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Off to the Finish Line with Amazing Race Canada

After 12 weeks, and 40,000 kilometres, Season 2 of Amazing Race Canada is running to the end. It’s the final leg with the last three teams – Natalie and Meaghan (the Olympians), Mickey and Pete (the Dudes) and Ryan and Rob (the Bartenders) – heading out from New Brunswick to the nation’s capital, Ottawa.

Not the best final three in my opinion. I’m a fan of the Olympians – as is my 10 year old daughter – because they are tough, they are Canadian heroes. And since I have a 10 year old daughter, they are incredible role models for girls her age. For girls of any age. Although the fact they won seven out of the 11 legs so far, removed some of the drama and excitement for me. They are, however, the favourites to win and have a huge fan base. Mickey and Pete are okay, fun guys but I was never really taken by their Pauly Shore talk. For some, Mickey and Pete are the “weirdo” team because of their long hair and dude talk. But for someone who spent years as a punk rock drummer, Mickey and Pete are relatively normal. As for Ryan and Rob, they are, by far, one of the most invisible teams in the history of the race. Ryan was interesting to the point but the way they edited Rob made him one of the least verbal reality show contestants in the history of reality shows. If the man said over 100 words in the entire season, I’ll be surprised.

Anyway, these are the teams we are with for the final three, so on with the show. Once in Ottawa, teams must first find the business class lounge at the Ottawa airport. At this point, I’d have them do something unspeakable to a politician in the business class lounge but they only have to find a clue. Make their way to the Pumping Station on the Ottawa River (Sorry if I got some specifics wrong this week, I was viewing the show with my family and in the spirit of family unity, I agreed to watch the show without pausing to make notes). At the pumping station, they have to jump aboard a kayak, paddle through an kayak training area all the way to the Rideau Canal.

Teams jump into taxis and head out to the station. On the road, Ryan and Rob’s cab passes they others and for a moment they celebrate being in first place. But that celebration ends quickly when their cabbie makes a wrong turn. First to last in one turn of a steering wheel. The Olympians and the Dudes arrive and head out to the river at the same. Although the Dudes show some intensity and pass the Olympians on the shore and are quickly on the river. Since these guys own a wake boarding facility, they have lots of experience on the water.

The Olympians’s experience is mostly on frozen water and for several moments they are stuck on shore, Meaghan in the kayak while Natalie tries to push them in. Nope, not gonna work. You gotta get out first. Thankfully, she figures it out and they are out into the river but the Dudes are way ahead. And it’s hard to make up time when Meaghan’s hand is still healing from being broken from the Olympics. (Safety Question: if someone just broke their hand a couple months before the start of the Amazing Race Canada, did that come up in the medical assessment? If so, was there discussion on Meaghan’s hand before she was cast? I only say this because throughout the race she was favouring that hand and it would be a shame if she further injured it during the race.) The cabbie for the Bartenders is trying to get directions from the dispatch.

Clue-Box-Parliament-HillThe Dudes power through the river, get to the Canal and have to find the Centennial Flame in front of the Parliament Building. They start climbing stairs. As the Olympian pulls in Meaghan’s hand is seizing up from the paddling. But they get the clue and head to the flame. Ryan and Rob are finally at the pump station and head down to the river. The Dudes find the clue box and must find the Office of the Speaker, grab one of the envelopes with a date and find the hansard book for that date and determine what historical event occurring. Hansard research, awesome task for me, a guy who’s written a number of history books. I’ve read through many a Hansard over the years and can pretty quickly find out the important stuff. There’s a lot of boring housekeeping stuff in these things so if you don’t know what’s what, it can be time-consuming to find something significant.

The Dudes run quick and find the Speaker’s Office. They get March 26, 1986. Not sure about this but my first impression was to pick the Charter of Rights. Although that could have happened a couple years earlier. The Dudes start looking for the right book, one in a thousand. The Olympians are close behind, grab the clue and head for the Speaker’s Office looking for the envelope. However, even though they come to an office with Mickey and Pete in it, they think they are in the wrong place. There’s that rushing without reading the clue completely that eliminated teams have talked about. So the girls start running around, looking for a big place where someone can speak. Losing precious time.

The Dudes discover that on their date, Parliament approved the use of the Loonie (oops, I’m wrong) and head out to the library to give the librarian the answer. It’s correct and not only do they get a clue, they get a hug. “First time I’ve hugged a librarian before,” one says. Man, these guys have to get out of the woods a bit more if that’s the first time they’ve experienced that pleasure. Librarians are awesome! On average, I hug one once a month. The Dudes are told to head to the Diefenbunker just outside of town. Cool. Love to see one of those places. We got one just south of Edmonton near Red Deer. Not sure if it’s still there.

The Olympians finally figure out their mistake and head back to the office. They get a date in 1949 (note my previous note about not having time to take notes). I figure something to do with accepting Newfoundland into Confederation cause that happened in 1949 but again, I could be wrong. And I am. Their date deals with the adoption of O Canada as the national anthem in English and French. An apropos answer for the Olympians because it must be incredibly awesome to hear and sing the national anthem after you win an Olympic gold medal. They are off to the Diefenbunker just as Ryan and Rob are coming up the hill, heading into the Speakers Office. They get a date in 1964 and that’s obviously got to be something to do with the Canadian flag. And it is. Woohoo, one out of three right, although I know my guesses were pretty close with the other dates!

Clue-Card-at-DiefenbunkerAt the Diefenbunker, it’s a roadblock. The team member must run through 100,000 square feet of the four story bunker and look for three out of five army toys places in the area. Not physically difficult, but it could be annoying because it’s a big place and there are many hidden areas. Pete starts running around and soon finds himself lost in the maze. Ironically, a “hippie” like him wouldn’t have been allowed to be even in the vicinity of the place during the Cold War. It looks like the Olympians could catch up but there are strange sounds coming out of the engine of their taxi. Yikes, what a time to get a bad cab. It looks bad but the car at least gets them to the Diefenbunker. And they ask the cabbie to send in a replacement.

Because they believe this task to be extremely physical, Natalie decides to do it because of Meaghan’s hand. (Again, this brings up the medical question about her hand and if it was truly ready to participate in the race). But as we see her and Pete running around the place, there is no heavy lifting on this task. Soon, Natalie has a toy while Pete has none. But Pete catches up and soon they are tied with two apiece. But both also run in and out of rooms way too quickly and don’t see one of the toys. Natalie makes that mistake more times than Pete, just glancing around instead of truly looking. And because of that, Pete gets his third toy. Head to the Natural Museum. The Dudes are off.

Ryan and Rob arrive not much later with Rob jumping into the bunker. He’s moving fast, grabbing toys. And though Meaghan finally gets out of there and they head to the Museum, Ryan and Rob are about a minute or so behind. He may be quiet but Rob is pretty fast. At the museum, it’s another Roadblock that the other team-member must do. Ascend using a pulley type system to the top of the inner tower and grab your clue. These types of ascension is tough, mostly leg power but it does require major hand control and movement. So while Mickey struggles to get started, we all know it’s going to be really tough on Meaghan and her hand.

Clue-box-at-National-GalleryMickey figures out the technique, spends a few seconds reaching for the clue, but gets it and slides over to the ledge. Head to the National Gallery. As the boys rush down the stairs, they pass the Olympians coming up. The girls are going to have to move fast but since Meaghan has hand difficulties, it’s not going to be an easy climb. And it’s not, even though you have to use leg strength to pull up. Still, hands play a major role in this. But the time she gets to the top, she’s suffering. She says her hand is swollen and you can see that she is seriously favouring it. I really hope it’s okay because it would be a shame if it became a chronic injury.

The girls are being chased by Ryan who starts moving up just as Meaghan is getting the clue. The Olympians head to the National Galley as do the Bartenders. And that’s where all the teams converge for the final challenge. There’s been a lot of internet talk about what the challenge would be. I predicted the landmarks where the pitstops occurred but it’s a much bigger one. There are a series of art pieces depicting places in each leg where the race. Teams have to find four piece for each leg and hang them in order on the wall. Mickey and Pete seem to make good progress while they are there and quickly discover that there are also a number of red herring pieces that don’t represent anyplace they want. Unfortunately, it’s one of those red herring bits that gives them a fail. And you know it’s because they don’t get out much (or that they are young and inexperienced) because there is no way a red double decker bus would represent Paris. London, yes; Paris, no.

Unfortunately, the internationally traveled Olympians make the same mistake. They also mistake the Pompidou Centre as a location in Montreal. And while I know during the race, things are moving fast if you have travelled a bit, know some history or geography, these mistakes would not have been made. At least, Gord and I would not have made these mistakes. Other ones, probably. These ones, nope. Ryan and Rob seemed to be working fast but even though the editing looks like they are close, I’m pretty sure it’s not. Mickey and Pete make a change but also put Pompidou in a Montreal. So they fail again. As do the Olympians. But the boys realize that mistake and then figure out that maybe Pompidou is in Paris, not a red double-decker bus. They make their changes and pass. Head to the final pitstop at Rideau Hall, home of the Governor-General. That’s a big place, a place I spent a nice afternoon with my kid during trip to Ottawa. She was just outta kindergarten so instead of touring the grounds and the house, we spend the whole time in the playground.

The boys head out and seemingly not long after (or could it be the editing?), the Olympians fix their mistakes and they are off. And Ryan and Rob are done. There are some quit edits as each team races to Rideau Hall as Jon and the eliminated racers wait in anticipation. And while it looks like a close race, it’s not really. Mickey and Pete…wait, what…Mickey and Pete? Okay, that was unexpected. Sure they were ahead for most of the day but the way the whole race played out, the editing and all the push, it seemed for sure that the Olympians were the ones who would win.

But it’s Mickey and Pete. And in a moment of true class, the boys remove their pants and jump onto the finish line. Congrats to them, pretty sure they could use the money but there are a lot of fans who are no doubt disappointed. My kid is one of them. But though the Olympians are second, they shouldn’t be disappointed. They raced a tough hard race, winning seven legs and many prizes. And though they didn’t win, I have no doubt that they will reap benefits in the way of sponsorship or invites to make inspirational speeches. I mean, if you had a choice to pay someone to make an inspirational speech, would you pick the Dudes and their Pauly Shore talk? Or gold medal athletes who came second in Amazing Race but did so with one of them healing from a broken hand that didn’t stop her from playing in the gold medal game? Bobby Baun, eat your heart out.

Despite the pants removal, I’m okay with the Dudes winning. It was a better ending than Ryan and Rob who come in third. As I said earlier, the Bartenders were one of the most invisible (or as Gord said, non-dimensional) teams in the history of the race. Either they were really boring or they were edited to remove all emotion, fun or intensity from their participation. One wonders why they were chosen or why the decision to edit a Final 3 team  to such an extent. Sure I don’t work in TV, but I am a novelist and know a little bit about characters and storytelling. These guys were not at all integral to the season; they could have been edited out completely and we wouldn’t have missed them. Except for the time Sukhi and Jinder U-Turned them.

Finale-Cast-PhotoStill, it was a pretty solid season overall. Some better moments than Season 1 and great that they left the country a couple of times. Although the storytelling, tasks and teams were slightly less interesting than Season 3 of Amazing Race Australia. Lots of tough tasks there but there are also some great and varied teams there, no filler and with a little more diversity in physicality. Amazing Race Australia has never been afraid of booking teams who aren’t in major physical shape or who look more like an average viewer. The teams in Season 2 of TAR Canada were overall way too fit and way too good-looking, with some lacking in personality, or had their personality edited out. But still a great season, a lot better than the last few seasons of the American one, especially the recent All-Star edition.

Major kudos must go to Jon Montgomery who’s really come into his own as host. He’s really started to relax and the fact that he does a lot of his tasks makes him one of the bests hosts of the race. Sure Phil is the classic and original host, but Phil seems to be going through the motions for the past several seasons. Unlike recent Phil, Jon is fully invested in the race and I’m keen to see where he goes from here, either on the race or somewhere else.

Thanks for reading and thanks for Pop Goes the World for having my posts. Again, this post, along with team interviews (including winners Mickey and Pete) and video recaps, is also seen at Amazing Race Canada and More with Gord and Wayne.

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