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'The Amazing Race 7' runner-up Rob Mariano continues to fuel final flight conspiracy rumors


By Reality TV World staff, 05/20/2005 

More than a week has passed since the broadcast of CBS's The Amazing Race 7 finale, however thanks to the ongoing efforts of bitter runner-up Rob Mariano, a small cloud of doubt continues to linger around winning couple Uchenna and Joyce Agu's victory.

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Sly as always, Rob (never one to shy away from playing loose with the truth) has used his media appearances to insinuate that there was something less than above board in the winning couple's ability to get onto the Miami-bound American Airlines flight that allowed them to go head-to-head with Rob and new wife Amber Brkich in the competition's final tasks. However if one chooses to believe the words of Uchenna and Joyce, there was indeed something below board about how the couple came about getting on the plane -- only it was Rob himself who attempted to commit the below board behavior.

Seemingly unable to come to grips with the fact that a team other than his own might possibly have something go their way in the game and not mentioning any role that he might have had in the event, Rob has used the past week and a half to snarky imply -- mostly without actually saying so -- that Uchenna and Joyce's ability to get on the flight was somehow fixed by show producers seeking to ensure a down-to-the-wire finish that would have not otherwise occurred had he and Amber managed to be the only The Amazing Race team on the earlier Miami-bound flight.

Rob began his "left unspoken" campaign on last Thursday's Live with Regis & Kelly show, where he responded with an "America can judge" comment after host Regis Philbin asked him whether he felt there had been a "plot" to help Uchenna and Joyce win the program's $1,000,000 grand prize.

"When was the last time you ever have seen them close the door of a plane and then turn around and open it after they pulled the jetway away," Mariano later stated -- while conveniently ignoring the fact that his own team was the recipient of a similar late boarding scenario during The Amazing Race 7's Argentinean visit that aired in the show's fourth episode.

While Rob and Amber's late boarding didn't involve the partial retraction of a jetway, that's because there was no jetway at the airport in question (instead the passengers had to walk onto the tarmac and up a mobile stairway in order to board the plane) -- with Rob even gushing to the camera that "these very nice people are going to hold the flight for us."

Not to be left out, Amber also piped in with some Live comments of her own, exclaiming "That pilot owes us a lot of money!"

CBS was quick to denounce the implications of the couple's comments, with a network spokesperson telling the New York Post that "You've seen them on Survivor and The Race, Rob says everything with a grin. But such characterizations, even in jest, are completely without foundation."

"Reality series are always breeding grounds for conspiracy theories," the CBS spokesperson added. "Only an understanding gate agent and the goodwill of the pilot returned the jetway back to the plane. Uchenna and Joyce treated everyone with kindness and respect throughout race, and that karma was returned at a crucial moment."

A FAA spokesman also confirmed that there were no procedural violations in the airline's actions, telling the Post that "It's the pilot's call, Under these circumstances "it's perfectly fine for the captain to [have] returned to the gate to pick up the couple."

Not willing to let the issue go, Rob continued his one-man conspiracy campaign later in the week. In an interview published on Monday, Rob was bolder in his comments, telling TVGuide.com that "we'll leave that up to the viewers to decide." "It was a bit sketchy to me. I don't know the last time you saw anyone re-open a plane door for somebody. And it wouldn't have been too dramatic if only one team was running to the finish line."

Still not done rumormongering, Rob was back on his unstated conspiracy horse again last night, once again alluding to improper behavior during a Thursday night appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno that was intended to promote next week's CBS broadcast of the couple's Rob And Amber Get Married wedding special.

"It's still a tough subject Jay," Rob replied after Jay asked about the fateful plane flight. Talking about Uchenna and Joyce's boarding, he said "I've talked to the people at American Airlines already and they say they've never seen it done." "I'm not saying anything Jay, America can decide."

Showing some sportsmanship, Rob did later note that "We did have a wonderful time and if any other team could have won the million dollars we're very happy it was Uchenna and Joyce, they deserved it and they're a great couple."

As far Uchenna and Joyce, they claim that there is a simple explanation for the airline employees' unusual willingness to help them -- that it was because they had only originally booked tickets on the later Miami flight because the American Airlines agent who had sold them their tickets had, at Rob's request, lied and not told them about the earlier flight.

In an interview with Edmonton's 96X BJ & Shannon X-perience radio show, Uchenna and Joyce explained their side of the story -- and also noted Rob and Amber's previous ability to accomplish a similar late boarding.

Responding to Rob's open question, Joyce told the station "'Have you ever seen it' -- yes, we saw it in South America when they reopened the doors to let Rob and Amber on the plane." "That happened twice in one show -- a miracle -- and you know it's really strange... it's a scandal now that it happened to us and all along the way Rob and Amber got help from everybody," she added.

Uchenna also explained the background behind why the couple was able to board the flight -- with Joyce also stating that despite what some conspiracy theorists have implied, rather than the producers using the assistance of the show's American Airlines sponsor to ensure that two teams were still racing along side each other in the competition's final Miami tasks, the murky editing of the event was instead the result of the producers' attempt to save their sponsor some embarrassment and bad publicity.

"What actually happened was, if you notice when we first got to that airport we were behind Rob and Amber. He told that ticket agent not to tell us about that flight," Uchenna told the radio show. "So when we get to the gate guess who was standing at the door -- that same ticket agent who had lied to us and told us there was no flight!"

"They didn't air that I yelled out at the top of my lungs 'You lied to us!' so she was the one who was compelled to call the pilot because, there's cameras everywhere, she's standing there just having lied to me telling me that there was no flight."

"If anything, the show saves American Airlines a little bit of face," Uchenna explained. "[Otherwise] it looks like 'American Airlines lied to its passengers,'" added Joyce. "It's kinda weird that they [Rob and Amber] would even say that because it's kinda a slap in the face for American Airlines... [but] that's how Rob plays his game."

"You have to remember, game shows -- especially prize winning game shows -- they can't manipulate the end like that." Uchenna told the radio show. "They can't go in and say 'OK, we want this team to win,' that's totally against the rules of television and the law to do that."

Talking about Rob's post-show behavior, Uchenna stated that "Being bitter... that's him." "The thing is he's 0-for-3 if you think about it in lifetime [reality show] chances. These are 'chance of the lifetime' experiences, he's had three chances to win and he hasn't done it. He's lucky to be with a winner -- someone who won." "That's just Rob... that's just how Rob is," added Joyce.

Lastly, for those viewers hoping that Tuesday's CBS wedding broadcast might mark the last time that "Boston Rob" and his "smokin'" wife appear on their television screens, Rob and Amber have bad news. Disputing Jay's comment that their television time was coming to an end with their wedding broadcast, Amber hinted otherwise, telling the late night host "that's not true Jay, actually we do have some other things in the works."

Pressed by Jay for more information, Rob gave a quick "We can't talk about it Jay" response. Amber also provided no additional details but stated that "people seem to be interested, so as long as its fun we're going to keep on going with it." Pray that a "couples edition" isn't the twist for CBS's upcoming sixth Big Brother edition folks.

(Photo credit CBS)


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