The Amazing Race Season 20 Recap
The Amazing Race Season 20 Recap
By Daron Aldridge
April 9, 2012

This guy looks (and presumably sounds) like Patrick Warburton, right?

During last time ‘round, Team Jersey Shore finally bungled their way out of the race. They proved more competent racers than I imagined but their inability to beat Army of Two Blonde Rachel & Dave for the Fast Forward put them too far back. Of course, this happened after I finally began to think Joey & Danny deserved to be higher in the rankings.

While I incorrectly guessed that the last leg would be a non-elimination, I suspect this week will be. You will know by the picture at the top of the page whether I am correct or not (if it’s not a picture of a team, you can beat it was a non-elimination).

We have winnowed the field down to only six remaining teams and while there is still a clear front runner, another team isn’t too far behind (but still second, mind you). Here’s how they’ll fare in my mind (fair warning: not a lot happened on the last leg to change my mind much):

Team Border Patrol Art & JJ - Sitting in their rightful place on the throne of this season are Art & JJ. They scrubbed down an oily guy like nobody’s business, which is particularly fitting because that really shouldn’t be anybody’s actual business. Anyway, Border Patrol continues to run a near-flawless race. They once again took first (among teams that didn’t get to use a Fast Forward). Since the rules stipulate that they can only use a Fast Forward once on the race, the guys had to settle for second place but we know the truth and that is why I must continue to put them in first over…

Army of Two Rachel & Dave - This team actually surprised me that both members kept their cool during the Fast Forward, especially since their competition was right beside them the whole time. Neither flipped out when the other struggled, so maybe they are growing as a team and not just growing in animosity toward one another. There is much reason to think that they can’t make it to the end…and second place because we all know that Art & JJ are going to win, right? Right? (Hopefully.)

Team Un-Fed Nary & Jamie - The unnecessarily deceptive federal agents had been consistent middle of the pack racers and are fairly forgettable as a team (but more memorable that the other female team knocked out two legs ago…it was the cousins from Mississippi named…Oh I don’t remember). Nary & Jamie have enough drive to get them to the end but they aren’t strong enough to pass up Rachel & Dave and especially not enough to best Art & JJ. I give the likeable fake teachers just a slight edge over…

Bopper & Mark - Team Justified clearly have a goal in mind and that goal is: Prove Daron wrong. I had little to no faith in Bopper & Mark on the race in the beginning, yet they are proving to be the fun-loving, happy-to-be-there team of the season. And that 'Aw Shucks' outward appearance doesn't accurately depict the fact that they have been progressively climbing the ladder to the top of the pack. While I still think that they will get nosed out of the top three, they should prevail over…

(tie) divorcees Vanessa & Ralph and Big Brother’s Brendon & Rachel - Based solely upon the teased arguments between teams while waiting for some form of transportation, I MUST keep them tied. And this time for last place. Do I think that they are stronger than that? Yes, but I think that their common hatred will be the undoing of one of them and I am not sure which. Both teams seem consumed with and preoccupied by the opposing team and it will be their downfall. My wish is that it would be Big Brother (for hatred already explained ad nauseum) but my gut says that it will be the divorcees to go home first. But it won’t matter who’s last this week because it will be a non-elimination. Remember? Maybe.

Phil teases us more with the hatred brewing between Big Brother and the divorcees, plus Border Patrol’s earlier stated distaste for Big Brother resurfaces. Art & JJ also question Team Un-Fed about their real profession because they don’t believe they are teachers. Oooooohhhhhh...this could be quite the tense leg. Let’s get on with the racing and see if my predictions about the race (and more importantly, if anyone actually goes home) are correct.

Fast Forwarding Rachel & Dave leave the mat at 9:15 p.m. and get the news that Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is their destination. Unfortunately, the friendly neighborhood travel agent breaks the news that the best and earliest route doesn’t leave until 8:30 in the morning. This means that the airport is the likely locale for all the promised inter-team drama.

Border Patrol is next off the mat about an hour and a half later. They tell the camera that Big Brother is the weakest team and should be gone because they only draft off the teams immediately in from of them (mainly Border Patrol). I think the guys think even less of Bad Rachel & Brendon than I do…and I didn’t think that was possible.

As expected by Art & JJ, Big Brother shows up at the travel agency right behind them and attempts to spy on their travel plans. As Team Justified settles into line after Big Brother, they innocently ask if the “teachers” are behind them. Art then publicly challenges the girls’ professional lie. He tells the other two teams that they aren’t teachers and are in some type of law enforcement. What tipped him off?

During the last layover, Jamie asked the question, “What type of UC operations do they do in border patrol?” As Art says, teachers just wouldn’t use that wording, plus teachers would be more friendly, social and “bouncy” (as Bad Rachel says). This is a bit of a stretch in my mind by Border Patrol because not only have I met some very unfriendly teachers in my day but also, what if they had family members or significant others that were career law enforcement? The lingo would likely rub off on them.

Regardless, it’s impressive that Art & JJ picked up on the crack in their story and that they strategically used the girls’ lie to make the other teams doubt them. As expected, Big Brother recounts the conversation to Nary & Jamie, who then confess to the camera that it’s probably a good thing because it lets them prove their agency (which still hasn’t been named) is better than Art & JJ’s.

I do appreciate that Bopper does try to defend Border Patrol as good guys when Brendon starts to bad mouth them. Speaking of teams that Big Brother hates, Vanessa & Ralph show up. Bad Rachel tries to unconvincingly throw off their enemies by saying, “Man, I really wish there was a flight earlier than 10 a.m.” To which Vanessa sums up as Rachel being in a bad acting class. Maybe that’s what the ‘Bad’ in ‘Bad Rachel’ stands for.

Anyway, all the teams are ready to sit and wait in the airport for their connecting flight in Nairobi, which will be the scene for more airport hijinks. I think that the next two minutes of the show offered more tension and anger than ever seen on the Amazing Race. And who is in the middle of it all? Literally, it is Team Big Brother, who is sandwiched between Border Patrol and Vanessa & Ralph waiting for the connection.

The instigation was a classy middle finger from Brendon to Ralph as Brendon pushed Ralph aside while rushing to the line. In this instance, it’s more than a case of “he said, he said” because Art & JJ saw it go down. So when Ralph tries to simply and maturely point out that it was uncalled for, Bad Rachel unsuccessfully defends her man by saying it didn’t happen. Our Border Patrol fellows chime in that they saw it as it happened, which also allows Border Patrol to call them out on their poor racing ability. Brendon justifies his douchey-ness by saying, “We are here to play.” JJ clarifies that they haven’t played the game yet but just followed and that this game isn’t “Follow the Leader.” Brendon retorts with a well-thought out comeback of a smug head nod.

Border Patrol’s defense of Ralph shuts Bad Rachel down from defending Brendon’s bird-flipping but she then (and once again incorrectly) tells Ralph to stop yelling. He points out that he is just talking to Brendon. I have to give Ralph credit for mature conflict resolution here because he never swears or loses his cool. Too bad the same can’t be said for Vanessa and Bad Rachel.

Here’s a transcript of their childish, yet humorous (because Rachel clearly loses the petty argument) exchange:

Bad Rachel: “You guys are crazy.”
Vanessa: “Just put on more sparkles.”
Bad Rachel: “I hope insulting people makes you feel better about yourself.”
Vanessa: “I hope that running your mouth makes you feel better about yourself.”
Bad Rachel: “How old are you? What are you like 38? Grow up.”
Vanessa: “Yeah, I’m 38 and somehow, I still look younger than you. Honey, get your nose done before you get your boobs done, do everybody a favor.”

This whole exchange paints both women in a very unfavorable light but is a great way to segue into a commercial break. Based upon the reactions of all the other teams listening, they’re either a) enjoying the meltdown; b) love seeing Bad Rachel be called out; c) that they believe, as I do, that these two teams will now be too focused on just beating one another and lose sight of the bigger Amazing Race picture; or d) a combination of all of the above. All of them that is except Bopper & Mark who sum up the exchange as a couple kids going at in the lunch line.

Surely, they put a commercial break here because it’s over, right? Right? Wrong.

With Vanessa & Ralph at the ticket counter, Rachel recaps for everyone to hear that Vanessa said she was “fat and needed a nose job.” Vanessa clarifies that she didn’t say she was fat but rather in front of her and bigger than she is. Again, Ralph attempts to diffuse his teammate’s anger but Brendon just stands there like a lump.

Art & JJ aren’t finished either with their assessment of Big Brother. As they are heading toward the gate, JJ wonders if they will be able to find it by themselves. This is a glorious Big Brother dog pile. While I enjoy that as a past time, Vanessa and Rachel’s whole cattiness was so uncalled for, especially since Ralph was actually handling it like a grown-up.

Cue the tears from Bad Rachel in 3…2…1. The lack of sympathy from JJ as he overhears her breaking down manifests itself as a doubled-over laughter at the counter, which just makes her more dramatic. Rachel then rationalizes that it was all Vanessa with her badmouthing her. Ralph tells Vanessa that she made her cry. To which, she callously (possibly accurately) replies, “No, her lack of self-esteem made her cry.” Man, in a matter of minutes, Vanessa went from petty name-calling to borderline bullying, with Rachel more than willing to play the victim, just like she was quick to do on Big Brother.

With all the drama going on, Border Patrol decides to go ahead and just go for it and ask Team Un-Fed about their occupational white lie. After hemming and hawing around the question, they stick to their story that they are teachers even though they don’t seem very convicted in their story anymore. The guys admit that they are just trying to stir the pot to make it more difficult for Team Un-Fed. Dang, like JJ, it’s eating me up about which agency they work for.

We haven’t even gotten to the first challenge on this leg and I am exhausted already. It’s so much drama from a viewer standpoint, that I can only imagine how tiring it was to live through this whole ordeal.

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, welcomes the teams as they are heading to another airstrip to sign up for a slot on a charter flight. Even though Big Brother gets out first, the divorcees and Border Patrol are right behind them. Ralph tries to put Vanessa in the right frame of mind for this leg by telling her to “focus on them. To heck with the other teams.” I doubt Vanessa will be able to resist such a temptation.

As the teams get to the charter plane sign up, here’s the breakdown: Flight 1 with Border Patrol and Big Brother; Flight 2 with Army of Two and Team Justified; and Flight 3 with Team Un-Fed and Vanessa & Ralph. This distribution makes me sad that I can’t come up with a sufficient team name for Vanessa & Ralph. Maybe they could be Team Anti-Big Brother. Not because they are the opposite of them because they are so against them.

As a welcome break from the bickering, the charter flights to their first clue of the leg are filled with awe and appreciation. All the teams are soaking in the sights of Africa and loving it. Well, everyone except Nary, that is, who is either motion sick or sleeping.

When they land, they have to navigate a safari vehicle to a specific crater with the help of locals to find a guy with their clue, which is their Detour.

Before we get to that, I am touched by how excited Mark is to be in Africa. He says that his great, great grandfather was a slave and he believes came from the Tanzania area. In light of all the discord earlier, it’s nice to see someone able to put this experience into perspective.

Art & JJ and Big Brother get to the Detour clue first and find out it’s between Marksmanship or Courtship. They have to ride a bike to the same village for both tasks. For Marksmanship, they have to master throwing a hammer-like weapon at a rotating target and both people have to shatter a target to get their clue. For Courtship, they have to perform a jumping ritual for a full 60 seconds. While jumping up and down for a minute doesn’t sound too hard, Phil reminds us that the teams are at over 8,000 feet above sea level. Border Patrol goes for Marksmanship and Big Brother heads to Courtship.

The second and last flights have arrived and are looking for the crater and clue.

JJ quickly hits the target but Art keeps going wide. Unfortunately for them, Big Brother does their jumping tasks with no problem. I feel duped by Phil that there may be some difficultly to the task. But if Bad Rachel does it without any effort then it must be child’s play. They get the next clue and are heading to the Simba campsite, to which they have to navigate their safari truck to. Border Patrol gets finished and passes up Big Brother on the bike ride back to the trucks.

Army of Two gets to the Detour next and they opt for Marksmanship. While heading there, they pass the other two teams. Dave gives Blonde Rachel a “c’mon let’s do it” type of coaching, which prompts her to tell him to stop yelling at her. Showing that maybe their meltdown days are behind them like they demonstrated during the Fast Forward last leg, Dave asks her to not confuse his encouragement with yelling and that he thinks she is doing awesome. We’ll see if that holds at the task itself.

As Big Brother continues to follow the team in front of them, they do suggest to Team Justified to do the Courtship task. The fellas take their suggestion and go to Courtship. This gives them to the chance to pass up Blonde Rachel & Dave, as they quickly get their clue. But just like the previous teams, Marksmanship proves to only be slightly more time-consuming as Army of Two is still neck-and-neck with Team Justified.

As the last two teams, Team Un-Fed selects Marksmanship, just as expected from a pair of fake Kindergarten teachers, and so do the divorcees. But Nary & Jamie have mastered bikes and Vanessa clearly has not, so the ladies get to the Detour first.

The pressure of last place is getting to Vanessa and she starts in with the yelling in the direction of Ralph because her bike is too tall for her to ride.

With Border Patrol, Big Brother and Team Justified all twisted around looking for the Simba campsite; Blonde Rachel & Captain Dave have leaped into first place. At the campsite, they have to set up an elaborate camp, with a working bush shower, before proceeding to a nearby Pitstop. Given that they have to build their own camp and that it would be cruel to have a team do that and them be eliminated, I am thinking I'm right that this leg is a non-elimination. Meanwhile, Dave is hopeful that his Army background and OCD will head them get through it quickly.

For the first time on the race, Art & JJ have messed up and messed up fabulously. They have gone in the entirely wrong direction, which puts them way behind the other three teams and possibly all the teams as Team Un-Fed and Vanessa & Ralph have completed the Detour as well.

As Ralph settles into the truck with a defeated outlook that they are gone, Border Patrol and Team Un-Fed are at the campsite. Dave’s Army/OCD superpowers are apparently negated by the Kilimanjaro setting because they go from leading to struggling as all but one team is on site. You know how I said Blonde Rachel & Dave seemed to have moved past their squabbling? Well, I was wrong as the passive-aggressiveness is back while they try to unsuccessfully build camp. Time for more unpleasantness to be recapped: Dave tells her to shut her mouth and that they are once again going to be the first ones there but the last ones to leave, Blonde Rachel calls him the most negative person in the universe and mockingly says, “Yes, sir” to him several times, and JJ adds, “That’s why we are not here with our wives.”

The good thing for Blonde Rachel & Dave is that no one has found the magic solution to the task. After stepping back and looking at the tent frame and Dave identifying the problem, they are able to disassemble it and then quickly put it together correctly. They both acknowledge (again) that when they are communicating properly they are a stronger team.

Now all the teams, except for Team Un-Fed, have completed the frame and tarp portion. Nary & Jamie, must return their NOW membership, as they blame the lack of a man on their team as the reason they are falling behind. Even if that is a factor, they shouldn’t admit that, especially given that they work in a male-dominated profession, you know as “kindergarten teachers” *winkwinknudgenudge*.

Overcoming their in-fighting, Blonde Rachel & Dave are the first ones done and make a break for Phil. Dave is amazed that they have somehow overcome their stubbornness and bickering to pull out a first place finish this leg. Phil points out that this is their fourth first place finish, which means on this season, unless you’re a border patrol agent, an Army pilot or wife of an Army pilot, you have yet to be first.

In second is Team Justified, who rolls up on the mat as giddy as a couple of Kentucky boys at the Derby. Art & JJ are number three and when Phil asks about the rift between teams, they say they just try to minimize their involvement and focus on the million dollars. Do they not realize that Phil has probably seen or at least heard about their actual involvement and comments? Silly boys.

Speaking of rifts, Big Brother is checked in as number four and Phil gives them a similar chance to address the elephant in the room/African savannah. They also downplay that they aren’t going to let it get to them or spoil the experience. Again, Phil knows what’s going on. Now you just look like liars.

Vanessa & Ralph leave Team Un-Fed as the only ones still at the campsite. Vanessa finally takes Phil’s bait. She says that all the teams are on the same page about Big Brother and she has no desire to be friends with them in the race or even speak to them. Well, that refreshing honesty is probably more than Phil was expected given the bland answers from earlier.

If their “we don’t have a man on our team, so that’s why we are losing” excuse didn’t upset feminists, then they will probably be upset by Jamie’s observation that the guys at work will be happy because she and Nary are finally in a shower together. The ladies don’t quit on the task, though. Knowing they are last, they decide to take one more stop on the way to Phil to watch a herd of elephants on the plains. As expected, Phil greets them with non-elimination news. Glad I was right.

Next week, Border Patrol severs their alliance with Army of Two for some reason with a heavy dose of anger. A Double U-Turn rears its head and unsurprisingly, it looks like making enemies of all the other teams means you get one of those U-Turns. Just ask Brendon & Bad Rachel, who appear to be on the receiving end.