Dan and Jordan strategize their way to an Amazing Race win, edging out the cowboys

After a relatively weak season, The Amazing Race 16 delivered an enormously satisfying final episode: strong challenges, great drama, and best of all, an ugly meltdown from Caite Upton and Brent Horne, who were left in the dust where they belong.

I’ll even forgive a lame final memory challenge–the elimination order, that’s it?–and the loss of a really strong team, cowboys Jet and Cord McCoy, for a slightly less impressive team, bros Dan and Jordan Pious. Either team of best friends/brothers would have been acceptable winners to me. With the exception of their meltdown last week and Jordan’s crying fit the week before, the non-cowboy brothers have been a good team, and proved themselves to be worthy winners this week with really smart racing. And there’s the nice bonus of Jordan winning, the ultimate culmination of his dream.

The opening season recap actually foreshadowed the conclusion, and I have to imagine the editors did that on purpose: As Phil said that “teams crashed,” we saw Brent and Caite’s champagne fountain crashing down, and when he said “soared,” there was footage of Dan bungee jumping with Brandy.

  • When the teams learned about their final destination, Jordan said, “San Francisco is a very gay-friendly place: that’s good for me.” Was that more foreshadowing or an expectation that San Francisco’s gay community would be lining the streets waving flags for Jordan and clearing the way for him and his not-at-all-gay brother to win the race?
  • The teams were all booked on the same flight, and had to check in at a special counter. Though the bros arrived last, Jordan put his backpack down in front of the cowboys, essentially claiming second place in line. Since Cord was right there, it was pretty much cutting, which seemed pretty unnecessary as they were all on the same flight, which turned out to be empty. But that started some intensely angry competition between the two teams that brought out sides of both we’ve never seen. The cowboys responded by threatening violence: “I don’t think you can actually grab his backpack and throw him backwards in the airport,” Cord said, and after Jet suggested he couldn’t “kick his teeth in,” either, said “If they want to drop the gloves, I can drop the gloves.”
  • Cutting in line was dumb, but what the bros did on the plane was genius: Dan talked to a flight attendant who let them move up to first class. (The race rules only require teams to purchase coach fare; they can sit anywhere the airline will let them.) “That was huger than huge,” one of the bros said, because they were off the plane well before the other two teams.
  • In San Francisco, Brent and Caite went from zero to meltdown. As they got out of the cab to look at a map, Brent said, “Just shut up and let’s look,” and Caite responded, “Brent, stop being an ass or I’ll punch you in the face.”
  • The first clue was actually a riddle, and forced the teams to figure out their next destination. Dan and Jordan asked a bicyclist, who knew immediately that the riddle referred to Coit Tower. “People who ride bicycles are smart,” Jordan said. “It’s a general rule.” Yes, just one no one’s ever heard of until now.
  • Lost in the cab, Caite, referring to her San Francisco cab driver, said, “This is why I fucking wanted somebody who could speak English.” And he probably wanted a non-racist passenger, but you get what you get.
  • In another moment of impressive game play, Jet and Cord solved the riddle immediately. “I read the clue, and Cord said, that was in that book,” Jet explained, referring to a guide book they’d purchased and Cord actually read on the flight. Truly amazing.
  • “Why are we in America and nobody is speaking English?” Brent non-ironically asked in one of his few coherent sentences of the season.
  • Brent yelled at Caite, “Just don’t even talk right now, because all you’re going to do is cry.” Caite cried, “Now we’re going to lose because of this dumb ass.” Not sure if she was referring to Brent or herself, but either works.
  • At the Roadblock, Dan used an ascender to climb the tower, and Jordan stayed on the ground so he could say “bro” a dozen times, and make it sound even more disturbing than usual: “I love you, bro–slow and steady.”
  • As they raced through the streets of San Francisco, the cowboys gave America what they wanted one last time: more gravy. “I’m about to shake outta my shoes,” Jet said, and Cord just replied, “Oh my gravy.”
  • Caite, who handles stress well, told Brent, “I want to punch you in the face.” Later, Brent redeemed himself a bit by deciding to stop treating their cab driver like shit, as he said, “Let’s just shut up and let him go.”
  • The Detour was probably the most amazing Detour of the season: a virtual reality game at Industrial Light and Magic. One team member had to direct the other via a headset to walk through a virtual space, but the catch was that only the director could see the virtual reality version of their teammate; the other was just wearing a motion capture suit and walking around an empty room. That required some pretty intense teamwork and made for a great challenge. But who cares about that: There were Storm Troopers guarding them!
  • Dan and Jordan were well into their game when Cord arrived in the control room, and started talking to distract Dan’s directions, hilariously saying Jordan should do a back flip or a ballet move. Dan took that well and said, “Shut the fuck up,” while Cord replied, “I’m gonna have one of these Star Wars guys take you out, man.”
  • When the clue appeared on the virtual reality screen, it was spinning in a circle around the player, and Cord said, “I hope I’m not supposed to read that.” But they were supposed to read it, and Dan figured out how: having their partner spin around caused the words to appear to be standing still–and caused Jordan to want to puke.
  • The challenge was so detailed that each of the players had a virtual reality avatar that looked a lot like them; Jordan’s even had a blue bandanna. Caite’s avatar definitely resembled her, although for some reason it had the body of an anorexic lizard.
  • Leaving ILM, Brent asked, “Where is our money and stuff?” Yes, they’d left their gear behind. Until they crossed the finish line, that was the last we saw of the models and their constant flip-outs and mistakes.
  • At the final task, Jordan explained that, as a fan, he knew that they’d probably have to do “some kind of memory challenge.” Little did he know it’d be impossibly easy: arranging the eliminated teams in order, and marking the three non-elimination legs.
  • About the only challenge Dan and Jordan had the entire leg was finding a cab after they left that challenge, and that probably wasn’t a big deal at all. But they were so desperate they were trying to bribe people to get out of their cabs. Jordan said, “We’ll pay anyone.”
  • Dan and Jordan easily made it to the finish line first, and after Phil told them they’d won the $1 million, Jordan said, “This is my biggest dream come true, and he is the reason.” Aww.
  • Jet and Cord finished second, and Jet said they were proud to finish “having our character and integrity intact.” I think that was probably a dig at the bros, but since there was other conflict ahead, the show didn’t linger on that.
  • When Brent and Caite finally ran into Candlestick Park, Carol slow-clapped and Brandy didn’t clap at all. That was amusing, and should have been their only response. But Brandy couldn’t take the high road when Phil decided to play Probst and antagonize the contestants. After Caite said that she was a true genius because “obviously I was able to travel the whole entire world and finish The Amazing Race,” Phil pointed out Brandy and Carol, and Caite turned to them and said, “You guys…” Brandy interrupted, saying, “I don’t want to hear anything from you. … You can’t seem to think logically; I don’t want to hear sorry from you.” As much as I’m on Carol and Brandy’s side of that conflict, I didn’t want to hear anything from her. Caite did a good job of making herself look like an obnoxious moron during the final leg of the race, and Brandy ironically helped negate that. In a season of stupidity, that was pretty dumb.

Surprisingly, man not eaten alive on Eaten Alive

Eaten Alive

Discovery Channel’s happy family holiday special Eaten Alive aired Sunday, rewarding viewers for their two full hours of viewing by ensuring that they spent quality time in the company of others instead of wasting that time doing something else that might not have been as satisfying, such as buying things that have labels which accurately reflect their contents.


Winter 2015 reality TV debut schedule

winter 2015 reality TV schedule

Mark your calendars with all these upcoming reality TV show debuts, including Celebrity Apprentice, The Bachelor, and another season of MasterChef Junior, all of which kick off in early January.

There are also 20+ shows debuting in December--including the one-off return of The Sing Off. No winter break for reality TV.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.