Nat Strand and Kat Chang have made Amazing Race history by becoming its first female team to win. The two doctors, both in their 30s, were followed across the finish line by Brook Roberts and Claire Champlin, who finished second. If you think this isn’t significant, I did the math for an msnbc.com piece, and while the 191 teams over 17 seasons have been pretty evenly divided (men: 46, women: 43, mixed sex: 102), of the 51 teams to make the finale, only six were all-female teams, and just one won, a disproportionately low percentage.
Not to take anything away from Nat and Kat, who have proven themselves to be strong competitors, but this final leg, like so many other final legs, seemed to come down to cabs. Nat and Kat were the first out of the airport, and thus the first to arrive at the bungee jump, and thus the first to take a helicopter, and so on. They had a significant head start, whereas Jill and Thomas had no chance whatsoever thanks to their poor selection of a cab after the Roadblock. As frustrating as it must have been for them, it was hilarious. “Sir, do you know what a Google search is, on the Internet? Do you know what the Internet is?” Thomas pleaded. “No,” the driver said. Then he offered them his GPS. “That’s not a computer, sir,” Jill said. Ha!
She later said, “This has just totally screwed us,” and it had, except they didn’t just demand to, say, be taken to a hotel and let out, where they could use the Internet and switch cabs. Brook and Claire struggled to figure out the clues–and so great that there were actually clues, not just directions!–but went to a hotel and enlisted the staff’s help.
Some day, I’d love a final leg where the teams had to drive themselves around a city. Sure, it might take more than two hours, and they might get terribly lost, especially in a city such as L.A. But at least the teams would be 100 percent responsible for their fate, rather than have a cab driver to blame, whether that’s right or wrong.
The final Roadblock involved helping to decorate a Rose Bowl float, and by helping I mean doing very small parts of it. Nat actually screwed up one-third of it but redid it so fast that it didn’t matter. The final memory task was a clever twist, a giant quasi-game show board that had images of people, and they had to pick out the greeter from each pit stop. That’s totally great, because with all the note-taking that goes on now, I’ll bet the greeter’s identity is one thing most teams don’t write down. Bob Eubanks, who I will always only remember for the horrific joke he told during Roger and Me, was there to, um, stand by and hand them their clue.
In the end, the final leg was kind of a breeze for Nat and Kat; Nat had to overcome her fear of heights for the bungee task, which was actually not much at all–more like a swing–but that seemed absolutely terrifying to get into position for, as they had to walk a plank and crawl under a beam and then drop themselves off the platform. Brook was also worried about it because she doesn’t like free-falls, so she screamed and wailed her way through it, and though I wasn’t sure if it was joy or fear, I laughed.
Brook and Claire’s second-place finish solidified the record-breaking nature of this season, as it was dominated by these two female teams. Nat and Kat had consistent wins (they placed first or second in half the legs, as did Jill and Thomas) and never really let anything get in their way, while Brook and Claire maintained a ridiculously positive attitude and healthy relationship even when they fought briefly. So it was a good end to an average (at best) season, one plagued by a consistent lack of surprise, few actually challenging challenges, and a lot of stupidity.
Next season, as we already knew, is an all-star season with a theme that doesn’t really make much sense. Let’s hope it’s a bit more challenging, and that female teams continue to win so this wasn’t just a a fluke.