It's down to the nitty-gritty for this edition of The Amazing Race, and the three teams remaining are probably a best-case scenario for having someone you can tolerate winning.
The Amazing Race 12 Episode 11
The Final Push
By Reagen Sulewski
January 28, 2008
There's Ronald & Christina, and while Ron has lurched back and forth from being a colossal jackass to being tolerable, Christina is one of the best international racers the show has ever seen, seemingly never at a loss for at least a few words in the local language.
Then there's TK & Rachel, who have become the cutest couple on the race since Kris & Jon, and have managed to survive their own absent-mindedness to get to the final.
And finally there's Nicolas & Donald, and while Nicolas has been carrying his grandpa for the last few legs as dead weight, at least Donald gives us some cantankerousness, cursing a blue streak around the world.
The teams leave from last leg's Pit Stop, Taipei, and the producers don't mess around, sending them right away to Anchorage, and what the clue calls their final destination. They'll have to hit an outdoor supply store when they get there to pick up supplies for the day's events.
Surprisingly enough, there are direct flights from Taipei to Anchorage, and Ron & Christina finagle themselves a free upgrade to the departure lounge in addition to their tickets. Ron isn't simply wanting to suck bad some free booze, but has deduced that the lounge would have Internet access, which is pretty smart thinking.
TK & Rachel are close behind, but don't think to ask for the lounge. Really they're just happy to be on the same flight as another team after a couple of tough legs. They're joined by Nicolas & Donald, though this flight is really their only option. Not seeing Ron & Christina sends pangs of doubt through TK, who looks like he's just about to second-guess himself, until they finally walk up to the gate. Crisis averted.
Once they hit the ground in Anchorage, the race is truly on. Ron & Christina get seats near the front of the plane and keep at least some of their early lead, getting to the store first. They pick up their supplies and are sent to the imaginatively named Ship Creek Boat Launch. Be careful not to mispronounce that, by the way.
Editing makes it look like TK & Rachel are having some trouble finding the boat launch (head for the water!) because of their cab driver, but Nicolas & Donald are in real trouble, having forgotten their supplies at the store. Good luck stormin' the castle!
Ronald & Christina grab the clue at the boat launch, which is the final Detour of the race. The producers have upped the ante on this one, and neither choice is very palatable or easy. Both are related to what everyone in Anchorage does, apparently; fishing. The first task has them hack through a pile of cod for a buried clue, while the other drops them into a tank of 500 crabs to find one that has a clue attached to it. It's not exactly World Deadliest Catch, but they could end up with a severe pinching. Ron decides that the crabs would be too much of a pain, and they head for the cod. This one is really a disgusting task, and the fish are larger than either of them imagined. Only one can take the knife at a time, and Ron takes it despite saying "he's not so good with a knife". Ummm.... However, they get amazingly lucky and find their clue in the first fish, which sends them 60 miles by cab (uh-oh, Nicolas & Donald) to something called 20-Mile Glacier.
TK & Rachel's cab driver was a bit lost, though they're still within sight of Nicolas & Donald. However, Nicolas & Donald are forced to realize their initial mistake, saving them a huge waste of time, by the fact that they needed gloves from their supply bag, and are forced to head back to the store. Donald decides to blame it all on Nicolas, like the good teammate he is. I suppose it would be uncouth for Nicolas to point out that Donald would still be back in Africa somewhere if it wasn't for him, but that's what I'm here for.
TK & Rachel start with the crab Detour about the same time as Nicolas & Donald pick up their supplies, but are just about ready to give up because of the pinching when TK stumbles on a marked crab. Donald finds the clue in the second fish he gutted, so they're not too far behind after all.
Ronald & Christina get dropped off at a speed boat dock, where they're zipped down the river to their next destination. Although TK has a moment of doubt when his cab driver seems lost again, they do get there in second place. Nic & Donald are close behind, and it turns into an episode of Miami Vice for a bit as the boats race down the river.
The next clue is at the top of an ice face at the glacier, which both teammates will have to climb. Ron is now afraid of heights (is there a single task he hasn't whined about on the entire race?) though he does eventually get going. Ron gets up without too much trouble, but Christina actually has a tone of trouble, and can't get over the first lip of the glacier. Eventually she twigs on the complicated strategy of lifting her legs and they maintain their lead, although not as much of one.
The clue waiting for them tells them to take a helicopter to Merrill Field, where they'll take a taxi to a nearby park. As thrilling for the contestants, and as scenery-porn for the show as it is, I'm not a huge fan of these parts where there is no chance for teams to gain or lose time.
TK climbs the glacier without much trouble, but Rachel has some struggles of her own. They eventually get going in second place, with just Nicolas & Donald to go. Donald plays the role of "girl" for his team this time, with the 69-year-old man kicking his butt up the ice face.
Ron & Christina get to the park, which holds the final Roadblock, and it is by far the most evil one the show has ever come up with. Fifteen items related to the legs of the race are waiting for them, and they'll have to place ten of them on a stage, meeting a complicated list of requirements. They're allowed one from each leg, three must be animal or animal by-products, one is a U-Turn, two are objects at or brought to a Pit Stop, two are objects of transportation, and one is transportation in the form of a stick. The clue box is automated for when the proper items are on the stage. Notably, the teams are hidden from each other, so there's no cheating.
Christina gets the call for the Roadblock, and starts logicking out the items, and is doing well until she gets thrown by the stick requirement. Shortly after, the other two teams arrive, with Rachel and Nicolas working on their tasks, so it's a true three-team race at the finish for the first time that I can remember in a long, long time.
Christina's first attempt is oh, so close, just falling one item short, and is closer than the other two teams. However, her attempt to fix her list just messes her up more. Something that seems to be messing teams up is whether the janitor from Japan counts as an animal or not (he does). Eventually Rachel is able to piece it all together. She runs out to TK with the clue, which is marginally cryptic, "a Cook's eye view of a sleeping lady", which refers to a statue of Captain James Cook in Anchorage.
Christina is second to puzzle it out, and it now becomes a taxi race – both drivers so far seem to know where they're going, although TK & Rachel's has to make a backtrack. It's not enough to lose them the lead, though, and the tour of Anchorage's obscure crappy tourist attractions continues. They now have to find the Salmon Hooker, which I understand costs you extra in Vegas.
Ron & Christina seem to have a better sense of direction and have caught up to within seconds when TK & Rachel do eventually find the next clue. It's one of the closer margins this late in a race that I can recall. This is the final clue of the race, telling them to take a taxi to the airport and the finish line.
Although it's pretty clearly the most stressed out TK has ever been in his life, he and Rachel do make it to the finish without exploding, and are the winners of The Amazing Race 12. They're one of the most likable teams to win the race, if not the most, and ran a very consistent race, having really only two bad legs, neither of which was enough to sink them.
Ron & Christina are second in, with perhaps good Ron arriving to stay. There is this headscratcher from him though, "for once, when I say I love you, I mean it". Okay, then...
Finally there's Nic & Donald, who eventually make it in for third, though it's hard to tell exactly how far they are behind. Phil lets Donald know that he's the oldest person ever to finish the race, though he'd rather have the money.
All in all, it was one of the most successful Races in many seasons, and after the twin debacles of All-Stars and Family edition, it was sorely needed. For the first time in awhile, I'm actually looking forward to the next season.