Amazing Race Finale Recap: Stealthy Choice

After five continents, 23 cities, 40,000 miles, some ridiculous kangaroo suits, plates of greasy wiener schnitzel, and Kent’s unbelievably terrifying eyebrows, The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business reached its conclusion Sunday night with an intermittently tense, occasionally emotional finale.

The opening hour took the competitors from Switzerland to Rio de Janeiro, where the field was winnowed down from four teams to three. The leg started out poorly for Flight Time and Big Easy, who missed a train connection thanks to a sluggish cab driver, giving a 30-minute head start to the three remaining teams. But things quickly went Cape Horn-level south for Justin and Zev at a Road Block where the latter buddy had to apply his self-described “white-boy rhythm” to learning the samba, hip-swaying his way through the streets with a team of festive locals, and winning the approval of a dancing expert at the end of the route.

I’ve got to admit I’m always a little wary of challenges that have a subjective element to them, but I can’t blame the Brazilian party queen for holding up at “Não” sign to Zev’s “Tin Man sans oil” moves, while quickly giving her approval to Mallory, who performed the entire routine with an open-mouthed grin of pure joy. (I know a lot of folks get exhausted by Mal’s hooting enthusiasm, but I think she’s delightful.)

Unfortunately for Zev and Justin, their cab driver strayed off course on the way to the next task, a spa trip with a mandated 15-minute Brazilian waxing session for every contestant, and it was a deficit they would never overcome. And while I sympathized with Mallory for having to get side-by-side hair removal with her dad (!) — “not something you ever think you’re gonna experience in your life” — it was a far worse task for the hirsute Justin and Zev. “These challenges are not made for us,” sighed the former conteatant, shortly before the aesthetician pushed his writhing buddy’s head down to the table and ripped his armpit hair from its roots. It all started getting a little torture porn-y, though, watching a screaming Justin get the 40-Year-Old Virgin treatment. “What’s the penalty for knocking her out cold?” he asked, looking up at his spa-employee tormentor. By the time the 15 minutes was up, about a third of Justin’s chest hair was missing, creating an unfortunate, patchy pattern that’ll remind him of what he did to try to win a cool million for many months to come.

After a failed attempt to make up lost time on the Detour by selling bikinis to local beachgoers, the team who had won four previous legs followed Gary/Mallory, Kisha/Jen, and Flight Time/Big Easy teams to a cocktail-making challenge. As their rivals wrapped up and headed for the pit stop, though, Justin became philosophical, mixing Caipirinha No. 101 and splitting it with Zev on the cab journey to their elimination. “This would be romantic if we were a couple,” joked Justin, as they walked the beach to the Pit Stop. “He was the race, and I was the amazing,” chimed in Zev, and with that, the second half of the finale kicked off with a noticeable decrease in comic relief.

At this point, I should’ve guessed that Kisha and Jen were on their way to victory when they kicked off the second hour talking about wanting to use their prize money to give back to their single mom. I mean, hello, the episode was airing on Mother’s Day, and also, why try to create a sense of the warm fuzzies around the season’s nice-enough-but-kinda-dull ladies unless it was absolutely vital to a happy season-finale ending? Then again, credit has to be given to Kisha and Jen, who may not have won any previous leg of the Race, but who had also never really made a major tactical error or flirted with elimination.

Thankfully, Gary and Mallory finished the penultimate leg in first — and scored themselves a Mediterranean cruise in the process — seeing how their choice of cab at the Miami airport pretty much knocked them out of contention from the opening moments of the final leg. Speaking of which, don’t you wish that the show’s producers had forced the contestants to drive and navigate Miami themselves? I mean, seeing a team get wiped out of their chance at a million dollars due to sheer bad luck isn’t nearly as satisfying as seeing ’em fall behind due to navigational error, right?

Anyhow, the tasks in the leg ranged from “looks challenging, but made easier by expert supervision” (using a fork lift to move boats) to the “looks ridiculous, and pretty random” (a one-man submersible treasure hunt at Jules’ Undersea Lodge that made me think of Cougar Town, because its lead character is Jules Cobb and she lives in Florida). I did appreciate hearing that Jen took swimming lessons specifically in preparation for the Race, and chuckled at her suggestion that she only panics at the appropriate moments — like when she’s on the verge of drowning.

Another cabbie malfunction — the Globetrotters’ guy went temporarily AWOL — gave Kisha and Jen a short lead heading into a (not very exciting) walk cross ocean shallows to Horseshoe Island, then off to a trailer park to create the exact “trailerscape” from a kitschy postcard scene in brutally windy conditions, judged by a brutally coiffed woman named Miss Rose. Kisha and Jen again completed their task first — after figuring out they hadn’t correctly set their outdoor table — then headed with an insurmountable lead toward an adult tricycle race across Seven Mile Bridge. The producers tried valiantly to mask the distance between Kisha and Jen and the Globetrotters, but the fact that the competing teams were never shown in the same shot was pretty telling.

I have no idea why, but I got a little lump in my throat when Big Easy realized the sisters were too far ahead, and encouraged Flight Time to “take it all in, baby.” And, of course, who doesn’t get a little misty eyed at the end of the race, when all the vanquished teams gather together to cheer the top three past the finish line? Kisha and Jen, they did it for their mom, and even though they did it so stealthily that they never really captured my reality TV-addictied imagination, on a Mother’s Day season finale, how could I possibly object to the outcome?

What did you think of The Amazing Race season finale? How did you feel about the all-star edition overall? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Chmarin says:

    I sooo didn’t want the Globetrotters to win, so I was super pissed off when G&M fell behind at the beginning of episode two. So the finale was very nerve wracking for me. I was extremely happy for Kisha & Jen.

    Hated the final task, though. For an all-star season, they should’ve had a kick-ass final task about the past legs.

  2. Christina says:

    Very happy with the winners. I’ve always liked Keisha and Jen so to see them win was good. Overall I really enjoyed this season. It was a good cast of all-stars that they brought back. The only disappointments were a taxi driver taking Gary and Mallory out of the running, and the final task itself. The final task should always have to tie back to the events of the race. Other than that a great conclusion to a great season.

  3. Jenny says:

    Wanted Flight Time and Big Easy to win. In both their seasons they were always having a good time. But the final task is usually one that goes over all the legs so I was disappointed in the final task.

    Final leg should have them driving. It has happened multiple times where the cab driver has basically been the reason a team lost.

    • RP says:

      Agree with this. They didn’t bicker at each other, they supported each other and stayed funny and in good spirits the whole time. Love them, wish they had won!

  4. Sean says:

    My Random Thoughts:

    – The On The Beach Detour was an impossible task. The description stated that the teams had to walk around a beach and try to sell bikinis to people who would then model them, but let’s look at what it actually was: two people walking around a beach with bikinis who are trying to convince women to come into their little cloth cylinder, which they are holding for them, get partially naked in there, WHILE A TV CREW IS FILMING IT…and pay for the bikinis! Add in the fact that you’re trying to sell to a bunch of people who already have bikinis on, and that the only two people who tried it were half waxed/half hairy, with all of their exposed skin beet red from the waxing, and it’s justifiable that people on the beach wanted nothing to do with this. I’m surprised the police didn’t get called.

    -As the teams departed the airport in their cabs, there was a great overhead shot which was reminiscent of a CSI: Miami opening sequence. I was waiting for Phil to show up and do his best Horatio Caine impression, taking off his sunglasses and stating: “Well, Frank. It looks like these three teams have some (pause)…Unfinished Business.”

    I hope you’ll check out the rest of my Season Finale Recap at or you can just click my name.

  5. Betty says:

    I agree that in the final city it should be the teams driving themselves. Then it’s all on the team whether they succeed not the luck of the cab driver.

    And where was the final memory challenge about all the previous kegs? That was always a good place for teams to catch up.

    • DonMI says:

      I think they scrapped the memory challenge because contestants in the last few seasons used notes they made along the way rather than having to actually remember the order of events. It took all the challenge out of the task.

    • Minnie says:

      I think they don’t have them drive themselves because the teams would be tempted to drive way too fast (it’s for $1 million!) and could be dangerous. However, they could force them to navigate a driver and a car that was set up ahead of time, and that would make it more fair in the end. A bad cabbie is part of the game, but is a bummer on the final leg.

      I also agree that teams had outsmarted the memory challenge by taking notes, but they could have come up with something more interesting and challenging than the boat or the trailer park!

  6. JayK* says:

    I’m bummed. I wanted the Cowboys or Zev & Justin to win. Not a terribly exciting final leg. I agree it sucks when it all comes down to a bad cab driver. (Or when only one team has to redo a challenge because everyone else got help. Yup, still bitter.)

  7. Kim R says:

    I must say I was disappointed a wee bit. I was hoping for the cowboys all along so switched to the sometimes annoyingly perky Mallory & her dad for the win. Then the cab driver happened…I hate that. So other than not wanting the Globe Trotters to take it, I didn’t really care. :( As an aside, I think the waxing was way wrong to put the teams through. Getting them to eat strange foods are one thing but that was painful torture. I did not like it. It made me a titch angry. I felt like it crossed a line. All in all, other than the cheating that ousted the cowboys,the torture chamber of a spa in Brazil, it was a pretty enjoyable Race. :)

  8. Guy says:

    Kiesha and Jen are awesome. So glad they won The Amazing Race. Well done girls. Good to see another all girl team win. I did want Gary and Mallory to win but troubles caught them. I agree with you they should have been told to navigate themselves instead of relying on dodgy cab drivers.

    Best moment of the finale was definitely the waxing. I couldn’t stop laughing

    • Aeol says:

      My husband and I had tears tolling out of our eyes during the waxing. I could barely stay on my seat. I did start to feel kinda bad for Zev and Justin in those last few moments, but then they’d yank off another sheet of caramel and I’d just collapse again.

  9. Stephanie says:

    I was rooting for Justin and Zev- mainly because I felt Justin carried the team, he truly had a positive attitude, never letting Zev get too frustrated, and took their team almost to the end. He really was the Race, and Zev the Amazing (c’mon- silver PJs! Awesome! Haha). It’s sad to see them go out right before the end.

    Well with them out, I rooted for Mallory and Gary, and I felt awful for them. I despise it when it all comes down to a taxi ride. If the contestants get lost, it should be on their own accord- where they are driving themselves, not because of a taxi driver. The show says it’s all apart of the race, but I differ- they can change the rule and make it more fair. They want a race? Well them have the contestants leave an airport on equal footing.

    I am glad The Globetrotters lost. In their season I was a fan of them but towards the end of it, I really started to dislike them. Same thing happened this season. They had a bad attitude(although they showed better attitude in the finale)and I just didn’t enjoy watching them anymore. And well, it was really Big Easy I didn’t like, Flight Time I did indeed like.

    Kisha and Jen- I’ll admit it, I got misty eyed. They were too under the radar that I neither liked nor disliked them. But I really enjoyed watching them in the finale- so I ask, why didn’t we see more them throughout the race? They have a fun dynamic- I probably would have rooted for them more had the producers shown them more throughout the season. But good for them for winning! They seem like great daughters and really had an amazing race, they got first when it mattered. yay for being the second all-female team, in a row, to win!

    • Aeol says:

      I said the same thing to my husband about the globetrotters – I liked Flight Time but Big Easy quickly turned into a mediocre player and a big bully. One of those guys who think they’re the consummate entertainer but everyone else wants him to shut up!

  10. Jaime says:

    My favourite teams from the beginning were Kisha and Jen, and Gary and Mallory, I remember when there was a period when most of the season 12 contestants were getting eliminated, I was so happy Kisha&Jen weren’t.

    Love you girls!

  11. Buffy Freak says:

    I was so bummed to see Zev and Justin get eliminated. I just love their friendship. I think the average person would get very frustrated dealing with a friend with Asperger’s. After that I didn’t really care who won but Keisha and Jen seem pretty nice. And the final tasks were kind of lame…riding a tricycle, setting up the trailer, the waxing. Kind of a blah finale…

  12. Amber says:

    It was a disappointing final episode to a disappointing season. Fifteen minutes into part two of the finale, I could see it wasn’t going to end well, and got so angry that I switched over to the PBS documentary about bears in Alaska. Which turned out to be a million times more entertaining, more interesting, and a much happier thing to watch. I can’t wait for part two and three of that.

  13. JeffDJ says:

    I was rooting for Gary & Mallory, and was really disappointed they had the crappy luck to get an embarrassingly clueless taxi driver. Aren’t taxi drivers supposed to know the city they’re working in? Jeeze.

  14. Heidi says:

    it must have been super painful for the gentle, encouraging Justin to threaten to punch a woman in the face and seem extremely serious about it. I felt the leg from four teams to three teams, to be much harder on the men and in particular to be unfairly stacked against Zev (who had to do the samba challenge, and due to aspbergers (not white boy syndrome) could not stay on the rhythm or complete the task for ages. THEN THEY get a bad cab driver and are TORTURED beyond all understanding as the hirstute team (the only hairy team, BTW) gets waxed.
    They mixed drinks like pros and could have caught up if even one of those things had gone just a few minutes better.

    I seriously wonder, Slezak – if Zev and Justin had skipped the samba task and incurred a penalty, would the penalty have kept them from advancing or would they have caught up to at least make the finals? I wish they’d done it. Then that waxing would have been worth it. As it stood it was just so painful I had a hard time watching. Justin’s comments DID make me laugh so hard I had tears but I was really sad too, its like the expression ‘adding insult to injury’. Not necessary!

  15. Maria says:

    I was disappointed that once again a lucky or unlucky break with a cab driver played such a part in winning. It isn’t the first time, but I wish it were the last.

    The season was okay – not great, but not awful. The uneven playing field (Gary & Mallory the only team from their season, but there were about 5 from another season, for example) and the watering down of challenges by teams giving the answers to each other sucked the drama out of the race overall and out of individual legs in particular. This last episode felt okay, but not hugely exciting, kind of blah.

    The waxing was funny, but not really a challenge because there was no choice involved. All contestants will lie there for 15 minutes and get waxed. A choice would have been more fun and more dramatic – who would have been willing to do it if it were the faster challenge? Would Zev and Justin take the pain or go do something else that could take more time?

    As a season, this felt kind of experimental, like the family season. This was better than that disaster, but not as much fun as a regular race, where teams go in blind to the strengths and weaknesses of other teams and have to figure all that out as the season goes along. I hope AR goes back to their regular format.

  16. Jenny says:

    Not happy with results. Keisha and Jen cheated, bitched, were rude, and yelled all challenge long. Not likeable at all. Wish a better team had won. I think Gary and Mallory had a chance of winning had it not been for their taxi driver. I was surprised they caught up to the trailer challenge. They could have won it had they had a good taxi driver. Btw, don’t you just love Mallory’s attitude?! Put a smile on my face at random times. :) Power of positivity.

  17. E says:

    Mike – I COMPLETELY agree with the driving on the last leg. I have no idea why the have them drive in other countries, but don’t have them finish with driving/navigating. I presume there is a penalty for going over the speed limit: perhaps they are concerned about the anti-climax of having a penalty at the finish line (but it would create drama).

    I am always interested in the navigation part of things and they don’t typically delve into that. A nice map with lines showing where the contestants drove (similar to the flight paths graphics they use) would be awesome. With portable GPS’s these days it would be easy for the cameramen to wear them and then include that in the edit. (The “wrong turn” that cost the Drs and Mal/Gary last season for example).

    Happy for Keisha and Jen. I felt like the Globetrotters leaned on Zev/Justin too much to win.

  18. Barb says:

    As far as the cab vs. self navigation discussion, there’s nothing that states they can’t just buy a map and tell the driver where to go. It would essentially be the same thing.