The Amazing Race Season 30: Finale Recap
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
March 5, 2018
Previously on The Amazing Race, all episodes of the season aired save for the final one. Yes, we’ve come to the end of the road, with only three teams left standing. Also, the most recent leg was so heated that two of the teams have no idea which other duo survived; they’re also not enthusiastic about projecting who is left. No matter which duo survived, a lovely team is out of the race.
What we know about the situation is that Team Yale won the leg. Since they’re the least liked team of the remaining contenders, Team Big Brother isn’t happy about the outcome. Also, everyone loves Team Extreme and Team IndyCar, and I include the viewers in that. It was a brutal ending that left us without an Indianapolis 500 champion in the finale, something the other teams are about to find out.
When Team Extreme walks up to the airport counter, everyone’s positive. Jen & Kristi are such lovely people that no one wants to act poorly. The other two teams should feel a lot of frustration, though. Jen & Kristi have never finished lower than third place the entire season. They’re far and away the best team.
The only good news for their competitors, both of whom have narrowly avoided elimination in multiple legs, is that the best team loses The Amazing Race more often than not. We hope that this trend doesn’t continue, as Team Extreme has been our favorite since day one. Of course, we’re fine with any of these teams winning. While Jessica’s insecurity causes her to make mistakes (and enemies) on occasion, all six players are at The Amazing Race. They also seem like kind people, warts and all.
The race strategy begins early in the leg. The players discover at the airport that they’re flying Business Elite back to the United States. Team Yale tries to gain a competitive advantage by checking their bags. The thought process is that they won’t have to carry heavy luggage through the challenges. By the way, one funny moment happens on the plane. Team Yale’s airplane television screen appears to show an early episode of this season. It must be weird to see themselves on the television, knowing that they’ve made it to the final leg.
As the teams depart from the airport, excitement is in the air. Everyone can taste the grand prize. While the math dictates that each team has a modest 33% chance of victory, confidence is at an all-time after making such a deep run. The taxi rides are uneventful, as the players reach their first destination. It’s AT&T Park in San Francisco, California. Since this is a baseball stadium, the challenge will involve something about catching a game.
The specific challenge involves…kayaking. Yes, it makes sense to baseball fans. No, it doesn’t make sense to anyone else. You see, this stadium is right by the water, and homeruns that escape the park experience what’s known as a splash landing. Fans in kayaks race one another to retrieve these homer balls. The contestants must row around the area, trying to find three balls that together form the number 660. It’s the home run total of Giants legend Willie Mays.
Finding the kayaks is the hardest part of this competition. Team Extreme has to ask for help and still gets turned around a couple of times. Cody from Team Big Brother twists his ankle bad enough that he’s forced to walk like he’s in a three-legged race with an invisible teammate. And the distribution of the balls confuses everyone. Lou Seal, the SF mascot, chucks baseballs into the water. Since it’s dark in the kayaks, the contestants oftentimes don’t see the ball until it’s already splashed down.
Evan from Team Yale quickly goes on tilt. She yells at Henry to figure out the clue. He puts down his paddles to read it again. She instantly fusses that he’s stopped rowing the boat, simultaneously berating him for not strategizing with her. Then, she laments that they didn’t research the subject ahead of time. Evan’s not demonstrating a lot of grace under pressure.
As they struggle, Jessica gets a good idea. She yells at a person on the dock above, asking them to google the homerun total for Mays. When a person yells out 660, Team Yale is happiest, as they already have two balls with sixes on them. They only need one with a zero. The duo was extremely fortunate to be within listening range of the conversation.
Around this time, Team Extreme deduces the answer, too. To wit, the women return with the needed balls first, resulting in the “umpire” declaring “YOU’RE OUTTA HERE!” They then receive the next clue, with Team Big Brother right behind them.
The Road Block for the final heat has the ominous name of The Ascension and The Abyss. It sounds like a pro wrestling faction and actually could be since there’s a tag team named The Ascension and a wrestler named Abyss. For more information about unpopular wrestlers, consult your local BOP writer! Anyway, it’s a climbing challenge akin to an inverse bungee jump. Players get tethered to the support wires and then pull themselves up.
Evan, Kristi, and Cody choose to do the Road Block. The former soldier has an advantage due to his upper body strength, but Kristi’s ski muscles in her legs come in handy, too. Evan relies on pure adrenaline at this point. She’s yelled at her boyfriend for the body of 30 minutes by this point and has a lot of “I should dump him” rage. She’s still flagging quite a bit behind the other two teams, which isn’t ideal in the final leg. You’re either first or you’re wasting your time.
Oh hey, there’s a second part to the challenge. That must be the Abyss. Oh yeah, it’s a bungee jump, only the workers strap a bunch of Christmas tree lights on the players first. They glow in the dark as they fall down into the, well, abyss below. It’s not hard, but it is shiny. Cody wins but only appears to be a couple of minutes ahead of Kristi.
The next clue only has these words: “Make your way to…” The rest of it is a series of symbols. The first part is clearly Golden Gate. The bottom portion looks to us like a pancake, a cookie, or a pie plus a factory or tower. We’d…be in some trouble here. Cody guesses Cheesecake Factory, which seems like a shameless corporate tie-in, but we can’t rule anything out on CBS these days.
Cody asks for help, and a helpful resident tells him it’s the Fortune Cookie Factory. Ha! We knew it, Cody! Anyway, all the players head to the cookie factory, which sounds like the greatest place this side of the North Pole. The goal here is to make fortune cookies. Once each player makes a full tray that satisfies the judge, they get their next clue. The challenge is pure busy work, although the judge is kind of a dick.
Team Extreme is the first duo to finish, frustrating Team Big Brother, who arrived first. The skiers seem to have 20 cookie lead, a sentence never typed before. Team Yale is nowhere to be seen when the women leave. They’re not impossibly out of it, though, as they show up before Team Big Brother finishes.
Also, Evan should keep Henry, because he’s a master baker. He completes a tray of 50 gorgeous-looking cookies before Jessica finishes her last 20. Frankly, Jessica’s bad at this. Evan sits down and almost catches her. When Team Big Brother finally gets the okay to depart, Team Yale needs only four cookies to finish. Resolved: Evan and Henry are better in the kitchen than Jessica. They finished 96 cookies in the time it took her to complete 20 (!).
The final leg of the race takes place on the USS Hornet, one of the most important vessels in American military history. The challenge is to build a mini-airplane that the contestant is capable of wheeling down the runway to the finish line. By wheeling, it must have its wheels stable enough that the player can push it in a (relatively) straight line. Phil describes it as the most difficult challenge of the year, fitting for the final leg.
The first part of the challenge is an acquisition phase. Players search for 12 missing air parts that make up the core of the mini-plane. They’re hidden in plain sight on the beach. It’s a large facility, though, making the search exhaustive. The players can’t even settle on whether to carry each piece back individually or take them in groups. The size of the military base forces these considerations.
The first team to locate all 12 pieces is the ski duo. This is terrible news for everyone else, as Kristi & Jen are the best at challenges this season. Giving them a lead is akin to ceding them the championship. Alas, something stunning happens. After tearing through the competitions all year, something unfortunate happens. With only one event remaining, there’s no choice of players for the assembly phase. Jen, Jessica, and Henry will settle the championship.
Team Yale does something smart during the collection phase. They discuss potential assembly parts. After collecting 12, the mini-plane only requires six of them. In other words, the trick is determining which parts are needed. A player can (theoretically) suss out the answer because each piece reflects a prior leg of the race.
We’re not sure any of the teams fully understands this, but it blows Jen’s mind. She has a lead of only a few minutes over Team Big Brother. It vanishes quickly as Jen freezes in frustration. She just doesn’t know what to do. Jessica’s not clear, either, but she starts guessing. When she asks whether she’s cleared for takeoff, the person tells her no. Were Henry there right now, he’d have a good chance of leading his team to victory. Alas, they’re at least 20 minutes behind their opponents. By the time he arrives, the women have worked at it for a while.
Wait, we’ve overstated Henry’s understanding of the puzzle. He’s every bit as confused as Jen. He’s so far out of it that he just starts swapping out random pieces. Then, Jessica mimics this behavior. The three players have no idea how this challenge works, which is the sign of a terrible design from the production team. Jen fails on five attempts, Henry blow four of them, and Jessica is on attempt #6. Jen’s raging and near tears by this point, and Henry, the calmest player we can ever recall, throws his water bottle in frustration. It’s not great television.
At the two hour and 24 minute mark of the competition, 73 minutes after Jen and Jessica had discovered their final pieces, all three teams are stuck in a standoff. The other three players look on in frustration. They’ve been standing in the same spot for more than an hour, helplessly watching. It should have been a team event.
A cruel edit shows that Henry has the correct solution for a moment. Then, he second-guesses himself and switches two pieces before asking for a check. He’ll never forgive himself for what is a million dollar mistake. Several minutes later during check #10, Jessica finally gets the thumbs up signal that she’s cleared for takeoff.
With the finish mat only 100 yards away, Team Big Brother becomes the winner of The Amazing Race. We’re inclined to call it an upset since they’re what we’d call the weakest of the three teams, but they’re still a strong team. Cody is a powerhouse, while Jessica is extremely smart. This challenge may give her the confidence she needs from now on so that she’s no longer threatened by other strong women. After all, she’s done something that makes her as strong as anyone she’ll ever meet.
The nicest part of the whole thing is that this couple seems to bring out the best in one another. They look at each other with total adoration, which we can say from experience is the strongest building block toward a wonderful relationship. By the way, we have no idea how long afterward it happens, but Henry is next to finish the event. Had they not fallen behind early in the leg, Team Yale might have won. For her part, Jen struggles but eventually does get the mini-plane built, yet another example that this team has guts and passion. Team Extreme was the best team this season, just not the best team today.