And we’re back! As always with the season finale, Phil takes the time to recap the humiliating exit of each and every team before reminding us that we’re down to a pair of reporters, a pair of superfans, and two people who most emphatically strain the definition of the word “pair”. And now, on with the final leg of the Amazing Race!
Logan and Chris, who somehow miraculously came in first last time, get to leave first…but it doesn’t matter, because as is typical for the final leg, everyone is heading to New York City on the same flight. There’s a “calm before the storm” atmosphere as all the teams hang out in the airport, with Justin unsurprisingly convinced that racing for the Finish Line in his home town will bring victory, and Logan predicting that Justin will “be all like, ‘We’re from the Bronz, doyyy'”, while flailing her arms around like Kermit the Frog. I cannot say I am even a tiny bit surprised by this.
The teams land in New York and all grab taxis for Randall’s Island, which is apparently one of the locations Justin used to stage his fake Race. This time, though, they’re going to the New York City Fire Department Training Academy for a Roadblock where they get to dress up like a firefighter and crawl through a simulated burning building to rescue a dummy, before arranging fire helmets with world capitals printed on them–
But who cares? We’ve got TAXI DRAMA!
See, Justin and Diana get to the island first. They offer their driver an extra fifty bucks to wait for them. The driver thought they were offering him an extra hundred, and starts to explain that his time is worth a hundred. Justin cuts him off, pays the fare exactly, refuses to tip, and lets his taxi go. Justin and Diana are now taxiless.
Chris and Logan get there right behind them. They pay their taxi driver, and ask him to stay with the promise of a return fare. Justin then takes the Roadblock for his team, with Chris taking it for the Paparazzi. Then the Reporters get there, and tell their driver to leave the meter running. Joey takes the challenge, and all three teams begin hauling hoses, crawling through smoke, and all the other things that make a reasonable facsimile of the kind of training a firefighter has to do all day every day until they get it right. (Oh, and Chris drops his dummy child on the ground.)
Justin finishes the memory challenge first, and gets the clue…but he has no taxi. He decides that hey, the Paparazzi have a taxi just hanging out there, and there’s nothing in the rules of the Race that prohibits you from taking another team’s taxi (unless it has their bags in it, but everyone checked their bags so they could run faster on the last leg). He asks if the driver will take them to Belmont Park in Long Island…but the driver, on finding out that he’ll have to drive out to Long Island and probably won’t have a fare for the way back, makes an excuse about not knowing where it is and drives away with nobody. (The Reporters’ taxi driver is still waiting on his fare with the meter running and has no intention of leaving.)
Justin and Diana start walking, looking for somewhere they can find a taxi. For some inexplicable reason, they don’t ask anyone to call one on their behalf, instead just walking and walking and walking and finally jumping on a bus, only to find they’re on the wrong bus and walking and busing some more. Chris and Logan try to steal Joey and Kelsey’s cab, but a) their driver is still waiting to get paid and has no intention of driving off, and b) Joey and Kelsey are holding the passenger door open and inviting the Paparazzi to leave with a polite, “Get the hell out!” Chris gets out, and Logan, furious with him for giving up on their bold taxi heist, gets out as well so that she can do some more quality screaming at him. Joey and Kelsey drive off, having just negotiated the most important challenge of all.
A split-screen montage shows Justin angrily berating his own poor-decision making, and Logan angrily berating Chris. Both teams do eventually get a taxi, of course, but they’re definitely hemorrhaging time while they bus back into Manhattan. Logan spends what has to be the most awkward bus ride ever continuing to berate Chris for not forcing the taxi driver to leave at gunpoint, while a clearly adrenaline-crazed Joey insists he would have “thrown them out on their asses” if they’d tried it. It is all freaking insane.
Everyone makes it to Belmont Park, in Reporters/Paparazzi/Green Team order, where they find private helicopters waiting to take them to the Hamptons. There they get to take jet-skis out to a lobster boat, where they get to haul up lobster pots and do another memory challenge, this one with flags–
But who cares? We have the best alternate episode title EVER! As Logan and Chris get to the helicopters in a distant second, Chris suddenly decides that the firefighting outfit is too cumbersome. He shouts out, “I’m taking my pants off!” How they did not go with this one will elude me to my dying day.
Jet-skiing ensues, with Kelsey turning out to be an experienced jet-skier and Logan and Chris bickering about how to get the jet-ski off the beach. Then there is lobster-pot hauling, which quite clearly is one of the more arduous physical tasks they’ve had to do this entire Race. After lobsters are collected, the memory challenge begins…with one twist. There’s a flag that doesn’t belong to any of the countries they’ve visited.
Joey and Kelsey are only slightly thrown by this, and get it right on the second try. Justin and Diana aren’t fooled even for a second, and get it right on the first try to jump into second place. Chris and Logan stare at the flags for a long while, trying to figure out which one goes with “Africa”. Now, I’m not saying I’d do well at this challenge. Geography’s not my strong suit, and I freely admit that I couldn’t tell the flag of one country in Africa from another or even name them all. But I at least know that they exist. I never thought I would feel smug in that knowledge until now.
After getting their clue, Joey and Kelsey head back to the beach, where they get to ride dune buggies. There is a conspicuous lack of shouting, “WHEEEEEE!” as they ride across the beach, and we are left completely uninformed about whether their tires are filled with water. Nonetheless, they get to their next task, which is to assemble Adirondack chairs with scenes from the Race painted on them and then arrange them in order as their third memory challenge–
Oh my god. Logan just suggested that maybe one of the flags was “Oregon”, because it had a wagon wheel. Apparently her knowledge of geography begins and ends with pioneers dying of dysentery.
Joey and Kelsey begin assembling. There is much EXTREEEEEEEEME carpentry! Justin and Diana get there while they’re still working, and Justin wastes no time…in loudly boasting about Diana’s woodworking skills, reminding the Reporters that it’s down to the two of them racing for first, and generally smack-talking. Oh, and he also does a little hammering, too.
Chris and Logan finally figure out that Africa may have at least two countries.
Joey and Kelsey finish, but the judge (who wears a sweater tied around his shoulders in a perfect example of the kind of person you’d expect to see in the Hamptons) turns out to be kind of a hardass when it comes to proper chair assembly technique. They have to hammer out several of their nails and redo the sloppy work. Could this be it? Could this be the moment when Justin and Diana pass them by, winning the eighth leg they’ve been fucking bragging about since India and the million dollar prize and the whole goddamned Amazing Race?
Fuck. No. Turns out that Justin and Diana’s judge is just as much of a hardass when it comes to Adirondack chairs, as well as a similar enthusiast for tied-off sweaters. He sends them back to hammering out boards and redoing their work, which gives Joey and Kelsey the time they need to do it right. And oh hey, the Finish Line is within sprinting distance!
Which means that after five continents, 10 countries, and over 34,000 miles, Joey and Kelsey are the winners of the Amazing Race. They celebrate with the other teams, who appear to be genuinely happy to see them come in first, while Justin hammers the air in defeat. The two of them come in second, but Justin will clearly spend the rest of his life kicking himself for getting cheap with a taxi driver to the tune of $900,000. He sulks his way through Phil’s speech at the mat, cries in the post-leg interviews despite winning tens of thousands of dollars in cash and prizes, and generally makes an ass of himself.
Logan and Chris eventually finish. They are still arguing about the damn taxi. They make it to the Finish Line, and Phil actually sticks his hand into the piranha tank by asking, in essence, “What’s the goddamn deal with you two, anyway?” Logan explains that they’re just like this, that maybe they need therapy, but this is just the dynamic of their relationship and it doesn’t mean they’re breaking up. Chris says, “Maybe we should.” Logan purses her lips tightly and snaps out, “He’s just trying to be funny.”
And then they all gather together, hugging and smiling and laughing (and in the case of Justin, sobbing a bit) as they celebrate being part of an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. For that moment, it’s possible to believe that win or lose, one leg or twelve, they are all united by their shared joy at being part of something rare and special. They have seen the world, and it has changed them…and I always feel that this moment at the end of each Race is a little special. And I think I always will.
And then we get a preview of TAR 28, which features eleven teams of social media celebrities (well, they’re more famous than I am, at least) summoned from their homes and vlogs to race around the world. There will be mud, there will be fireworks, there will be fish. Can they survive? See you then!