Isn’t it astounding how the Amazing Race finale can be so exciting season after season? Even after reading a spoiler about the outcome (grumble grumble), my heart was beating like crazy, especially during the final torturous moments when the fate of one team seemed to rest in one taxi driver’s impetuous hands. And while it was exciting to see who’d come in first place, part of me simply wanted to know what sort of welcoming newlyweds Rob and Amber would receive. Needless to say, it was cold (and wonderful).This two-hour marathon event started all the way back in foggy London Town where the three remaining teams huddled together in a pub and downed a few pints of ale. We only heard a snippet of dialogue, and sadly, we were deprived of Uchenna’s new English accent. Still, I’m sure the deleted scenes would reveal him saying to the bartender, “Bloody good ale, this is! Might you pour me another one, good sir? Brilliant!”
Anyway, Rob and Amber were first to leave the Pit Stop and quickly learned they’d be flying to Kingston Jamaica and then cabbing it over to a place called “Frenchman’s Cove.” Don’t know much about this Frenchman’s Cove spot, but chances are it’s smelly. Rimshot! Yes, a little French humor to kick start this recap. Hey, did you hear the one about the French guy in the cheese factory? …Um, okay, I really don’t know any good French jokes. Quel dommage!
With their new destination set, Rob and Amber moseyed on over to Heathrow to book their flights, but unfortunately, the good people at Air Jamaica weren’t working at the counter, mon. And so Ramber sought out an internet kiosk, which was amusing only to hear Rob read “In-ter-net acc-cess.” Dude, it’s in English. You don’t have to sound it out.
Showing up at the airport next were Ron and Kelly who also found themselves waiting for Air Jamaica to open up. With plenty of time to kill, Kelly decided now would be a great time to plan out her future with Ron. She explained that she was a quality woman, and if Ron doesn’t see that, then he’s going to miss out. Yes, imagine all the quality nagging and complaining and neediness he’ll never get to experience again. For shame, Ron. And I thought being a POW made you appreciate the finer things!
Well, turns out being in the army gave Ron an intense aversion to authority and control, two things he feared from marriage. Listen Kelly, if your love reminds Ron of the military in a BAD way, well, maybe it’s time to reexamine your relationship. Alas, such logic escaped the beauty queen as she sobbed to Ron: “Ahhh luv yooo!” She then spent the next fifteen minutes complaining about his fingernails.
The last team out of the gate was Uchenna and Joyce who reminded us how when the race started, they were quarreling all the time. “We’ve been looking at options that don’t include being together,” Uchenna said diplomatically, adding “You know, separation, divorce, murder. Whichever works.”
Anyway, all three teams wound up on the same flight to Kingston, and upon arriving, Uchenna immediately waxed nostalgically. “We have a fun time coming to Jamaica on holiday,” he said. He then added, “I did enjoy England ever so much, but all the lorries really made quite a racket. I could barely eat my Pimms and strawberries, even in the comfort of my flat – located on the second storey of course!”
Having less of a good time was Ron, who managed to direct his constant flow of passive aggression onto the entire country of Jamaica. “Ah, the smell of a third world country again,” he said. No, Ron, that’s just your girlfriend. ZING! Take THAT, Kelly! Meanwhile, the Jamaican Tourism Board has this message for Ron: “Thanks, dipshit.”
Eventually, the three teams found Frenchman’s Cove which was the home of the next Roadblock. One member of each duo had eight chances to limbo dance under a pole. The lower the pole, the sooner the team would get to leave the next morning (all three groups had to spend the night). As the three women all attacked the challenge, Rob happily encouraged his woman by what was supposed to be a show of support, but really felt more like loud barking. Rob Mariano: Most annoying limbo spectator EVER!
Somebody decapitated Joyce! MEDIC!
Anyway, Kelly and Amber had no trouble bending backwards for the earliest departure time, but Joyce simply could not reach that one last rung. With one attempt left, Uchenna urged, “No more mistakes.” Sorry, but is flexibility a mistake? I can just imagine Joyce snapping, “I’m not as young and limber as Kelly and Amber. Oops, my bad. Shouldn’t have aged.”
The next morning, teams had to make their way to the upper Rio Grande for their next clue. As he and Amber rode along in their cab, Rob mused about winning the big prize: “[We have a] 33% chance of making more money than most people make in a lifetime.” AGAIN (just saying).
Well, teams more or less all arrived at the next clue at the same time (Uchenna and Joyce were fifteen minutes behind) and came upon this leg’s Detour: Raft It or Build It. In the first option, teams had to take a traditional bamboo raft eight miles down a river, using only a pole to move them along. The second option had teams assembling one of those bamboo rafts, then crossing the Rio Grande with it, climbing up a hillside, and then retrieving the next clue. Unsurprisingly, everyone chose to build the rafts which meant we got to see about five or ten minutes of a MacGuyver-esque montage as teams hammered bamboo with rocks, tied wires, and grew mullets. Okay, maybe not the last one. Of course, the difference between this and MacGuyver (other than the noticeable lack of Richard Dean Anderson) was the presence of Kelly who bitched and moaned and complained like the Southern princess she is. Ron didn’t make things better with his catty remarks and subtle put downs. You know, she may be the beauty queen, but Ron’s the true bitch.
With Ron and Kelly facing a mild meltdown, Uchenna and Joyce were able to make up for lost time very quickly, causing Rob to fret a little bit. He was curt with Amber from time to time, but she simply smiled it off, joking that she’ll do whatever makes him happy, but “After the race, you can make me happy.” Oh AMBAH! Look at you! Little Miss Comedienne! Make that Little Miss Horny Comedienne!
The Ramber hijinks continued later as they crossed the river and climbed up the slippery slope to the clue. Upon returning to the raft, Amber slipped and fell butt-first onto the seat of the raft. Careful AMBAH!! How is Rob going to make you happy later if you’re already pounding your ass now? Moments later, Rob had his own problems when he somehow lost his shoe in the river. “My sneakah! My sneakah!” he yelled, adding “I nevah lose my sneakah when I pahk the cahh in Hahhvahhd Yahhhd.”
This kind of looks like Amber’s getting impaled on a pole. Cool.
Anyway, Uchenna and Joyce finished the Detour first and learned that the next stop would be in Montego Bay where teams would find Phil and the mat. The two hopped in a cab with a driver named Mikey, and while they were in first place, their lead was dwindling with Ramber nipping at their heels. Rob told his driver Tyson (Mikey? Tyson? Where’s that cabbie Evander and his good friend Holyfield?) to get on Uchenna and Joyce’s tail, and for a moment, it looked like Tyson was going to pull some trickery by telling his cabbie friend to pull over for gas. Surely we expected that as soon as Mikey got out to pump some fuel, Tyson would peel out of there, but no! Mikey seemed to get a thimble’s worth of gas before zooming away while Tyson chilled out, filled up the tank, maybe played the lotto.
Things went from bad to worse for Ramber as they were pulled over for a random police check. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the officer just wanted an autograph? Finally, the fame comes back to bite them in the ass! Sadly, there were no such ironic twists in the adventure. It was just an average police checkpoint. However, even though Rob and Amber seemed to be indisposed for only five minutes or so, it was still enough time for Ron and Kelly to sneak into second place, infuriating our Boston man. Around this time, Kelly babbled about something, but I don’t really remember what since I was distracted by what looked to be a stuffed elephant dangling and flapping outside her window. Good god! They’ve got Babar! And they’re torturing him! WHY??? Oh the humanity!
Babar desperately tries to get Kelly’s attention.
Anyway, stuck in last place, Rob knew his luck might be running out. He really needed a miracle, he said. Well ask and you shall receive. Moments later, Uchenna and Joyce were suddenly sidelined with a flat tire. That’s awfully fishy timing. Okay, which CBS intern threw tacks on the road? CLEARLY this was a CBS conspiracy again!
Well, for this leg of the race Ron and Kelly came in first place, and surprise, they won no prize. Oddly enough, Ramber won a trip to Mexico for placing second. Okay, not really. “Uchenner” and Joyce arrived last, but of course, this was non-elimination which meant they had to hand over all their belongings. “Man, you guys got some money!” crowed Phil, his head filling with fantasies of a turtleneck shopping spree. Listen Koeghan, we’re keeping an eye on you. They better get every last cent back, or else you’re looking at a lifetime of mock turtlenecks! Think you can live with that? I DIDN’T THINK SO!
Anyway, when we returned from the commercial break, Phil reintroduced us to Jamaica, saying that the “rugged northwest coast of Jamaica” served as the latest Pit Stop on a race around the world. Did he just say “rugged”? Yes, that gentle breeze, the soothing waves, the swaying palm trees: pure hell, I tell you! (What are the odds that someone’s going to leave a comment saying “Well, actually, the coast of Jamaica gets rather cold and choppy in the winter months, not to mention hurricane season!”)
Well, after leaving the Pit Stop, teams then had to find a bag of onions in the town of Lucea and deliver it to a jerk shack (as in “jerk pork”. It wasn’t a shack full of jerks, dumbass). Ron and Kelly were first to leave, and while they fetched a taxi, Kelly once again teared up in an interview as she re-emphasized her desire to simply get married. Honestly, Kelly, give it a rest already. Part of me thinks she’s less enthused about getting married to Ron than she is about receiving a grandiose reality wedding like Trista & Ryan and now Ramber.
Later, when Ron and Kelly had snatched a cab, they got lost trying to find not only Lucea, but the place with the onion bags. “It’s like a needle in a haystack of needles,” Ron explained. Well said, Ron. And by the way, here is your certificate of redundancy certificate. By the way, is it actually possible to have a “haystack of needles”? Wouldn’t that be a “needle stack” instead? Shut up, Ron.
While Ron and Kelly drove around the island, Rob and Ambah found the onions and then the jerk shop relatively quickly. Once there, they learned they’d have to chop up fifty onions before getting their next clue. The two immediately got to work, and after some time, were joined by Ron and Kelly. Yes, the ever exciting mincing competition. Personally, I was surprised that Ron didn’t pipe up and say, “This kind of reminds me of when I was on KP in the army. Actually, I wasn’t on KP, but I remember one night thinking about onions in my bunk. Hey, did I ever tell you I was in the military?”
Meanwhile, newly impoverished racers Uchenna and Joyce couldn’t even entertain the idea of finding the onions (or needles in haystacks for that matter) because they had no cash. Even worse, their Pit Stop was relatively isolated, and despite being in a resort, at 3:00 AM, there weren’t many people around to beg money from. Luckily, the two managed to hitch a ride to the airport where they figured they’d have better luck finding people with spare change. This strategy didn’t pan out so well as the two spent what seemed like hours begging for cash. The real problem was that Uchenna did all the talking, instead of sweet Joyce. Honestly, he just had no game. At one point he offered to perform tricks for money. “I can do cartwheels. I can do a jig,” he said, adding “Basically, I can do any sort of racial stereotype.”
Well, Joyce lost faith in the entire exercise, and as Uchenna hugged his crying wife, we cut away to commercial. I have to say that there were a lot of crappy commercials last night (unfortunately, I was watching live, so the Tivo was of no use in this department), but I was particularly impressed with a Botox spot that started with a woman boasting, “I got back into my favorite jeans.” Because of Botox? What did she do? Botox her ass? Anyway, this commercial was eventually followed by Los Angeles’s very own KCBS promoting its eleven o’clock news with a story about traveling to Cuba. The anchor teased us by saying “Visit the forbidden paradise The Amazing Race couldn’t and find out why most Americans can’t go there.” Uh, let me guess: a forty year embargo? Fidel Castro? I’m stumped. But seriously, thank you CBS for reporting on breaking news from 1965.
But back to the action. So when we last left our teams, Ramber and Relly were chopping onions at the jerk shack. Well, they were still there, and Kelly was getting a little cocky. “Martha Stewart, watch out!” she joked, looking away from her knife. How funny would it have been had she accidentally nicked herself, sending a torrent of blood all over her onions. Okay, maybe it wouldn’t have been funny, but it surely would have been interesting.
Anyway, Rob and Amber finished first and headed to their next clue at a place called Rose Hall. There they found the Detour which was a choice between Pony Up and Tee It Up. In Pony Up, teams had to engage in horseback swimming. Basically, they had to ride a horse into the ocean, and when it started swimming, teammates had to dismount and grab onto the horse’s tail. Wow, what an incredibly odd sport. Kind of like water skiing before the era of motorboats. In Tee It Up, teams simply had to change into golf clothing and hit balls on a range. Once a team’s ball landed on a specific (and small) green, it could receive its next clue.
Ramber predictably chose golf, and in just two short seconds, our innocence was lost as we watched a doughy Rob undress to his skivvies for the challenge. But hey, at least he was fast, unlike Ron who took even longer to change than his beauty queen girlfriend. I’m not really sure what the holdup was, but I’m thinking he probably had a POW flashback. Maybe the Iraqis tortured him with Titlist apparel?
While Uchenna and Joyce finally raised enough funds to fetch their onions, the other two teams got to work hitting their golf balls. This of course led to a highly enjoyable montage of golf bloopers as Kelly in particular whiffed several times in a row. My god, why is that always so funny? I remember one time playing racquetball and having the biggest whiff ever. For some reason, about ten people witnessed this, and I just remember hearing laughter. Lots and lots of laughter. Gotta respect that though. Whiff = good comedy. Anyway, Kelly’s whiffing was particularly amusing, only because she had just bragged about having taken golf lessons recently. Apparently, by “golf” she meant “whining”. I really wish she wouldn’t use so many code words like that. She Kellys golf!
Kelly, just imagine the ball is Ron’s head. That’ll help the whiffing problem.
As for Ron, he wasn’t really whiffing as much as he was overshooting. Maybe that’s because he was using a DRIVER! Dude, it’s only 135 yards away! (This comes from me, the 75 Yard Wonder). Anyway, Rob hit the green first, and surprisingly, Kelly did as well. Where to next? San Juan, Puerto Rico! Both teams headed to the airport where they learned that the next flight to San Juan was no longer ticketing. “We’re screwed!” moaned Amber as we went to commercial break. Of course, two seconds later, they found a flight leaving even earlier and booked tickets on it. Where’s your defeatist attitude now, AMBAH???
Well, Ramber flew off to San Juan where they then had to seek out an old fort with about twelve different names (okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad: its name was the “Castillo de San Felipe del Morro Fort”). There they learned that they’d now have to travel 87 miles across the island to a sugar factory. Ah, but would there be hours of operation? Methinks yes! Sure enough, by the time Rob and Amber arrived, the ole factory was shut down for the night. See, there was hope for Joychenna after all!
Speaking of Joychenna, the two finally reached the Detour, and from what we could tell, Uchenna made short work of the golf challenge (the editors could have been fooling us for all we know). Joyce ripped open the next clue and squealed with delight as she read “PUERTO RICO!” Hey, Jamaica ain’t too shabby either. Uchenna then added, “My blokes and I rather enjoy visiting Puerto Rico on holiday!”
Anyway, yada yada yada, all three teams caught up with each other, and the next morning, when the gates opened up, everyone raced through the sugar factory to find the next clue. And guess what? It was the Roadblock! Would this be it? One last food challenge? Maybe a sugar cane beverage needed to be consumed? Sadly, no. Whoever was doing the Roadblock merely had to jump off a ledge into the ocean and swim to the next clue. Booo! That’s not very creative. Who designed this? Phil’s eyebrow? (Scratch that. Phil’s eyebrow only designs naughty Roadblocks).
Well, this simplest of Roadblocks managed to stymy the shrewd duo of Rob and Amber who for some reason went running off into the grassy hillside. They eventually returned to the clue box, only to see that Uchenna and Ron had already completed the challenge. “How do we get down there?” asked Amber, looking down to the bridge she was supposed to jump off of. I don’t know Amber. That’s a good question. Might I suggest you take the staircase located DIRECTLY NEXT TO YOU!
Hmmm… I wonder if there’s a staircase nearby…
While Amber gave herself a crash course in stairwells, the other two teams learned that the next destination was none other than sunny Miami, Florida. The producers were then kind enough to briefly play a some peppy cha-cha-cha music, just to drive the point home. Honestly, I feel like whenever anyone says “Miami,” I hear cha-cha-cha music (unless I’m watching The OC. Then all I hear is Will Smith over and over again). Well, Joychenna and Rob and Kelly hit the road while Ambah languished in her Roadblock. The good news: she finally found the bridge. The bad news: afterwards, she was so exhausted, she could barely walk. In the visual metaphor of the season, Rob wound up physically carrying Amber on his back as they trudged to their car. Ambah, you’re wicked heavy these days. Take off your sneakahs!
Anyway, even though the other two teams had a decent lead, leave it to Ramber to catch up thanks to a slow moving toll plaza. Once again, it was neck and neck with all three racing to the airport. Unfortunately for Ron and Kelly, they made some wrong turn (both blamed each other) and wound up on the wrong highway. Joychenna and Ramber, however, paid careful attention to the road signs with Joyce’s eyes nearly bulging out of her skull. As for Rob, he attributed his navigational ease to the signage. “The little airport signs make it pretty easy,” he said. Yeah, well, that’s what they’re there for. Rob later noted that “The stop signs really help me know when to stop. I like that.”
Thing quickly became very intense in the airport as Ramber and Joychenna purchased tickets for the same flight to Miami. Ah, but upon hearing that a flight was boarding at that moment, Rob ran to that gate and asked for standby tickets. The doors were closing, the plane was leaving — surely they were too late, right? WRONG. Rob and Amber happily traipsed aboard, thus cementing an important lead. As for Joyce and Uchenna, they learned of the boarding flight too late, and when they showed up at the gate, it was official this time: the flight was absolutely closed. Even the jetway was pulling back. That sucks. Once again Rob and Amber manage to sneak on by.
But wait! In an unprecedented moment for this season of The Amazing Race, people managed to bend the rules for non-Survivors! Yes, the gate agents phoned the pilot to see if Joyce and Uchenna could get on board, and wouldn’t you know it, he said yes! The ground crew even rolled the jetway back out. Wow. Was this the end of Ramber’s luck? Possibly. The plane flew off to Miami where a pseudo Miami Vice theme played on the soundtrack. Listen, Amazing Race composer, you’re no Jan Hammer, so back off, man. BACK OFF!
Anyway, after landing teams then had to go to a causeway for the next clue. Once again, Rob and Amber managed to somehow gain a solid lead on their competition for no apparent reason. They easily snagged the next clue which had them go to Little Havana and find a cigar shop called the King of the Havanas. The only catch: the store’s name was actually more commonly known by its Spanish name, “El Rey de los Habanos.” Tricky. Very tricky. Rob immediately went about asking random people for “The King of the Havanas,” but no one seemed to have heard of it. My favorite moment came when Rob cornered a random woman on the street:
“King of the Havanas?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied.
“You own it???” responded Rob excitedly. AMBAH! AMBAH! It’s the OWNAH!
Sadly for Rob, he had simply misheard the woman in his frantic state, and so the hunt resumed. Finally, he found a woman who said the store was on 27th, and with that, Ramber was off to the next clue. Wow, they’re really going to win this thing, huh?
Or were they?? Joyce and Uchenna’s cabbie asked a local where the King of Havanas was, and in a bit of luck, the driver asked in Spanish, which meant the person immediately recognized “El Rey de los Habanos.” Point was, the store was on 11th, not 27th. Oh damn. This was exactly the sort of break Joychenna needed to move ahead. Sure enough, they found the store quickly and received the next clue which told them to find the Finish Line in Ft. Lauderdale. Okay, heart is pounding rather heavily right now.
As for Ramber, not only was there no cigar shop on 27th, their taxi had abandoned them. YES. The two had a brief glimmer of hope as they saw the word “King” on a yellow sign, but it turned out to be nothing but a tire shop. Nice misdirection, MIAMI.
Meanwhile, Joyce and Uchenna encountered a small problem. They had run out of money for their cab. Uchenna tried to earn some quick cash by sticking his head out a window and asking a stranger for twenty bucks (you know, only the shadiest request EVER), but surprise, surprise, they were rejected. Eventually, Joyce and Uchenna arrived at the Finish Line but couldn’t head over to it until they’d paid off their cabbie a steep $40. Personally, i would have just bolted, but I guess Joyce and Uchenna have “morals”, whatever those are. The two frantically ran around, trying to extract spare cash off of tourists and locals. One man told Uchenna that begging wasn’t the way to earn money. Asshole, he’s on a game show! Can’t you see the cameras following him? He has no choice!!
Of course, the editors were sure to keep us on our toes by cutting away from this nerve-wracking scenario to show Rob and Amber suddenly getting their acts together and heading to the Pit Stop. Had I not been so consciously aware of reality show tricky editing, I would have thought Rob and Amber were but a mere block away by the time Joyce and Uchenna finally paid off their taxi. Luckily, this wasn’t the case. In the end, it was Uchenna and Joyce who crossed the finish line, much to the delight of all the assembled teams (including the brothers who had grown a pair of goofy mustaches and sideburns). Phil of course stood with one eyebrow firmly raised as if to say, “I bet you didn’t know that I’m an avid poncho collector. Well, I am.”
“You must excuse me. I’m playing sax for The Miami Sound Machine tonight.”
Hey, we like you guys. Don’t push it.
Anyway, Joyce and Uchenna officially won the $1 million prize, and in the emotional minutes afterwards hugged, laughed, cried, and thanked the other teams. And what would they do with their new fortune? Work towards having a baby. “In vitro, here we come!” shouted Uchenna. And if that doesn’t work, he added, “Adoption here we come!” And then of course “Kidnapping, here we come!” And finally, “Well, maybe we’ll just get a Roomba.”
Placing second were Rob and Amber who waltzed in to a significantly chillier reception. The collective hate flowing towards them was really quite impressive. Luckily, some warmth returned as Ron and Kelly galloped to the Finish Line a few hours later. Phil asked how the Race had affected the relationship, causing Kelly to babble for what felt like an eternity about her and Ron’s relationship. Woman, you were a beauty queen. Don’t you remember how to give a sweet, succinct, and disingenuous answer?
Anyway, the season ended with more loving words from Joyce and Uchenna and images of all the racers hugging. It was a fun ride, and even though I found myself angry at Rob and Amber, they truly brought the entertainment value of the season up. They were great villains, but also sharp players. Furthermore, they demonstrated that the bad guys can be a fully functional and respectful couple, even if they are reality TV whores.
What did you think? Were you happy with the results? Did you enjoy the season finale?