In this rrrrace around the world, there's only one first place finish that matters and it just takes one mistake lose it.

By Jodi Walker
December 12, 2015 at 07:25 AM EST
Heather Wines/CBS
  • TV Show

You know the drill: After five continents, 10 countries, and 34,000 miles, we finally have our season 27 winners. (But don’t you even try to take Phil’s line — Phil doesn’t like it when you take his lines.)

The three finalist teams  — Diana and “If I lose this I will never get over it” Justin, Chris and “Keep my name out of your mouth” Logan, and Kelsey and “Old women love me and that’s basically the only thing you know about me” Joey — could not have been more different from each other, but even with such variety there were no real underdogs, endearing weirdos, or dominant sweethearts among them. So I was pleased to find that I actually ended up really enjoying this finale, mostly because it gave me a surprising amount of closure on what had amounted to a pretty odd season of The Amazing Race. In the end though, each team ended up in exactly the right place.

The Paparazzi were near impossible to root for throughout this race for obvious reasons (it was hard to hear anything they said because they were usually speaking to each other in tones only dogs can hear) and yet at some point, I started — well, not rooting for them — but at least thinking it would be interesting if they won in some dark, twisted kind of way that would have taken this recap in a very different direction. Instead, they ended up exactly where they belonged in this lineup: trapped at sea in a prison of their own design, made exclusively of screaming and flags.

The Green Team were my biggest conundrum, as I could never quite figure out if I really wanted then to win or not; they loved the game so much, but also, Justin talked so much. As it turns out, not only did I not have to reckon with those ambiguous feelings, but I also came down pretty firmly not on Justin’s side, round about the time he got lippy with his cab driver and doomed his team to a second-place finish. (I stand by Diana, however, if she would like to return with, like, her equally sweet and competent sister or something.)

And I should have known all along that The Reporters were the team to root for — nice, capable teams who play well with each other deserve to win (make sure to read my Q&A with the winners, in which the Reporters make it known that Kelsey is every bit the TAR historian that Justin is). We didn’t hear too much from The Reporters during the first three-quarters of the race (except for the occasional fake news segment on a train), but the team with the most second-place finishes in TAR history were consistently on the money about two things: 1. There’s only one leg that first place really matters on, and 2. They would need to run a perfect leg to beat the Green Team. And this is how they went about doing exactly that…

All three teams are on the same flight back to the United States for their final leg in the rrrrace around the world, so even though the Paps and Reporters finally beat the Green Team last leg, everyone is once again on a level playing field heading from Hong Kong to Long Island, New York. The Reporters and Paps agree that they’re concerned by the fact that Justin is from New York and by the fact that they’ll have to hear Justin talk about being from New York, which leads to Logan’s Justin impression that sounds a little something like, “AaaggghlaaaaallllghTheBronx.”

After landing in New York, the first clue takes the teams to the FDNY training facility on Randall’s Island. They all take cabs there, and while the Paps and Reporters both make agreements with their drivers to stay nearby while they complete the ROAD BLOCK, Justin loses his cool when their driver tells him the fare will be more and sends him away — which, for a huge fan of TAR with a working knowledge of Randall’s ISLAND is a pretty egregious mistake. And much like last week’s elusive goldfish, the editors luck into some drama here, because FIRE DRILL doesn’t present much on its own. I mean, yes, one member of each team has to complete a real-life training drill used by the New York City Fire Department, which is certainly physically demanding… but it also doesn’t leave a lot of opportunity for error: Put on the protective gear, climb the ladder, go in the fiery building, get the child-sized dummy, bring it out to the stretcher, don’t drop it (that last instruction is just for Chris). There’s a memory game to arrange the country’s capitals in the order they were visited during the race at the end of the Road Block, but it seems like Justin, Chris, and Joey all finish the challenge within minutes of each other.


Things really get heated outside the Road Block. The Green Team try and fail to talk the other teams’ taxis into driving them to the next location (Belmont Park), and take off on foot… and somehow during that exchange, the Paparazzi’s cab driver decides to leave, so when Chris and Logan make it out to the parking lot, with Kelsey and Joey just a few yards behind them, they try to get in the Reporters’ taxi and take it. Now, I understand that it stinks that they had made the effort to get their taxi to stay and he still left them, but trying to steal the cab is a shady move, and it’s not going to work; Joey and Kelsey take off at lightning speed, yelling at the taxi not to leave, and when they got the doors open, Joey unleashes heretofore unseen fury: “Get the hell out! What were you thinking?!” It’s a little scary, but also, I think we all would have done the same.

(Last plug: In their winner’s interview Joey and Kelsey tell how the Paparazzi’s attempted taxi swipe was even sketchier than it seemed on TV.)

So, the Reporters, in the move that set them on the path to victory, hop in their cab and head to Belmont Park, home of the Triple Crown’s third leg, while the Green Team and Paps get on city buses to try and find an area of Randall’s Island where they can catch a taxi. From Belmont Park, the teams take helicopters to Southampton (“My house is bigger than your house in the Hamptons, Buffy.” –Justin) where they must ride jet skis out to marked lobster boats, then help the fishermen pull up seven lobster traps, unload them, and return them back to the water.

Once all of the teams make it aboard their boats and learn what they’re doing, there’s a very weird moment where Justin seems to be disappointed in the simplicity of the challenge (“seems straightforward, pretty easy, so it’s pretty depressing”), while Joey and Kelsey — halfway through pulling up their lobster traps — explain just how physically grueling it actually is. But everyone gets it done, after which each team must fly nine country flags in the order in which they visited them. And this is where the Paparazzi earn their third-place finish, as they apparently hadn’t been studying their flags like the two other teams, who put them in order in no time flat.

Once back on land, the teams must assemble six Adirondack chairs (a New York invention, don’t you know) and arrange them in the order that they encountered the images painted onto the chairs during the race. The Reporters still have a hefty lead on the Green Team, but after assembling all six of their chairs in the right order, they have to go back reassemble a number of them because they’re off-center. Justin and Diana seem to be moving at a much faster clip putting their chairs together, thanks to Diana’s handiness, but since they too end up having to reassemble some of their chairs, they’re not able to catch up with Kelsey and Joey…

AND THAT’S IT. The Pit Stop is apparently just down the beach from the Adirondack challenge, because as soon as Kelsey and Joey take off, you start to hear the cheers of the eight other teams they beat out to make it to this moment, ready to welcome them at the Final Mat. The show may not have given the Reporters a classic winner’s edit, but they looked every bit the emotional victors as they sprinted up to Phil with their last bits of energy to get the only first-place news they really needed to hear: “Boy have I got some news for you — Kelsey and Joey you are the official winners of the $1 million and The Amazing Race.” And what do they want to do with that money? Get a place together and pay off Joey’s parents’ mortgage. Well jeez guys, way to win us over in the end!

Justin and Diana have a tough time swallowing the pill that they can pinpoint the exact mistake that put them in second place, but as they acknowledge through sobs, they still made quite the chunk of change throughout the race. Diana says money can’t buy what they have, anyway… and Justin says he doesn’t know if he’ll ever be able to get over this. Of course, that doesn’t even hold a candle to the Paparazzi’s Final Mat exchange, in which Phil asks them how their relationship has fared during their, uh, tumultuous race experience, and they’re like, “Oh no, we’re totally still together — but maybe we shouldn’t be.” So, TBD on that one, you guys!

And with that: What did you think of how season 27 shook out?! Did the right team win? Or were you hoping to see the Green Team continue its winning streak to the bitter end? Plus, I welcome any and all reactions to the Paparazzi, who were really their own little social experiment through and through. Sound off in the comments, and as always, thank you for watching and reading along with me. I’ll see you back in here in February for the 28th season of The Amazing Race.

Episode Recaps

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.
  • TV Show
  • 29
  • 03/08/01
  • In Season
Complete Coverage
Available For Streaming On