Add Rob and Amber to the growing list of people who wonder if the finale to the "Amazing Race 7" (search) was fixed.
"I'm not saying anything," Mariano grinned on yesterday's edition of "Live with Regis & Kelly" when Regis Philbin asked him if he thought there had been a "plot" to help the eventual $1 million winners, Uchenna and Joyce Agu (search), take the top prize.
"America can judge," Mariano laughed.
The move that has everybody wondering came about 20 minutes before the end of the finale, when Rob and Amber squeezed onto an American Airlines flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Miami.
Moments after the door to the aircraft had been sealed and the Jetway pulled away, Uchenna and Joyce begged to be let on the flight. The airline official at the gate called the pilot, who agreed to open the door and allow them onto the plane.
"When was the last time you ever have seen them close the door of a plane and then turn around and open it after they pulled the Jetway away?" Mariano asked.
"That pilot owes us a lot of money," Amber said.
"You've seen them on 'Survivor' and 'The Race,' " a CBS spokesman says. "Rob says everything with a grin. But such characterizations, even in jest, are completely without foundation."
Further fueling the conspiracy theory is the fact the American Airlines was a major sponsor of "Race." Internet buzz speculated yesterday that producers asked the airline to open the door so that the dash to the finish line of the 40,000-mile race would be more dramatic.
"Reality series are always breeding grounds for conspiracy theories," says the CBS spokesman. "Only an understanding gate agent and the goodwill of the pilot returned the Jetway back to the plane. Uchenna and Joyce treated everyone with kindness and respect thoughout race, and that karma was returned at a crucial moment."
Insiders say that the pilot "felt bad" for Uchenna and Joyce when he was told they were at the gate with a TV camera crew and begging to be let on the flight.
A Federal Aviation Administration official told The Post yesterday it is the pilot's decision to open the door after it's been sealed.
"It's the pilot's call," the FAA spokesman said. Under these circumstances "it's perfectly fine for the captain to [have] returned to the gate to pick up the couple."