The Amazing Race Season 20 Recap
By Daron Aldridge
March 20, 2012

If curling is a real sport, why don't any SEC teams play it?

I’m sorry that I missed the episode of The Amazing Race with the most double entendre potential with last week’s Detour. It brought out the lecherous comments from Jersey Shore about their statue and the many, many salami innuendos for Name That Salami. Yet, I’m not sorry that I missed recapping a non-elimination leg that foreshadowed the last place team in the first ten minutes.

Hear, hear, David and Kim. I, too, hate the non-elimination as a concept but was pleased with the team that was spared last week.

Here’s how I see the current state of the Amazing Race union:

Team Border Patrol Art & JJ - Let’s see: Two consecutive first place finishes with possibly the widest margins in the show’s history, as well as a second place and a third place. That is pure domination. If not for the airport leveling of the playing field, these guys might already be completed with the sixth leg before the others start the fifth leg. Add to that the gift of $5,000 to Bopper for his daughter and Art & JJ show that they are pretty good at the Human Race too. (Hokey, yes, but true.) Sadly, they are the only team that seems to be a contender this season. The rest are destined to be runners-up.

Army of Two Rachel & Dave - Here’s a team that’s succeeded last week in spite of itself. First, I offer a clarification: I only referred to this Rachel as Blonde Rachel because I didn’t know if she deserved to be the “Good” to Big Brother’s “Bad.” And, man, am I glad after these last couple of weeks of unpleasantness. This is a team I REALLY wanted to like but this appears to be the definition of a toxic relationship. They are a prime example of how the Race highlights what is flawed in a relationship and for these guys, it’s their utter lack of communication. Simply, both seem to just not like each other. Yet, they still are finishing at the top week after week. It’s just one more example of the lackluster race acumen of teams this season.

(tie) Team Un-Fed Nary & Jamie and Jersey Shore’s Joey & Danny - Both our fake teachers and real meatheads are doing rather well. Neither team has lost their cool and both seem to be in sync with one another on the challenges. I severely underestimated the abilities of Jersey Shore, who have steadily moved up in the rankings. And Nary & Jamie have been solid performers but will either of them last? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that one, if not both, will outlast…

Big Brother’s Brendon & Rachel - Bad Rachel lived up to her moniker last week with meltdowns at the drop of a hat. And there was also the reality show-tailored histrionics of suggesting they give up on their relationship and the race. I’d say she is quick with the crocodile tears but I think that we have yet actually see any real tears shed. It’s all scrunched face and banshee wailing, like a preschooler that is trying to get sympathy. On the other side, I liked that she snuck in a dig at Brendon basically giving up on his PhD studies as well…shining a light on his fraudulent pretension. They showed cracks that I hope eliminate them but they will probably make it farther than their arch enemies…

Vanessa & Ralph - While I appreciate the teams that dislike Big Brother and picked them to win it all (sight unseen), this dating team seems too distracted by a need to mock Bad Rachel. I’m mainly talking about Vanessa here. They have yet to shine like I thought they would and don’t fight very much. The lesson here, kids, is that this season if you are on a team with your significant other, you need animosity to succeed. Maybe this will be the leg where they are each other’s throats and get first place. Also, since Vanessa admitted to spending good money on a nose job (and clearly money on another cosmetic surgery ‘job’), I don’t know if their intentions for the money are as pure as…

Bopper & Mark - Team Justified (a big thank you for that name to BOP’s Reagen Sulewski) tugged at our hearts last week with the best motivation ever on this show and we thank them for that. In a season where, each week, teams plunge to greater depths of ugliness and in-fighting, these fellas are soaking in the experience of the race. Even in the face of last place, they kept a fun-loving side about them. I think that they will continue to stay one step ahead of last place.

Cousins Kerri & Stacy - Who, you may ask? Well, if you aren’t asking it, I sure am and I have watched each episode. They are a team that has either blended into the background or been so bland that they’ve ended up on the editing room floor. For the simple fact that they continually get no screen time, I predict they will be eliminated next or they may have already been eliminated and we just haven’t noticed.

Let’s see what volcanic meltdowns are in store for this week’s episode of the Amazing Race and if Kentucky’s Bopper & Mark can rebound from last place.

The philanthropic Border Patrol team is the first off the mat and get the news they are headed to Bavaria via train to Austria and then by car. Once there, this week’s episode-long product placement comes from a certain travel company with a short spokesman. So, despite a day of traveling, there doesn’t appear to be the airplane bunching factor to contend with. Oh yeah… they are about two and a half hours ahead of second place team, Army of Two Rachel & Dave.

Right behind them are those ladies’ men Joey & Danny, who have busted out the silly hats because it’s a bit colder. Joey has made the bold, less than macho choice of a panda bear with its tongue sticking out, which he describes as “flirty.” In the words of Inigo Montoya, “I do not think it means what you think it means.” Plus, I’m pretty sure that Joey said just the previous leg that he had a girlfriend. Oh well, I have already wasted too many brain cells even trying to figure out these likeable meatheads. Jersey Shore and Army of Two are traveling to Austria on the same train.

As Vanessa & Ralph leave the mat, the “divorcee” label slapped on them by producers is explained through three failed marriages for Ralph and one failed marriage for Vanessa. Then, as they are driving to the train station, Ralph starts to get a bit testy with her. Maybe they really will be in argument mode.

Team Un-Fed and the bickering Big Brother team are next out and will be sharing the long train ride with Vanessa & Ralph. Once again, Brendon & Rachel vow to keep their cool and just enjoy the race. I think that will happen as much as the possibility that the clowns will be brought back into the race, just because the producers like them.

By the time that Kerri & Stacy rip open their clue at 3:58 p.m., it’s been about SEVEN hours since Art & JJ started this leg. It will take a colossal screw-up to knock the Border Patrol down a couple of pegs. Also, one of them (Stacy, I think) explains that her husband is a professional basketball player. With that one comment, we have already doubled what we knew about this team.

We finally get a glimpse as how far apart Team Justified and the cousins were. Bopper & Mark depart just under two hours after the girls. The guys are keeping the positive outlook strong in the face of the time difference and the pending Speed Bump. It may just be naiveté at this point but it’s endearing.

Well, it’s 4:30 a.m. and the time obstacle is obliterated when Team Justified rolls up to the station in Austria for their connecting train. They have officially caught up to four other teams. The leaders remain Art & JJ, who have arrived at their cars at 5:30 a.m. and feel the effects of a bit of bunching when their restaurant destination doesn’t open until 8:30 a.m. That is just enough time for Jersey Shore and Army of Two to join them.

And away they all go for their gnome and a Detour clue: Fairy Tale or Champion Male.

In the spirit of the fairy tale inspired land, Fairy Tale has teams follow a trail of gingerbread that they must collect and find a “witch’s” house (I didn’t know that Bad Rachel owned a home in Germany… [rimshot]). Then, they have to use the gingerbread to complete the roof of a gingerbread house and decorate it with candy. Upon satisfactorily completing the task, a “witch” will give them their next clue but if they fail, the witch will cook them in her large cauldron and eat them… okay… that won’t happen but if that threat was there it would prevent a repeat of the embarrassing watermelon stacking task. For Champion Male, the teams have to chose a Bavarian chap with a ton of facial hair and then style it according to a picture. It’s like the teams are on an episode of Whisker Wars (trust me…it exists and delves into the world of competitive beard styling). So basically, this Detour is a choice between Creepy and Creepier. You decide which is which.

All three of the teams opt for fondling a strange man’s facial hair. The other train arrives, as Rachel & Dave are the first ones at the Champion Male task. For a team that oozed contempt for one another on the last leg, they seem to be in better spirits this time. Rachel takes the lead and gets to style. Jersey Shore arrives next and picks their bearded model with Border Patrol the last ones from the first train at the task.

Unsurprisingly (and completely understandably), Joey & Danny and Art & JJ express a bit of unease about manhandling another man’s facial hair. What exactly did they think when they read the description of the task? It really shouldn’t have come as a shock.

Back to the back of the pack, the invisible team of Kerri & Stacy continues to rack up screen time as they are now lost driving to the Detour clue. By virtue of the increased screen time, I will go ahead and predict the cousins are the ones eliminated this episode. The producers typically don’t edit the eliminated team as heavily since it is their swan song on the show.

Let’s check in for more facial follicular fun. The guys that expressed trepidation about the task are now touting their own hair styling skills as keys to nailing the challenge.

Bopper & Mark beat all the other second train teams to the Detour clue but they have to face down a yodeling Speed Bump. They have to successfully learn and hit all the right notes in a traditional yodel. Based upon the demonstration by the “yodeling expert,” I wonder if they have to make the same silly face complete with crossed eyes to get their clue. Also, who knew there was such a thing as a “yodeling expert” to begin with? This whole leg is marked with silliness.

As Bopper & Mark get into their yodeling gear, Vanessa & Ralph arrive and choose the beard styling as well. Team Justified’s first attempt at yodeling karaoke is a bust and they must try again.

At the beards, Art & JJ are once again the first team to complete a challenge and move on to the next clue. The teams have to identify and locate the castle that was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The clue will be in the former king’s bedroom.

Two attempts at yodeling are all that Bopper & Mark need, but while they are changing back into regular clothes, the other three teams have arrived and headed toward a task. The guys are back in last but not by much.

Justified, Big Brother and Kerri & Stacy are the only teams to select Fairy Tale, so I guess my joke early about Bad Rachel wasn’t too far off the mark. I kid… kinda. As the snowfall gets heavier, Brendon & Rachel and the cousins overlook the marked trunk and begin wandering through the woods. Watch out Kerri & Stacy, it may be part of Rachel’s plan to lead you to the witch for dinner.

A few minutes behind the lost souls, Bopper & Mark pull up and have no problem finding the marked trunk. The guys are quickly passing up their closest competition as they began following Hansel and Gretel’s bread trail.

Army of Two has completed their styling duties but Jersey Shore has been given the thumbs down twice already. This has to be encouraging to Vanessa & Ralph who are just beginning their Detour a few chairs away and for Team Un-Fed that just arrived.

Bopper & Mark easily get to witch’s house first with the other two finally on the right path. As the guys are recognizing that they have to break up the pieces to fully cover the roof, the rushed Big Brother team is just hastily sticking the pieces to the roof. Please let it get a cackling “no” from the witch/judge.

Art & JJ once again prove they are more race-skilled than the others as they decide to take a horse carriage from the parking lot up the very long, winding hill path to the castle. Meanwhile, Jersey Shore and the divorcees are walking it. What about Rachel & Dave? They are lost in the car because Dave failed to fully listen to the directions and Blonde Rachel is quick to point out his error. So, the getting along earlier was short-lived.

Team Un-Fed receives a benevolent “thumbs up” from their Detour judge and all the teams have successfully completed the Champion Male task. Personally, I think this judge was way too lenient for the task described and the work he approved for the most part didn’t quite look right.

Border Patrol gets the castle clue first, which points them to a nearby ice hockey and curling rink. Upon reading that clue, I would be elated that the next task didn’t involve searching that massive castle for anything. That would have been a cruel, cruel task.

Cousins Kerri & Stacy are trying to prove my elimination prediction wrong by completing the Fairy Tale task first. But in the celebration, one of them busted the other’s lip.

Speaking of fairy tales, Vanessa & Ralph are in full meltdown mode with the trek to the castle. I didn’t really think they would attempt my suggestion of disharmony for success. And I don’t even know what they are fighting about other than Vanessa wants Ralph to carry her coat and the gnome. When he sarcastically asks if there is anything else he should carry, she spouts off something and says he looks like a “juiced up hothead.” The cornerstone of any great relationship is name-calling, right? Wow, we are three for three on angry dating/married couples left in this season. Let’s take a commercial break to see if they calm down.

Back from commercial, they are still sniping at one another. Ralph explains that the best part of his day was watching her struggling up the hill because he knew her legs her burning. That is quite the mean-spirited side to Ralph. Based upon this endurance testing task, I can already hear Bad Rachel whining and whining with every step. That is if they ever finish their gingerbread house.

In the castle, both teams get the clue and Vanessa & Ralph continue arguing. Even with the arguing, they are better off than the Army of Two, who have been MIA for quite a while now looking for the castle.

Team Justified seeks and gets approval from the witch putting them one rung up from last place for now, which is occupied by Big Brother.

That last place will soon be taken over by the other Rachel & hubby Dave because they are not only at the wrong castle but they are waiting for a tour of said castle. That may be all it takes for the others to pass them up. Oops, let’s make that all the others, except Team Un-Fed Nary & Jamie, who are now on the same wrong tour.

Border Patrol hits the Road Block… wait for it… in first place. Essentially, the team mate has to play shuffleboard/curling with their gnome and land him on a bull’s-eye.

Rachel & Dave and Team Un-Fed are finally clued in about the error of their ways mid-tour and book it out of the castle. Little do they know that their cars serve as a good diversion for the cousins and Team Justified, who think they are in the right place. The difference is that these two teams actually ask someone at the castle if it’s the right one before wasting time on a tour.

The Road Block is quickly completed and Art & JJ are heading to the Pitstop at a highly unglamorous dairy farm. As Border Patrol leaves, Jersey Shore shows up and Danny tags in for the Road Block. It appears that Danny has even less difficulty with the Road Block than Border Patrol did. Could these guys actually take first place? Ha… that won’t be happening.

Ralph chooses to do the Road Block, which is probably smart since he relished the fact that his partner is physically exhausted from the castle trek. They appear to make up enough to muster up a good luck kiss.

As expected, Art & JJ rack up their third straight first place finish and rightfully feel the race is theirs to lose. Joey & Danny aren’t far behind and hit the mat in second place. For a team that narrowly missed elimination on the first leg, I am surprised that they have just narrowly missed a first place finish. This may be the team I most underestimated.

At the castle, the cousins rip open their clue in seventh place and Team Justified is still trudging up the path to the castle. Bopper is so winded that he has to take several breathers before they get to the clue.

The next three people taking on the Road Block are Blonde Rachel, Nary and Brendon. While they play slide the gnome, Vanessa & Ralph check in as team number three. Out of the Road Block in order are Blonde Rachel and Brendon, leaving Nary alone for a few minutes before the last two teams show up.

Mark steps up for Team Justified based upon Bopper’s own bout physical exhaustion and I think Stacy is the one that is chosen for the cousins. It’s a race for not last at this point.

As team number four, Rachel & Dave recover from a bout of bad directions and for the most part, kept their animosity under control… this leg, at least.

Mark completes the Road Block next, which leaves the remaining two all-female teams vying for seventh and eighth place.

Team Big Brother sprints to the Pitstop mat located in a stable and Brendon proceeds to bust arse, almost taking out Phil in the process. They’re checked in as team number five… as in the number of pieces Brendon could have shattered his coccyx into with that slip.

Both the remaining teams are struggling in a major way to complete the Road Block. Neither can master the necessary sliding technique. Team Justified overcame a Speed Bump and hits the mat in sixth place.

Kerri completes the Road Block before Nary (who attempted the sliding more than 180 times) but navigating the route to the Pitstop just may be the deciding factor. And so it shall be. Nary & Jamie leave the Road Block last but sneak past the cousins when it matters most. Team Un-Fed is number seven and the cousins are eliminated.

Just like our accurate prediction of it being a non-elimination leg last week, I’m proud that I called Kerri & Stacy’s elimination this week. Either I’m getting better at this or the show is getting too predictable.

Until next episode, have a good week.