It was a dark and stormy night. The year is 2250, and six people sleep in their pods, blissfully unaware that just down the hall Bruce Willis is trying like hell - again - to save the world by safely transporting Milla Jovovich to an operatic gala. Unlikely, you say? Then you, my friend, are not familiar with the humanity-saving powers of one Mr. Bruce Willis.
Okay, fine. This isn't The Fifth Element, even if our remaining six racers are sleeping in futuristic pods. Except I suppose they aren't truly futuristic, since, while this race is Amazing™ and all, it isn't one that can rip apart the fabric of space-time. YET.
Turning Japanese, I Think I'm Turning Japanese, I Really Think So
So. Our three remaining teams arise from their sleeping chambers (Japan - bringing you the beds of tomorrow TODAY!), and prepare to embark upon the final leg of the race. BJ and Tyler, who were first to arrive at 12:18 p.m., are first to leave at 12:18 a.m. "Midnight?" you say, "But that's going to cause all of the teams to catch up, since it's the middle of the night!" Indeed it is, folks. Indeed it is. But what are they going to do, make the mandatory rest periods be something other than a standard 12 hours? That's just crazy talk!
First up is a 9000 mile trek to Anchorage, Alaska. As the Hippies leave, they place 2000 ¥ on the recently-mugged Ray and Yolanda's car. I have mixed feelings about this, since Ray and Yolanda are my favorite team (and if you're looking for an impartial recap, I'd like to extend my apologies right now), and I want them to do well, which requires cash. At the same time, though, come ON Hippies! This is the final leg! Screw the other teams! Karma is a nice concept and all, but so is winning a million dollars. Tyler interviews that they live their lives with wide-eyed enthusiasm, which bugs me. The first rule of wide-eyed enthusiasm club is...oh, forget it. With wide eyes, they brush the snow off their car, and head for the airport.
12:20 a.m. Eric and Jeremy take off, interviewing that they're ready to kick everyone's ass. Ease up there, cowboys. If it came down to it, Yolanda could sweepkick both of you like it's her job. They also say that they have no friends. They're talking in terms of the race...or are they? We learn that teams are to drop their cars at the Hotel Nikko. This isn't requiring much in the way of brainpower or strategy yet, is it? Since both teams left at basically the same time, they're on the road to the airport right next to each other. Until - bum bum BUUUUM - BJ and Tyler veer off to the left. Oh, the drama! Eric and Jeremy are sure the hippies made the wrong turn, leaving us to wonder what happened to the "We speak the language!" advantage?
3:01 a.m. Ray and Yolanda roll out. My God, but they were far behind. Ray says how great they've been at coming from behind. Heh. Poor Ray: so pretty to look at, so hard to take seriously when he's spewing such nonsense. I do wish all teams would employ more of a boxing/wrestling standard when they get coached to talk smack at this point. How much cooler would it be to hear the Hippies threaten to eat Ray and Yolanda's future children, a la Mike Tyson? Or have Ray, oh, I don't know, rip off his shirt like Hulk Hogan? Or maybe have the Frat Boys walk around like the Bushwhackers, from days of wrestling yore? Not that I watched wrestling as a child. Or went to see it live. Twice. Ahem.
So, Ray and Yolanda are driving to the Hotel Nikko, with their gifted 20 bucks burning a hole in their pocket. They know it isn't enough, though, so a-beggin' they will go.
But wait! Crazy editing has the hippies back on the road. Despite Eric and Jeremy's claims to the contrary, BJ and Tyler are the first to arrive at the hotel, and, after learning that the hotel's shuttle bus doesn't leave until 6 a.m. (drink for the equalizer!), are directed to the second floor business center where internet access is widespread and plentiful. They ask the desk clerk to pretend not to understand English when the other teams arrive. If I were the desk clerk I'd tell them to go to hell, but then I'm not the desk clerk. YET. The frat boys arrive shortly after the hippies have made their way upstairs, and, out of some weird sense of misplaced loyalty, the desk clerk totally lies to them and says they don't have internet service. How very, very odd. Did some money exchange hands that I just missed? Whatever, desk guy. Not that I'm even pulling for Eric and Jeremy, but that's just a very odd interjection of an outside influence into the game.
What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Back to the begging. Ray and Yolanda stop off at a cafe, where they have the good fortune to come upon a group of drunk Japanese businessmen. They go through the humiliating process of asking for money, Yolanda gets told she looks like Janet Jackson (which, not for nothing, but she has more of a pre-insane-amounts-of-plastic-surgery LaToya thing going on, doesn't she?), they rustle up some yen and hit the road amidst promises of forwarding greetings on to Michael.
Hotel Nikko: Hippies and Frats both booking flights, Hippies using the internet access the hotel DOES have, Frat boys using the phone. Boy, that trick the desk guy played sure is working, isn't it? But for the fact that it isn't, it was a really good one. The Frats are convinced that BJ and Tyler aren't even at the hotel yet, having no idea that they actually got there first. When all four meet up in the lobby, they exchange some fairly asinine prattle about sneaking up on people, no internet, "we thought you were idiots", blah blah blah. The desk clerk, our unexpected villain, snickers gleefully.
At 6 a.m., the hotel shuttle bus arrives to whisk the Hippies and the Frats to the airport. What the hell? I do not get this timeline at all. How far away was this hotel from the sleeping pod place? How was three hours not enough time for Ray and Yolanda to do their begging and get there? What in the hell is going ON here? Although, really, it's Ray and Yolanda we're talking about here. The hotel could be at the end of the block, and they'd still be lost for a day and a half. I love them, but they aren't so great with the ol' navigational skills. Once at the airport, Eric and Jeremy try to ditch the hippies by hunching over and ducking down behind some seats. Hey fellas? Unless your camera guy is also willing to hide - which, going by the camera angle, he was NOT - you're still going to be pretty visible. Sorry.
Ray and Yolanda finally make it to the hotel, but we're not privy to whether the desk clerk kept up his evil little ruse. They get on what editing makes look like the next airport shuttle, and head to join the other two teams.
Eric and Jeremy make it on the first flight to Anchorage. While boarding, the blonde one (yes it's the finale and I haven't learned to tell them apart yet. So?) shoves his passport literally right in the face - touching her face! - of the flight attendant. I'm not entirely sure why she didn't beat his ass like a redheaded stepchild, but they board the flight without incident and take off with no other teams on board.
For their part, BJ and Tyler manage to change their flight so that they'll be joining up with the Frats on the connecting flight into Anchorage. After some internet research and pleading, Ray and Yolanda, despite an initial "it's too late" by the airline attendant, make that same flight. They're all bunched up again. Bottoms up!
How Many Words Do Inuits Have For "Can't Navigate Their Way Out Of A Wet Paper Bag"?
Stock footage of beautiful (seriously, it's gorgeous) Anchorage, Alaska. One of the Hippies makes the stunning observation that "Boy, it sure is snowy." Yeah, who'da thunk it? When production handed you those heavy-ass parkas and boots, they were really on to something. The teams find their cars, and take off for a 30 mile drive to Mirror Lake. This is where they'll find the next clue. You know, we're 20 minutes into the final hour, and they have yet to do one thing requiring any more skill than basic reading and driving. Next up: a shoe-tying contest! Later, punch. Hippies leave first, Ray/Yolanda second, Frats third. They all get directions from tollbooth attendants (we aren't treated to shots of their faces, and I'm not spending the time analyzing hands, so it could easily have been the same tollbooth attendant. Does it matter? Not so much.), and head off on their merry ways. Ray and Yolanda, knowing their weaknesses, ask a second person for directions. You would think this redundancy might help ward off travel problems later on. You would be incorrect. The teams get on the Seward Highway, all speculating on their respective positions.
When they first arrived in Alaska, it was dark out. Somehow along this 30 mile drive, it got light. Light light. I understand the whole top-of-the-planet deal with strange (to us Continental US types, anyway) amounts of day and night, but seriously, it makes it seem as if a long time has gone by. Anyway, the Hippies are driving directly in front of Eric and Jeremy. The Frat boys think they're going too slow, rev the engine, and pass them. Dudes. I know you're from Florida, but you don't DO that with that much snow and ice around. Ignorance is no excuse. I'm from Buffalo, I know from horrible driving conditions. That was friggin' dangerous. Ah, but I should shut up, because it was dangerous yet effective, as they're now in first place. Ray and Yolanda are nowhere to be found, as is their custom. If history is any indicator, they're probably about 50 miles from the Bering Strait, gleefully heading west.
The two teams in contention make it to the lake, and run toward the clue box. "No BJ!" someone yells out. What a terrible, selfish thing to say. All four make it to the box and read the detour, which is Drill It or Deliver It.
In this detour, teams either have to drill ten holes into the ice and then cover it with a shack (that looks for all the world like an outhouse) such that two of the holes are accessible to the ice fisherman, OR they have to load a bush plane with medical supplies and then, using a map, must direct a pilot to an airfield, where they unload the supplies. This is a 150 mile round trip flight. It's also like Ray and Yolanda's worst nightmare. Or it will be, if they ever make it to the friggin' lake.
There happens to be a weather delay, so both teams elect to drill the holes. I don't even understand. Maybe I'm horrendously underestimating the amount of effort required to drill holes in the ice. I believe that there's some physical strength that goes into the task, but I also believe that all six people left in the race possess that requisite strength. The plane seems like a terrible option, but Eric and Jeremy were all about it until they found out about the storm delay. Eh. I'm not even a desk clerk, so what do I know? The four competitors get to drilling. Ray and Yolanda are probably well above the Arctic circle by now.
Oh! There they are! They made it on to the exact same highway as everybody else, actually did NOT get lost, and still managed to end up way the hell out of it. Come on, guys. You're making it exceptionally hard to cheer for you. There's only so long I can allow myself to think "Hey, they're editing this to make us think that these two are out of it! That means they're going to win!" I'm happy to live in a fantasy world for a little while, but you're taking it too damn far. Give me something to work with.
I Hope You Have On Latex Gloves Under Those Fur-Lined Ones
Back to the drilling. The two teams who are, you know, actually in it seem to be remaining pretty much neck and neck, matching each other hole for hole. That sounds dirty. Hee. The frats finish first by a hair, and, after much grunting and groaning, get two of their holes covered. This paragraph is making me realize that I may, in fact, be a pre-pubescent boy, despite that "31 year old female" persona I have going on. The ice fisherman hands them their clue and they're on their way. Back at the Hippie plot of ice, Tyler postulates that he's nothing more than "Skin, bones and attitude!" And wide-eyed enthusiasm. Can't forget the wide-eyed enthusiasm. They finish their holes, push their shack, get their clue. Ray and Yolanda? Elsewhere, possibly wrestling polar bears.
Next on the agenda, teams drive themselves 26 miles to Kincaid Park. Once they arrive, they don snowshoes and use a map to navigate their way to the clue box. Lord almighty, just put Ray and Yolanda on a plane home right now.
Still maintaining appearances, Ray and Yolanda show up at Mirror Lake, and begin to drill. Might be nice if they'd find a sense of urgency in one of those holes. They get the job done without much camera time, since they're about a month behind the other two teams. Once they finish, the fisherman tells them "Let me check your holes." I look around for the stirrups, but I suppose they just rough it in the wilds of Alaska. They get their clue and head off to Kincaid Park.
Kincaid Park. Eric and Jeremy arrive first, of course, but the Hipsters are hot on their trail. Channeling every Vietnam-era military enlistee, Eric cries out "Oh crap! Hippies!", and they decide to run, so as not to be seen. Again, fellas? Camera guy. Most tourists don't travel with a full production crew, so you're probably fairly visible. It doesn't seem to matter, though, because BJ and Tyler are playing the ghosts of Fran and Barry past, and run right past the snowshoes and poles. Maybe this will give Ray and Yolanda time to catch up. Or maybe Ray and Yolanda are in Punta Cana by now. One never can tell with those two crazy kids. Eventually the Hippies find their accoutrements and get moving.
Ray and Yolanda: In their car, having a terribly sad (to me) conversation about how any mistake now will be the difference between a million dollars and nothing. You GUYS! It's too late to just figure this out. You're done. It's over. Finis. It would take better racers than you've proven yourselves to be to come back now. I hate that that's true, but it is. At least Ray can take comfort in the fact that he's by far the best looking guy in the race. And Yolanda? She can take comfort in the fact that her boyfriend is by far the best looking guy in the race. Plus, I guess there's that golden gnome thing. That was nice. And the ... lease. That's, um, pretty good too. Sigh.
Karma And I Could Be Best Friends
Kincaid Park, part deux. Both teams are making their way toward the clue box at a good clip. Tyler, in his wide-eyed, enthusiastic way, opens his mouth to catch a snowflake on his tongue. Karma, proving that she has a hell of a sense of humor, drops a bucketful of snow off a tree branch onto his face. Heh. Eric and Jeremy find the clue first, and learn that we're coming full circle, folks: it's back to Denver, Colorado. Once there, they'll cab it to Clear Creek History Park, in the town of Golden. They'll search that park for their next clue. Eric and Jeremy find a cab, BJ and Tyler find the clue, Ray and Yolanda...are good, solid human beings. Who can't race very well. At all.
At the Anchorage airport, the Frats book themselves on a nonstop flight to Denver, leaving at 11:10 p.m. Are we....could we be....is this going to be an equalizer? My stars. While still in the cab, the Hippies borrow the driver's cell phone and book themselves on the same flight. Ray and Yolanda, who've now made it to the clue, say that they'll catch up at the airport, and it isn't over yet. Well, half of that statement is true, anyway. All six racers linger around the Frontier counter, and the Frats complain that they love being in first, just to have it all equalized. Honestly, I don't blame them. They've been consistently the best racers from day 1, and the other two teams in the finals with them are arguably the ones who've been the luckiest. The Hippies were the recipients of both non-finals NELs, and Ray and Yolanda, hell, I love them, but if it weren't for equalizing opportunities, they'd have been out of this race several weeks ago. It's part of the game, and the Frat boys need to suck it up and deal, but I can understand their frustration.
They Could Have At Least Given Them A Six-Pack Of Coors
Denver. All teams presumably disembark from the plane at the same time, but Ray and Yolanda still manage to be the last to get the taxi. They all head toward Golden in their respective cabs. Eric and Jeremy arrive first, of course, and find their clue in what appears to be mere seconds. They're instructed to head back to where it all began: Red Rocks Ampitheater, just six miles away. Once there, they'll find their final clue. BJ and Tyler arrive just as the Frats are heading out. The Hippies have marginally more trouble locating their clue, but it still doesn't take long. Let me just say once again that I'm not impressed with the level of difficulty involved in these tasks. Get in a cab. Look in a park. Do the Hokey Pokey. Meh. Anyway, the Hippies are off to Red Rocks too. Where the hell are Ray and Yolanda? Did someone put a curse on them? I don't GET it. There is no way they should always be last, even when they're not the ones driving. Ridiculous. They manage to arrive as the Hippies are pulling out, and this is the last they'll ever be even close to in the running. Might as well just say our goodbyes to them now. Yes, they find their clue eventually, but they're complete non-entities from this point out. Ray, Yolanda, we hardly knew ye. I wish you well in your future.
Red Rocks. Both teams arrive at basically the same time, and find their clue. The final roadblock of the season requires one team member to pick out the flags of each of the nine countries they visited on the race, from a field of 285 flags. This has the potential to be incredibly difficult, but for the fact that there's a placard displaying pictures of the necessary flags, the (slight) twist being that it shows three additional flags to throw them off a bit. Once they've located the flags, they have to line them up in order of the chronology in which they visited the countries. It's supposed to be a mentally taxing task, which - eh. I suppose that if we're going by the standard of it not being physically demanding, the absence of that leaves more of an intellectual pursuit, but still. It's not like they handed them an abacus and three thumbtacks and told them to derive an alternate theory for special relativity. I don't think a Harvard or Stanford education was really the deciding factor here. Once the task is completed, they must run up a path, where Phil, the booted racers, and one million dollars awaits them.
The One Up Top, Stupid.
As the Frats get started, Jeremy tells Eric, who will be performing the roadblock, to "Start thinking in your head!" Word. He gets his first flag right, but it goes downhill from there. The Hippies arrive, and claim that they can smell Phil, lurking in the shadows. Please. Unless Phil smells like pot or patchouli, I'm not sure they'd be able to identify him that quickly. They read the clue, BJ takes the task, and they get started.
I'm not going to go through all of the ins and outs of who got what flags in which order, but they both have their difficulties. Countries are frameshifted, countries are omitted, countries are transposed. Both teams are incredibly close, and it's really anybody's race to win at this point. When the final chip falls, it's BJ and Tyler who finish first and win the race amidst cheers and clapping from their fallen comrades. They hug, the Frats glower, and Ray and Yolanda stop off at McDonalds for some delicious shamrock shakes, since, hell, why wouldn't they?
And so ends season nine of The Amazing Race. The Hippies came out on top, which gives me great hope for the next election cycle. Viva la wide eyed enthusiasm! Viva indeed.
I am, since my last dye job, a redheaded stepchild. email@example.com