Salt Lake father-son team Dave and Connor O’Leary were targeted by one team but helped two other teams, including one they U-Turned, in the eighth leg of “The Amazing Race: All Stars,” which took teams to the Italian countryside during Sunday’s episode.
The O’Learys, who are both cancer survivors, are one of five remaining teams in this race around the world for $1 million. This season involves teams following clues in yellow and red envelopes, navigating transportation and completing challenges called Road Blocks and Detours along the way to get the next clues.
And this time, a double “U-Turn” was in play, meaning two teams that completed the Detour challenge first could force other teams to do both Detour challenges.
Teams started out in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo and from there were instructed to drive 80 miles to Civita di Bagnoregio for their next clue.
Dave O’Leary, 59, a real estate investor, and his son, 22-year-old Connor O’Leary, a professional cyclist and a University of Utah student, were the third team to leave, just behind country singers Caroline Cutbirth, 30, and Jennifer Wayne, 31, with whom they’ve been working periodically throughout the race.
The singers ran to get directions from a nearby hotel and got a copy for the O’Learys, with the plan being for the singers to follow the O’Learys.
But their plan to caravan together was quickly thwarted by traffic, and Cutbirth and Wayne, who admit they aren’t good with directions, thought it was intentional.
At the Civita di Bagnoregio, both Detour challenges involved donkeys.
“Donkey Run” included both team members riding donkeys three times around a track before a live band finished playing through a song. In “Donkey Build,” teams had to build a wooden donkey from provided pieces, fill it with wood sticks and deliver it to Geppetto.
The O’Learys were second to the city behind newlyweds Brendon Villegas, 33, and Rachel Reilly, 30. Both teams did “Donkey Run.”
“We used to do pack trips into the high mountains," Dave O'Leary said of riding mules. "But donkeys are little different than a mule — a lot more stubborn.”
The “Brenchels,” as Villegas and Reilly are nicknamed, finished first and initially planned to U-Turn brothers and cowboys Cord McCoy, 33, and 34-year-old Jet McCoy, of Oklahoma, who had an Express Pass they had to use in this leg of the race. The McCoys won the pass on the first leg of the race, and it allows them to skip a challenge.
The McCoys, assuming they would be the ones who were U-Turned, used their Express Pass on the "Donkey Build" Detour so they would only need to do one of the Detour challenges.
“I had a unique way of hanging on to the donkey — any way I possibly could,” Dave O'Leary said. He ended up sliding off the donkey on their first try. He and his son succeeded on their fourth try.
The Brenchels then U-Turned the O’Learys because they were the team right behind them and the O’Learys arrived at the U-Turn board just ahead of the McCoys.
“Once we saw we were on the U-Turn board, we really didn’t have any other choice but to U-Turn another team,” Connor O'Leary said.
“We were really ticked off,” Dave O'Leary said. “But that’s the way they play the game.”
They U-Turned the “Afghanimals,” cousins Leo Temory, 27, and Jamal Zadran, 26, and told them and apologized when they saw them in the parking lot. The four of them decided to work together to build the wooden donkeys.
“I can’t believe Brandon and Rachel U-Turned Dave and Connor. That makes zero sense to me,” said Jet McCoy, who was surprised he didn’t get U-Turned. “Leg 8, it looks like people are starting to play dirty.”
Cutbirth and Wayne also arrived, and their ire was short-lived as they worked with the others to finish the donkeys. They had gotten hung up trying to put the crate that had held the pieces on the back of a wooden donkey, and Temory and Zadran went to do “Donkey Run.” The O’Learys told them what the last part was, too.
“Even though they U-Turned us, my hat to Dave and Connor,” Temory said. “Dave is an extremely classy man. ... They helped us tremendously this leg.”
When they got to La Badia di Orvieto, the challenge was a Road Block at a monastery where one of the team members had to copy a page from an ancient manuscript, including the writing, and put gold leaf on it.
Neither father nor son wanted to do the challenge, and each tried to convince the other to do it. Connor O’Leary ended up doing it.
Villegas tried to apologize to them. “Of course they’re mad,” he told Rachel as they finished and left the monastery.
“They know you’re so young and have spring in your step, that's why they’re after you,” Cord McCoy told Dave O'Leary as they waited for their teammates. “They think you’re a threat.”
But at one point, Connor thought he wasn’t going to get it right and would have to take a penalty.
“It was a stressful situation. My handwriting is nothing special to begin with, so to do calligraphy was on a whole new level,” Connor said. “It was taking a long time. I was worried that I was running out of time.”
After the Afghanimals finished, Temory went back to make sure Connor O'Leary didn’t need any help. And his illumination passed with an “it’s good” from the monk.
From there, the teams had to drive to the Funicular, a cable railcar, and go to Piazza del Duomo and the cathedral where host Phil Keoghan was waiting at the Pit Stop.
Villegas and Reilly were first, the McCoys were second and the Afghanimals were third.
The singers and the O’Learys ended up almost getting lost on the way to the Funicular. The O’Learys were fourth, and singers Cutbirth and Wayne were fifth.
“We got a U-Turn; that just really shocked me,” Dave O’Leary told Keoghan at the Pit Stop.
“,” Connor said. “We’re coming for them.”
Dave is a prostate cancer survivor and Connor is a testicular cancer survivor, and both are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Holladay 25th Ward, Salt Lake Holladay South Stake.
The O’Learys were on season 22 a year ago, and at the end of the second leg, Dave O’Leary injured his leg running to the mat. The pair continued to race with Dave on crutches, but ultimately they had to withdraw from the race.
Harlem Globetrotters Herbert “Flight Time” Lang, 37, and Nate “Big Easy” Lofton, 32, were the last team to the donkey Detours as they stopped several times to ask for directions. They tried both of the Detours before finally completing “Donkey Run.”
They were last to the Pit Stop and were eliminated. It was their third time on the Race and their 31st leg.
“The Amazing Race: All Stars” airs Sunday evenings on CBS.
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