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Amazing Race 21 – Finale – You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

The Finale this season is basically two episodes – just as I suspected last week. And boy, I can also see why they chose to structure the season the way they did. It was compelling to see the Hairs deal with their passport problems in Russia and it deserved attention. Now we see why it was especially important to focus so deeply on the descent into travel hell experienced by the Goats and Apprentice. It was to set up this stunning finale. And, seriously Race fans, this was a stunning finale, and one of the best ones. And it ended with one of my favorite final tasks in Show history.

And how many sentences can I begin with “and”? Shrunk and White are going to come find me and conk me on the head with a flagpole, just like Lexi. I’m sorry, Lexi, that just doesn’t get old.

Before we talk about what happened and who won, let’s talk a bit about that final task, and in fact, the series of final tasks in the New York leg of the Race. Because I felt that it was old school racing – tough, but simple tasks that featured local customs and icons. Perfect.

Task 1 – Go to Coney Island. Except they only had a postcard of Coney Island to figure it out. This wouldn’t be too tough to do, especially on a plane full of New Yorkers returning from Paris. The teams piled into cabs and made their way to Coney Island. Just a moment, though, to talk about how the Show continues to figure out ways to send teams to places just before they are hit by massive natural disasters – New Orleans, Sri Lanka, etc. Hang in there, Coney Island.

The clue was cleverly hidden. A series of billboards are lined up outside the park. One has in huge letters across the top – “The Amazing” – with “Houdini” on the bottom. Below the top lettering is a small sign saying to “Race to the Brooklyn Navy Yards.” Nice touch. The Amazing + Race. The teams had many troubles trying to figure that one out.

At the Navy Yards, we had Roadblock #1 where one member had to recreate a Houdini move – dangle upside down and try to remove a straight jacket. I assume the jacket was not really tied tightly or else the method of containment seems rather flawed. It was fun watching them do this one and end with a sudden bungee drop. From here, they had to find the “first pizza place in America.” Any good New Yorker will tell you automatically “Lombardi’s” in Manhattan. These teams had to first get an IPhone to look it up before crossing the river.

Here the Race threw me off – I expected an eating challenge a la the pizza in Chicago during the final leg of Season 6. Instead, teams had to deliver 10 pizzas in three groups to three addresses in Little Italy. This sounds daunting to some, but in reality, Little Italy has been reduced to just a few blocks now as Chinatown has essentially grown exponentially it has replaced it. It couldn’t have been too hard to find those addresses. Now, mixing up the pizzas? That’s another story altogether. In fact, I thought that error was going to be the deciding moment of the Race, as what often happens in the final leg where one error leads to a lead which can never be surmounted.

However, that was not the case. Teams were given a swath of cloth with the UN logo and told nothing else. Instantly, I knew it was the UN logo. However, unlike most of the finalists I can actually name more than half of the countries in the world. No surprise the logo escaped them. Once at the iconic building, teams had the traditional memory challenge to wrap up the season. And they saw it coming too, except this time the show had a simple and diabolical twist.

You say goodbye, and I say hello. Slyly, all season long, the greeters at each Pit Stop has said hello to arriving Racers as they hit the mat, and goodbye as they left. Phil has pointed out to each of them that this is how you say hello and goodbye in the native languages. Well, that throwaway bit of info decided the big prize – teams had to raise flags with the hello and goodbyes from each country, in that order, underneath each flag. No one was prepared for this task. They battled until it became dark before one team was able to figure it out and make their way to the Finish Line at Gotham Hall on 36th Street in Manhattan.

Spoiler after the jump…

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