TAR 12: Finale

Invest your money in hacky sacks and bongs, because the winners of The Amazing Race are about to go on a million dollar shopping spree.

For most of the leg, the race was Ron & Christina’s to lose. They reached the airport in Taiwan in first place, and they wisely used the time before their flight to research their next destination: Anchorage, Alaska.

TK, on the other hand, used that same time to freak out about where Ron & Christina were and whether they’d gotten a better flight. Nick & Don got sucked in by TK’s freakout, but Rachel remained calm and played solitaire.

All of the teams made it to Alaska on the same flight, and Ron & Christina were first out of the airport. They took a cab to a sporting goods store where they picked up a bag of gear and a clue which directed them to a boat launch. TK & Rachel weren’t far behind, and neither were Nick & Don.

But Nick & Don forgot to grab their bag of gear when they left the sporting goods store, effectively dooming them to a third place finish.

The boat launch was the site of this leg’s Detour, and teams had the choice of gutting dozens of cod to find a small clue hidden inside one, or standing in a tank filled with 500 crabs and finding the one with a red & gold band on its arm.

Ron & Christina opted to get covered in fish guts, and they finished the task before the other teams reached the boat launch. TK & Rachel wasted time in the crab tank getting pinched; by the time they found the right crab, Nick & Don had returned from the store with their bag of supplies and were already starting to fillet a cod.

At the site of the next clue, the gap between the teams began to close. Both team members had to climb up the side of the glacier using picks, and because the task required upper body strength, it was difficult for the women — and Nick.

At the top of the glacier, each team flew by helicopter to the site of the final task: a Roadblock that tested one team member’s memory of tasks from each leg of the race. Ron & Christina were the first to arrive, and Christina took on the memory challenge.

The task involved an array of objects associated with tasks done during the race, including a donkey, a bowl of camel milk, and a tandem bicycle. While following rules included with the clue (for example, "Choose 3 animals or animal byproducts ), the team member doing the Roadblock could pick only one item from each of the ten countries visited on the race. There was only one successful solution to the puzzle that would get them their next clue.

Even under normal circumstances, the task would’ve been challenging. But, with the racers exhausted and under the pressure of being so close to the finish line, the puzzle was designed to drive racers to tears.

Christina wasn’t able to solve the puzzle before the other teams arrived, and she crumbled under the added pressure. She was one item away from solving the puzzle, but she couldn’t convince herself that a human being (one of the "items" available) was an animal. As a result, she wound up undoing all her correct answers and bleeding time.

A confused Christina finally resorted to praying for help, while an equally confused Rachel kept her wits and worked methodically to solve the problem. (Nick was, of course, a non-factor in this challenge.)

Rachel’s methodical approach proved more effective than Christina’s prayers, and the hippie couple was the first team to leave the Roadblock. There were a few other lame clues to pick up on the way to the finish line, just to give teams additional chances to get lost, but the race was effectively over as soon as Rachel finished the puzzle, with Christina several minutes behind.

As their cab drove to them to their final destination, Rachel smiled brightly and looked at the scenery outside her window. TK, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck, eyes darting about, shaking his head, and bouncing his knee ceaselessly.

TK came off as the worst type of hippie. He’s the guy who’s always telling you to stay calm and relax, even though he, himself, is really an intense guy who’s always quietly on the verge of freaking out. Not until he could see Phil Keoghan standing on the finish mat did TK crack a smile.

As much as I hoped for Ron & Christina to win, finishing in second place may have been better for their relationship. Christina’s voice cracked as she apologized to her dad for not finishing the Roadblock first, and he told her, "Don’t worry. You did a good job." It gave Ron the chance to show Christina that he loves her, even when she’s not perfect.

Nick & Don finished in third, and Don officially became the oldest contestant to compete in the finale. Phil asked Don, "Did you think you’d get this far in the race?" Don replied, "Yeah, but not in third."

Overall, I enjoyed this season of The Amazing Race. It would’ve been nice to see a team that was not a young, physically fit dating couple win the million dollars, but this was a fun final three to watch. Rachel definitely earned her half of the million by playing smart and having a good time. And at least I got to see TK get pinched by hundreds of crabs.