Skip to Content

Did Amazing Race 33’s winners make history, break a streak, or repeat a pattern?

Did Amazing Race 33’s winners make history, break a streak, or repeat a pattern?
Phil Keoghan at the Natural History Museum in London at the start of TAR 33. (Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS)

After seven countries, 17 cities, and more than 1.5 years (!), The Amazing Race 33 concluded in Los Angeles with the winners making history: At 45 and 47 respectively, Kim and Penn Holderness are the oldest team to ever win CBS’s Amazing Race.

Of course, 45 and 47 is not old by any measure, and there have been far older teams and contestants on the race, all the way back to season one, where stranded third-place team Bill and Joe raced at ages 47 and 50, and Dave and Margaretta were 65 and 60.

“It wasn’t be strong, it wasn’t being fast, it was studying,” Penn said after they won. Kim told us she took meticulous notes and drew pictures after each leg—and the final race-recap task was matching photos to descriptions of things they’d done.

Kim and Penn try casu marzu on bread in Corsica on The Amazing Race 33 episode 7
Kim and Penn try casu marzu on bread in Corsica on The Amazing Race 33 episode 7 (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

Earlier in the race, Kim told us “we want to make it to the finish line,” but then they clarified: not as teams who just stand there and clap. The shade!

Those teams also got shade from Cayla; once they arrived on the mat, Cayla said they were in the finale “with the two toughest, best teams” while the other teams stood there.

At the finish, Penn said, “If there’s ever time to show the people who are photographers on this show, I would do it right now.” And we got a shot of the people who make all of those spectacular and comedic shots possible, which was a great way to end.

“Internet Personalities” Kim and Penn were very strong throughout the race, and finished third or higher from episode three on. Since the restart, they were in first place for half of the eight legs, just dominating.

While Raquel and Cayla were ahead for most of the final leg, they did not become just the fourth (!) female team in The Amazing Race’s 33-season history to win the race.

Both teams grew on me from the start of the race, and I was honestly rooting for them both.

While they were both far ahead in the penultimate leg, all three teams were equalized at the start of the finale leg, as usual.

Dusty and Ryan struggle to make cheese and follow directions on The Amazing Race 33 episode 6.
Dusty and Ryan struggle to make cheese and follow directions on The Amazing Race 33 episode 6. (Image via CBS)

But Ryan and Dusty were out of the race almost immediately, failing to find a lock combination on elevators at the Westin Bonaventure, the hotel that’s been the setting for many films and even a Fear Factor challenge, and whose elevators are quite famous.

Ryan and Dusty were so far behind they never caught up to the other teams at any of the tasks. They began the race strong, but placed third for five of the final six legs, and were in fourth place that other leg.

There was very little movement among teams since the restart, so leg design may have contributed to how everyone did, but Ryan and Dusty completely lost the race for themselves in the finale.

They did, however, get plenty of screen time for Dusty to give me some more innuendo to giggle at, and some final touching moments—I mean, touching final moments. Some of my favorite finale Dusty innuendo:

  • “I would not want us behind you.”
  • “His upper body is built to row.”
  • “The rabbit didn’t pop out of the hat.”
  • “Suck him down good.”

The last one is my favorite, and while Dusty was talking about Arun and a fictional whirlpool, I am just grateful the editors left that in.

The finale was two back-to-back episodes: “No Room for Error,” which narrowed the group to three teams in Portugal, and then “In the Hands of the Amazing Race Gods,” which took place in Los Angeles.

The final two legs were really well-crafted, and for me it was an incredibly satisfying end to a mixed-bag of a season.

Arun and Natalia were out first, as it should have been. That said, with Ryan and Dusty’s screw-up on the door-painting task, they might have been able to pull ahead, though Arun going nowhere in his rowboat put them very far behind.

In that “penultimate leg of the race,” as host Phil Keoghan said, thrilling me by using my second-favorite word, there were two Roadblocks, giving/forcing each team member a chance to perform.

First, though, they had to spot a flag (easy) and then drive to it (hard), and the editors gave us a fun map with dots representing each team, as Ryan and Dusty turned the wrong way and put themselves behind.

The first Roadblock, choosing a rowboat with a Portuguese explorer’s name on it and then rowing across a marina, was a good combination of brains and brawn—though luck helped too, as Kim just “picked the prettiest boat” and happened to be right. I was stunned none of them went for Vasco da Gama, or maybe I was just stunned I knew just one explorer’s name.

Before the second Roadblock, teams had to work together to paint a sardine can image on a door. That was less difficult than it could have been: the doors were outlined for the teams, so it was paint-by-numbers without the numbers. Several teams missed small details, but it took Ryan and Dusty 10 attempts because they missed the door handle sticking out in the middle of a painted area.

The second Roadblock was another real challenge: counting columns, but from a fixed location at one end of a courtyard.

“I can’t see all the way down there,” Penn said, and I felt for them: even in HD, it was hard to see those columns at the end. Penn got creative: “I’m going to turn this into a running challenge,” and ran to the monk to just keep giving numbers until he landed on the right one. But ultimately he ended up counting again and getting it right.

After that one leg in Portugal, they all got on a charter jet flight to Los Angeles, with Phil Keoghan serving as flight attendant and giving the teams a fake-out about their final clue.

In L.A., they had to drive themselves, and that was quite a challenge on its own: L.A. traffic without Waze to find shortcuts through people’s driveways? Yikes. They did ask strangers to map routes for them, though.

The two tasks in Los Angeles involved both team members. At the El Pueblo de Los Ángeles Historical Monument, one team member had to smash three particular piñatas while blindfolded, directed by their teammate. This had echoes of Survivor’s blindfolded obstacle course, and also involved paying attention to detail, since there were many similarly-shaped piñatas.

The second task had the teams act as foley artists and create sound for five iconic TAR moments. That’s a super-fun challenge, though the objects they used were chosen for them, and they got to see a demo. I would have loved to see them have to choose the actual objects, but I suppose that would have made it much harder to judge whether they were doing it correctly or not, and having a subjective task in the final leg is not my favorite choice.

Also, I felt for Claire every time they showed her getting hit in the face with the watermelon during season 17—and felt for her if she was watching at home, having to relive that again and again and again.

While both Kim and Penn and Cayla and Raquel left for the stadium at about the same time, Cayla and Raquel arrived first, and had a significant lead for the tennis-themed memory challenge. Alas, they didn’t appear to be as strategic about making changes every time they got a fault (ha!), and Kim and Penn heard “game, set, match!” first, and won the $1 million.

Considering the challenges of stopping and restarting the race after a year and a half, never mind filming in the middle of a pandemic, The Amazing Race 33 was a great season overall. Even with some very thin legs, it felt to me like a throwback to earlier seasons, especially with the post-restart season not having any U-Turns or Yields.

It was just the teams against the course and themselves, which is the way The Amazing Race should be.

All reality blurred content is independently selected, including links to products or services. However, if you buy something after clicking an affiliate link, I may earn a commission, which helps support reality blurred. Learn more.

More great stories

About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


I value our community at reality blurred, which connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

Comment rules: My goal is for us to be able to share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space. That’s why I’ve created these rules for commenting here. By commenting below, you confirm that you’ve read and agree to them.

Happy discussing!


Wednesday 15th of June 2022

Hello Andy. TAR 33 was pretty good season. A lot of switchback challenges - like the plates broking, frat boys team and the FF in Season 9 - and and producers really tried to take into account local customs, food, iconic places. But the stone turning roadblock is THERE, I mean with the GREAT MOMENTS, like "my ox is broken" or the hay bales. Or counting teddy bears and frying pans. So simple and yet so effective. Can't wait for next season, and NO MORE U TURNS and Speed Bumps.


Saturday 5th of March 2022

So glad Kim and Penn won! They had such good energy and were so encouraging to each other and even stopped to throw some attention to the camera crew in their I don’t think self-absorbed “all female team” Raquel and Cayla would have done that. I wanted to like them but their edit made them come across as self-absorbed. Everytime they muttered “this is how we lose Amazing Race” UGH, why is there a more worthy way to lose?


Saturday 5th of March 2022

Did anyone notice that the other three teams were not required to paint their door knobs? Only Ryan and Dusty? Go back and take a look. It seems like a lot of the action is manipulated or re-recorded for drama:


Tuesday 8th of March 2022

@Jane, their door was the only one that had a doorknob right in the middle of it, which was odd, but hard to argue it was "manipulated" when the producers had no idea which can/door each team would choose. Action isn't "re-recorded for drama" smh


Thursday 3rd of March 2022

I had wanted Dusty and Ryan to win. I had started rooting for Kim and Penn, but they started working my last nerve. I thought they were mugging for the camera at times and just coming across fake. I'm not upset they won, as they did run a very good race, just nut thrilled. It was an enjoyable season over all.


Thursday 3rd of March 2022


And Dusty & Ryan weren't mugging to the camera and being obnoxious as possible? Or the flight attendants? How were Kim & Penn mugging or coming across as 'fake'? Go watch their YouTube channel; that is legitimately who they are. I guess you just aren't used to genuinely nice people, huh? Honestly, that's kinda sad; the world does suck nowadays.


Thursday 3rd of March 2022

Fun season. 5 of the 6 final contestants were very easy to root for, and even Dusty wasn't that bad. It really could have gone either of two ways, and both teams would have been deserving winners. I very much do appreciate that the winning team won because they played the overall race better, taking better notes every step along the way. Was a very good race, given the COVID limitations, with a very likeable cast. I also didn't really miss the Yield or U-Turn tasks, and I think it's worth pointing out that there were really no alliances like the Mine Five. Which I was worried about, considering how successful last season's alliance was.

Looking forward to The Amazing Race 34!

Also, Andy, if 'penultimate' is your second favorite word, what is your favorite word?

Andy Dehnart

Friday 4th of March 2022

My favorite word is defenestrate! But I rarely get a chance to use it, so thanks for asking!


Thursday 3rd of March 2022


I don't think you should ask that question!