So, THAT happened. I might not have exactly called the victors this season, but nothing really surprised me about this Challenge finale. I’m actually not really sure how to write this one up as there was so much back and forth, but I’ll do my best. It’s a lot to take in, but also not particularly exciting or interesting. If you want to know who won, you’ll have to hit the jump. We pick up where the previous episode left off. If you don’t remember, the first part of the finale involved being dragged by a boat under water for as long as the contestants could handle, swimming to a row boat and then rowing three miles to a beach where they put on running gear and (of course) ran. By the end of that episode, all the women had made it to the beach with Ev/Paula in the lead and Cara Maria/Laurel right behind them and Jenn/Mandi WAAAAAAY behind. The men were left still rowing. Tyler/Johnny were in the lead while Kenny/Wes were actually driving their boat backwards and Leroy/Mike were pretty far behind. As we start off, Kenny/Wes wind up passing Johnny/Tyler with Mike and Leroy still in third place.
Thanks to the ladies having started before the guys, we see through them what the challenges and checkpoints are. First up is one called Pet Rock which gave each team a rock ball and chain they had to carry with them at all times. Pretty standard stuff as far as Challenges go. This time around only one person has to carry it at a time, though that doesn’t stop Kenny and Wes from each having a hand on the rock or the chain for a good chunk of the first part of the episode.
Up next the racers come to a camp site with a tent and different pieces of equipment laid about. They have to memorize the site and then continue the race only to have to recreate it later on. This is when the Amazing Race comparisons started popping into my head. I’m no expert on that show, but I do remember them having to recreate a trailer set-up this past season. By the way, Mike uses his brain and winds up breaking the rock ball in half to distribute the weight. I wasn’t sure if that would be a rule break, but it turned out to be okay. After that, they had to move a pile of dirt to a box via wheelbarrow. Pretty simple stuff, but exhausting I would imagine. At this point, I realized how impossible it was to tell who was where in the race as it looked like every team was in the same area at different moments. Basically, the positions stayed consistent the whole time unless otherwise mentioned. While Jenn and Mandi seem really behind, it’s hard to tell how far behind the pack Mike and Leroy are. Also, for some unknown reason, Wes decides to stuff some dirt in his socks to help move earth. Kenny calls him on this being ridiculous, but Wes does it anyway. My wife said she thought Wes realize how dumb the idea was right away, but didn’t stop because he’s Wes. I concur. After the dirt, they have to go through a marsh which brings them to the place where they now have to recreate the campsite. If they get it wrong, they have to go all the way back, look at the original site again and then return. Ev and Paula get there first and set up, but are off by one measly thing (the state of their compass). Meanwhile we get this big dramatic buildup of whether Cara Maria and Laurel did it right or not…and they didn’t. When they go back, Laurel analyzes every small detail when it turned out to just be plate placement. Much to my surprise and to contradict what I wrote above, Laurel and Cara Maria get out of this challenge first and take the lead for the ladies. Kenny and Wes do the same for the guys after having to go back once. Jenn and Mandi got literally everything wrong on the first time while Mike and Leroy got everything right. Zero surprise there. Cara Maria/Laurel and Paula/Ev get to the next challenge, called Final Feast at the same time. They basically have to eat all the food on a table. Everyone talks about how great this seems in concept, but how bad it gets. Again, I remember something like this on Amazing Race (and pretty much every show like this ever). Anyway, everyone but Jenn and Mandi are there around the same time eating and puking all over the place. Wes is pretty much eating just salad. You can see his failure pretty early on. Remember he totally choked at the end of Fresh Meat II with Mandi. Speaking of which, Mandi and Jenn are still back trying to set up the camp site during all this. Ev and Paula roll out first followed closely by Laurel and Cara Maria. The standings stay pretty consistent as the contestants now have to run up a mountain. Everyone’s feeling all that food, but no one more than Wes who stops with Tyler and Johnny pretty close behind them. You can see the muscle in Wes’ leg twitching pretty crazily. Kenny’s getting more and more pissed by the second. He even offers to carry Wes, WHICH WES AGREES TO! So Kenny fireman carries Wes for a while. This part of the race takes quite a while. So long in fact that, as it’s getting dark and Jenn and Mandi are on their way after finally getting the camp puzzle done, a producer tells them they have to stop. It’s too dangerous for them to make the post-food climb in the dark. I’m assuming they haven’t even gotten to the Feast yet, though that’s not made explicitly clear. We’re treated to a bullshit montage about how much they love each other now. Whatever. No one thought you were going to win and this proves how useless Jenn is. I don’t care if she was in top notch form (she and Tyler were sick with food poisoning the night before). But this is exactly why they keep her around, because she’s not a real threat for the money. Meanwhile, up at the top of this hill/mountain/trail, Ev and Paula get to the next checkpoint thinking it’s supposed to be the finale, which we as viewers are also supposed to be thinking. However, the producers decided to spoil this in the previews, so all these little moments edited to make us think they’re getting close or whatever (in addition to the fact that it was only around 10:30PM) ruined this surprise. Bad editing from a group that usually does a pretty masterful job of it. Anyway, they get to the last checkpoint of the day. As everyone gets there (they’re not told about Jenn and Mandi being DQed until the next day) they see a sign that says that, if one person on the team is sleeping, the other one has to stand on a pile of rocks. If you fall off, your partner has to replace you. You’re also not allowed to wake another team up (doing so earns you a 10 minute penalty the next day). Also, it seems like if both people are awake, they can sit by the fire. We start off with Cara Maria, Kenny, Leroy, Johnny and Paula standing. During this time, Kenny’s telling them how he had to actually carry Wes and how useless he’s been so far. We then get a great cut to Wes lying awake in his sleeping bag listening to all this. After Kenny falls off, they have a fireside chat where Wes gets on Kenny’s case for telling the competition how bad off they were. It’s all nonsense. Wes is the biggest choker in the game, hands down. After that there’s a montage of people standing and looking miserable–Ev takes the prize for craziest look, though.
Around 8:00AM the next day, host TJ Lavin shows up. He finally tells them that Mandi and Jenn were sent home and also explains how the second day will go. They have to race up this craggy mountain, at the top of which they’ll find search and rescue devices that will lead them to a key that opens the final treasure at the end. The first team to get the treasure unlocked wins first place, then second. The teams that got to this checkpoint first (Wes/Kenny and Paula/Ev) get a two minute head start in front of the second team (Cara Maria/Laurel and Johnny/Tyler) who gets one minute ahead of the third place team. Around this time, Mike starts telling Leroy he doesn’t think he can do it. Leroy tells him to get some food and see what he can do. After all the teams head up the mountain, they tell TJ that they’re quitting. TJ gives them big ups, but they’re donezo. The positions of the final four teams stay pretty consistent, but everyone gets to the homing devices at about the same time. So, now it’s just a race to find the keys. It’s a scramble, but Johnny and Tyler wind up getting their key first and taking home the big bucks. In a strange bit of anticlimactic business, they then cut to Ev and Paula making their way to first place. Everyone’s pretty happy with their winnings except Kenny who starts yelling at Wes. We then get treated to Wes telling the camera that this game is also about friendship. Are you kidding me?
So there you have it. The top four teams were no surprise whatsoever. Like I said in last week’s post, I wasn’t really rooting for anyone going into this. Tyler had been awful douchey lately as has Wes and I have a hard time rooting for Johnny or Kenny. I guess the lesser of four evils won (or however the math works). For the women, I was rooting for Cara Maria and Laurel to walk away with the money, but seeing how happy they were afterwards was pretty cool. Laurel even said she learned about accepting people by being teamed with Cara Maria. I guess we’ll see if that sticks on the next Challenge. Overall, aside from the Amazing Race comparisons, I thought the finale was kind of boring. The fun of these things is the hope that the team you’re rooting for can come from behind to win and that didn’t really seem to be the case with this one after a pretty early portion of the game. I also wasn’t impressed with that very last part with the key-finding as it seemed more luck based than anything. Maybe I just don’t understand how those devices work, but the whole thing just seemed anticlimactic and a little pre-ordained. Ah well, we’ll put this season to bed next week with the Reunion (I assume) and soon after we’ll be on to the next season of Real World, this time set in San Diego…again.