Here it is – the final behind-the-scenes blog for Allt För Sverige season 4! The final four – Courtney, John, George, and I- take on Stockholm, and each other… *dun dun duuuuun*
I love Stockholm. With all the bridges and water, it feels like an older sibling of Seattle. Arriving at the final koffert, being the one who got to read the letter, and then taking out the flag… it immediately put me into a competitive mode. When Anders greeted the four of us there at the bridges that form the crossroads to Galma Stan, he pointed out the palace, parliament, city hall, and my personal favorite the opera. Fun fact: everywhere I go I unwittingly stumble upon the opera house.
He asked what winning would mean to each of us – he asked the other three first and they all head wonderful answers, and I think someone (probably John) took the exact words I was going to say right out of my mouth (he has a way of doing that). So when it was my turn I really felt they had already said everything there was to be said, and all I could think of to say was some stupid comment about “the icing on the cake.” In my head as I watch that moment I hear a quote from the movie A Mighty Wind, “But, that’s the cake!” The potential reunion with my Swedish family was the main reason I went in the first place. It just turned out that I got a whole lot more than I bargained for along the way.
I was more than ready for the challenge where we had to match the objects with the places we encountered them. When I’m exploring and learning new things, my mind has a habit of replaying images from the day when it should be sleeping. So everything on that table I had seen more than once… the first time when I encountered it during the day’s journey, and at least once more when my brain was “reviewing the tapes.” It is an unfortunate habit in that it makes me lose sleep, but comes in pretty handy when I need to remember something later.
The only thing on the table I didn’t recognize was the receipt from the recycling machine in Uppsala, which is ironic since I was the only done of the four of us who had done that task in the competition, so if anyone were to recognize that it should have been me. Still, 14 out of 15 aint bad! I am really bad at throwing things, so I knew I would need as many right answers as possible and therefore more sticks to throw. And it did feel good to beat John at something, even if it wasn’t for all the marbles.
Kubb was fun, though I wasn’t great at it. During the livetweet several people said that “helicopter” throws aren’t allowed in a real Kubb game. We weren’t given any rules about how we could or could not throw, so that wasn’t against our rules. It was a very effective way to throw since throwing accuracy is not my strong suit. I promise I will get a Kubb set and learn to play the real way!
Waiting for the others to complete the challenge took a LONG time. I was sequestered in a car up on the bridge where I couldn’t see what was going on, and at one point I heard the sound of a band in the distance. It got closer and closer until I could see a marching band walking straight toward me. Me being me, I just had to get out and see what was going on. Only to be greeted by our coordinator running toward me and shouting,”Katie, get back in the car!” I pointed at the band and said, “But, there’s a marching band!” She told me it was a touristy thing for the changing of the guard that happened every day, and there would be plenty of opportunities to see it again.
Nine points didn’t feel like a lot. But when I heard that John won with twelve that immediately felt like I was in contention to stay. (John told me later that he didn’t feel like his twelve points were a lot at the time, either.) George did especially well considering he had so few sticks to use, so major props to him. But my heart broke for Courtney.
Courtney got more right answers than George did, but her lack of throwing skills really did her in. She really struggled with it… she either felt like she had power OR accuracy but couldn’t get both to happen at the same time. Some folks have pointed to her backhand throw like it meant she wasn’t giving it her best effort. Um, no. That was just a counterpoint to what happened when she put force into it and ended up throwing it so far out of bounds that the crew had to duck. Fortunately she laughs about it now, and I love that about her!
After her loss, Courtney and I had a dockside fika, talking about everything that had happened as we looked out at the passing boats. We were savoring our last few hours together in that beautiful city. Courtney and I walked around and explored Stockholm together a lot, and I think I’ll always have her in the back of my mind whenever I go back.
Lägenhet i Stockholm
The apartment in Östermalm was beautiful. I know that we were there to experience typical Swedish living, but it didn’t seem like just any plain-Jane apartment to me. Four bedrooms, two baths, and two balconies on the top floor in Stockholm? I’d call that lap of luxury. I feel so lucky that we got to stay there and have our last night together in Sweden there, enjoying a home-cooked meal. (John can really cook, by the way – out on the farm in Pjätteryd he made something out of practically nothing.) I love that he and Courtney were drinking the beer like it was champagne.
While they were cooking George and I talked in the living room. He had a lot of great things to say about how much he’d been changed by this experience, that he had learned something from everyone. I told him how much I had enjoyed seeing Sweden through everyone’s varied perspectives along the way. How exciting it was to see which parts of the experience spoke to each person. John’s love of the Viking history in Uppsala or swimming in freezing cold water. Troy’s appreciation of the integration of nature and design. Nate’s love of exploring a neighborhood on his own and making colorful friends along the way. My fascination with the natural world and the scientists who put their life’s work into understanding it. Everyone brought their own passions and perspective, and it was exciting to see what would resonate with each person as long the way.
The next morning it was very sweet of John and George to get up early and make breakfast for me. I feel a little bad that I didn’t do more of the cooking on the trip, as at home I really love cooking for friends and family. I would have enjoyed showing them that I can cook something besides porridge. Then again… after that porridge incident I was ready for a break from cooking duties anyway!
I am generally good at trivia, but we were told that we could buzz in before Anders had completed reading the question (this differs from how the episode is actually edited, since the viewers need to hear the whole question). In an interview beforehand, I was asked to talk about my strategy. My strategy was actually NOT to buzz in until I was sure what the question was. I was confident that I would know the answers, but didn’t want to give anything away to my competitors by answering the wrong question.
Hence you can see me consistently pressing the buzzer a fraction of a second after John. When the score got up to two for John and one for George while I was still scoreless, the only answer I hadn’t known was the one about Zlatan’s neighborhood, Rosengård (I was on my special day when they visited it in Malmo). I knew I had it in me to make it to the next round, but I just couldn’t beat John on the buzzer. He was just a hair faster than me.
But I knew it was crunch time. John started calling George “the guillotine” because he had been the one to finish second-to-last, and eliminate his competitors, in four consecutive challenges. He had been the one to send home Nick, Nate, Jeannette, and then Courtney. I had no intention of being his next “victim.” Before I knew it I had tied it up with John, and after John left the competition it was smooth sailing. I was sorry for George, but not sorry that I was the one who finally broke the chain and survived the guillotine.
Also not sorry: That I geeked out on TV and got GIF’d by a fan as a result…
Walking up to meet John as his final competitor was priceless.
It’s interesting to me to see in retrospect that John and George both were so impressed by my abilities as a competitor. I had every intention of winning it all from the outset of the journey, but at the beginning it felt like to everyone else I was the dark horse, and I was comfortable with that. Between my small size and my chronic illness, I’ve been underestimated at times in my life by people who don’t really know me.
I remember a couple of times at archery tournaments growing up, I would walk up with my bow and some of the boys would laugh and say, “Look, that girl is going to try to shoot.” Their laughter didn’t last long though, once they saw me shoot and they realized that I was good, and that I was there to compete against THEM. I often was the only girl, so eventually I earned a reputation for jumping classes to compete against the boys or even the grown women when I didn’t have any real competition in my own category.
So there in Stockholm, when it started to feel like the others had their eye on me as a tough competitor, it took me back those competitions from my childhood. There’s a little girl with a bow who still lives inside me, and she loved hearing George say, “Katie is good at everything, she’s meticulous.. to a fault.” But truthfully, I’m a lot more comfortable being the underdog.
John and I being there at the end, it felt absolutely right. He is a good and true friend, and we respected each other in that moment as competitors and human beings. And made all the more special that it was in the place where the Nobel banquet is held, which John knew was special to me because he was with me when I went to find my relative in the Nobel Museum. I went there at the first opportunity, when we had free time in Stockholm. John took this picture:
It wasn’t until this visit that the producers found out about my Nobel Prize winning relative, Otto Loewi. He was a German, and Jewish, and was co-awarded the medicine prize in 1936 for discovering chemical neurotransmitters. He was forced by the Nazis to turn over his gold Nobel medal and the prize money that came with it to Germany. Knowing the time he lived in, and that within hours he would be forced to relinquish his prize, his Nobel Prize acceptance speech is really quite a moving tribute to Sweden and it’s appreciation of intellectuals of all stripes.
And on a more personal note, Otto’s son Guido is the man who introduced my grandmother (farmor) to my grandfather (Guido and my grandfather served together in the Canadian Air Force during WWII). So really and truly, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Otto.
The final competition against John was everything that a final should be. Stockholm City Hall is an incredible location, and the two of us both have an intellectual bent so we truly appreciated being there and having time to experience the gold room alone before the challenge. It was an inspiring place, and John articulated it so well, “You feel at once so humbled about anything and everything you’ve ever done in your whole life. But at the same time you’ve never felt more capable that you could go and do something.” And then to have the producers make a nod to my relative Otto by including him on the second part of the challenge was such an honor. By being there, I got to pay tribute to both my mother’s Swedish and my father’s German side of the family.
We felt that we were so evenly matched, when asked who we thought had an advantage we both said, “Flip a coin.” John’s years of experience as a waiter in a fast-paced Times Square restaurant gave him an edge in the first portion where we had to be quick with fine dishes. But I had a bit of an edge in the second part, since I’m really quick to memorize facts. We both understood that whoever was first getting to the stairs would be the ultimate winner.
As it happened, John was so fast with the dishes that he said “done” before I even had all my pieces on the table. Fortunately it took him a while to see the lids on the bowls were aligned wrong, but he still had a huge lead over me. After he took off for the boards I knew I wasn’t remotely done, but I said “done” anyway because a) I was frazzled and wanted to stop and refocus, b) I wanted to stop John in his progress, and c) I realized I could see the list of names for part 2 from where I was standing at my table, so I could get a head start on memorizing for the second phase. A nice reprieve and that was when I saw the main thing I had missed – the order of the glasses. I’m such a visual person – I put them in the order they appeared when I was looking back at the table behind me (essentially a mirror image of where they should have been). I caught it eventually, but by that point the damage was done.
I really flew through the second phase, though. I memorized two or three people at a time, and already knew several of their names and categories, so only had to make three trips back to the list. I had two only two signs left to hang when John said “done” but I had to stop and turn away from the board while they checked his work, so that added a couple of seconds when I had to turn back around. If it had been continuous I probably would have only been two or three seconds behind him to the stairs. He still would’ve won regardless, but still – so incredibly close!
Some people have asked whether I fell at the end of the red carpet, since I was lying on the floor. No, I just got to the end and kneeled down and said, “Go get it, John,” and then collapsed because I was utterly spent. I gave it everything I had – not just for the final but in all the weeks leading up to it. I was completely exhausted, more than I’ve ever been in my life. As disappointed as I was,it felt like a small blessing that I would finally get to rest, and that I didn’t have to find the strength to make it a couple more days to a family reunion. Though I didn’t win, I got the experience of a lifetime and the tools I needed to come back and meet my family on my own terms. What a gift.
John was the right winner – incredibly earnest and passionate about his discoveries in Sweden and meeting his relatives. He needed this in a way he didn’t even realize, and it came at exactly the right time for him. Congratulations, dear friend.
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