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'The Amazing Race': I left my integrity in San Francisco

98733_D0410 Is it just me or is the final leg of "The Amazing Race" often a complete and utter letdown?

I don't just mean because the ultimate victors--though that did kill me as well this week--but because for some reason the producers aren't usually able to produce very much drama once the final three teams return to the United States. Previous seasons have had teams eat pizza (Chicago) or visit a doughnut shop (Portland); here, the teams had to climb a building, visit a virtual computer world, carry a trunk and unscramble some posters.

Did the producers of "The Amazing Race" learn nothing from "Up"? Namely, that adventures can happen right in your own backyard? 

Final legs shouldn't be a collection of head-scratching and often mundane tasks like they were here. Would the Lucasfilm/Industrial Light and Magic task have been interesting and dramatic elsewhere on the race? Sure, if it fell somewhere in the middle of the season's run. But for a final task in the last leg with $1 million  riding on the outcome, it felt pretty lame.

But that went for most of this leg, really. After one team managed to get off the plane first, it seemed as though the entire ending of this around-the-world scavenger hunt really came down to which team was sitting in first class... Which, throughout the entire series run of "The Amazing Race," has been strictly verboten.

Granted, Jordan and Dan didn't purchase first-class tickets and were able to persuade a flight attendant to move them from coach to the front of the plane. Which is really an ingenious move, so long as it didn't invalidate any of the rules of the game. I've always been of the mind that the reason why contestants weren't able to sit in first class was because of significantly higher pricing and certain inequalities with the other passengers that would happen as a result. (If, say, there were only first-class seats on a plane that was otherwise sold out.) But it does create an unfair advantage as well when it comes to deplaning as one team found themselves in a completely different class and exited the plane significantly before the others (and therefore were able to clear customs and immigration much more quickly).

Then there were Jordan and Dan themselves. Never before has a team that I didn't have a problem with transform seemingly overnight into complete and utter jackasses that I wanted to see eliminated straightaway. There was last week's mental breakdown in a taxicab, culminating in Dan actually threatening physical violence against the driver. 

But this week, the duo--who had previously played with a good deal of sportsmanship and camaraderie with the other players--decided to make enemies for no real reason. Why did Jordan put his backpack down in front of Jet and Cord at the airline ticket counter? What was gained by attempting to cut ahead of the cowboys, given that they all ended up on the same flight, other than escalating things between the teams? Was it sporting of him to do so? He claimed that it was cool. It wasn't. "Hate the game all you want," he said to the cameras, "just don't hate the player."

But was it necessary? What did he really gain except suddenly, in the final leg of the race, prove that they weren't as good or nice as viewers had perhaps thought all along? There's a time to be strategic and a time to infuriate people and Jordan picked the wrong time all around.

I do believe that because the brothers were in first class on the flight to San Francisco that they had an advantage and a major early lead that neither of the two other teams were ever able to make up. As there were no equalizers on the leg and no Detours, the outcome of the race was all but decided as a result of where they sat on the plane. So I'll go ahead and say it: unfair.

Maybe I wouldn't be calling shenanigans if I had a better feeling about these two, but the mere fact that they must have called each other "bro" about 700,000 times this leg just got under my skin after their behavior at the airport. 

Sure, they weren't as bad as the truly loathsome Brent and Caite, who once again managed to make themselves look worse than ever as they insulted their cab driver, each other and the entire audience's intelligence. (Caite's favorite word this week was "dumb ass." Way to go proving to everyone just how intelligent you are!) And Brent continued his streak of showing the world just how ethnocentric he is, bemoaning, "Why are we in America and no one speaks English?" Wow.

Before this and the leg before, I would have been fine with Dan and Jordan winning (especially over Brent and Caite), though it has been clear to anyone that I've been rooting for cowboys Jet and Cord since the beginning of the season. But it's a game that's often decided for you by inept taxi drivers, bad recall, or an inability to swallow a deep-dish pizza in under a minute.

Once Dan had reached the top of Coit Tower (the sole Road Block this week) before Cord had even strapped on the vertical ascender, I knew that the two brothers would be crowned the winners. And I have to question why the producers thought that the Lucasfilm virtual reality exercise would inject any sense of drama, though I do have to wonder why they made the route so convoluted that Jet was stuck waking for Jordan to stop spinning around at the end so he could advance to the next round. (I did, however, love how Cord attempted to sabotage Dan by shouting inane directions at Jet, who hadn't even arrived on the sound stage yet.)

From there, the teams had to write down a long clue that sent them to the Tonga Room, San Francisco's oldest tiki bar, where they grabbed a trunk and carried it to the American Music Hall. (Yawn.) There, they had to unscramble some "psychedelic" posters depicting the racers in order to get their next clue. Jordan had written down each team that had been eliminated all along so they breezed through the challenge and figured out a child-like riddle that sent them to Candlestick Park, the finish line for the race.

A final attempt at false drama--would they get a cab in time?!?--didn't create any real sense of urgency since it was clear that they were way ahead of the cowboys. And ultimately, Dan and Jordan crossed the finish line first, with Jet and Cord landing in second place. I do have to say that I'm really bummed that the cowboys weren't the winners. They played the game well and with a real sense of humor and honor. They were very sportsman-like and, as Jet said at the finish line, that they had played the game" with their character and integrity intact." Which is more than I can say for Dan and Jordan, really.

Brent and Caite came in last as Caite said that she had been successful at her goal on the race: to "prove that I am an intelligent person." But any efforts to apologize to a much aggrieved Brandy and Carol resulting in the ousted duo raining down hellfire on Caite in the final moments of the season. Ouch.

What did you think of the season finale? Depressed the cowboys came in second? Were you surprised by Dan and Jordan's suddenly cutthroat behavior this week? Did they break a cardinal "Amazing Race" rule by sitting in first class? Think that Brent and Caite need to head to sensitivity training? Did the right team win? Head to the comments section to discuss. 

-- Jace Lacob (Follow my musings on television, food and more television on Twitter at @televisionary)

Photo: Bros forever, Dan and Jordan are the ultimate winners of "The Amazing Race." Credit: CBS / Monty Brinton.

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Comments () | Archives (31)

I am bummed that the Jet/Cord didn't win and at the same time glad the Brent//Caite didn't win. Dan/Jordan were such crybabies during most of the race. It's the producers fault for not creating a more challenging leg for the finale. I kept hoping there would be a penalty at the end for "first class", but no avail.

If there wasn't a "bitter lesbian" stereotype before, there certainly is now, with the absolutely poor behavior of Carol and Brandy. Sure, the models are not bright, but they're TEENAGERS. For a 47 year old woman to exude such venom for a teenage girl is really unseemly.

I agree with your observations regarding where players are allowed to sit on a plane. Whether the "Bros Forever" team paid for the seats or not is irrelevant. The flight attendant should have known what was going on ("hey - look at that - someone from CBS is taping our flight...." Duh!!) Sure, it's anybody's luck when they get the faster taxi driver, donkey, camel, etc. I am sure that had the move to first class been recognized as a violation of rules the "Bros" would have been sent back to Shanghai to right their wrong - or at least been given a 30 minute penalty at the finish line! The clear winners of this game were Jet and Cord. They embodied the ideals of America in the way they played - with fairness, honesty, intellegence and integrity.

Ugh. Simply ugh.

First things first. As much as I personally dislike Dan and Jordan for their whiny, freakishly impish behavior - including the totally unnecessary move of resulting in the ticket window drama - I can't get on them for a smart strategic move in getting bumped to first class. That was very smart, and doesn't violate any Race rules. Anytime I fly, I look for open seats in first class and try to convince a stewardess to let me sit up there. Why should it be any different on the race?

The real problem, though, as said in this article, is that the outcome of the ENTIRE race was decided by a ruddy flight. Long distance flights generally serve as equalizers in the race, not a conduit for victory. I also agree that the entire final leg was pretty ho-hum. The producers tried desperately to inject a sense of drama into the proceedings, but we all knew it was over the minute Dan and Jordan arrived at Coit.

Seriously, what happened to challenging final legs? I've seen some good ones in the past, but it's just gotten ridiculous. It's not like the United States lacks its own share of interesting cultural tasks. And the psychedelic poster game was just stupid. That's a huge problem - the final leg generally has some sort of memory game recapping events during the course of the race. The one tonight was soooooo basic and obvious. How hard is it to remember the order of elimination of eight other teams, along with a few non-elimination legs? Not at all. Previous seasons required contestants to recall all sorta of seemingly inconsequential trivia from the race - not just basic stuff found on a casting card. It was extremely weak.

The Star Wars thing was dumb, plain and simple. I'm amazed some sort of Star Wars something isn't being promoted at present (though perhaps it was to remind us of the upcoming "Star Tours" revamps?). And how on EARTH did they not foresee a programming problem that resulted in Jet just standing there breathing down Mr. Happy's neck, unable to move?

All personal feelings and love for the incredibly classy cowboys (who really showed us all how good level-headedness and teamwork are) aside, this was a disappointing end to a season. The producers have got to do more with the final leg. Obviously it's hard to generate excitement when one team is so obviously out front, but there must be ways, right? Previous seasons have had two-hour finales. Lengthen it! Give the contestants greater tasks in both quantity and difficulty. Generate SOMETHING that actually allows the final leg to be a race and not an afterthought.

And regarding the sourpuss lesbians - get a life. Seriously. I loathe Caite and her inept companion, but whether the decision to U-turn was personal or strategic, it was there decision. Contestants are driven by a wide range of factors. If a team had been rude to me from day one, I'd surely look for a chance to send them on their way, even if it didn't make the most strategic sense. Carol needs to grow up and act like the 50-year old woman that she is.

I still love TAR, but there is reason to pause and have some concern for the way some legs and tasks have been designed as of late; lest we all forget the Wayne Newton-centric finale from last season (BLEH).

I wanted the cowboys to win so bad! I felt sick to my stomach thinking that those winey brothers might win. Cowboys, you showed so much integrity....you are winners in my book!!!

I Googled the cowboys-and in fact they are REAL bull riders/cowboys. I was very sad they did not win, my daughters and I rooted for them the entire season. They seemed to enjoy the ride, not the race, and they had a rare gentility, sense of humor, honor and integrity. I told my teen daughters to look for that in a man when they are thinking about getting married, and it is nice to know that men like this still exist. When the chips were down, these two never exploded or abused each other or anyone else. I am so very very jealous of the "Mrs.Cowboys!" (McCoy actually)

Like you,I was really hoping the cowboys would win,they were fun to watch,always gracious and fierce competetors,but the boys won,you can,t take that away from them,figuring out how to slow the script down on the screen was genious,that to me is how they won,not the seating on the planeAs for Caite,her biggest problem was her partner,God! what a whiney jerk he was.

Oh my gravy, I loved the Cowboys to death -- gutted they didn't win. I had started disliking the "bros" a few weeks ago -- they were too whiny, too quick to become impatient and break down into hysterics (the thing in the cab last week was unwarranted and a little scary). The incident at the airport was the last straw - completely unnecessary and unsportsmanlike. Hate the race and not the racer? Uh no -- you got that backwards, Ace.

I actually liked the Lucasfilm challenge -- if they had added a difficult detour afterward or if the final putting everything in order challenge was more, er, challenging, it would have added a great deal to the drama. Everyone knows that they'll recap the season somehow for the final challenge - and you knew the brothers would know that given Jordan's fandom. I've never seen them make it so easy on them, though.

The one bright spot was that Brent and Caite didn't win. Hated them with a passion!

Amen to everything you wrote. Very sad Jet and Cord didn't win. Much aggrieved with TAR producers for making us love them so much and root for them all the way and then in the end have us watch them lose. Not cool... especially since the other brothers had such a bad edit over the last couple of weeks. I mean they were so rude to their taxi driver last week (after basically giving up on thinking for themselves and waiting 2 hours to ride Mike and Louie's coattails) and then this week, bags, first class... aaaaaaargh! The final leg should be longer, more stressful and have more drama. This was such an anticlimactic ending.

I say again, how dare the producers make us like one team SO VERY MUCH (although in the end I suppose no amount of editing could have made Jet and Cord seem any less lovable and honourable than they were)and then make us watch them get beaten by a such a very irritating team (but hey, least it wasn't Brent and Caite. Although in the end, Jordan and Dan ranked way down there with B and C). I'm sad...

Very disappointed that Jet/Cord didn't win, and agree that once it was revealed that Dan/Jordan moved to 1st Class, it was pretty much a done deal that they were going to win. I didn't dislike D/J until the last 2 episodes. To quote Jace: "Then there were Jordan and Dan themselves. Never before has a team that I didn't have a problem with transform seemingly overnight into complete and utter jackasses that I wanted to see eliminated straightaway. There was last week's mental breakdown in a taxicab, culminating in Dan actually threatening physical violence against the driver." Ugh. So disappointing.

I agree, too, that this was the lamest final leg ever. They need to eliminate the memory challenge or, um, make it more challenging. I seem to recall the final leg being much longer with multiple tasks and quite a bit of reliance on taxis. This leg should be a nice mix of extreme physical and extreme mental challenges - I mean, they ARE racing for a million dollars for crying out loud.

As I said, very disappointing outcome, but it was very enjoyable watching the Cowboys every week. Oh my gravy! will be in my vocabulary for quite awhile!

I was impressed throughout the season with the cowboys - unlike Dan & Jordan or the models, they were always kind to each other, sportsmanlike, and gracious to their host countries. I don't remember ever seeing them throw a hissy fit or yell at each other or tear each other down. They really represented our country well overseas, which is more than I can say for most Amazing Race contestants.

I felt that the brothers cheated by putting their backpacks in front of Jet & Cord and that they should have gotten at least a 30 minute penalty once they arrived in San Francisco. And I agree with you - the finale was lame. Basically, whoever got off the plane first was going to be the winner. Sheesh!

We are all very disappointed in my family - although it gave us a great forum to talk to our nine-year old son about how cheaters are never TRUE winners.

I truly think that Jet and Cord should have won the brothers broke the rules and cheated. At the very least they should have incured a 15 minute penalty. Dan and Jordan were huge babys throuhout the whole race and the only reason they got as far as they did was by riding the coats tails of the cops and lesbians. Jet and Cord should ahve won hands down. Oh and what grown man cries about making pasta? (I bet his Dad was proud)

I was pretty bummed that the Cowboys didn't win. I too have been rooting for them from Day 1, and was sad to see them come in 2nd. But I was glad to see them come in 2nd with their integrity intact. They were two of the classiest reality show contests I've ever seen.

Since this was my first AR, I was surprised at how boring, and easy the tasks were on the final leg. I fully expected the final episode to be one of the biggest and best episodes of the season, and was very let down.

I was also pretty pissed at Dan and Jordan, while their move to 1st Class, did seem to me like a pretty smart move, I didn't know 1st Class seating was prohibited, so that might be a problem, but the fact that they cut in line to get tickets was ridiculous. I couldn't believe that they stooped so low. But again I was glad to see the Cowboys decide to deal with it, rather than "throw him by his backpack" or "kick him in his face" (quotes are paraphrased) But I was glad to see them get revenge by completely pissing off Dan with Cord's hilarious instructions.

And I was appalled at "the lesbians" behavior. While everyone else was clapping enthusiastically when The models ran in, one of them hardly clapped at all and the other stood with her arms crossed, and then showed just how horrible they truly are by going off on Caite when she tried to offer an apology. It was hideous behavior, and further proof that Brent and Caite made the right decision in getting rid of them, over teams that were more competitive.

It's too bad Jet couldn't have found a way to sholve crybaby Jordan out of the way instead of having to wait for Dan to read the spinning clue. I hope we see the Cowboys later on down the road, is there an All-Stars Amazing Race? They made this season so much fun.

What makes me laugh about the fact that Carol and Brandy still weren't able to cool down through several legs, is that if you watched their elimination episode, they were hell bent on getting to the U-Turn to do it to the Cowboys. They have had an overinflated sense of their own intelligence from the beginning, having to always put down Brent and Caite to make themselves seem better, and in the end, I loved how Caite got the final word in against her.

They just didn't like that someone beat them at their own game.

Sitting in first class was unfair. They should be disqualified. They are a couple of phonies and do NOT deserve the money. You are right about putting that back pack down..............they acted like tools.

The finale was disappointing.

I was vowing to myself that I would never watch TAR again if the Cowboys didn't win. It was making me sick that the brothers were winning, after so many sub-par performances. The Cowboys were true gentlemen and were never once shady, mean or negative. I loved their spirit and outlook.
I would LOVE to see the brothers go up against Jet and Cord in a bull riding event!
As far as Brandy. She was a classic example of how ugly it is to be mean and nasty. Good job perpetuating the angry lesbian stereotype! She and her partner were crappy, whiny players anyway.

I was sad that the cowboys did not win. They were my favorites. I am however, glad that the models didn't win. I didn't much like those other brothers they were always crying or whining. Those cowboys were always classy. Still sad about the ending should have been the cowboys.

The "Cowboys" Jet & Cord won our hearts. Very classy behaviour. I agree with just about all the comments before mine. I just wonder how the badly behaved teams treat each other when they're NOT on camera? Could it get much worse?

Jace, thanks for nailing the problems with AR's final episode-A+ for Jet and Cord playing the game with grace, skill and humor-D- for letting cheaters win, homophobic/obnoxious models play and for a letdown of a final challenge! This was the first time I watched the whole season, and much as I loved getting to know Jet/Cord, Steve/Allie and some of the others, the whiny Dan/Jordan and immature/racist Caite/Brent were downright horrible to watch each week!
Next season, please weight the games correctly, cast more interesting and travel-worthy contestants and have Phil bawl out jerks for us-please!

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