After spinning 180 degrees underwater and searching an automotive apple orchard, another team is eliminated

By Joseph Brannigan Lynch
Updated March 26, 2012 at 07:28 AM EDT
Credit: CBS

After the third consecutive first-place victory from Team Border Patrol, it was clear that the other teams needed to step up their game or just acknowledge that anyone who wasn’t Art or J.J. would merely be competing for the disappointing honor of a second place finish on Amazing Race 20.

At the start of the sixth leg, Joey “Fitness” and Danny stated they were dead set on finally scoring a first place finish (necessitating Danny’s goofy orange “first place glasses.”) Nary and Jamie still believed their federal agents-disguised-as-school-teachers subterfuge would come in handy at some point. Unless finishing near-last is also part of their strategy, I think “underestimating” Team Feds is actually just accurately estimating them. As for Team Army, in spite of a couple less-than-stellar showings, Dave still felt he and Rachel were “the team to beat.” Army Strong! Katy Perry knows what that’s about.

Starting off from Bavaria — that wonderful land of castles, gingerbread and beards — Team Border Patrol got an early start on the trip to Baku. Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan, a former Soviet Republic rich with oil, located south of Russia and north of Iran. Once again, that head start didn’t yield much — all the teams caught the 6:20 flight on Turkish Airlines, and Team Army actually arrived at Ateshgah (the Temple of Fire, duh!) before they did.

While locals pounded drums in the black of night and dancers circled firepits in costumes that looked far too flammable for my comfort, Rachel and Dave zipped through the temple hoping that the next clue card wasn’t behind the door that didn’t open till sunrise. Which, of course, it was.

When all the teams had arrived hours before dawn, they were left with little else to do but grab hands with the Azerbaijani dance line and have an old-fashioned Zoroastrian hoedown. Bopper, of course, enjoyed it immensely.

Once they got the cards, Team Army and Team Jersey Stereotype opted to compete against each other for the Fast Forward on this leg.

The task: Head to a roadside hay market and unload 150 bales of hay into a formation as precise as the instructions Noah got for his Ark — 10 bales long, three wide, and five tall.

Whichever team finished making hay while the sun shone would skip ahead to the finish mat, while the losing team would be forced to start the regular challenges far behind the other teams.

Essentially, it was a gamble for first or last place. Even though Rachel and Dave began slightly before “Fitness” and Danny, the East Coast boys remained confident they could win, merely because “we’re not gonna let a girl beat us.” Well! Who can argue with logic like that? Apparently these guys didn’t grow up in Jersey, Long Island or New York — they hail from Andy Griffith’s Mayberry.

At first it looked dire for Team Army — Rachel struggled to get her bales perfectly lined up and Dave busted open about one out of every 10 bales he dropped down to her. “They’re killing us, babe,” Rachel puffed out just before a cliffhanger commercial break. “For the love of Jesus,” she shouted, “I can’t do this anymore!”

NEXT: Underwater escape and Bopper’s crush

Whether it was that desperate shout-out to Jesus or what Dave later described as their “Midwestern work ethic kicking in,” Rachel found herself shoving the last straw into place before Danny and J-Fit finished their haystack. When the expert handed over the next card, Dave expressed his admiration to Rachel by declaring, “Babe, you are a freaking workhorse!” There was more love in his voice when he called her a “workhorse” than we’ve heard from him in a while, which is weird. But at the very least, it was nice seeing the married couple getting along again as they nabbed a first-place finish and TWO brand new cars. A much better reward than a vacation, in my book.

Of course, it was nice to see Team Jersey put in their place given their shamelessly casual sexism. “Beaten by a frickin’ girl!” Danny said, half stymied, half furious as he and Joey cabbed back to begin the regular challenges behind everyone else.

Since oil is one of Azerbaijan’s natural resources, the next task was tied to bubbling crude, black gold, Texas tea. It required one team member to undergo a simulation of an underwater helicopter crash. Because some Azerbaijanis work on offshore oil rigs and they take helicopters to get to there. And choppers crash on occasion, so you better know what to do if your helicopter crashes in the water upside down. Alright, so it was a tenuous connection to Azerbaijani life, but it was a freakin’ sweet challenge, so who cares?

Of the first three teams to take on the underwater escape, Bopper, Jamie and J.J. volunteered to represent. While those three suited up and entered the indoor pool, Mark told Nary that his best friend was crushin’ on Jamie, which he inferred from the Big Bopper’s behavior at the harp-stringing challenge. That might not have been a very “best friend” move on Mark’s part, but maybe he was getting back at Bopper for laughing every time Mark barfed in the backseat of a car.

Then again, maybe Mark’s comment was a fourth grade-style play for romance on Bopper’s part. Like when you were 10 years old and courted a girl by having your best friend tell her best friend you have a crush on her. Next step: A piece of looseleaf paper asking Jamie out with “yes,” “no,” and “maybe” check boxes.

Aside from the harrowing experience of being in a mechanical pod that spins around in a pool, leaving you upside down and drowning, the task didn’t seem too hard. All that was technically required of them was to not panic, punch out an easily-removable window and swim to the surface. Sure, it looked scary, and probably felt terrifying for a second, but it seemed like it would actually be kinda fun.

As J.J. pulled himself into the life raft, Art ruefully mused, “Man, that was a cool challenge,” clearly disappointed he wasn’t the one doing it. Which was endearing.

Teams Border Patrol, Kentucky and Feds moved on in a row of cabs to a carpet shop, where the next clue card gave them the choice between rummaging through hundreds of apples for a special one, or scraping oil off of a human being. Knowing that the oil-cleaning task at least had well-defined parameters, the Kentuckians and Border Patrol headed to a nearby spa, joined not long after by Team Big Brother. Apparently in Boku, locals and tourists willingly take baths of black oil for its health benefits. And when I say “locals and tourists,” I mean “creepy, hairy men.”

NEXT: The best soundbites of Team Border Patrol’s disgust

The perpetually good-natured Team Kentucky didn’t kvetch too much about scraping oil off a man’s near-naked body, but Art and J.J. were very vocal about their discomfort. Here are their best flabbergasted protests:

–“Is this normal? This is a spa?”

–“No, no… what the heck is going on Art?”

–“This is wicked strange.”

–“He’s as hairy as a St. Bernard.”

–“He looks like a Nutella-covered man!”

–“Come on Art, get in his junk.”

–“You want a million dollars? Scrub a man’s junk.”

Perhaps because of their unease over scrubbing a strange man’s dirty body, Art and J.J. finished first, followed shortly by Mark and Bopper and later by the Brendon and Rachel.

Back at the helicopter pool, Vanessa fretted that her combined fear of confined spaces and water would be a prohibitive hurdle for this task, but she actually managed it just as easily as everyone else.

Continuing to plod along slower than the other teams, the Dating Divorcees somehow missed seeing the gaudy yellow Race cards prominently displayed in the carpet shop. They practically tore the place apart, thread by thread, before realizing the clues were right under their noses. “We are buffoons,” Vanessa declared, and they confirmed that later on by repeatedly using “cheese and crackers” as a euphemism for “Jesus Christ.”

Joining the undercover Feds at the fruit market, the Dating Divorcees started in on the mind-bogglingly irritating task of sorting through a car stuffed to the roof with apples, looking for one particular apple with a little Amazing Race flag on it. Nary and Jamie were moving at a Granny Smith pace, investigating two apples at a time as if the flag might burst forth from the core if they stared long enough. Things weren’t going much better for the Divorcees, especially when Vanessa made a point to reveal that her “melons” were “going commando.” She’s definitely hoping another reality show will pick her up when she loses this.

Danny and Joey “Fitness” — now the self-described “comeback boys” — were making good time in spite of their setback. They rushed through the underwater escape, grabbed the carpet card and opted to go the apple route since they themselves are from the Big Apple. And I’m not making a stupid joke — that’s actually why they chose that task.

By this point, Team Border Patrol had come in second place, which they declared was “actually a win” since Team Army had benefited from Fast Forward. Which is true, but they didn’t have to say it. Team Kentucky followed them to a third place finish, Team Big Brother managed fourth, while Team Feds — who finally found that magic apple — were very disappointed to learn they had come in fifth place. Yeah, I’m guessing they will be the next team to go.

Even though the Divorcees were still searching for their apple, it seemed like Team Jersey Stereotype would need a miracle or two to get ahead and avoid a last-place finish. Actually, they did get two huge boosts. Danny called on years of apple-sorting experience to find their apple almost immediately after the Divorcees found theirs, and Ralph and Vanessa’s cab driver disappeared for a spell instead of taking them straight to the finish mat.

So instead of a very comfortable sixth place finish, Vanessa and Ralph ended up…

NEXT: Another team eliminated and the best line of the episode

…with a relatively comfortable sixth place finish. So Danny and J-Fit came in last, and they were indeed eliminated.

Although Danny and Joey didn’t cry big, goopy spray tan tears, they did look sadder than if their gym raised its monthly membership rate. I can’t say I’ll miss seeing them, but in all fairness, it is a tough break. They weren’t that far from finishing first at the hay-stacking challenge, and they were starting to look like real competitors as the Race progressed. But that’s how it goes in Phil’s world. And at the very least, they promised New York/New Jersey residents that they’ll be returning home to “a nightclub near you.” Great! I was looking for an excuse to stay inside this weekend.

The best line of the night — aside from everything Art and J.J. said at the spa — goes to Dave. Just as he and Rachel approached the esplanade finish mat, he observed, “I can smell Phil’s cologne.” Ah… the Essence of Keoghan.

Were you sad to see Danny and Mr. Fitness go back to Long Island? Who do you think is next to get chopped: Dating Divorcees or the Feds? And which was grosser: The oil baths or Mark vomiting every time he got in a car?

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The Amazing Race

Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.

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