Race to the Altar 9/13/03 Finale Recap, Part I
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today, in the presence of our televisions and this network, to witness the joining of man and woman in holy matrimony. The big question, of course, is which man and which woman?
Welcome to the thrilling two-hour finale of Race to the Altar. If you will recall, the last episode left the viewing audience with what can only be described as a collective case of reality television blue balls, cruelly delaying the results of the four-legged race that would determine which of the remaining couples (Susan & Coyt, Ethan & Carolyn, or Tonya & Andree) would become the sole Power Couple to decide who would be their final competitor for the ultimate prize.
Which of these fine couples proved strong enough, smart enough, and gosh-darn-it-people-like-them-enough to win the WEDDING OF A LIFETIME planned by (yeah, okay, we know) WEDDING PLANNER TO THE STARS Colin Cowie?!! Can anybody beat the Coyt/Susan juggernaut? Will Roberto Venetian or Lisa Dergan's nipple make a reappearance? Is it possible for Tonya to do anything without moaning & groaning like an injured animal? These are the burning questions that will at long last be answered TONIGHT on Race to the Altar.
So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu
The final episode begins with the couples getting ready for the elimination ceremony, all three anxious and uncertain. Susan is tense and complains that Coyt’s fidgeting is making her tenser, and Carolyn expresses the strong feeling that she and Ethan might be going home.
Gathered at the now-familiar Altar for the very last time, lovely Lisa Dergan congratulates them for getting through the grueling day and proceeds to inform them all of the results of the last four competitions. Everyone already knows that Susan & Coyt won the SeaDoo race. In “Get Me to the Church On Time” (in which the couples had to get their pictures taken in front of as many wedding chapels as possible), Andree & Tonya finished in 3rd place with 14 photos, Carolyn & Ethan were 2nd with 18, and Coyt & Susan triumphed again with 23 pictures, despite getting a late start (they kindly credit their cab driver for coming through for them). For the freezing water torture of “Bridal Shower,” Susan & Coyt came in 3rd with a time of 1:22, Ethan & Carolyn were in 2nd again with 1:33, and winning with a stunning 5 minutes and 33 seconds was Andree (put that in your pipe and smoke it, David Blaine!). Finally, in the all-important “Something Old, Something New” scavenger hunt, Susan & Coyt beat out Tonya & Andree (2nd) and Ethan & Carolyn (3rd) to become the last Power Couple.
Susan & Coyt are given just a few moments to deliberate, and upon returning to the altar, reveal their decision. Coyt tells the couples that the choice was difficult, especially considering that everyone left was part of the long-standing commitment they had established. Coyt announces that they decided to eliminate whichever couple performed the worst (although a later interview reveals that they felt Ethan & Carolyn, being fearless, would be the couple most likely to do anything to win had they stayed, but that Tonya, impeded by her obvious phobias, would give them the advantage to win); they then also tossed a coin—but both times the result came out the same. The couple invited back to stay: Tonya & Andree. The couple we bid farewell: Ethan & Carolyn.
Lisa and the couples wish them a warm goodbye. Carolyn says she feels that she and Ethan have come a long way in their lives and that this game is just “a fun, extra thing” for them. “We don’t feel like failures because of this,” Carolyn says bravely. She even tells Susan & Coyt not to feel bad for eliminating them, assuring them that they won “fair and square.” Ethan & Carolyn’s final words are teary declarations of love to each other, Carolyn saying that “We’re better versions of ourselves when we’re together” and Ethan saying that he would “never want to be with anyone else.” The epitaphial caption that comes onscreen as the camera dramatically pulls away from their darkened silhouettes informs that they will be married on September 27, 2003.
1st Leg: Against All Odds
It is another morning at the Venetian, and the couples are preparing for the last 24 hours, in which they must complete three brutal legs of competition. The first couple to win two of the challenges will be the winners of the entire game. Susan reflects on what brought her & Coyt to the competition on the first place. She talks again about how her strict Southern Baptist parents have expressed that they not only disapprove of dancing and alcohol, but if she and Coyt insist on having such things at their wedding, not only will they refuse to pay for it, they refuse to be any part of it. Andree, looking cool as a cucumber, says that his calm exterior is hiding the nervousness he’s harboring inside. Being so close makes him all the hungrier for the prize.
Lisa, in a tight black satin dress with lacy white bodice that makes me want to give her a feather duster and headpiece to complete her Sexy Maid fantasy costume, greets the couples in the hotel’s casino for the day’s first leg. She hands each of the couples $10,000 in cold hard cash. The objective is to make as much as they can gambling with that money in the next 30 minutes, at which time they must meet up with Lisa again for further instructions. They may play any game in the casino, but are required to make at least five $1000 bets. Whatever winnings are theirs to keep.
The game of choice for both the couples appears to be blackjack: for Susan & Coyt, because they don’t have any idea how to play any other game; for Tonya & Andree because it’s a game Tonya is good at. The hands are played at a furious pace, with hundreds and thousands being won and lost in minutes’ time. Andree, aware that Coyt & Susan are capable of going all-out, decides that conservative is not the way to play. Coyt is indeed making bold and costly bets, telling a fretful Susan not worry about the money, but his strategy backfires and in a mere 12 minutes, they’ve lost all but one $500 chip. Coyt suggests they save it, since they don’t know what the next leg of the challenge will be, but Susan, angry at Coyt for blowing the rest of their money, puts it down, rationalizing that they’ve lost everything else, what’s one more hand? Well, it’s the difference between $500 and a big, fat goose egg. The dealer tells Susan & Coyt that he’s never seen anyone go through 10 G’s so quickly before, and Susan & Coyt walk off, trying to look as if they’re casually going to another table, so Tonya & Andree don’t see they’ve lost it all.
In the meantime, Tonya & Andree don’t suspect a thing, in fact they’re nervous that they haven’t made enough to beat Susan & Coyt. They switch to craps for a while before returning to the blackjack tables. Little do they know that Susan & Coyt have a good 17 minutes left to kill, which they do by arguing bitterly over their losses. As time runs out, Tonya stiffs the dealer of a tip even though Andree wants to leave one (saying “Suppose we lose by a dollar or something” although she does promise to tip him later—yeah sure, check’s in the mail).
Lisa and the couples assemble around a gaming table. As Lisa informs them that the final part of the challenge is an all-or-nothing bet with whatever money they made in the last half hour, Coyt whispers “Told you so” to an aggravated Susan. Lisa tells the couples to lay their earnings on the table. Tonya & Andree stack up a whopping $19, 026.50 on the table. Coyt pulls a stack of ashtrays from the souvenir shop out of their chip bag, astonishing Lisa, Tonya & Andree, who are at first incredulous at the thought of Susan & Coyt coming in with zero. Tonya asks if they still have to place the last bet, but Lisa says that since Susan & Coyt have no money to put up, the last bet cannot occur. Tonya & Andree become the winners of the 1st leg of the race.
2nd Leg: Driving Me Crazy
The couples hop into their Hummers for part 2 of the competition. Tonya & Andree’s spirits were given a boost by their win, and conversely Susan & Coyt are under much more pressure to win this 2nd leg or risk losing it all. They drive down the desert highway outside Vegas and are instructed to pick up a “package” with information for the next challenge. Alongside the road, Susan & Coyt spot a figure in the bushes. “It kind of looks like your mom,” Susan says. In the sort of voice one reserves for either very small children or very slow adults, Coyt tells Susan, “My mom would not be in the desert, Sweetheart.” Until he slows down and realizes, “It is my mom!” They run out and embrace, obviously very happy to have a nice surprise for a change.
Andree & Tonya, also driving down the road, spot a person alongside the road, whom Andree speculates is homeless. As with Susan, it’s actually Tonya who recognizes Andree’s mother first. Endearingly, Andree goes from deeply serious man-voice to a high-pitched child’s scream as he exclaims “Oh my god, it’s my Mom!” They also run out immediately, and give her a big hug. There is nothing cuter than seeing people with their moms, and Andree & Coyt are instantly gladdened at the sight of their loved ones.
As promised, the moms come with instructions to the next destination. At 5:45 pm, the Hummers finally stop at the El Dorado Dry Lake Bed, where it is a sweltering 114 degrees Fahrenheit. Lisa greets the couples and their mommies, and introduces them to their next challenge: a 1963 classic convertible Corvair, modified so that the driver’s seat has the normal steering wheel, but the front passenger seat has the controls for gas, and the backseat contains the brakes. The grooms would steer from the driver’s seat, brides-to-be work the throttle from the front, and the mothers-in-law would be responsible for the brakes from the back. All three must work together in order to complete a half-mile obstacle course in as little time as possible. Also, for every cone they knock over, an additional 2 seconds would be counted to their final time. Communication and cooperation would prove key to this race.
The poor moms are visibly nervous about the prospect; Coyt’s in particular, as she doesn’t want to ruin things for him & Susan. Susan tells her already anxious mother-in-law that if they lose this leg, they are out of the race permanently, further adding to the pressure this poor little lady is feeling. They go up first. Tonya, Andree, and Andree’s mom are not allowed to watch them, and so are taken off by Lisa. Coyt takes control, not just steering, but also calling out for acceleration and brake from Susan and his mom. Though Mom appears uncomfortable with brake duty, and they encounter some communication problems (Coyt yells for “More!” without specifying from whom, and Susan & Mom both respond), as well as unfortunately knocking over some cones on their last turn, they get through the course fairly quickly (and manage to remain impressively polite to each other the whole time). Andree, Tonya, and Andree’s mom go next, with Andree also directing Mom and Tonya. Andree sees several cones knocked over in the course, and guesses that perhaps this means Susan & Coyt might have a lot of time added to their final score, boosting his confidence. However, little dust storms kick up and blind them from time to time. Nevertheless, they complete the course, with Tonya gunning it across the finish.
Lisa calls for a round of applause for the moms (Woohoo! They deserve it!) and then announces the results. Coyt & Susan’s total time (with time added for knocked down cones) is 3:07. Tonya & Andree guess that their time was around 3 minutes or less, and having not hit any cones, they felt confident that they had a shot to win it all. However, it was not to be. Tonya & Andree’s time came out to be 4:40. This now put the couples in a tie for the 3rd leg.
3rd Leg: The Final Challenge
The third leg of the final Race to the Altar begins beneath the multi-colored light canopy at the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Vegas. The couples are each given clues that lead them to destination checkpoints where they must perform a certain task and find another clue leading to their next checkpoint, and so forth. Furthermore, they will not know how many checkpoints to expect, and will be given $75 to spend any way they see fit. The first couple to complete all the tasks at all the checkpoints and cross the finish line will become the ultimate winners of the dream wedding and honeymoon.
Lisa, in a red beaded halter top that sure caught my husband’s attention, hands them the cards that contain their first clue: “If you honeymoon in Vegas, you’ll need something to wear. It’s waiting for you at the other end of Glitter Gulch if you can find your way there.” The couples start to run like hell; they stop at a crosswalk at the same time nervously waiting for the light to change before running like hell again (these nice, law-abiding citizens won’t even break jaywalking laws). I snicker to myself when I see Coyt asking strangers if they know where Glitter Gulch is (I’ve been to Vegas enough times to know it is an infamous strip club downtown). Coyt sees Andree run ahead of Tonya, so he speeds up too, and finds a flag beneath which are wedding dresses (and, thoughtfully, a pair of sneakers) for the ladies to put on (I see underwear, like a corset, attached to the dresses, but they decide to just slip them on over their street clothes).
The next clue mentions an “island” and tells them that the next location will be “found near a ship.” Susan figures that to mean Treasure Island right away, so the second her dress is on she and Coyt take off to find a cab while Andree’s still struggling to help Tonya on with her dress. Coyt calls out for a taxi to take them to Treasure Island, and Susan promptly shushes him, not wanting to risk giving away the answer to the clue to Tonya & Andree. But Tonya & Andree have already guessed what the next destination is, and are climbing into a cab right after them. Tonya orders their driver to “Beat that cab!” which he does by pulling right in front of Coyt & Susan’s cab and cutting them off on the last block to Treasure Island. The couples sprint out of their cabs, with the men & women taking off in different directions. Tonya finds the checkpoint first, but is followed closely by Susan whom Coyt catches up to more quickly than Andree. There they find a tux for the grooms, and the next clue directing them to the “City of Light” where to find the next clue they must “reach a new height”.
Now I thought everyone knew the “City of Light” was what they call Paris, like the way New York is the Big Apple, or Los Angeles is HeLL.A., but neither of the couples gets this, nor do any of the myriad people they ask for help, their cabdrivers, or even my husband (who's watching the show sitting next to me at home). But then again, I thought everyone knew who Liberace was, too. Coyt, after yanking on his tux with lightning quickness and beating out Tonya & Andree, takes off with Susan, who guesses that “new height” refers to the Stratosphere. Tonya & Andree have finally gotten the tux on and hailed a cab, and are told by their driver that the “City of Light” is the Fremont Experience (where they just came from!) which has a brilliant light show. They’re both heading to two different locations off the Strip, and desperately searching for the RttA flag indicating the next checkpoint. At the Stratosphere, Susan & Coyt buy one ticket to go to the top to conserve money, but while Coyt heads up the tower, Susan is told by a nice lady that the City of Light is Paris. She waits anxiously for him to come down, which alone takes 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Tonya & Andree lose confidence as time ticks away for them. Finally, another helpful stranger tells Tonya & Andree that they are in the wrong place and need to be at the Eiffel Tower at Paris hotel & casino (which reeks of producer-induced deus ex machina).
Discouraged, Susan & Coyt argue once they finally get a cab and head back towards the Strip for Paris. In the meantime, Andree & Tonya are also back on track, and once at the Paris hotel, they once again go around asking people to point them in the right direction. Susan & Coyt take the elevator to the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower, where they find bridal veils for the women to put on (two of them, which lets them know they’ve gotten there before Tonya & Andree). Tonya & Andree are heading up in the elevator, where the acrophobic Tonya has her hand clamped over her eyes as they ascend 460 feet.
The clue at the top of the Eiffel Tower tells the couples: “The next destination’s exotic, with a Middle Eastern flair. A genie with a lamp might get you there.” Susan & Coyt ask the elevator operator (that’s dressed like an organ grinder’s monkey) for help and she answers tells them they must be looking for the Aladdin. Tonya & Andree follow soon after, and the helpful elevator operator again tells them where to go, adding with alacrity, “Why it’s just next door!” At the Aladdin, Susan & Coyt find a garter, which he places on Susan’s leg, and the clue: “You’re close to the wedding, you’re near the finish line. If you’re leaving Las Vegas, look for a sign.” They ask people around them if they know where a “Leaving Las Vegas sign is,” and several people tell them it’s at the end of the Strip, down the road.
Instead of stopping and getting a taxi, as Susan suggests, Coyt takes off running like Forrest Gump…YET AGAIN! Susan, exhausted, tries to follow behind him as he yells for her to run. “I’m not going to run 30 blocks!” Susan screams. It’s past 1 in the morning now, and Andree has run off to the Aladdin, leaving Tonya with her gown hitched up around her waist and trailing far behind. When she finally catches up to him, he slips on her garter and says they need to find a cab ASAP to get of Vegas. Tonya & Andree ask the driver to find the quickest way possible to get them to the sign. Coyt & Susan are still running on the street, until finally Coyt desperately hails a cab from the side of the boulevard. Driving along, Susan & Coyt’s driver wonders aloud what the huge, blinding light in the middle of the road is…Coyt says he knew it had to be for them. Parked at the meridian just after the Las Vegas sign is a long white stretch limo and the final clue directing them to “Hop into the limo, the RACE has almost come to an end. When the limo driver says ‘stop’ get out and run to the top. No elevators.” Susan & Coyt quickly climb into the limo, as do Tonya & Andree soon after.
Riding along, the couples do not have any idea when or where the driver will say stop. When he does, they get out and look around in confusion. Coyt figures out that it must be the Showcase on the Strip (same location as other stunts such as one of their other stunts), and he starts booking it up the parking structure ramps. Tonya & Andree arrive there too, and they decide to take the steps. Susan recounts their run up 12 levels, saying she was exhausted and ready to pass out around level 4. Coyt was encouraging her, like
coach to a fighter, trying to keep her eyes on the prize. Andree yells at a pooped Tonya to pick up the pace, but she trudges up the stairs with a begrudging pace. Even I can’t blame the girl, as someone who’s been in a wedding dress, those things are hell enough to get around in, much less climb 12 stories. They finally make it up to the top, where there are flags, and there is the briefest lull as they stop to catch their breath, where they are suspicious to find no box, and no clear indication of what is to come. Then Lisa comes out (still in that stunning red beaded halter and palazzo pants, as my husband again pointed out to me) bearing a bottle of champagne and two glasses, and congratulates them on being the winners of Race to the Altar.
It’s a heartbreaking moment when Andree runs up the staircase to find Susan & Coyt already celebrating, because he knows now that he & Tonya have not won. He goes back down the stairwell to get Tonya, so they can walk up together to the finish line, as a couple. Tonya & Andree join Susan & Coyt at the top, to celebrate the fact they finished the race, and came in with an impressive second. Andree says that they don’t feel bad about coming in second, that they are proud to have made it to the final two, and that the experience helped them learn how to work as a team. Lisa comes up to them with glasses (which Tonya refuses at first, saying she doesn’t drink, but Lisa tells her to hold it anyway) to congratulate them on finishing the race, and tells them, “By the way, your honeymoon is on us.” Both couples share a toast (the boys with champagne, and the girls with water) and clink glasses declaring themselves “friends for life.”
A recap to big for just one post! Check out Part II of the finale recap. Oh yeah, and email me at SnowflakeGirl@fansofrealitytv. com