Tonight is all about twists and shocks as Phil gives a sassy middle finger to TAR tradition.
Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Whoa, whoa, whoa, what is going on here? Phil, did you go to some sort of chi-centering retreat where you listened to a sea shell that told you it was time to fly fast and loose with the ancient TAR rules? Can we expect you in stretch pants and toe-separators next season, instead of sporty Panama hats and full-function cargos? Does tradition mean nothing anymore, Phil?!

The Amazing Race’s Silver Jubilee isn’t just the season that brought about the Save, or the season where there was nearly a death-by-massage; no, the 25th season of the rrrrace around the world saw a true TAR first: four teams are going to the finale. Four teams! A Final 4, and all with the chance to win $1 million. If a different team had been Phil-fathered in, it might have rubbed me the wrong way more than just shocking me. But it’s the Scientists, and damn if they haven’t given this game their all, and with seriously good attitudes. I’m happy to have them as finalists (although slightly concerned Maya’s head might actually explode from sheer pep if they win), but I’m also hoping we get some explanation next leg as to why this season called for a Final 4 after 24 seasons of Final 3s.

Who am I to question the TAR higher-ups, though? After all, they gave us this action-packed, coconut-filled, near-fainting (I will be relieved if Amy just arrives at the Finish Line in one piece) hour of television, and with yet another TAR first ahead—racing directly into the final leg from this 11th leg—the finale’s guaranteed to serve up the same.

Tonight, all four teams started off where we left them in Manila, where they have to travel by jeepney to Rajah Sulayman Park for their next clue.

The Dentists and Scientists are out first, released on what seems to be a highway to track down a jeepney. They quickly hop on one together, but when the Surfers ask if a jeepney can take them to Rajah Sulayman Park, the driver tells them they need to go to the other side of the road, where traffic is moving in the opposite direction. The Wrestlers explain that the jeepneys operate on a loop, so if they got in a jeepney on the side of the street they were on, they would have to make all the stops in the loop, but if they got in on the opposite side, it would be a straight shot. Yes, the Wrestlers explain that—so the Dentists and Scientists, who probably have 16 advanced degrees among them, should really be hanging their heads.

Instead, they cannot get over what a great move they’ve made by taking this jeepney and how far ahead they must be. The clue seems to suggest that they take a jeepney to a certain station where they can transfer to another jeepney to get to the park; but the Surfers and Wrestlers bypass all of that by walking across the street. Jim explains how they’ve made some travel mistakes in the past, but now that they’ve combined their intellect with the “Candy Girls,” they’re back on top… as we see the Surfers start the Detour and the Wrestler breeze through their Speed Bump. It is both dramatically delicious and heart-crushingly sad.

NEXT: Basketball is for lovers…

The Surfers reach the Detour first: THIS OR THAT. With no clues to go on, the use eeny, meeny, miny, moe to make their choice, and then realize they should just go to whichever is closest, which they deem to be THIS, but others later deem to be THAT. This Detour is a recapper’s nightmare.

While they head to THIS—and the Dentists and Scientist sit on a jeepney barreling in the wrong direction—the Wrestlers discover their Speed Bump from last week’s non-elimination leg. In Roadside Assistance, Mr. and Mrs. Wrestler must help a street vendor transfer everything from his broken pad yak to a functional pad yak, and keep it all in the exact same order. Thankfully, the Wrestlers are the much more fun version of themselves this week (which is to say, most of the whining was limited to Mrs. Wrestler’s now patented fake birthing practices), but they still got in some gems:

Mrs. Wrestler: “This is a long Speed Bump.”

Mr. Wrestler: “Actually, I don’t think it’s long at all… we’ve only been here one minute.”

Mrs. Wrestler: “Stop contradicting everything I say!

They cruise through the Speed Bump and head to join the Surfers at THIS, where teams get to play some Filipino-beloved street basketball. To get their next clue, the teams have to score 21 points against a neighborhood team. I can’t say what the case would have been for two less athletic teams, but this Detour seems like a pretty fun time. Adam is channeling his inner Shaq (just think of spacious Buicks, Adam), Brooke is remembering what it was like to run her high school basketball court, and they both end up being quite good. Their team members provide some assists, but as Mr. Wrestler says, “She was killing it, so just throwing it to Brooke was the smartest thing.” This was by far the Wrestlers’ smartest leg.

About the time those two teams are finishing the Detour, the Dentists are giving themselves one final pat on the back for their jeepney genius… just as the Scientists realize they’ve been traveling away from their destination for an hour, and need to get off this jeepney.

Misti: “Do you think it’s worth the risk?”

Amy: “What risk? We’re going in the wrong direction from where we should be.”

Apparently the personality Amy has been keeping under wraps is quite sassy! Some smash-cut editing puts them arriving fairly quickly at THAT, which requires teams to be both peddler and passenger of a pad yak. They must make four laps around a neighborhood full of local taxi traffic in under 17:55, with each team member completing two of the laps. Jim starts off pedaling for their team because Mistis’s foot is hurt, and Maya starts off for their team because Amy’s legs seem to choose at random when they will and will not work.

The bikes are incredibly hard to steer and their brake is just a metal bar that they have to manually push into the tire to slow it down. To quote Misti: “WHAT.” Maya does the first and last laps, with Amy taking over in the middle, while Misti and Jim switch on and off, apparently so that Jim can make up time in his laps to compensate for Misti’s injury, but the Scientists still end up passing them, causing this excellent display in the Dentists’ one-on-one:

Jim: “Maya and Amy passed us, which—”

Misti: “Excuse me, they did not have a 250-pound baby to carry in their buggy like I did!”

Misti—who knew?! Everyone is a lot sassier this episode, even the Surfers. I swear I saw Adam briefly consider thinking a less-than-kind thought at one point when he was bashed over the head with a coconut.

NEXT: You put the broom in he coconut, and then you pass out…

Luckily, both teams finish on their first try and head to the Road Block, which turns out to be somewhat of an equalizer following their huge mistake with the jeepneys. In DELIVER THE GOODS, the teams must collect big rings of coconuts that have been stung together and bunches of traditional Filipino brooms, and deliver them to three different stops in the maze-like Divorsia Market. It’s extremely physically demanding, which is only added to by a somewhat ambiguous clue.

The clue says to deliver the goods to their “posted locations,” meaning there is a list posted on the side of the marked jeepeny with locations and the number of items each location requires. The Surfers lose their clue that lists the cross streets of the Road Block for a while, so they’re slightly delayed in getting there. But even after joining the Wrestlers there—shortly followed by the other teams—no one can figure out where to deliver the goods. They just wander around with 30-pounds of coconuts on their backs, yelling, “Do you need these?” to locals. But it’s Mr. Wrestler—I swear to you, Mr. Wrestler—who figures it out first, and wisely keeps the intel on the down low. He’s already going out on his third delivery before Adam and Jim finally take another look at the jeepney.

Fortunately, Adam and Jim are both freakishly strong, and able to stand a bit of wandering around unnecessarily with giant hauls of coconut products strapped to their bodies. That is not exactly the case for Amy. Amy is not only suffering from some sort of hip/knee injury—she’s also admitted to not being the most physically fit competitor. She’s done an admirable job of keeping up with the competition, and frankly, at about 50-100 pounds lighter than everyone else participating in the Road Block, she does an admirable job here. But it also seems to nearly kill her. Halfway through her deliveries, when it seems like she really might not be able to finish because she can barely stand up, she’s able to borrow a dolly from another vendor and at least not have to carry all of the products.

But the Wrestlers hopped in a taxi to the Pit Stop ages ago, followed by the Surfers, and then the Dentists. By the time Amy finishes, she is shaking and looks like she’s either going to vomit or pass out. The Scientists did really well, but it looks like it just isn’t going to be good enough…

1: Against all odds, the Wrestlers are the first to arrive on the Pit Stop mat, and Phil doles out his first TAR historian note of the many that will take place over the next few minutes: “You’ve made Amazing Race history, just like the Cowboys, from worst to first: You are team number one!”

This is where we’re informed that even more history is being made tonight: For the first time ever, teams must keep racing straight through to the final leg. It’s off to the City of Angels with a sealed manila (Manila!) envelope, to be opened at an undisclosed time. What is happening right now??

2: The Surfers

3: The Dentists, and I suddenly realize there was no edited-in tension for who would make it to the mat last. That’s because…

4: THE SCIENTISTS ARE NOT ELIMINATED. Before the news is even revealed, Phil has to call for water, an umbrella, and a fold-out chair for Amy, who looks like she’s about to keel over. But she gets herself together, and watching Maya go from disbelieving, to astonished, to a puddle on the ground as Phil deliver the news that they’re still in is quite the treat. There’s no time to revel, however, because it’s off to L.A. with a sealed envelope, and a severely dehydrated partner.

What do you think of the first TAR Final 4? How will the other teams react when they see the Scientists still be-bopping around in the next leg? And is it really possible that, with a substantial lead, the Wrestlers could be building a $1 million wrestling ring in their backyard very soon?

Episode Recaps

The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.

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