Now this is how you do a finale! On the Amazing Race, the thrills are actually exciting, the tension is delicious, the perils are real, and the tears are earned. The season finale was a nail biter — why isn’t every show like this?

You’ll find the last clue by the spoiler hooker.

Everyone is on the same flight from Taipei to Anchorage, but Ron and Christina manage to sweet-talk their way into the business lounge before departure so they could use the internet to get the address for their next destination. Clever!

First challenge
Pick up gear from an outdoor store, then choose fish or crabs. Teams can either hack their way through fish guts to find a miniature clue, or juggle a bunch of peevish, pinchy crabs to find the one with race colors. Ron does surprisingly well gutting the cod (holy crap, those things are HUGE!), despite his obvious distaste at being elbow-deep in fish guts. It is pretty damn gross.

TK and Rachel choose the crab challenge, and initially that looks like a mistake — those crabs are pissed! There’s a lot of "ow ow ow!" from Team Mellow, especially when a crab tries to take off Rachel’s shoe. Just before they give up and head for the fish guts, they find their crab.

Don and Nicholas make a fatal mistake — they pick up their clue, but they don’t grab fish-gutting/crab-snatching gear. Don blames Nick for this — "You read the clue, but you didn’t understand it!" — and is kind of pissy for the rest of the competition. Aw, Gramps — I know you’re disappointed, but don’t get snippy. You could have read the clue as well, you know.

Second challenge
OK, this? Was just freakin’ cool. Alaska really looked stunning throughout the episode, but I’m guessing the part that made the tourism board start high-fiving was the speedboat trip up the river to the glacier, which the teams had to climb using ice axes and crampons. I’m dialing my travel agent as we speak.

Ron and Christina are first to arrive, and Ron is dubious — he’s afraid of heights. Still, he manages to scamper up the glacier with relative ease. Christina struggles — it takes her what seems like forever to get up the first bit (who knows if that’s accurate or just the way things were edited.) Still, they reach the top first, and are first to take the (truly gorgeous) helicopter ride to the next clue.

What’s that? Yes, I’ll hold. Huh. Travel agents for Alaska are busy all of a sudden. Go figure.

Teams Mellow and Gramps are perilously close to each other, but TK pretty much sprints up the glacier. Rachel takes a little longer, but she’s pretty darn impressive, too. Don scales the ice with little difficultly, leaving Nick with some performance anxiety — if a 69-year-old man can get up there, wouldn’t it be embarrassing if …you know what? I’m just going to stop now before I devolve into cheap double entendre.

The roadblock
This, my friends, was a killer. Christina, Rachel and Nick each had to tackle what was basically a giant logic puzzle — they had to pick 10 items representing each of the preceding legs from a pile of about 50 things, and… look, there were a lot of rules, they couldn’t use a pencil, and I had enough trouble sorting it all out from my couch — and I wasn’t running on adrenaline. It was hard, ok?

And here’s the amazing thing — it was really fun and tense to watch. The last challenge wasn’t a great physical  feat, but it still had me on the edge of my seat. Kudos to the production staff and race designers on that one.

Rachel’s zenlike calm helped her come up with the correct combination of things first, with a distraught Christina following soon after. Nick, alas, was kind of stumped, and was last out.

The winners!
In the end TK and Rachel win it all. Whoo-hoo! I really liked them, and respect how they didn’t let the tension turn them evil (unlike, say, Screeching Jen and Nasty Nate.) They’re thrilled, but a bit gobsmacked — "It’s kind of freaking me out," TK says. Note: TK registers the calmest freakouts ever recorded in human history.

Thoughts, highlights and odds and ends

  • Did anyone else feel like Ron and Christina’s eventual second-place finish was telegraphed? "My dad and I are stronger and smarter," Christina says at the beginning of the hour. That pretty much doomed them in my eyes — not because they aren’t smart and strong, but because that’s the sort of delicious irony reality show producers live for.
  • One of my favorite quotes this week was from TK: "I’ve seen Ron run like a ninja." Really? Isn’t the whole point of being a ninja that no one sees you coming? Has anyone who has ever seen a ninja run actually lived to tell? (I’m far too easily amused.)
  • This leg seemed All About Cab Drivers — TK and Rachel got stuck with someone who didn’t know where he was going, while Nick and Don had someone downright cocky: "I’m a cab driver, I know stuff like that." It didn’t help them in the end, of course, but it did add to the tension.
  • I had to laugh at poor Nick during the first challenge: Don tells him to start going through the fish guts, and Nick looks at him as if he’s crazy. "With my hands?" Awww, poor Nick. Also: Ew.
  • Ah, Ron. Yes, I know, you’ve made great strides, you’re treating your daughter like an adult, and you’re basically not someone I want to kill anymore. That’s great. Still, think about the implications of this quote: "For once in my life, when I say these words —  ‘I love you’ — I really mean it." Ouch. Are you saying that you were lying through your teeth every time you said ‘I love you’ to your kids in the past? Yipe.
  • Still, it was nice to hear Ron talk about how much he’d learned, and Christina talk about how proud she was of him, and how that was better than any million bucks. It was touching, and got a bit sniffly.
  • The final quote goes to TK: "Nice guys can definitely finish first." They sure can, sweetie. Congratulations.
Posted by:Sarah Jersild