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Has CBS's 'The Amazing Race 7' website revealed the show's final three teams?


By Wade Paulsen, 04/07/2005 

Among people who like to figure out what is going to happen on reality competition shows before they are broadcast (a group typically referred to as "spoilers"), the least-trusted type of information is that which comes from a broadcast network website. However, in CBS's The Amazing Race 7, spoilers have been stunned to learn that information from CBS.com's The Amazing Race 7 website has been useful in predicting of ALL of the first six teams booted -- and may also reveal the identities of the next two teams to be booted as well as those of the final three teams that will compete all the way to the $1,000,000 finish line.

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WARNING: The following story contains possible show spoiler information. If you don't want to know about the possible outcome of The Amazing Race 7, please stop reading now.

Although the theory involving the CBS website information, known as the "Background Spoiler," originated in the Reality TV World's own The Amazing Race forums, we have been hesitant to discuss it because of the poor track record of network website-based spoilers. Nevertheless, now that the "Background Spoiler" not only passed a critical test with Tuesday's seventh episode broadcast but has also been noted by outlets such as the Associated Press, an explanation is overdue.

The Amazing Race 7's "Background Spoiler" theory was developed by an online poster named Farmboy following CBS's broadcast of the show's second episode. In his posting, FarmBoy noted that three different artificial backgrounds had been added to the individual team photos on the show's CBS.com website (apparently through the use of an image editing software program such as Adobe PhotoShop) -- a sunset, a mountain, and a lakeshore (or riverbank).

Three of the five teams discussed by show host Phil Keoghan in a TV Guide interview -- the married team of Uchenna and Joyce Agu (named as the winners by the online betting spoiler), engaged former Survivor contestants "Boston" Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich, and boyfriends Lynn Warren and Alex Ali -- had the sunset background (as noted by another spoiler), however no other teams did. Meanwhile, three other teams had the mountains background, and five teams, including the first two booted, had the lakeshore (or riverbank) background.

From that, FarmBoy speculated that the teams with the lakeshore background might be the first five teams booted, and the teams with the sunset background might be the final three teams -- leaving the three teams with the mountains background to finish in positions 4-6. As is typical of network website-based spoilers, his speculation was met with a great deal of skepticism -- a practice that can be traced back to the great "Gervase-X" website spoiler/blunder from Survivor's original Summer 2000 season.

Prior to the broadcast of the eighth episode of CBS's original Survivor, Corrie Sloot, a student at Brock University in Canada going by the online handle CAPLOCK, had noticed that CBS.com's web server was missing an eliminated photo graphic (basically a headshot inage with a red "X") for only one of the show's sixteen contestants -- Gervase Peterson. After posting this find on a Survivor spoiling board, CAPLOCK became an overnight celebrity of his own, and people began to dream up hundreds of different ways that Gervase might win -- even though that seemed highly unlikely, given that a dominant group called the "Tagi 4" was voting off all of Gervase's allies.

Despite all the press generated by this theory, "Gervase-X" turned out to be merely the result of some sloppy work on the part of CBS's website team, and before CAPLOCK could say "15 minutes," Gervase was voted off Pulau Tiga by the "Tagi 4" in Survivor's tenth episode. Since then, any theories that depend on preknowledge of the show's outcome by a network website's technical staff generally have been disregarded, and FarmBoy's theory received a similar reaction.

Nevertheless, FarmBoy and other spoilers kept track of this theory. After a third lakeshore-background team was booted, a separate discussion was started. Then a fourth lakeshore team was eliminated, followed the very next week by the fifth and final lakeshore team.

The chance that mere coincidence could account for the five lakeshore teams being the first five teams out of the race is significantly less than 1%. Thus, CBS's Internet group may well have had preknowledge of the show's opening boot order and then used that preknowledge while designing the team photos. But did that preknowledge extend to the final six?

For the Background Spoiler, this week's seventh The Amazing Race 7 episode provided a key test. If a "mountains" team left, then FarmBoy's original theory about the sunset and mountains teams would appear very likely to be valid. And that's just what happened -- when the episode rumbled to its pit stop in Botswana, the team of brothers Brian and Greg Smith -- a "mountains" team -- was eliminated.

The two remaining "mountains" teams, who should place fourth and fifth per the Background Spoiler, are retirees Meredith and Gretchen Smith and the dating couple of former Iraqi War POW Ron Young and beauty queen Kelly McCorkle. Thus, the "sunset" teams of Uchenna and Joyce, Rob and Amber and Lynn and Alex would survive to participate in The Amazing Race 7's final scramble to the finish line.

If the Background Spoiler does indeed match the final outcome, questions about why a CBS.com web designer actually knew the outcome and was therefore able to create these photos might be raised with the producers of The Amazing Race -- but for now, our advice is merely to see who goes next. In the "typical" pattern of the show, The Amazing Race's eighth (airing this Tuesday) and tenth episodes are non-elimination episodes, so even if it is accurate, the complete validity of the Background Spoiler will not be known for several more weeks. However, the theory has held up through five episodes and four team eliminations so far -- and that already represents three more episodes and two more eliminations than "Gervase-X" survived.

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