No, the racers did not visit a Taiwanese massage parlor on their way out of Taipei, but the Amazing Race did provide one of the most satisfying finales I can remember.
Racers left Taipei bound for Anchorage, Alaska on the same flight, and we got a glimpse into the strategies that got two of the teams to the finals. Christina tipped her and Ronald’s confident hand and claimed their success stemmed from their strength and smarts, but TK was convinced their ability to stay calm and take one task at a time was the Zen recipe for success. Nick and Don didn’t really have an overall strategy and from the beginning they seemed doomed.
MISTAKES WERE MADE: If you ever have the good fortune of making it to the final leg of the Amazing Race for God’s sake READ YOUR CLUES!!!! Nick and Don would have beaten TK and Rachel to the glacier if Nick had read the clue and taken the bag of gear from the store in Anchorage, but he did not read it carefully and by the time team Gramps got to the Detour they had to turn around and retrieve their gear which still barely put them behind the hippies. If Nick hadn’t screwed up, his grandfather would have carried them to the end with his adept cod carving, and seeing Ol’ Don scoot up that glacier in shorts was downright inspiring.
COOLER HEADS: The Road Block was similar to the family season ending and BJ and Tyler’s final leg and took a lot of concentration, memory and logic. There were several items (bicycles, a U Turn box, a chicken) from different legs of the race, but there was only one correct combination that had to be placed on a stage. Christina started off with a huge lead and I was convinced this task was tailor made for her Princeton mind. Instead each team was baffled by the multitude of possible combinations, and when there was no way of knowing when they were off by one or two items they lost confidence and time. As Christina’s lead evaporated she grew more and more frustrated and resorted to mock swearing and spontaneous prayer, neither of which tend to help in a crisis. When Rachel volunteered for the task I thought my favorite team was doomed. How could this quiet muppet remember anything? Doesn’t she have pockets of THC clouding her short term memory? As luck and karma would have it all of her goodwill toward her partner and good attitude in bad situations paid off and she was able to stay calm, think clearly and finish the task first.
The teams had two stops to make before the final mat, and after retrieving the final clue from the “salmon hooker” they were off in search of the million reasons to say “I love you”. How incredible it must be to run up to the mat with your former competitors cheering you on and neither of the final teams in sight. TK and Rachel looked exhausted, elated and genuinely freaked out when they realized they won the money, and TK summed it up best when he said, “Nice guys can definitely finish first and I think we proved it.” As I’ve said in past columns I really respect the way TK and Rachel played the game and treated each other. People mistook their kindness and calm for complacency, and by underestimating them they allowed TK and Rachel to overtake them and win the game.
Conversely, I know a lot of you were upset Ronald and Christina did not win, but it just shows you the race can change at any moment and throw you a curve ball you’re not prepared to swing at. The final roadblock was overwhelming for Christina and it brought out her weakest game play. Seeing her relationship repaired with her dad should be prize enough for Christina, and I’m sure her adventures on the race will provide her with confidence and stories for years to come. Her dad will always have a hard time communicating, but the one thing he was able to get across was his desire to change and his new found respect for his daughter. Now that’s amazing.