Episode 12 – Race to the Finish — Part 1
Original Airdate: Wednesday, December 5, 2001
Phil says this Penultimate Leg is all about positioning for the Race to the Finish Line. And Rob & Brennan and Frank & Margarita are almost a full day ahead of Joe & Bill.
While waiting to check out and start this Leg, tensions rise between Frank and Margarita as they argue over something. They depart at 11:14pm with Rob & Brennan starting at 11:25pm.
The first clue tells teams to follow a provided map and head to the “X” in Tiantan Park where they will find one of three kites with their next clue. The park opens at 6am so both teams head to a hotel to sleep in for the night.
In the morning, Frank & Margarita are able to enter five minutes before 6am and find the kites first. Rob & Brennan are close behind.
Teams must now travel by public bus to the lower-level entrance of the Great Wall at Juyong Pass.
At the Great Wall, Frank & Margarita decide to jump fences in order to enter. But Rob & Brennan are able to find the correct entrance and get to the Detour clue first.
For this Detour, teams must choose if they want to go Flat or Steep on their way to a Pavilion. In Flat, teams must walk a flat, but long path to a pavilion. In Steep, teams must walk a steep, but short path.
Rob & Brennan choose Steep and reach the next clue while Frank & Margarita continue to jump fences.
Rob & Brennan open the next clue telling teams to head to the North Country Bred & Breakfast in Scotty Lake, Alaska via Anchorage. They try to hurry to the airport in order to create distance between them and Frank & Margarita.
Frank and Margarita continue to argue over things as they complete the Steep Detour. They hash it out in the taxi on the way to the airport.
At the airport, Rob & Brennan get testy with their taxi driver who demands full price while the lawyers refuse to pay for his slow driving. At the counter, Rob & Brennan find a flight itinerary through San Francisco and Seattle, but there are only Business Class seats available. They are able to convince the ticket agent to bump other passengers to Business to allow them to book Economy.
Frank & Margarita get to the counter and Margarita insists they fly to Los Angeles which could have more flights to Anchorage than San Francisco. Frank convinces her otherwise and the ticket agent is able to sell them Business Class seats on the same itinerary as Rob & Brennan at Economy fare.
As Rob & Brennan and Frank & Margarita fly to the United States, Joe & Bill are still in Beijing preparing to start the Leg. They depart at 10:51pm, almost 24 hours after Frank & Margarita. At 6am the next morning, Team Guido find their kite and are still hopeful they can catch up. At the Great Wall, they choose the Steep Detour.
Meanwhile, Rob & Brennan and Frank & Margarita have arrived in Alaska at 9:20pm. They must choose a 4×4 vehicle and be driven to the bed and breakfast.
At the bed and breakfast, teams must spend the night in a cabin before participating in a native Alaskan blanket toss at 10am.
Next morning, teams will be tossed up on a blanket by locals in order to search the area for their next clue which is a flag on the ground a few yards away.
After the toss, teams must drive themselves to Matanuska Glacier for more instructions at the base of an ice wall.
Rob & Brennan arrive at the glacier first and are led to the Road Block: This could be a slippery situation. For this Road Block, teams will climb the ice wall.
Rob and Frank decide to the Road Block and are guided by a pro on how to properly climb.
After the climb, teams must head to Mile Marker 131 where they will hop on a snowmobile to the Pit Stop cabin. Rob & Brennan claim 1st with Frank & Margarita in 2nd.
Later that evening, Joe & Bill have only just arrived in Anchorage and are still a whole day behind as they must wait for morning.
Rob & Brennan and Frank & Margarita are both ready to Race to the Finish Line against each other.
Again, Joe & Bill being a full day behind Rob & Brennan and Frank & Margarita is just crazy to wrap your head around. Because of that, they were pretty much irrelevant here (and will be in the Final Leg of course).
Also, it’s definitely weird to have teams back in the United States on the Penultimate Leg. With a 2021 lens, it takes away from the excitement of teams arriving home on that Final Leg. But back in 2001, it’s just part of the adventure of the Race.
At the same time, the Penultimate Leg being a Non-Elimination Leg with the final three teams does take a bit away from the Final Leg excitement. Perhaps if this and Episode 13 aired as two-hours, it would’ve felt a bit more complete and even exciting. A big two-hour event to wrap up this Race around the world.
Between the Non-Elimination and flying to Alaska, it really does make this episode feel like filler, unfortunately.
Still, positioning for the Final Leg actually meant something back then since teams weren’t equalized in the Final Leg. (Especially as teams had to fly between countries in the middle of that Leg.) These days of course, we need to equalize teams before starting the Final Leg, otherwise it would be pretty bad TV in the modern era. Back then, it’s alright. On modern TAR? Not good.
The Detour at the Great Wall didn’t help either. Another walking Detour, out of all the things they could’ve done in Beijing. Though a visit to the Great Wall, again, fits with TAR1 wanting to hit all the iconic landmarks around the world which they did a solid job of doing this season.
Seeing Frank & Margarita hopping fences made me feel sorry for their camera and sound crew. They had to hop those same fences, I assume. They definitely had a difficult job, but would always do amazingly.
The flight maneuvering also meant something back then. Especially in the Penultimate and Final Legs.
In Alaska, the tasks were simple enough to fill out the Leg. But again, it all felt like filler, sadly.
My Subjective Team Rankings
Rob & Brennan and Frank & Margarita are so evenly matched. So if there were any two teams worthy of Racing to the Finish Line against each other, it’s them two. It’s interesting to see Frank & Margarita’s relationship kind of take a hit in these last two Legs. You can see how the show focused on it in order to maybe set-up the results of the Final Leg. Also to create a big relationship-centered story/plot as well.
Again with Joe & Bill, they were irrelevant and will continue to be going into the Final Leg. On one hand, it’s funny after the sneaky things they’ve done all season. On the other, it’s sad because it really would’ve been more exciting to see all three teams Racing side-by-side.
Phil: “Every second counts.”
Margarita: “What is your attitude for?”