Recap: ‘The Amazing Race’ Finale – ‘Monster Truck Heroes’ – The Winners Are…

Man, I feel sorry for Phil Keoghan. 

All he wanted to do was help two nice people find love and CBS forced him to conduct an “Amazing Race” season around it and then nobody found love and he's stuck giving away a million bucks to two people who probably will never speak again.

I kid. Phil Keoghan loves “The Amazing Race” and I have no doubt that given a choice between traveling around the world twice per year as “Race” host and hosting a dating show, he'd never host the dating show in a million years.

But either he really, really, really wanted to validate the premise of this “Amazing Race” Blind-Dating season or some of the producers really, really, really wanted him to validate the premise of this “Amazing Race” Blind-Dating season.

That mean that in Friday (May 15) night's “Amazing Race” finale, Phil was stuck saying things like, “Any regrets for coming on the Race and not finding love?”

Part of me wanted somebody to say, “Yes” so that Phil could rip off his Chris Harrison mask and yell, “HOW DARE YOU?!?” 

But nobody did.

So it was just Phil lamenting into the void things like, “I know you wanted to win the million dollars, but you were also looking for love.”

Nobody felt regret. 

“Amazing Race” tried to do something that “Amazing Race” wasn't equipped to do this season and the experiment was an utter failure, but it speaks to the resiliency of the format that it didn't destroy the season entirely. I don't think this was a great season of “The Amazing Race,” but whatever problems I had with the season were entirely about weakly integrated product placement, redundant challenges and problematic Race architecture that left too many Legs stagnant and unchanged from start to finish. Other than the occasional awkwardness of Phil trying to play yenta, the dating twist was hardly a distraction at all. Those Date Rewards? I don't think they were even mentioned half of the time. And the blind-dating contestants themselves never volunteered information on whether they were experiencing stirrings in their hearts or loins, because nearly all of them knew immediately that “The Amazing Race” is a pretty dumb way to find love, nearly as dumb as doing your speed dating on a bus unable to drive below 50 mph. 

[The end of the episode suggested in the vaguely possible terms that Jeff and Jackie are in some sort of cahoots, be it emotional or physical nobody wanted to prod too hard. If they get married, hopefully they'll ask Phil to officiate, because he seemed really disappointed not to be doing that and even Matt & Ashley asking him to do their wedding didn't seem to make Phil happy.]

So maybe nobody really found love this season.

But at least two people won a million bucks, right?

So how did that go down?

Recap of the finale after the break…

I have to say that while I'm ambivalent as to whether anybody did or didn't find love this season, I'm disappointed that my “Romancing the Stone” speculation from last week about Hayley & Blair didn't come true.

Instead, I ended the episode feeling just horrible for Hayley.

I felt awful for her because, for want of a kinder way to put it, she really was responsible for the primary deciding factor in their not winning the million dollars.

But more than that, I feel awful for her because through her behavior around that unfortunate thing, she also offered confirmation for the many people who hated her this season, allowing them to continue to ignore all of the things she did well and all of the things that she was correct about. Instead, those people who think Blair deserves a prize for not inflicting violence on Hayley, will point to her confusion and her shrill “Blair. Help me make decisions here” crying when the cab driver was unable to get her to a place that she wasn't sure was the correct destination (and that wasn't the correct destination). 

Sadly, I know that the reason Blair & Hayley didn't have a chance to be in the hunt for the million bucks at the concluding memory task is because Hayley wasn't able to find a sea of red-and-yellow flags while dangling from a high building. She was the reason they successfully got many places throughout the Race and Blair was the reason they fell behind at certain other points during the Race. But in this instance, it's easy to point at her and blame her.

And I feel regretful about that, because through the rest of the episode, Blair & Hayley were unified in that cute and civil way they've been coming together in the past few Legs. They were encouraging and slightly flirty in the “City Slickers”-style ranching task. They cheered for each other during the gender stereotype-reenforcing first task. And even as Hayley was freaking out in her uncertainty about the location she hadn't spotted from the building, Blair never got impatient with her and he wasn't just being passive aggressive and distant in the way he was a bunch in the first half of the season. He was just trying to stay cool and deflect her frustrations. He was doing the things a partner — an “Amazing Race” partner, but perhaps also a life partner — is supposed to do. So it's just a pity that empirically, Hayley made a big blunder — her only big blunder, really — at the exact wrong time. 

Here's my question, though: Can anybody tell me why Tyler & Laura beat Jenny & Jelani at the Selfie Memory Challenge? I know Jenny & Jelani were making that task needless hard — You just had to put the selfies in chronological order on a map — but what was it they were struggling with? All we saw was that Jenny & Jelani came from behind to unlock the memory puzzle lock to the selfie cabinet and they'd moved into first, but then Laura & Tyler caught up and passed them with the selfies themselves. I'm not sure why it happened. 

All I know is that Laura & Tyler were very loud and boisterous as they sensed their victory was near and I've liked them enough all season that I'm not going to turn on them because Tyler's sour-grapes dislike for Hayley & Blair was so strange, repetitious and out-of-left-field. Did Hayley & Blair interact with Laura & Tyler at all this season? Then why were Laura and particularly Tyler so vocally unhappy with the chance of losing to that team? And why did the “Amazing Race” editors need to duplicate that anxiety as double-dramatic irony at the Roadblock when we already knew with certainty that Hayley had screwed up and gone the wrong place? That felt like rubbing salt in the wounds of the loser and buttressing winners who already received an exclusively positive edit this season. I guess if I wanted to know the reason for Tyler's Blair/Hayley insecurities, I would have needed to do exit interviews this season and I'm not even talking to the winners. Oh well.

I didn't say much about the episode's first Roadblock, because it ended up being negated through stupidity. And that's too bad, because it should have been awesome. 

Teams went to Cowboy Stadium and all four guys did the Roadblock because… football. That left all four gals on the sidelines yelling encouragement and I guess we should be relieved/disappointed that the non-participating partners weren't dressed up as Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Anyway, Cowboy Stadium is an absurdly awesome structure, particularly its record-breaking JumboTron and the task — being hoisted, in uniform, to the top of the roof to get a playbook, coming down and catching a pass and kicking an extra point — seemed fantastic as well. Not surprisingly, Tyler did well and he was able to move ahead of Mike, the only person who had an embarrassing on-camera pass drop, and putting his duo into first.

Then Laura & Tyler got outside and their cabbie didn't know what to do, so they sat and waited and finally just told their cabbie to follow Blair & Hayley's cab. Again, these are your winners. But Blair & Hayley's cab didn't know where to go either, so he sat there getting directions and Jelani and then Mike finished and for all of the coolness of the Roadblock, the teams were fumbling around in a parking lot in unison.

Mike & Rochelle, who started the Leg in last place, but got to Cowboy Stadium in first, fell behind again because their cabbie hadn't stayed. And then they fell behind even further because their cabbie was out of gas. 

And that was it for Mike & Rochelle. 

Despite their having gotten briefly into first, their elimination was still, on paper, another example of a team starting a Leg in last and being unable to get out of last this season. It was a problem through the season, but not really here. The finale had a lot of teams moving back and forth in placement, probably more than any other episode.

Mike & Rochelle, having faced elimination a couple times previously, were chill when Phil sent them home. I like them. I want them to be happy and for Mike to get along well with Rochelle's son. Say what you will for this season, but I don't wish ill on any of the four remaining teams and that's not always the case.

From Cowboy Stadium there was the “City Slickers” task where players ponied up and had to ford horses and cattle across a stream and into a pen. Nobody did poorly at this, though Jenny fell off her horse and Hayley squealed a little bit.

And Hayley & Blair had a big lead going into the Dangle From a Building and Spot Flags Roadblock, where Hayley thought she saw “Amazing Race” colors atop a parking structure roof. She did not. Jenny also had problems and saw the same false flags, but she was dangling at the same time as Laura, who saw the correct flags. It's easy to mock Hayley, but if Jenny had been alone, there's every chance she'd have made the same mistake. 

Again, I don't know what Laura & Tyler did right with the Selfie Memory Challenge that Jenny & Jelani did wrong, but since Tyler has been this season's most selfie-invested contestant, I guess it was appropriate that they'd succeed there. Although they were a tiny bit grating in the last Leg, Laura & Tyler managed teamwork tremendously through the season. After all of the fun last year in trying to figure out if Maya & Amy were the weakest winning team ever — behind the Beekmans, if memory serves — Laura & Tyler are pleasantly average “Amazing Race” winners and at the final mat, nobody seemed at all unhappy about their victory. 

Now let's leave “The Bachelor” to “The Bachelor” and let “Amazing Race” get back to “Amazing Race” next season? 

A few other thoughts from Friday's finale:

*** Rochelle's last words about Michael — “My son is gonna be lucky to get to know him.” — were mighty sweet. Phil's words in eliminating them — “I'm sorry to tell you that all the cattle have been rounded up.” — were mighty silly.

*** Speaking of sweet: Blair piggy-backing Hayley to the final mat? Awww. But Hayley's “I'm pretty sure this will haunt me the rest of my life.” Awww. That's too bad. But the Hayley H8rs will harp on her yelling at Blair to buckle up in their monster truck.

*** Probably too much cabbie involvement in this finale. It wasn't wholly determinative, but it played a role.

Anyway… Thoughts on the finale or the season?