The finals….

I didn’t know much about what was going to happen in the finals.  I figured it would be the same thing as before…as in it would change, again.

So, anyway, I was called the day before the filming of the finals and told that I should bring a few friends.  I told my friends, and most of them didn’t want to wake up at 8AMish on a Sunday, even if it was to be on TV.  Zak, however, who had a lot invested in my endeavor (claiming that his unbuckling of my seatbelt was at least worth a thousand dollars or so when I sold the car for cash) returned from Xiangtan to give support.  Michaela and Diane backed out (as expected), but Will (much more reliable than those other two…) still showed up.

Upon our arrival, we were informed of another rule.  A rule most likely placed there to destroy my chances at winning…A rule that ensured that I had to follow the rules and not cheat.  New Rule:  If the driver does not try to avoid obstacles, an additional 40 seconds will be added on, in addition to the actual 10 second penalties acquired from each obstacle hit.

They had always been worried about my reckless driving, and now that I was already in the finals, there was no reason for them to help me cheat.  Now, there was a real prize on the line.  And, for me to win, having no clue how to really drive stick, would be absolutely ridiculous.  The poor Chinese fools had been playing the show by the rules, to their huge disadvantage.  Why try to avoid obstacles, take way more time, and end up still failing.  Driving fast was the way to go.  But now, I would be forced to play by the rules.  How unfair….

Plus, I had gone into the finals thinking that I was one of 6 people vying for the 3 cars only to have my hopes shattered with the realization that there had been two additional semi-finals the day after my semi-finals.  Therefore, there would be 12 of us.  LUCKILY, I pulled card number 11.  I would be the 11th person to go…a huge advantage over the others.

Since I was actually, really nervous, this show was not nearly as enjoyable as the others.  I kept trying to figure out how I was going to tackle the first zone (there were 4 driving zones and then the water pit with tires over it that we had to run across while chicks threw medicine balls at us…).  Zones 2-4 were fine.  I had never gotten a penalty in zone 2.  I knew how to take on zone 3.  And zone four was penalty-less.  It was zone 1 though, that I really had to worry about.  4 obstacles.  I had usually just driven straight through and taken 2 penalties.  But that would put me at 60 seconds to start…completely out of the running.

Of the first 4 people, three fell in.  I started to think that maybe I had a real chance.

I don’t remember much about them interviewing me.  It was my least amount of actual camera time of all the episodes, which I was thankful for.  As if the pressure from the show wasn’t enough, I couldn’t drive stick, and I couldn’t speak the language.  Way more things to worry about than I was comfortable with.

So, this time, instead of interpretively dancing to Sinad O’Connor, Zak and Will did a cheer for me.  The one host came up with it.

“Frank Ho Ho Hoban.  Frank Go Go Go Win!”

They failed miserably in their first attempt.  But the second try wasn’t a complete failure.  Then I was told to leave the stage as Zak and Will did some modeling.

By the time I went, I knew I had to get somewhere under 1 minute and 10 seconds.  Difficult.  Real difficult.  So… it was time to go.

I started driving, and the guy started waving his flag and screaming at me.  I had jumped the gun.  Intentionally.  Had I not, then I would have had to wait an additional 8 seconds for the barrier to go back up.  But, the guy screaming at me threw me off…completely rattled me.  Then I stalled out.  The obstacle came down and hit my car.  I tried to drive through.  Another hit me.  I stalled out again.  Panic.  4 penalties and 38 seconds later, I had finished the first zone.  I was already out of the running.

So unfortunate too.  The next 3 zones and the water pit took me a total of 19 seconds with zero penalties.  Even if I had gotten 2 or so penalties on the first section, and finished in 20 seconds, I would have won.  Or gotten second.

For the first time ever (out of 4 times), I took the water pit successfully.  I just charged at it, thinking, hey, I’ve already lost, I might as well try to finish strong.

I made it about 3 quarters of the way across (I don’t think any balls hit me, as I had bribed one of the show girls to tell everyone else to purposely miss me…) before I stumbled.  But, I just used my momentum and took a huge dive.  I hit the other side, slid across, got up, pressed the button, and realized I had still lost horribly.  I had one of the fastest finishing times, but 4 penalties from the first zone had eliminated me.

I just stood there depressed as they tried to interview me.  I told them I felt very unhappy and walked away knowing I had blown a great opportunity.

Over the next 24 hours, I kept thinking of all the things that I could have…should have done differently.  But bottom line is, I was on a TV show four times (although I have still only seen the episode that I fell in the water during), won 150 USD, won a remote control audi, and my personal favorite, 2 containers of motor oil (clearly for the car that I did not win).  Oh, and I got a certificate that didn’t even have my name written on.

The three winners looked happy though.  And their families came to join them.  Yeah, that’s right.  I had two friends (most of my friends wouldn’t even get up to come out for it…), and everyone else had their wives, children, cousins, etc.

But it was a little depressing when the three winners couldn’t even pop open their bottles of champagne.  I stood there and watched thinking:  if only….

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