"Hippies" BJ Averell and Tyler Macniven win 'The Amazing Race 9'
By Andrea Sellers, 05/18/2006
After racing across five continents, through nine countries, and for more than 59,000 miles, The Amazing Race 9's final three teams ended up right back where they had started, where hippies BJ Averell and Tyler Macniven were able to outwit, outplay, and outlast (sorry, wrong show) "frat boys" Eric Sanchez and Jeremy Ryan and long-distance daters Yolanda Brown-Moore and Ray Whitty to cross the finish line first and win the show's $1,000,000 grand prize.
The Amazing Race 9's two-part finale began with the three remaining teams departing the Marble Temple, a Bangkok Buddhist shrine that had served as the previous leg's Pit Stop. Since Ray and Yolanda had found the previous leg's Travelocity golden gnome prize, they had spent the twelve hour rest period at the city's posh Four Seasons Hotel.
As they left the Pit Stop, the teams were instructed to take a taxi 75 miles to the province of Ayutaya and find the Royal Kraal elephant corral. Once there, the teams had to seek out the ceremonial-dressed elephant that possessed a T-Mobile Sidekick device, which served as both a shameless product placement and the race's next clue. Even though BJ and Tyler had more than a two hour lead to start the leg, all the teams were immediately bunched back together when they had to wait for the Royal Kraal to open at 4AM.
After retrieving the Sidekick, the teams learned they had to fly more than 7,000 miles to Tokyo and drive to Shibuya, the busiest intersection in the world. Once there, they would find their next clue displayed on one of the intersection's many giant screens. Since Tyler spoke Japanese, the hippies were optimistic that this would be where they would take control of the Race. However, after they got to the airport, it looked like they would be finished before they even got to Japan. Although BJ and Tyler were the first team to reach their airport, their decision to initially head to the ticket counter of Japan's largest airline resulted in them being unable to get on the same United Airlines flight that the other two teams had already booked. Instead they ended up flying on a Thai Airlines flight that departed an hour and a half behind the two other teams.
Once Eric and Jeremy and Yolanda and Ray arrived at the designated hotel and picked up their cars, the two teams employed different strategies to navigate through the unfamiliar Tokyo streets. Eric and Jeremy decided to ask the desk clerk for directions before leaving, while Ray and Yolanda immediately grabbed a map and tried to navigate their own way. The few minutes of extra planning time paid off for the frat boys, with their ride going smoothly as Ray and Yolanda struggled with the language barrier and kept getting lost. Although BJ and Tyler had arrived in Tokyo two hours after the first two teams, they were able to reach the Shibuya intersection before Ray and Yolanda.
After arriving in the intersection the teams scanned the screens and saw "Find Hachiko," the clue for which they were searching. The clue was a reference to a dog statue located inside the square, where a guy whose scarf resembled a race flag was waiting to hand them their next clue. The clue presented the teams with two Detour options -- "Maiden" or "Messenger." Teams that chose the "Maiden" option had to take a taxi seven miles and then carry a maiden to a tea ceremony while teams that chose "Messenger" had to assemble two nearby folding bikes and then deliver two packages to two different buildings within downtown Tokyo. Since Tyler could speak the language, Tyler and BJ thought they could make up some time on the "Messenger" option. Given they couldn't read or speak the local language, the two other teams chose "Maiden."
After completing the Detour, the teams were sent to the Capsule Land Hotel, where they spent the night in sleep pods and, based on their order of arrival, were given departure times staggered at fifteen minute intervals. As they checked out the next morning, the teams received a clue instructing them to drive nearly 80 miles to Fujiku Highland, an amusement park known for being the home for some of the world's tallest roller coasters. Although they'd left the hotel fifteen minutes before them, the hippies were able to catch up to the frat boys during the drive. Once again, Ray and Yolanda’s navigational difficulties put them a distant third, with an additional inability to find their toll road ticket further delaying them.
At the amusement park, teams faced a Roadblock that asked "Who’s ready to coast through their day?" One team member had to ride three different thrill rides and search for a man with a message somewhere along one of the rides. After the three rides, the team member had to correctly pass the message along to a park manager. If they delivered the correct message, they would receive the clue. If they were incorrect, the team member would have to attempt the entire task all over again. Since their teams had arrived at the park within seconds of each other, Jeremy and Tyler ended up riding the rides together. Tyler tried to mislead Jeremy into believing that the clue had been on the second ride, but both were able to successfully find the "Lake Yamanaka" message on their final ride. Although she was well behind the leaders, Yolanda was also able to easily discern the clue when she rode the coaster.
After relying the message to the park manager, the teams received a clue instructing them to drive 7 miles to Lake Yamanaka, which would serve as the leg's Pit Stop. Once at the lake, teams had to paddle a duck boat across the lake to the big swan boat, where host Phil Keoghan was waiting. Although the teams were duck neck to duck neck when they left the dock, BJ and Tyler were able to outpaddle Eric and Jeremy to the boat and check in first.
After checking in second, Eric and Jeremy called the hippies "dirty" players because of Tyler’s roller coaster ride lie. Firing back, Tyler mentioned how Eric and Jeremy had canceled the other teams' cabs during an earlier Race leg and called them even. As they squabbled, it became obvious that both teams planned to do anything and everything they could to get to the finish line first.
Woefully behind the other two teams, Yolanda and Ray arrived at the Pit Stop nearly three hours later, where Phil told them that since the leg was a non-elimination leg, they wouldn't be eliminated from the race but still had to give up everything except for the clothes on their backs and their passports -- a move that would force them to have to beg for money in a country in which they faced a potentially insurmountable language barrier.
After the mandatory rest period, The Amazing Race 9's final leg began. As they left the Pit Stop, the teams received instructions telling them to fly to Anchorage, Alaska. As they left, BJ and Tyler left some money for Ray and Yolanda, who had helped them out when the hippies had been stripped of all of their own possessions during their two prior non-elimination finishes.
Once the teams scraped the ice off their windshields and warmed up their small Japanese cars, they headed to the Hotel Nikko to return their vehicles and take a shuttle to the airport. Since they'd finished the last leg only two minutes apart, the two lead teams could see each other on the highway they went opposite directions when the road forked. Thinking that BJ and had taken Tyler took a wrong turn, Eric and Jeremy immediately began laughing. Meanwhile Tyler explained to BJ that the road they'd taken looked like a more direct route on the map and he had no idea why the frat boys were going the other direction -- a statement that proved correct when the hippies ended up at the hotel first.
Since the first airport shuttle did not leave until 6:10AM, BJ and Tyler decided to go upstairs and use the hotel's Internet terminals to check for flight information -- but as they left the front desk area, they asked the hotel clerk to pretend not to understand English if any of the other teams asked him about Internet access. Surprisingly, the clerk decided to go along with the idea and was able to convince Eric and Jeremy that the hotel did not have Internet access. Meanwhile, back at the Pit Stop, Ray and Yolanda decided that before leaving for the airport, they'd go beg for money at a nearby restaurant. Although the restaurant appeared to be nearly deserted, they encountered a group of drunk businessmen who thought Yolanda looked like Janet Jackson and were willing to give them the funds they needed.
Once the teams arrived at the airport, the frat boys and hippies continued their rivalry, with Eric and Jeremy trying to hide so that BJ and Tyler would not be able to follow them. After losing the hippies, Eric and Jeremy were delighted to find a Taipei-connecting flight that allowed them to leave Japan without BJ and Tyler noticing. Meanwhile, BJ and Tyler discovered that the flight that they had booked on the Internet the night before was not the best option and made alternate plans. Even though they were going to end up taking a later flight out of Japan, it would still allow them to arrive in Taipei in time to board the same Anchorage-bound connecting flight as the frat boys.
When Ray and Yolanda arrived at the airport, a counter agent incorrectly told them that the earliest they could arrive in Alaska would be 2:40PM the next day -- more than six hours after the other two teams were due to arrive. Sensing that the agent's information couldn't be correct, they checked the Internet and found the same Anchorage-bound Taipei flight that the other two teams were going to be taking. However, when they returned to the counter, the agent told them that the only flight that could still get them to Taipei in time to connect to the Anchorage-bound Taipei flight had already closed. After some persuasion -- which included Ray reminding the agent that it was her previously incorrect information that had put them in the position of trying to book tickets on the flight after it had closed -- Ray and Yolanda were able to get on the Taipei flight. As they prepared to board it, they discovered it was the same flight that hippies were on -- causing Ray to note that the encounter probably marked the first time that he and Yolanda were happy to see BJ and Tyler.
After the teams arrived in Alaska, they received a clue instructing them to drive 30 miles to Mirror Lake. Along the way, Eric and Jeremy were able to pass BJ and Tyler and take the lead. Naturally, Ray and Yolanda once again had problems navigating their way to the lake.
Once at the lake, the teams were presented with their Detour options -- "Drill It" or "Deliver It." "Drill It" required the teams to manually drill ten ice fishing holes and then push a wooden shelter out onto the lake and over their holes. "Deliver It" required the teams to board a bush plane that used the lake as its runway and fly 75 miles to deliver medical supplies to an aid station.
BJ and Tyler originally selected the delivery option, only to learn that the plane was grounded with a weather delay that could last "five minutes or five days." With no firm information on when the delay would be lifted, they decided that there was no choice and went to drill. Both other teams also ending up doing "Drill It," however unlike BJ and Tyler, it appeared to be their first choices. Although it seemed to be a tight race, Eric and Jeremy finished the task first, with BJ and Tyler completing it shortly thereafter. Ray and Yolanda finally arrived at the lake as the hippies were departing.
After completing the Detour, teams received a clue instructing them to drive 26 miles to Kincaid Park, where they had to put on snowshoes and use a map to search the park for their next clue. Already stuck in second place, BJ and Tyler had trouble finding the snowshoes and lost additional valuable time in their race against the frat boys. After locating the clue, the teams were delighted to discover that it instructed them to fly their final destination city: Denver, Colorado.
Luckily for Ray and Yolanda, there was only one flight to Denver -- a nonstop flight that wouldn't depart until 11:10PM and gave the dating couple plenty of time to catch back up with the two lead teams. After the three teams arrived in Denver, they took taxis to Clear Creek History Park in the town of Golden. Once there, they had to search the site for another clue that instructed them to travel to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre -- where the entire Race had began. Somehow, even though they weren't doing the driving themselves, Ray and Yolanda still managed to fall back behind the other two teams. Although they'd arrived on the same flight as Eric and Jeremy and BJ and Tyler, Ray and Yolanda only arrived at Clear Creek History Park as the hippies, who'd fallen slightly behind the frat boys, were departing.
At the Amphitheatre, teams were presented with the Race's final Roadblock, after which the teams would run to the nearby The Amazing Race finish line and the competition would be over. One member of each team had to run into an open field containing 285 flags and find one flag for each of the nine foreign countries that the teams had visited during their travels. Then the team had to line up the flags in the order in which the teams had visited the countries. To help them, the producers gave each team a reference placard that contained unlabeled images of all nine flags, however it also contained three extra incorrect flags. Unlike other Roadblocks, the non-participating team member could offer limited assistance. While they were not allowed to physically assist their teammate, the non-participating team member could offer verbal advice.
Although they were first team to arrive at the Roadblock, Jeremy worried that given BJ and Tyler had graduated from Harvard and Stanford while he and Eric were college dropouts, the race might still be anyone's to win. In the end, Jeremy's fears proved right as Eric kept asking his task judge to approve one incorrect flag ordering after another while BJ -- once he finally found the Russian flag -- was able to place the flags in their correct ordering of Brazil, Russia, Germany, Italy, Greece, Oman, Australia, Thailand, and Japan on his first try.
After ordering their flags correctly, BJ and Tyler ran hand in hand to the finish line stage, where Phil declared them the official winners of The Amazing Race 9. Eric and Jeremy finished second and were unable to hide their disappointment as Phil declared them one of the most competitive teams ever to participate. Ray and Yolanda were all smiles as they crossed the finish line in third place.
Even though BJ and Tyler finished last in two of the Race's legs, they finished first in the leg that counted -- the final one.
(Photo credit CBS)
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