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Amazing Race 20 – Ep 6 – The Weirdest Challenge In 20 Races

And that is certainly saying something. Teams have had to slingshot watermelons, roll cheese down a hill, unravel bales of hay across a field, and run almost naked through the frozen streets of Russia over the last several years. But I must say that the Detour that took place during the Race’s first foray into Azerbaijan was much stranger, and it led to some of the show’s funniest moments in recent memory.

As for the goings on this week, we had another Fast Forward, and what I considered to be a somewhat surprising elimination. But let’s be honest, the stars of the week were not any of the Racers, they were the random, extremely hairy Azerbaijani men covered in oil, and scrubbed clean by random Americans on international television. You think Mad Men was the Must See TV on Sunday – think again, Jon Hamm and January Jones were not submerged in oil and scrubbed clean. Men and women – gay and straight – fans of this column…take that sentence, the mental image that went with it, and thank me later.

You’re welcome.

Anyway, teams left Bavaria for Baku, Azerbaijan – a country which I’ll bet maybe 10% of Americans have ever heard of, and less than 1% could actually spell (I looked up the spelling). It is a former Soviet republic just north of Iran on the Caspian Sea, and teams were to fly there and find the Temple of Fire. I must say, that was my favorite Harry Potter story. Especially after Hermoine and Ron were submerged in oil. Accio Scrub Brush!!

JJArt left first, bragged about being awesome, yada yada yada, we had an equalizer. Not only was there one at the airport to get on the one Germany-Azerbaijan flight, but also upon arriving at the Temple of Fire in the middle of the night. However, it did allow for some interesting moments where Racers, at first trying to see if it was part of the Race, but then just doing it for fun, began dancing around the fire with the local dancers. And the obligatory Bopper-focused hoedown joke.

From here, the teams had two choices – the Roadblock or the Fast Forward. The task for the Fast Forward was not spelled out in the clue, similar to the Roadblock. Without a doubt, the Roadblock was much cooler in concept, if not in translation onto the screen. In the Roadblock, the show made a very, very loose connection to Azerbaijani culture. Very loose. So loose it needed a belt. There is more oil in this country than they know what to do with – although as a driver in the USA, I have some ideas of what they can do with some of that oil. In order to get some of it – they drill offshore. To get to the rigs, they have to take helicopters. Once in a while – hopefully not that often at all – the choppers crash in the water. Oilmen (I assume just men – this being Azerbaijan) therefore need to train for such an event before they hop aboard and hope Murdock isn’t flying the thing. The Roadblocking Racer has to learn this drill.

They are put in a chopper cabin and submerged completely in water. When the buzzer sounds, they break open the window and swim to the surface. There is actually minor danger as the Racer is actually underwater with no tank. Albeit with several crew members and the surface a mere couple of feet from their head. That said – still a cool challenge to do, if not to watch. The Show manufactured some drama with Vanessa, as we were led to think her claustrophobia and hydrophobia would come into play. It didn’t.

Meanwhile, the episode’s true drama came at the Fast Forward. The Dumbbells and Team Army Wife each decided to try for the free pass. One team would likely win the leg, and the other team would be an hour behind and struggle to avoid last place. It is a huge gamble to go head-to-head for a Fast Forward. The task seemed like something the Dumbbells would be better at – one team member climbed atop a truck full of bales of hay and tossed them down to the teammate below who would stack them in a 10x3x5 pattern. Dave and Fitness tossed, and Rachel and Danny stacked.

Dave tossed at a greater pace than Fitness who seemed to be going for perfection rather than speed. Dave dropped his almost directly on top of Rachel – and it seemed to overwhelm her. In reality, she recovered from the carpet bombing and was able to position the bales much better than Danny was. In fact, the boys seemed to be lacking the sense of urgency needed for this situation. Based on their comments about not wanting to lose to a girl, perhaps they didn’t take the challenge seriously. As it turns out, they should have, as Army Wife edged them out for the win. Dave even showed more affection for Rachel at this moment than he has all Race long. Even if it manifested in compliments to her work ethic and status as a “workhorse.” Oh, Dave, you sweet talker.

The next clue was “hidden” in a carpet shop – although it was clearly too difficult for Stalker who somehow failed to see the clues even though the bright yellow cards stood out next to the rugs. I can only hope it was a momentary brain fart that was stretched in editing, and not a 20 minute delay, because boy, they looked really stupid. The teams were sent on the Detour next.

Apples or Oil – as Azerbaijan is apparently flush with both. Making it the strange mix of New York and Texas, even if everyone looks like they come from Jersey. In Apples, teams go and find some old Soviet cars which are filled with a ton of apples. Literally. One apple in each car has a flag attached to it. Find it. Classic Needle in the Haystack. In Oil, it seems locals soak their bodies in oil for its healing properties. If we could just get on wind power, we can use all of the oil in the world to heal us, a la Star Wars bacta tanks. Anyway, I thought the task would be to soak in the oil, but no, it was to clean off a dude who was soaking. How odd. I mean, is this normal practice? Is there someone whose job is to sop oil off the mostly naked bodies of total strangers? And yet, that’s where we were. The Feds, Stalker and Dumbbells went for the apples, but that left JJArt, Bopper and Baby Big Brother with the oil.

Art told us that his guy was a tall, skinny, Azerbaijani man with gold teeth. But when you are in Rome, you do as the Azerbaijanis do. He called the guy a “Nutella-covered man.” He was hairy as a St. Bernard. And it was wicked strange. JJ wanted to know what the hell was going on in his life. Bopper didn’t want to “burn the man up” because he ain’t no animal. JJ demands that Art “get in the junk.” JJ thinks that sometimes you have to bite the bullet and scrub a man’s junk.

High Race comedy.

In the end, we get some editing as Dumbbells and Stalker lag behind, but Stalker is really comfortably ahead. I expect the Dumbbells to get spared, but they get the boot anyway.

Route Markers
• Did we have to know that Vanessa was “going commando?” Although points to her from making a Friends joke.
• Danny’s glasses. Those were NOT first place shades.
• What’s with Baby’s headband? How is that a fashion choice?
• Bopper thinks Azerbaijan is in Africa. I can’t kill him too much on that, because I am sure he is in the vast majority on that one.
• Danny never looks at instruction booklets. That explains the bad challenge performances, and that he doesn’t have any kids.
• Bopper has a crush on Jamie. Awww. Well, she is pretty cute. Not sure how much I would have liked my partner telling her partner that, but whatever. It’s pretty cute. Not sure if I see a future for the federal agent and the backwoods Kentucky dude, but who knows.
• Nice shot of Vanessa’s hand on the window as the chopper submerges. All it needs is “Not Penny’s Boat” to complete the scene.
• What’s with the exclamation “Cheese and Crackers” coming from Stalker? Is that something common I have never heard of?
• Danny says that his grandpa’s apple tree gives him experience doing the apple challenge. Really? Where tons of them crammed into a car?

Detour – Apples vs. Oil. Stalker, Dumbbells and Feds do the apples, Bopper, JJArt, and BB do the Oil.

Fast Forward – Stalking hay bales. Army Wife wins it.

Roadblock – Helicopter rescue. Bopper, JJ, Jamie, Brendon, Vanessa and Fitness do it.

Order of Finish – Army Wife, JJArt, Bopper, Baby Big Brother, Feds, Stalker, Dumbbells (ELIMINATED)

Next week – Nothing. In two weeks, Africa. Zebras. And Vanessa vs. Baby smackdown.
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