After “8 countries, 21 days, more than 25,000 miles racing around the world,” as Phil Keoghan said, a dating couple broke the two-season streak of siblings winning The Amazing Race, and resurrected the streak of boring straight couples winning. Yes, Meghan Rickey and Cheyne Whitney beat runners-up Sam and Dan McMillen, and third-place team Ericka Dunlap and Brian Kleinschmidt to win the 15th season.
I really thought we were in for a boring-ass hour when the finale started with an equalizer plane flight to Las Vegas and clue that all three teams received simultaneously, followed by a race of the cabs, never mind the lack of fake conflict between two teams. But because each team screwed up at one point or another, it really was anyone’s race and rather intense at times because of the way the teams kept jockeying for position. If only I actually cared who won, it would have been even more exciting.
The producers dispensed with the typical memory-based final challenge and instead let everything come down to counting, and guess which team blew their lead counting because they let Dan count OMG WTF?! Earlier, Ericka had her biggest meltdown of the season and blew their lead, while Meghan and Cheyne went from first to last by going to the wrong casino. But they eventually pulled out the win, if not any additional excitement.
- In Phil’s brief recap of the three teams, he described Sam and Dan’s “bold, game-changing moves.” Since he was rewriting history, I expected him to say Meghan and Chenye “emerged as the most exciting and dynamic team in Amazing Race history, setting the world on fire as they rahced from playce to playce.”
- Teams traveled to Las Vegas, where the editors compensated for their devastating loss of the Harlem Globetrotters theme music by getting their money’s worth for licensing that increasingly-annoying, shouty “Waking Up in Vegas” Katy Perry song.
- Dan said the brothers were on “Operation Beat Meghan and Cheyne, and Operation Don’t Yell at Each Other.” The second of their two operations worked, because they didn’t really bicker much, but the first would have happened if they’d replaced the latter with “Operation Don’t Let Dan Do Anything Involving Intelligence.”
- Ericka explained that she hoped hoped her mother would see that “we are a couple just like any other, regardless of our colors,” because her “mother especially has been pretty hard on” Brian. That last part sounds oddly familiar.
- In the wedding chapel where all three teams got their first Vegas clue, Ericka said to the couple getting married, “Have a good life. Marriage is wonderful. Just don’t race each other.” Funny, but I think that might explain some of her meltdowns: She thinks she’s racing Brian instead of racing with him.
- For the Roadblock, one team member had to rappel face first down the side of Mandalay Bay, which was pretty awesome if not much of a challenge. Sam and Dan arrived in third place but Sam closed the gap by running fast, saying, “Step aside, Tom Cruise, step aside. Look at my little legs going.”
- Cheyne explained his strategy to Meghan, telling her, “I seriously kept my eyes closed most of the time.” My eyes seriously close most of the time when he’s talking.
- At their next product placement hotel–is there any chance all of the Vegas casino visits weren’t paid product placement?–teams had to bungee in the air on the set of Cirque du Soliel’s Love, where Brian and Ericka arrived first and then lost their lead by leaving last, after Ericka twice insisted they switch places. “Don’t get me pissed off. I want to switch,” she screamed at Brian after Meghan and Cheyne overtook them, having another spiraling temper tantrum. The best part was that after she did successfully grab the flowers dangling from the ceiling, Brian celebrated while she bounced around; for a second I think she thought he might just leave her there and run the rest of the race himself.
- Their next clue instructed teams to go to the most famous casino in Monaco, which Brian, the smartest person left on the race by four or five thousand IQ points, knew immediately was the Monte Carlo. Meghan and Cheyne had no idea, and Sam and Dan told their cab to follow the boring blondes. But the brothers called another casino using the cab driver’s phone–smart!–and thus turned off toward the right casino, while the blondes kept going to the wrong casino even though most people they asked gave them the right answer (“Uh, the Monte Carlo, isn’t it?”). But they ignored those people and kept asking more people.
- Teams had to count $1 million poker chips for the final task. Sam and Dan had a big lead, but Dan started freaking out, and Sam said, “Please, just be calmer.” What he should have said was, “Why am I trusting you to count? Go sit in the corner.”
- Teams’ next clue came from Wayne Newton, and Dan said, “What’s his name?” Sam answered, “His name is…” While they had this conversation, they were five feet away from Wayne Newton, who still has his hearing and told them his name. Dan said, “Yeah, it’s Wayne Newton.” That’s the perfect kind of quiz for Dan, one in which someone gives him the answer.
- Although Meghan and Cheyne arrived at Wayne Newton earlier, the editors tried to fake us out with the cab drive to the finish at his house, suggesting Sam and Dan might arrive first. But MC Boring ran across the finish line first, past teams who had far more engaging personalities. (Oh, Zev and Justin, why did you have to leave us so early?)
- Sam and Dan checked in second, and Sam talked about how their relationship endures despite their fighting, which was nice, and when Brian and Ericka arrived and Phil told them they were in third place, Brian yelled, “What?!” with hysterical mock incredulity. But then he said: “We’re so happy,” and they were.
- “It was the perfect race,” Cheyne said after winning. “It could not have been any better.” Well.