Hello there. Before I kick off my recap of the season finale of The Amazing Race, I want to let it be known that this will likely be my final recap for Cinema Blend for a good long while. Over the last few years, I have recapped five seasons of this show, along with three seasons of Survivor and The Biggest Loser, two seasons of So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Got Talent, and even the final season of Medium. Damn, that’s a LOT of recaps.

I’m not even sure just how I started doing this, but I’d really like to thank the folks at Cinema Blend for letting me do it, especially Kelly, my editor and a really great lady. I would love to continue, but I just got a new job, and that has given me a lot less free time to write than I need to put out quality work, so I am going to have to take a break. I may decide to return next summer to do AGT again, but I haven’t decided.

I’ve never been quite sure just how many people read my recaps to begin with. Do people who read them actually watch the show and just want someone else’s take on it, or do they not watch the show and read them just to catch up? Whatever the case, I try to paint a picture in an entertaining way without giving in to using too many words (a battle I’ve lost more than once, ahem). And if you have read my stuff, whether you’ve loved it, hated it or been totally indifferent to it, I thank you for reading.

This week’s episode was two hours long, covering two legs, and since it ended with a winner being crowned, I am going to forego my usual format and present the events of the episode much more linearly. If you are tuning in just to see who won, well, you can pan down to the end of the recap and find out, but if you want to find out how they got there, make yourself comfortable, because this may take a few minutes. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.

Ten weeks ago, eleven teams departed from Pasadena. This season featured a twist that was offered before the race even began: namely, that the team that won the first leg would race for $2 million, not $1 million. This chance was won by Abbie & Ryan, which immediately put a target on their backs. From that moment on, three teams (Texas, Magic Mike and Evil Twins) formed an alliance to get them out, and two legs ago, it finally happened.

Going into the second-to-last leg, it was the hope of this unusual alliance to be the final three, with only Team Capricorn left to play spoiler. I have to hand it to the goat farmers, they’ve hung in there admirably despite never having been in the lead for even one second this whole season. They’ve missed flights, had injuries, and even incurred a four-hour penalty, but they’re still around! Needless to say, a win by them would be the most improbable since the Miracle on Ice team in 1980. Ahem. They really are the Fabulous Beekman Boys.

Last week, the final four teams travelled from Holland to Spain. They played on some of the same clay tennis courts that Rafael Nadal grew up on, fixed windmills, visited a bullring, and were briefly beset by a troupe of creepy individuals clad in full demon regalia. Team Texas (Trey & Lexi) and Team Magic Mike (James & Jaymes) were neck-and-neck for first for most of the leg, which Texas eventually won. Meanwhile, the Evil Twins (Natalie & Nadiya) couldn’t cope with a stick-shift, and they fell behind so far that even Team Capricorn (Josh & Brent) were able to pass them by. However, the twins were saved by yet another non-elimination leg. BOMP.

Starting Line, Leg Eleven - The Castell de Bellver, a historic castle located in the capital city of Palma on the island of Mallorca (or Majorca, if you prefer), Spain. The first clue of Leg Eleven told teams to fly to Barcelona, and from there to take a train across the French border to the Loire Valley. Upon arrival, their next clue would be found underneath the windshield wiper of a Ford Escape that would be waiting for them.

After an uneventful train ride, the teams retrieved their next clue, which told them to load eight empty crates from a local café into their vehicles, and then drive to the Château de Villandry, the site of the world’s largest ornamental garden. Somewhere on the grounds would be a small stone dog statue where their next clue would be found. Not willing to get lost, Capricorn made the smart decision to simply follow the pack, knowing that they would stick together, and also knowing that it would infuriate the Evil Twins (which ain’t that hard). It is also revealed that Josh speaks French, which takes the other three teams aback.

The next destination was the Château D’Amboise, a humongous house in the Loire Valley that just happens to be the final resting place of Leonardo da Vinci himself. Of course, before getting back on the Road, the Evil Twins had to contend with a Speed Bump for finishing in last in the previous leg. What they had to do was to go inside the Château de Villandry and help a women get an 18th-century costume on, complete with corset. At this point, Texas and Magic Mike finally decided to ditch the Evil Twins, which is just common sense. If you let Capricorn get a lead, one of your alliance is going to be eliminated anyway, and you don’t want it to be you, even if the twins’ complaining can be heard from ten miles away.

How poetic it was when the tables turned. Texas and Magic Mike would probably have gotten lost in minutes, but the big-hearted Capricorn, armed with Josh’s fluent French, quickly replaced the Evil Twins in the alliance. I probably would have told them all to go hang, but whatever. They all get to Da Vinci’s tomb – which as majestic as one of the most influential figures in history deserves – at the same time, and a given Leg Eleven’s (and the season’s final) Detour, and the choices were Chow and Plow. In the former, teams had to fix the daily meal for a large and hungry pack of local hunting dogs, consisting of various types of raw meat and kibble. In the latter, teams had to correctly coax a plough-horse to till four furrows in a field.

Texas got to the Plow option first, and the other three teams got there soon after. Magic Mike also did the Plow task, forcing the other two teams to do Chow. Plow proved to be the quicker of the two options, and before you know it, Texas and Magic Mike were on their way to Le Caves de Roches in the commune of Rochecorbon. Capricorn finished Chow soon after, leaving the Twins fuming and cursing the “Evil Gays”, which is just one more reason I hate them so much.

The Caves were the site of limestone deposits from which many of the local castles were built. In Leg Eleven’s Roadblock required teams to memorize three distinct types of mushrooms, search the caves for piles of them, and then bring back ten of each. Given how closely many types of mushrooms are in resemblance, this was a truly difficult task. The cave was sprawling and poorly lit and even working together, Lexi and Jaymes took a while to get it done. Teams went directly from there to Leg Eleven’s Pit Stop, the Château de Chenonceau, a castle built direct over the River Cher.
Jaymes & James finished the Roadblock several minutes behind Texas, but they were still able to hit the mat in first place, and both of them won a brand new 2013 Ford Escape, which Jaymes promised to give to his mother. What a great son, I’m so happy they made to the end. Trey & Lexi finished close behind in second.

The race for third place was a close one. The Twins got their ‘shrooms first, but their ten-minute lead was squandered when they got some bad directions. John & Brent came in third place, so the Evil Twins were finally, FINALLY eliminated. I breathe a huge sigh of relief that the prize money would not find its way into the hands of those callous, whiny, thieving, homophobic, mean-spirited hussies. Karma is a bee-yotch, isn’t it?

Starting Line, Final Leg - The Château de Chenonceau. Teams’ first clue told them to fly to New York City and locate the famed Coney Island Boardwalk, where their next clue can be found among the multitude of signage. All of the teams cordially wished each other luck, and also decided that there would be no more sharing of information. Well, it’s about time.

The final leg should be the hardest, and the sign-clue was extremely difficult to find because it wasn’t decked out in red and gold, which is typical of everything to do with the race. The clue was located on a Houdini poster on an outer wall, but both Texas and Magic Mike ran right by it and started scouring the interior of the amusement park. Capricorn and Texas finally located it, which told them to “race to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Clinton Avenue Gate”, but when they left in their cabs Magic Mike was still frantically searching.

At the Navy Yard was the first of two Roadblocks, and it required one team member to be fitted with a straitjacket and suspended, Houdini-style, from a construction crane fifteen stories above the ground. After extricating themselves, they will then bungee-jump down to the drydock below. The fitting took a while, and before you know it, Trey, Brent and James were all attempting to escape. Trey got it done first, and he and Lexi were the first team on the road to their next destination, Lombardi’s pizza, the very first pizzeria established in the U.S. (circa 1905). Capricorn and Magic Mike were only minutes behind.

At the pizza, which had several delicious-looking New York-style pizzas on display, teams got their next task, which was to deliver ten pizzas, on foot, to three different locations scattered around Little Italy, with the twist that they weren’t allowed to write down any of the information. Trey & Lexi made all of their deliveries correctly, and their next clue came in the form of a blue ribbon with the symbol of the United Nations on it, so they jumped into their cab and headed straight for the U.N. Headquarters. Capricorn made two incorrect deliveries, so they had to grab some more pizzas and head out again, just as Magic Mike arrive and grab their pizzas.

With a clear lead, Texas arrives at the U.N. and is faced with another Roadblock, the final challenge of the season. In this challenge, the team member that didn’t do the Houdini escape had to test their language and memory skills. You see, at the end of every leg, the local greeter that usually stands beside Phil greeted every team with the word “Hello” and “Goodbye” in whatever the local language was. The challenge was to match the words, which were hanging from banners, to the U.N. flags representing those countries. And those countries were: China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Russia, The Netherlands, Spain and France.

I love this challenge. The final task usually requires some kind of memory challenge, and this isn’t the first time that the greeter has been directly involved. Lexi starts the task first, but Josh begins only a few minutes later, followed by Jaymes. The race is on, and it’s anybody’s game. Obviously, all of the teams got the easy ones like Spain (“Hola/Adios”) and France (“Bonjour/Au revoir”) out of the way first. After that, unless you’re a polyglot or have an insanely good memory, it gets a little dicey.

Yikes. Over 25,000 miles traveled, and it comes down to this… three worthy teams made up of really good people. At this point, I’m still rooting for Magic Mike, but whoever wins, I won’t be disappointed. Josh is the first to break the three-way tie by getting China (“Ni hao/Zai jian”), and then the Netherlands (“Hallo/Tot ziens”). And with each match you make, there are fewer choices for what’s left, so theoretically, it should go faster from there. And in the final challenge, Team Capricorn slides into first place for the very… first… time.

Jaymes correctly discerns Russia (“Zoravstvujtye/Do svidaniya”), and so does Josh. Soon, the sun begins to set, and Lexi, still stuck on two, starts to panic. The clock now reads two and a half hours since the challenge began. Yikes, it must really take a long time to attach those flags! Josh soon gets Turkey (“Merhaba/Hoscakal”), just as James gets Bangladesh (“Shagotom/Aabar dekha hobe”). Josh then gets Bangladesh too, and he becomes the first to hoist the U.N. flag and receive their final destination: The Greenwich Savings Bank, also known as Gotham Hall.

Josh and Brent sprint out of the U.N. courtyard to find a taxi, and only a minute or two later Jaymes hoists his final flag, and he and James take off in hot pursuit, leaving Lexi with nothing to do but fall sobbing into Trey’s arms, knowing full well that they were resigned to third place. Man, that feelings has to suck.

So then, it’s just a question of which cab driver gets which team there the fastest. This would appear to be the first-ever Amazing Race to crown its winner after sundown, and the Finish Line was, for the first time, located indoors. All of the eliminated teams, including team Rockstar (glad they finally got their passports!), were there to greet the racers as they entered the building, and the first team to hit the mat was…

JOSH AND BRENT.

Wow. What a comeback. I mean, seriously. These two guys, who both look like the proverbial 97-pound weaklings of old advertising posters, who fluctuated between last place and second-to-last place for the entire race, surviving by the skin of their teeth the entire time, puts on the afterburners in the very last leg and walks away with a million dollars. They hug, they kiss, and then Phil gives them the magic words: “Three continents, nine countries, twenty cities, more than 25,000 miles, Josh and Brent, you have won the $1 million prize and are the official winners of The Amazing Race.”

You gotta love underdog stories and I think I picked this team to be out in the first three legs, but dammit, they really proved me wrong. Whether it be dumb luck or the grace of God, these two goat farmers just got enough money to pay off the mortgage on their farm, and I don’t think anyone could say they didn’t earn it. And like they themselves said, nice guys DO finish first sometimes. Way to go, Beekmans.

Magic Mike finishes second, and is gracious to the end. James is sad that he won’t be able to help his cancer-ridden father pay his bills (What? There’s NO consolation prize? Come on, show, this was a great team!), but at least they each got a new car, so there’s that. Trey and Lexi also join the party, and Lexi’s tears have turned from frustration to joy and relief. I mean, you can’t run this race and not be changed somehow. That’s the whole point of it, I think, and it’s why it’s still the best reality-show contest on TV. No judges, no popularity contests, no viewer voting, just balls-out adrenaline with the whole world as your playground. I hope this show never stops.

I, however, do have to stop now. Thanks again to Cinema Blend for allowing a humble wordsmith like me to find an outlet to express my personality. Yes, recaps of reality shows may not be akin to penning the great American novel, but it’s as close as I’m likely to come, and I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. Hope you all have too.

The future, as it is for most of us, is uncertain, and I won’t preclude a return to recapping someday, perhaps even this summer (I mean, America’s Got Talent is just too good a show not to be talked about), but until then, take care.

And… out.

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