An Amazing Finish for CBS' "Race" ****May be spoilers for TAR7
Free advice to ABC: Skip next year's bound-to-be-lame Super Bowl festivities and book an episode of CBS' The Amazing Race instead.
Because everything that Sunday's underwhelming NFL championship festivities lacked, from the dull ads to the G-rated halftime show with Paul McCartney to the mistake-filled game itself, the Tuesday night season finale of The Amazing Race 6 had in exciting abundance: twists, fights, suspense and a surprising finish that came down to an erroneous ticket agent, deep-dish pizza, a clueless cabbie and an inopportune train crossing.
And despite the fact that two of those things were not in their favor, engaged models Kendra Bentley and Freddy Holliday were the first contestants to sprint to the finish line in Chicago's Ping Tom Park and walk away with the $1 million prize.
"We gave everything that we possibly had to each other, for the team and for the race, and [Freddy] has proven to me over and over again what a strong, wonderful man he is. He's definitely worthy of having my children," said Kendra, whose team beat out second place couple Kris Perkins and Jon Buehler, and third placers Rebecca Cardon and the horn-haired Adam Malis.
The winners, who began the final episode in second place in Shanghai, jumped to the lead after catching a break and getting an early flight out of China and on to Hawaii.
They made good time on a canoe-paddling task in Hawaii, lucked into an airline ticket agent who gave them the scoop on the fastest flight to the final destination of Chicago, forced themselves to scarf down a hunk of deep-dish pizza at dawn and managed to direct a lost cab driver through the city and to the park to claim their victory.
On the other hand, runners-up Kris and Jon, a relatively low-key couple who were the fan favorites to win going into the finale, got some bum info from a ticketing agent while shopping for a flight to Hawaii, and, in one of the all-time biggest instances of reality show bad luck, were neck and neck with Kendra and Freddy in a dash to the finish, until a train--a train!--blocked their path.
In the end, the finalists traveled across four continents, 24 cities and more than 40,000 miles in a competition that began in Chicago, included stops in Iceland, Hungary, Africa and Sri Lanka (just weeks before the recent tsunami tragedy), before wrapping up with a skydive in Hawaii and the final flight back to the Windy City.
And what's a reality show finale without an engagement? Actor-models Hayden Kirstianson and Aaron Crumbaugh, who unraveled into a bickering, frustrated mess during the penultimate leg of the finale and gave up completely on the last challenge, ended the show in fourth place.
But just as they were eliminated, Aaron dropped to one knee and asked Hayden to marry him. As host Phil Keogh choked up, the stunned Hayden barely managed to say yes, prompting her betrothed to reply, "She's speechless, for once."
The Emmy-winning Race, a longtime critical favorite, has finally begun to score in the ratings, too. The show averaged about 11 million viewers each week this season, including a season-best 12.6 million for Tuesday's finale. Before that, its highest numbers came after the nasty, abusive Jonathan Baker and screeching wife Victoria Fuller were booted.
Speaking of the tempestuous two, for viewers who haven't seen enough of Jonathan and Victoria, the couple will be seeking the cornpone counsel of Phil McGraw on CBS' A Dr. Phil Primetime Special: Romance Rescue next Tuesday (9 p.m. ET), in which the good doctor asks the scream-happy Jonathan if he is a jerk.
In other Race ramblings, CBS has signed on to do the series at least through season nine, including a family edition for the eighth installment, in which teams will be expanded from two members to four members each and be made up of family members.
As for the next edition, The Amazing Race 7 will include a couple whose romance has already, ahem, survived, one reality show: Survivor All-Star winner Amber Brkich and All-Stars runner-up and Brkich fiancÚ "Boston" Rob Mariano will be among the teams competing on when Race 7 kicks off on CBS with a two-hour premiere on Mar. 1.
Brkich and Mariano, who got engaged during the live Survivor All-Stars finale last May, will be up against teams that include a former Iraq war POW, a mother and son, a set of grandparents and one half of a gay couple whose father is unaware of his sexual orientation as they travel the world for a shot at winning another $1 million.
Hey, weddings are expensive.
Here's a complete list of next Amazing Race couples:
Ray Housteau, 44, stockbroker from Canfield, Ohio; Deana Shane, 27, works in marketing & promotions in Youngstown, Ohio (dating on and off)
Debbie Cloyed, 25, photographer from Woodbridge, Virginia; Bianca Smith, 26, high school teacher from Woodbridge, Virginia (lifelong friends)
Lynn Warren, 30, executive assistant, West Hollywood, California; Alex Ali, 22, executive assistant, West Hollywood, California (boyfriends)
Uchenna Agu, 40, energy broker from Houston; Joyce Agu, 44, sales manager from Houston (married)
Ron Young, 28, motivational speaker and former POW in Iraq, Villa Rica, Georgia; Kelly McCorkley, 26, legislative correspondent and former Miss South Carolina from Greenville, South Carolina (dating)
Ryan Phillips, 31, general contractor, Landrum, South Carolina; Chuck Horton, 32, works in sales in Inman, South Carolina (best friends)
Rob Mariano, 29, Survivor: All-Stars runner-up, Canton, Massachussetts; Amber Brkich, 26, Survivor: All-Stars winner, Beaver, Pennsylvania (engaged)
Meredith Smith, 69, retired executive from Easton, Maryland; Gretchen Smith, 66, retired flight attendant and registered nurse, Easton, Maryland (grandparents)
Megan Baker, 26, fashion designer, Oak Park, California; Heidi Heidel, 31, stay at home mom, Oak Park, California (roommates)
Susan Vaughn, 54, director for judicial affairs at Miami University, Hamilton, Ohio; Patrick Vaughn, 26, writer, lives in Hollywood (mother/son)
Brian Smith, 27, bartender/actor, Santa Monica; Greg Smith, 24, bouncer, Santa Monica (brothers)
Hmm very interesting teams.. looks like we have a gay couple again!
btw: is it me or is the name Susan Vaughn very familiar?
All good things come to an end.
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