Even after the final episode aired Sunday night, it was tough to decide who actually won this fall's edition of CBS' travel competition The Amazing Race.
Technically, that honor fell to brother and sister Nick and Starr Spangler, who were shown leading most of the way through a final race leg that stretched from Moscow to Portland, Ore., where the two met host Phil Keoghan at the finish line and won $1-million. The win capped a competition that spanned 23 days, five continents and nearly 40,000 miles of travel.
But Tampa businesswoman Tina Greene and husband Ken also left the race as winners of a different sort, rekindling an on-the-rocks marriage through the competition and redonning their wedding rings during the finale episode's last moments.
"I've been crying since I saw the end of the show," said Tina Greene, calling from a finale party organized by CBS in New York City on Sunday. "I feel like I let Ken down; if I had been a little more aggressive … maybe we would have won. But when Kenny pulled those rings out, I didn't care about the $1-million." Tina Greene said second-place prize money totaled $25,000.
Ken Greene said he had been carrying their wedding rings around, without Tina's knowledge, for the entire race, certain that he would know whether to pull them out and suggest a recommitment by the time the action finished. Now, after throwing all his belongings in a truck and driving 43 hours to Tampa from San Diego in September, the former pro football player is ready to publicly resume his life with his wife.
"I figured when I pulled the rings out, she had no choice, with all those people around," he said Sunday, laughing about the way he surprised Tina at the finish line with her wedding ring, which she accepted with tears. "And after all we'd been through (on the race), if I didn't win her back now, I never could."
In the show's final episode, Ken Greene let his fellow competitors in on a secret — that he and his wife had been separated before the race began.
"I'm asking you to start this thing all over again," he said then, as tears began to choke up his voice a bit. "And we'll do it right this time."
Twenty-something fraternity brothers Andrew Lappitt and Dan Honig — dubbed Team "Superbad" for their resemblance to the nerds depicted in the movie of the same name — came in a distant third, to the surprise of almost no one, including Lappitt and Honig.
Starting in Moscow, the race's three remaining teams piled onto a flight to the final city, Portland, with each pair after the $1-million prize. But as the groups dashed out of the Portland airport, Team Superbad made a race-ending mistake — picking a cabdriver who had no idea how to reach the landmark they were racing toward.
Instead, the Spanglers and the Greenes sped through the final leg's challenges, separated from each other by minutes during much of the competition. One crucial hitch: a challenge in which teams had to walk across a log suspended 30 feet high; thanks to a fear of heights, Tina Greene got hung up here and the Spanglers pulled ahead.
Now that the competition is over, Ken and Tina Greene each blame themselves — Tina fears her delays on the log cost too much time, Ken frets that he could catch a cab sooner. But despite doubts from friends and fans that getting on a reality show would save their marriage, their time on The Amazing Race seems to have done exactly that.
"I wouldn't do it again, and I wouldn't recommend it," said Ken Greene. "But for us, it looks like it worked out."