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Amazing Race 35’s winners won after a Seattle scramble—and an amazing season

Amazing Race 35’s winners won after a Seattle scramble—and an amazing season
The Amazing Race 35's winning team is greeted by Phil Keoghan on the mat in Seattle (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

“This season, The Amazing Race returned to its roots,” Phil Keoghan said at the start of The Amazing Race 35’s 12th and final episode. Indeed it did, and that’s one reason why TAR 35 has been such a great season.

In the finale, though, the “classic game play” Phil also mentioned was paired with a relatively new element, the Scramble, and that made the last leg much more interesting than just watching teams check off tasks in the same order.

Yes, the element first introduced in Munich last season returned. What a perfect time to bring that back. “It’s very exciting. It’s different,” Rob signed. I agree.

There were no Roadblock or Detour challenges, just Route Info challenges, the Scramble, and one final team task for the teams to tackle.

For the first time in Amazing Race history, the final three teams were all composed of men: brothers Greg Franklin and John Franklin, father and son Rob McArthur and Corey McArthur, and friends Joel Strasser and Garrett Smith.

They were pretty evenly matched, perhaps with Greg and John having a slight edge—not just because of their multiple first-place wins, but because they’re the youngest and fittest team.

A person in a harness walks on a slanted surface high above a city
Greg walks on the Space Needle during The Amazing Race 35’s finale (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

The finale began in Dublin, but only for the teams to fly to Seattle. My cursory research suggests that’s a minimum of 13 hours, including one layover, and perhaps as long as 16 hours.

Greg and John used the cab ride to Dublin’s airport to look up the location of the parking in Seattle, and I shouted with glee: Yes, they were driving themselves! No bad cab would be to blame for this finale.

In Seattle, the three teams went to the Space Needle, and while Rob and Corey arrived first, they were all so close they were in the elevator together.

One at a time, they had to walk around the roof of the Space Needle, where there was a clue box at the edge. They went in order of arrival: Corey, John, Garrett, then Rob, Greg, and Joel.

Interestingly, we could hear and see the helicopter that was filming them, and from the helicopter’s vantage point, see the safety crew and camera operators.

At the base of the Space Needle, in the glass garden, teams learned about the Scramble.

They could tackle its three challenges—”inspired by Seattle’s art scene,” as Phil Keoghan said—in any order. Those challenges:

  • blow a glass ball, a teamwork- and detail-oriented challenge
  • set up a stage, a detail-oriented challenge
  • swing on a trapeze and be caught by someone else, a physical challenge

Rob and Corey went to the furthest challenge; Joel and Garrett, and John and Greg, did the opposite, ending up at glass blowing at the same time.

While Corey flew through the air and did the trapeze in one try, Rob took eight tries. “Boy was I wrong. It was not easy,” Rob said. But it was a triumphant moment when he completed it. “That’s my dad,” Corey said.

Two smiling people reach forward to shake hands; a third person stands behind them, holding water bottles
The Amazing Race 35 finalists Rob and Corey complete a challenge on the season finale (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

Meanwhile, Greg and John took six attempts to blow their glass glass, and Joel and Garrett failed their sound check. “No—again, no,” the judge said, and the tone he used suggested he was about to pick up a guitar and smash it on the ground and scream: RUN FASTER DAD. Sorry, that was reflexive all-caps writing.

After they got everything set up and—here was the tricky part: plugged in—I was surprised the producers made the teams stand and listen to music.

I was even more surprised that Joel and Garrett kept rocking out after getting their clue from their band’s lead singer. Run, Forest, run!

The highlight of that challenge for me was Greg and John repeatedly opening the amp, lifting the lid, and missing what was attached to that lid. That was so painful to watch, and they added to their misery by unknowingly revealing to Rob and Corey that they also had to find and use power cables.

A person blows into a pipe that has a glass ball at the end; another person holds that with large tongs
Garrett and Joel attempt glass blowing during The Amazing Race 35’s finale (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

That challenge dropped Greg and John into third place, while Joel and Garrett were theoretically ahead. That, however, assumes the glass blowing and trapeze challenges were equivalent in the amount of time they’d take.

Joel and Garrett did, however, finish the trapeze before Greg and John even started, and thus were the first to receive all three clues: together, they formed a plane, which led them to 6321 NE 175th Street in Kenmore, a sea plane place north of Seattle.

On the way, they stopped for directions and met some fans. “Dude, this is The Amazing Race, it’s all yours,” said a guy who Joel and Garrett asked for help at a gas station.

A little while later, Greg and John stopped, and I thought they might run into the same guy. “We’re in a TV show for a million dollars,” Greg or John said when they asked for help from someone who was also, coincidentally, wearing a yellow t-shirt.

One person in a yellow shirt holds a pole connected to a glass bubble, and clips it with scissors; another person reaches for a tool. A sign in the background says Seattle Glassblowing Studio
The Amazing Race 35 finalists Greg and John blow glass at the Seattle Glassblowing Studio during the final leg (Image from Amazing Race via CBS)

“We’re living the underdog dream right now,” Joel said as they drove to the final challenge. They were—and it seemed like they were on their way to a win.

The final challenge was, as is tradition, a memory challenge about The Amazing Race itself.

Each of TAR 35’s Roadblock and Detour challenge names were printed on a sign attached to a kayak, and they had to place all those kayaks in racks, in order.

That was not only a physical task, but a little tricky because the challenges were given their official names, like “Stand” and “Deliver,” or “Who wants a birds-eye view?” The producers gave the teams a small head start by color-coding the kayaks, so they knew the difference between Roadblocks and Detours.

This challenge has sometimes been left to a single team member; I like that they were able to work together.

Greg and John started as Joel and Garrett were finishing, but Joel and Garrett also had two kayaks swapped. On the way to that challenge, Rob and Corey got lost, but eventually arrived.

Once again, all three teams were at the same place, though not exactly tied: Joel and Garrett had a considerable lead, and Rob and Corey had a considerable deficit.

Greg and John pulled ahead—not because of their physical prowess or youth, but because they had better memories. Look at those young brains!

They were the first to drive about 25 minutes to Clise Mansion, a wedding venue that was once a hunting lodge. Upon arriving, teams did not have to shoot at small, defenseless, cute animals before racing to the finish mat.

Joel and Garrett figured out their mistake and took off shortly after Greg and John, meaning Corey and Rob were, alas, solidly in third place. They’ll always have a place in my heart as one of the most functional child-parent teams in the race’s history.

The editors made it seem like they both of the other teams were driving to the parking lot at the exact same time.

Greg and John arrived first, winning the race and the $1 million prize.

And then Garrett and Joel arrived about two minutes later, so they truly were close behind.

I wasn’t sure if Anna Leigh and Steve had made it to the finish line to cheer with the other eliminated teams, but then I heard COME ON DAD CLAP LOUDER YOU CRUSTY DUST BUCKET. Oh, I kid Anna Leigh!

“It’s just wonderful to see the connection you guys have, and the spirit in which you’ve run this race,” Phil Keoghan told Greg and John.

Not to take anything away from them as teammates or siblings, but Phil could have said that about any of the final three teams. That is just one of the things that made The Amazing Race 35 such a terrific season.

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Friday 15th of December 2023

It was a fantastic season. I guess my favorite. I was really bummed though...Because I really thought Rob & Corey were gonna be way out front, and then they were 3rd. I REALLY liked them so much! I was very happy for the brothers though, they did GREAT!


Friday 15th of December 2023

Heh. Anyone who lived in Seattle for long knew at the minute they started assembling a little seaplane that they were headed for Kenmore Air Harbor. That is at the very northern tip of Lake Washington, meaning a good long drive north. Good thing it was at night or I'd assume the traffic would be a hot mess. Fun seeing them passing my old exit to our crummy first apartment together in Shoreline.


Friday 15th of December 2023

@John, I was also marveling at what the traffic and parking hassles would have been in a different time of day

Candace larkins

Friday 15th of December 2023

Best season ever on amazing race!


Friday 15th of December 2023

Yay, so happy for Greg and John! They ran one of the most impressive races that I can ever remember and really deserved it. I was losing my mind watching them tank it in the first two parts of the scramble, so it was a relief when they pulled it out at the memory challenge.


Friday 15th of December 2023

@AK, I thought I would be happy with any of the 3 but as I was watching I was freaking out over the brothers' falling behind and so relieved when they won.

also I appreciate Andy not spoiling this in the title because I didn't watch it until Thursday.


Friday 15th of December 2023

Three great finals teams.

Marymoor Park is a nightmare to get around within there were definitely opportunities for drama there.

I have actually seen the Black Tones a bunch of times.

This was just a lot of fun.