“The Final Push”
January 20th, 2008
[Looking for the finale of Season 13 airing in December 2008? Well, Cultural Learnings still has you covered: click her for all the details!]
If not for Viva Laughlin’s early exit from CBS’ Fall Schedule, we would just be starting Season 12 of The Amazing Race. We would just be meeting the dating goths, saying goodbye to Ari and Staella, and pondering whether the entire race would be defined by angry animals making Nate and Jennifer’s lives hell.
Well, it turns out that they didn’t need animals but only each other, as Nathan and Jennifer were the last time to be eliminated before we head into a three-team showdown as the teams return to the U.S. in tonight’s finale. Will Ronald and Christina’s tenuous father/daughter bond be strong enough to survive the final leg and propel them to one million dollars? Or is it TK & Rachel’s laidback style that will allow them to nonchalantly waltz over the finish line and win the prize? And, can Nicholas drag his Grandfather Donald across the line at the same speed as the other teams and become the generational winners?
Well, only time will tell. For now, it’s time for the final leg of the Amazing Race.
After the requisite opening video, which gives us a brief glimpse of the teams that have fallen by the wayside. This race has gone by really fast, as it seems like yesterday we said goodbye to many of these teams. After we get our characterizations of the final three, we head into our finale (Taking us to Alaska, it seems).
Taipei to Anchorage
A nice 9:47am departure meets Ron and Christina as they discover that they know their final location and have a lot of money for it: they’re headed for Anchorage, Alaska for the conclusion to the race. It’s 45 minutes later when TK & Rachel depart, which means they should be on the same flight barring some finagling. It’s mere minutes later when Nicholas and Donald do the same, so bunching should be in place.
The teams reach the airport, and China Airlines has a flight which all three teams jump on immediately. Ron and Chris initially disappear, but are smart and find their way into a China Airlines lounge. The other teams are really confused, but it buys the father/daughter team a chance to use the internet and have the address of the outfitters they will reach in Alaska.
Welcome Home, Teams!
TK thinks he’s seen Ron run like a ninja, and indeed it’s father/daughter out of the airport first. Hopefully, Nicholas and Donald’s third place lollygagging continues. They are told to head to the Ship Creek Boat Launch, and are lucky enough to have a taxi driver who knows where it is. TK & Rachel are not far behind, but with a cabbie who is not quite as convinced as to its location. Meanwhile, it’s Nicholas and Donald’s turn to be idiots, as they leave their gear behind at the location.
Detour – Cods vs. Crab
It’s a choice between cutting apart giant cods in a search for a small clue capsule and dealing with an unfortunate number of dangerous and angry crabs in search of one with a flag. Ron and Chris rock through the Cod task in record time, gutting only one fish before Christina pulls the capsule out of the guts. They meet the other two teams on their way out, and this is the moment where Nick and Don realize their really, really, really unfortunate mistake. With one team already onto the next task, the chances of them catching up seem slim.
The stragglers are returning back to the outfitters, as the two of them fight over hindsight and Don lays the blame on his grandson. TK & Rachel choose the crabs, which is to the detriment of their poor fingers. There is much biting and snapping to be had, which is not a good plan in the least. They attempt to de-shoe Rachel at one point, so they decide to switch…but TK luckily finds one just as Nicholas and Donald arrive. It keeps them ahead, although obviously only in 2nd place. Nicholas and Don don’t appear too far behind.
The Glacial Race
It’s about 25 minutes between first and second, here, and according to Don only 5 minutes between second and third. A high-speed boat ride greets Ron and Chris as they arrive, which means there are no navigation errors involved. TK & Rachel, apparently, have the worst cab driver ever: he already got them lost once, but a phone call gets him to the right place and has them with a slight lead over Nick and Don.
When they arrive at their glacier, they discover that they need to scale it. This is unfortunate for some teams (Hernia and afraid of heights Ron specifically), while it should benefit those good with physical tasks. It’s Christina who has the most trouble initially, though, which allows both of the other teams to catch up while Ronald has already made it to the top. TK & Rachel, at the least, are now nipping at the heels off the lead team.
The problem is that her heels just won’t let her dig into the ice – helpfully, she is already on the ice and is able to power through before TK & Rachel actually start on the task (The editing is a little out of whack here). Ron and Chris get their clue and learn that they are to take a helicopter ride to an airfield and then a taxi to what looks like the race’s final task. Chris, however, should get their first: she used the ol’ emergency card with the cabbie, after all.
Ronald and Chris arrive on time, and one person must now win or lose the race.
Roadblock – Memory Task
There’s a huge, confusing list here, but there are 10 items that they need to place onto a stage. They need to have one item from every leg of the race, but there is a ridiculous requirement like two items at pit stops, three animals, and other such ridiculousness. TK & Rachel have now reached the Roadblock, which means it is everyone’s race at this point. I’m not convinced Rachel should be doing this task, she’s a bit spacey, but now all three teams have arrived and Nicholas takes over on the other side.
Christina’s first try at “Done” has one wrong, while Rachel has three wrong when she attempts as well. Christina’s second chance is worse than her first, and Rachel is struggling as well. Nicholas, also, can’t get it right – it’s actually quite ridiculously tense as we head to commercial break with excessive slow motion grimacing.
We get some commentary from Ronald on the ridiculousness of the puzzle, and everyone is very nervous. Rachel appears to be the calmest of them all, as Christina is swearing all over the place. Nicholas seems to be doing the least at this point, while Rachel has finally solved one of her problems. She seems to be piecing it together when everyone else is figuring this out.
And…Rachel’s got it. She finally figured out where the red pole came from, and now it’s dejected looks from everyone else. Now, it’s time for teams to travel by taxi to a statue of Captain Cook to find their next clue. This means there’s still some time to potentially catch up should one of the teams finish quickly. Christina is the one to do so, which means that should TK & Rachel miss the cryptic clue. It appears they do, as their cabbie goes on a hunch and seems to be losing it.
“Seems” is the operative word here: TK & Rachel reach in first place, and the next clue being a footrace will benefit TK & Rachel. The editors want us to think they’re right behind one another, but we don’t see that at all. TK & Rachel find a taxi quickly, as do Ron and Chris, but I don’t think there’s any way they can make it up when it’s an airport at the pit stop.
And the winner is…
TK & Rachel! With the teams cheering them on, it’s our newly dating, laid back, and easy going couple who defied the odds and came back to win The Amazing Race Season 12. I’m happy with these winners: Rachel proved me wrong on the Roadblock, they played a smart game overall, and even if it’s not a feel good story it’s a pleasant victory.
It’s Ronald and Christina who complete the race in second place, which is kind of tragic but ever-so fitting. Feeling responsible for the loss, we get the final moment where Ronald can show his maturity in accepting his daughter and not getting caught up in their past hangups. It’s a touching moment, and his transformation is still a feel good story even with a million dollars lost.
I feel sort of bad for Nick and Don, to be honest: Nicholas suffered from killer fatigue this leg, forgetting things and struggling a great deal with the roadblock. Donald is the oldest person to finish the race, but he’s upset to have only finished in third. Both consider it a great experience, and Donald even gets an endearing “Grampa” cheer.
TK & Rachel are right: they ran the race as nice people, which is always so rare. They rarely fought, and overcame their problems to pull it together when it counted. It’s hard to really be negative about that kind of performance, honestly: what am I supposed to do, hate them for being too nice. I would have rather seen an alternative winner in Ron and Chris as opposed to two young people, something we’ve seen ever so many times before.
But, on the whole, a brisk and engaging eleven episode season. The real question now is when the series will return: the summer is a potential considering the writers’ strike. When they rushed the season, they threw the transitions all out of whack: it could be Fall before Phil and Co. return. As it stands, a solid and engaging finale to go out on.