present, if you will.
As far as I could see, Ryan didn’t clap at Team Texas’ arrival either. Snap! But Lexi had some lovely, teary words to share. I do have hopes that she’ll get her ring soon. I know Trey’s all “simmer down” about it, but that’s a load, he’s totally on it. I predict he’ll pop the question on Valentine’s Day. Don’t you think? Please keep me posted if you hear anything. I will do same.
Thanks for reading these recaps. I really enjoyed doing them – and always appreciated your TAR-savvy comments. Happiest of holidays to all. Oh, and I chatted with Phil to get take on some of memorable moments from the season – do check it out if you like. It’s a nice walk down memory lane.
What did you think of tonight?
Caitlin and Brittany. Remember these two heads of hair?[/caption]