By Henning Fog, Hollywood.com Staff
You learn the story of the Tortoise and the Hare at such an early age, but rarely if ever is its central lesson actually validated in real life. Fast people win the race! Whether it's a business meeting or the Olympics (where fastest literally wins the race), rarely if ever does the notion of slow and steady pay off in any significant way. Certainly not in America, home of the Ford Escape. And yet here we are, finally arrived at the end of a 12-leg, month-long race around the world and it's the slowest, steadiest team in the pack that emerge as the ultimate winners. Anyway: Congratulations, Beekmans!
But first let's rewind two hours to Mallorca, Spain, where four teams still competed for the top prize. After a little preamble from Phil, giving us everyone's stake in the race (family medical bills, mortgages, jet skis) and a quick preview of the passive-aggressive taunting to follow, we were off and running. Or driving, in the ALL-NEW FORD ESCAPE WHICH EVERYONE LOVED. ""Awesome!"" said the Twins. ""That's crazy cool."" ""I want one."" ""Get me one."" And that was before everyone found out about the car's hands-free back hatch! In fairness, The Amazing Race does a far better job than most shows at keeping its product placement to a dull roar. No one's peddling REFRESHING PEPSI at a Marrakech Bazaar or struggling through the GO DADDY WHO'S YOUR DADDY? lost kid challenge in Burma, and for that we should be perpetually grateful. If keeping your production costs down means showcasing a car I'm sure my mom wants, along with all the other cool moms? Do your thing, van Munster.
En route to Loire Valley, France, Twins couldn't shut up about how much the Beekman Boys ""coasted their way"" to the Final Four, ""taking up a spot"" that belonged to someone else. Okay! Once Trey and Lexi and Chippendales started chiming in, too, the conversation was loud enough to be heard by the nearby Beekmans. They sat down with the rest of the group in what looked like the race's most uncomfortable yearbook photo yet. The high school pettiness continued as teams grabbed their FORD ESCAPES to Chateau de Villandry, the Beekmans removed from the trio's planning. Twins once more intimated how frustrating it is to have a team like them around, by which I think they meant a team they're forced to compete with? Or more specifically a team that knew the local language when no one else did, which had its advantages.
I've got something to say about Speed Bumps, which is: They're stupid. Tie up some lady's corset? Five more minutes of physical activity, tops, and that's factoring in travel time (here a brisk walk from the route marker everyone was at anyway). A real challenge might present more geographical inconvenience, or force a team to actually think in the abstract. But rote physical tasks at a nearby location offer nothing by way of a dramatic impediment. I mean, I get it you've got a team viewers like that the producers have a vested interest in keeping around. Why offer a challenge that ensures their definite dismissal? But on a show whose reality credibility is so often head and shudders above everyone else's, those more orchestrated moments really stand out.
Anyway, the joys of watching the Chateau's ""Lady of the House"" get corseted by two screaming Sri Lankan twins in Lululemon gear paled in comparison to those same twins screaming at their alliance not to help Josh and Brent. ""Don't let them ride on your coattails!"" they called out, literally running next to the non-Speed Bump teams as they made their way toward the Ford fleet. ""Don't even talk to them!"" This was 30 minutes before they'd be eliminated, and even then I wasn't totally sure what to make of the Twins. On the one hand, I think they're insane? On the other, they seem genuinely able to take whatever craziness they're dishing out. The latter was on display at the Detour they and the Beekmans chose, where teams were tasked with weighing, cutting, and sorting various types of meat for a small army of hunting dogs. ""You're the evil gays today!"" they threw at Josh and Brent, accusing them of faking a leg injury, too. The Beekmans took it in stride and threw trash-talk right back, getting in the Twins' heads about their dwindling alliance. A Mean Girl detente? ""If we lose again to them I'm going to kill myself,"" Natalie threatened. Then laughed. As the dogs howled and howled.
The Chippendales and Team Texas plowed a field, and did it well. There is not much more to say.
GALLERY: Best and Worst TV Gamechangers
Post-Detour, all four teams headed to La Cave des Roches, where dark, musty tunnels provided the perfect growing environment for 10 varieties of mushrooms teams needed to collect. (""ERRYDAY I'M TRUFFLIN'"" I sadly muttered at the TV.) Lexi nailed the configuration on round one; Jaymes got it on round two. Meanwhile I pondered how much it would suck to die in a mushroom cave.
Twins and Beekmans arrived at practically the same time, the latter I have to imagine on the coattails of the former. And while it was Natalie and Nadiya who snuck out of the cave first while Brent still struggled to find the exit that wouldn't be the end of the race. Because for what felt like the first time this whole season, teams actually struggled with directions and translation! Trey and Lexi fumbled their way to the pit stop. Twins actually just went the wrong direction entirely.
Where creative editing might in the past have suggested that Beekmans' ""will they pull it out?"" was phony, that was not the case tonight. Josh and Brent pulled off something miraculous and, miracle of miracles, earned their way into the Top Three. On elimination, Twins noted that Beekmans ""have tricks up their sleeves."" But they also acknowledged their own shortcomings, namely needing to ""harness our reactions into more positive directions."" You're often shrill and circle more than few entries on the DSM-IV, ladies, but dammit if you're not full of life and, surprisingly, honest reflection. We're going to miss you for the next 500 words!
And we're back! A postcard kicks off the FINAL LEG OF THE RACE, featuring a boardwalk scene with the inscription ""Wish You Were Here!"" Being that teams know they're heading to New York, it can really only be Coney Island, but I was pulling for one team to confuse boardwalks and head to Seaside Heights, NJ. THAT would have been a hell of a Speed Bump. But no one blinks, and everyone smoothly makes their way to the Big Apple. How do you feel heading into this last stretch, Trey? ""We've been battling the Chippendales these last few legs and I think this leg is going to be sort of the same."" Wiser words, buddy.
While the music department worked overtime to provide a score that screamed FASTER AND WITH MORE INTENSITY, the three remaining teams scanned the boardwalk looking for the scene from their clue. The dog in sunglasses some cameraman found along the way basically made the entire race, but before we could learn more about him teams had figured out that they needed to head to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and do something related to Houdini. Could it involve a straitjacket? YES.
Race has, and has long had, this weird habit of starting and ending the season with these wickedly terrifying gravity-focused challenges. In between, you sell energy drinks to Japanese businessmen and search caves for friggin' mushrooms, but when money's really on the line? You're dangling 15 stories high trying to get out of a straitjacket before you're let go, plunging toward earth. It's understandable that anyone might freak out a little. Once upon a time, a challenge like this might actively deter a team, presenting a near-insurmountable obstacle, but Trey, Brent, and Jaymes all made it through okay.
Next up: pizza at Little Italy's oldest pizzeria, Lombardi's. Could you memorize orders for and deliver 10 pizzas around lower Manhattan? Trey and Lexi could, no problem, but like me, the Beekman Boys had difficulty matching pies and places. To be fair, their itinerary was a list of generic New York settings anyone might confuse: the hair salon! A bike store! Probably a firehouse and taxi dispatcher, too, though we didn't see them. Residences they delivered to were opened by New Yorkers who, not surprisingly, did not look thrilled to be greeted by Amazing Racers. ""Whatsamattahyou?"" everyone said, I think. When Josh and Brent were forced to revisit some of the locations they screwed up, Chippendales made up more ground. And the Race tightened, and the music quickened and everyone sat up in their chairs except me who had accidentally Googled ""Beekman Boys"" to see if I was spelling their name correctly and, time delay viewer that I am, had the ending totally spoiled for me. The remaining 15 minutes were just caked in misery.
GALLERY: Best and Worst TV Episodes of 2012
A familiar symbol led everybody next to the UN Headquarters, and the trickiest challenge of the leg (and maybe the race): identifying the expressions for ""hello"" and ""goodbye"" used at every Pit Stop along the way and matching them to their country of origin. Because NO team had bothered to write down any of these during the race. Thanks to public school language requirements, everyone of course got ""hola"" and ""adios."" After that two-and-a-half hours passed and the sun set before the three teams, pretty much totally even, got down to their final few flags. Josh approached his set like a ""math problem,"" he said, rotating as many word choices through as quickly as possible in an organized trial and error. Lexi, meanwhile, was knocked around by her flags and complained that the challenge was ""out of her control."" I think you are using that expression incorrectly, Lexi! Josh down to Bangladesh. James down to his last flag. Even match-up! The Beekmans finished. Chippendales finished shortly after. Gotham Hall. Pit Stop. Finish Line. GO BABY GO BABY G--
Without any jerk editing or falsely planted excitement, the outcome was clear before they entered the building (but after they came in second-to-last in nearly every of the preceding legs of the race): Beekman Boys had done it. After a truly great smooch I'd been waiting for all season, Josh and Brent turned to Phil and all their friends/enemies/Twins in the crowd of defeated Racers. ""If you just keep going, people will help and at some point you will win."" Josh spoke of how their money will help pay off the farm mortgage and allow them to stay closer, longer, than they've been for several years. What they didn't say but I will! is how their victory demonstrates the merits of a level head and kind heart. Remember their perpetually sad alliance with Abbie and Ryan? The way they stuck with their partners through to the end? I have to imagine that was cosmically rewarded in some way tonight, just winked at by some Higher Power.
None of which is to say the Chippendales (2nd) or Lexi and Trey didn't deserve it just as much, maybe more, but that good things happen to good people. This season, we've noted, was one of the flat-out NICEST on record. Backstabbing only occurred in the eyes of the slightly delusional (hi Abbie and Ryan!), and most often teams were looking out for one another -- trying to make the racing experience as pleasant for those around them as they could. And hey Chippendales still got two GREAT FORD ESCAPES out of the deal! While the world, Jaymes suggested, maybe got a ""different view of Chippendales. For better or worse."" Trey and Lexi didn't have much to say. Twins, who I figured would pipe up and offer some criticism of the way Beekmans conducted themselves on the mat, said nothing. It was Monster Trucker Rob, in his infinite wisdom, who offered his assessment of the race's conclusion: ""It's not for me to judge anyone on their lifestyle."" Okay!
Next Week: Counting down the Mayan Apacolypse
[Image Credit: Jonathan Littman/CBS]
Amazing Race Finale: Who Will Win? POLL
Amazing Race Recap: Beekman Rising
Amazing Race Recap: Nice Guys Finish (First Through) Last
From Our Partners:
Tom Cruise, Scientology To Be Focus of Tell-All Documentary (EXCLUSIVE)
DJs Behind Royal Prank Say They're 'Shattered,' 'Gutted' Since Nurse Killed Herself