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The Amazing Race Season 32 Recap

By Tiff Wells

The Amazing Race. A 33,000-mile trek around the world for a $1-millon grand prize starts in Los Angeles at The Hollywood Bowl. One of 11 teams for Season 32 is a pair of Punahou School alums, brothers Riley (’07) and Maddison (’09) McKibbin. The professional volleyball players on the AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals), more commonly known as “The Beard Brothers,” are easily spotted throughout this season by the yellow shirts and beanies they wear. We’ve gone to Trinidad & Tobago…to Colombia…to Brazil…to Paraguay…to France…to Germany…to Kazakhstan…to India…to Cambodia…to the Philippines. Now we’re headed to New Orleans for the season finale. Three teams remain. Season 32 of The Amazing Race came to an end on Wednesday, December 16. We here at ESPN Honolulu followed their journey throughout the race with a Wednesday recap that looked back at the previous episode.

Episode 12 (“Now It’s About Winning”) – We left off with Riley and Maddison at Rizal Park – Lapu Lapu Cicle in Manila, The Philippines. Another leg won (that’s now three wins in a row, fourth overall), Riley and Maddison did what their original alliance set out to do: make the final. Somehow, it happened. Will and James, as well as Hung and Chee, worked together to ensure they were the final three teams to race in Episode 12. I felt along with Riley and Maddison, that Will and James had a strong chance to make the final too. Seeing the married couple of Hung and Chee throughout the race made me root for them and if the Beard Brothers didn’t win, I’d like to see the married couple win.

None of the three teams ever came in last and were never really in danger of being eliminated. They are all strong competitors. But now that they are the three teams racing for the $1-million grand prize, how will they do at being on their own? As they ride their taxi to the airport, we hear Riley and Maddison go over how they shakily finished in the early legs of the race (3rd, 3rd, 4th, 4th) but that they are peaking. They have won the last three legs and are beyond stoked to see the alliance in the final. Yes Maddison, “who would have thought” the alliance would have made it this far? The Brothers have grown, both individually and a cohesive unit. This bodes well in the future as they are partners on the beach and of course…blood brothers for life.

Seeing the teams board the flight from Manila to New Orleans (did the plane happen to fly over the islands at one point?) and doing so in style (each received an upgrade to business class), they were all excited about the extra leg room and being more comfortable, getting ready for that final push. This final leg could be a life-changer for one group. You have to be on your game from the start. If I was Riley and Maddison, I’d be confident too. To have this streak of finishing in the top half all season long, you just have to put it together for one more leg. But can Hawai`i do well in New Orleans? All they have to do is beat two teams…seems easy and simple, right?

When they land at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, I immediately have flashbacks of 2007. How many of you had flashbacks of the University of Hawai`i football team’s trip to the Sugar Bowl? Seeing the Bourbon Street sign, the floats, the beads, the loud noises…it was the experience of a lifetime, until the actual game.

All race long, the brothers haven’t gotten lost. They’ve done a better job at reading the directions, reading the entire clue. Get to Louis Armstrong Park. You can’t control how well your taxi driver knows the city. They’ve done so well all season long of getting great drivers. Their driver even tells them he knows a shortcut. Too good to be true perhaps? They left the airport in first and then saw the other two taxis pass them on the highway. They are losing precious time here as both Will and James, AND Hung and Chee reach the Park and were off to the next task site. It’d feel disheartening to realize you overshot the Park and now having to backtrack, this after being leaving the airport in first. Can you make up the time?

I feel for them as they are lost.

They have done so well throughout each leg of the race. But seeing them not lose it for the world to see on live television showed us there was more to them than racing for money. Yes they are competitive and want to win, but they are brothers and this isn’t going to be the end of the world and won’t end their relationship. At this point, you just have to keep racing. You just never know what is happening with the other two teams…perhaps they made a mistake or are stuck at a task. Ask the local and just find a way to get it done. So far this last leg seems real easy…for two of the teams. It’s just brutal for The Brothers.

French Quarter. Bourbon Street. Parade floats. Large beads (pay attention to the entire clue here…again!). Coincidence that the colors of the beads were red and gold, the colors of the alma mater (USC) for both Riley and Maddison. Not that I condone showing flesh to get beads quicker…but boys will be boys, right? Especially after what they had to endure in getting to the Park. “Were in last place…we need all the help we can get!” After all this bead catching and playing music with the band, you have to work up an appetite, right?

Mmmmm, king cakes. They look so tasty. I know I had one…or two…during my Sugar Bowl trip. Don’t lie…if you went on that trip or have been to The Big Easy, you’ve had a king cake. Going through trays upon trays of king cakes, having to find the small baby…it’s a needle in a haystack…err, a baby in a king cake.

You can’t give up, you just have to compose yourself and find the small baby. It’s helped so far in this final leg that Will has been to New Orleans. So he knows exactly where to go while traversing throughout the city. But as much as I think, wow, it’s easy for Will and James because of that, I also feel for Hung and Chee, and Riley and Maddison because as the team member that isn’t performing the roadblock (Hung and Riley), they can’t offer any help. Seeing how excited Will is to go through king cakes (he even takes a second to eat a bite and pose for the camera)…I’m smiling and laughing with them. They are just having so much fun. Oh yeah, he also knows what the king cake baby looks like. THAT surely helps their situation. But for Chee and Maddison, you must be patient. You know you’re chasing the leaders (Will and James), but you must remain calm and work quickly. “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” Forearms must be tired going through all of those cakes!

Watching this episode live at 7:00 p.m., I’ve eaten dinner and am thinking hmmm, what is for dessert? I could seriously go for some beignets right about now! One or two sounds good, but six? At least you have your partner to help you eat them all! I don’t know if I could eat three that quickly…don’t hurl, right?

I feel for The Brothers as Chee finds the king baby in a cake. Aware of his surroundings, Maddison sees the size of the king cake that Chee holds. Man it’s small! It’s cute hearing Chee tell Hung “I’m sorry,” only to hear “it’s ok, you have nothing to be sorry about.” This husband and wife team is just so cute together. Seeing the brothers still in third, I’m not sure if they have enough time to make up the difference. Just keep racing at this point, right? I let out a sigh as Maddison finds his king cake baby (we also hear Riley root on his younger brother throughout the entire search for the king cake baby…such a nice brother!) and then the Brothers inhale their beignets. Riley also shows to the camera the king cake baby and says, “say hello to my little friend.” I wonder if they kept it as a souvenir?

We knew Riley was afraid of heights and we were told early on that any roadblock that required heights, Maddison would perform it. Well, problem here is that Riley must perform this next roadblock (climb beneath the Crescent City Connection bridge and then jump from a beam 180 feet above the Mississippi River to grab their next clue). Face your fear Riley! And oh yes, don’t look down! Maddison also tells us he’s never seen Riley in high places before…yeah buddy!

Holy moley, he did it! What’s been great throughout this season is how supportive one team member is of the other. Especially when they have to perform something they are afraid to do…like a task dealing with heights. Riley faces his fears and takes the leap. Yes there may be a scream, but taking the leap in the dark would elicit a scream from pretty much everyone. The rappelling down part wouldn’t be the issue for me. The issue would be the leap to grab the clue in mid-air.

Not quitting, not giving up. Just keep racing. As we hear from Hung and Chee (who have watched final episodes from previous Amazing Race seasons), sometimes the final leg or final roadblock can cause the lead team to stumble. You just never know of your fate until you get to the pit stop and see the host, Phil Keoghan. Watching Hung face her heights fear a second time (she had to perform the heights task back in Germany during Leg 6), she was so excited to grab the clue. Then to hear her husband say “I love you, I’m so proud of you, you did it!” Awwww, this couple! You just never know, you just have to keep racing.

I thought it was clever that the show had the teams put panels on their ball to create a globe after racing around the world for the previous 10 Legs. I’m a sports guy. This is a sports radio station. Did anyone see the Saints floats (Drew Brees) around the warehouse? How about the Pelicans (what looks to be Anthony Davis) one? But these floats look so cool! I just might get mesmerized looking at them all!

It was real smart of the teams to lay out the strips prior to putting them on their ball. The big blue ball…it just looks like a giant beach volleyball to Riley and Maddison, right? They’ve been in front from the beginning of this episode, Will and James are elated when they read the final clue to find the finish line where “the Saints go marching in.” Come on sports fans…the Superdome!

A Hawai`i football team didn’t do so well when they played in this state back on New Year’s Day in 2008. And for the brothers, getting the less-than-knowledgeable taxi driver and being lost for a bit was just too much for them to overcome. They had done so well through the season and the one time, the one time they really struggle, it just happened to be the final leg of the race.

Riley and Maddison see the previously eliminated teams line a path for them (and also see both Will and James, AND Hung and Chee) upon reaching the world map rug and the pit stop (the 11th and final pit stop is the 35-yard line inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome). It’s also cute to see Will and James share their moment, of how James has watched many seasons of the show, that he’s applied with various friends and family members to be on the show. But for him to do it with the love of his life…yes, there’s even a proposal! That comes from Will who reaches into his fanny pack for that ring. Yes, James does say yes!

Yes the brothers finished third out of three in this final leg, but they at least got to the final leg. They did win four legs (the most of any team), including the show’s first ever megaleg. Three of the four wins came win prizes: A trip for two to Vietnam, a seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise for two to Saint Martin and a trip for two to Norway. More importantly, their bond as brothers seemed to strengthen as the show went on and they will carry this experience with them forever. They represented themselves, their family and the state quite well. Remember the episode title? For a second time this season, a quote from the husband and wife team was used for the episode title as Chee said here in Episode 12 “Now It’s About Winning.” Seeing Hung and Chee say they used this race as the honeymoon they never had…man all the feels here!

More on Will and James getting to finally announce their $1-million win after this season was completed nearly two years:

We at ESPN Honolulu want to congratulate The McKibbin Brothers for their third-place finish in Season 32 of The Amazing Race. And also a thank you to you, the reader for following along each week via the blog. To follow the brothers on social media, visit @TheMcKibbinBros on Twitter or you can head to Instagram to visit @themckibbinbros. You can also subscribe to their YouTube page by searching for The McKibbin Brothers.