Monday, March 26, 2012

Amazing Race 20-06 recap: "This is Wicked Strange"

Last night's episode of the Amazing Race was a pretty decent hour and thankfully absent from the squabbling which has lowered many recent episodes. Plus, we get to see one very colourful country!

We resume the show in Bavaria with Art & J.J. starting in first place, having held their title for three legs in a row. The first clue directs them to Baku, Azerbaijan! Despite J.J.'s frequent assertions of how their team is "dominating," he does display a little bit of humility. "When you start winning all the time you just feel like yeah, you know what, we're gonna win. But we both know we're one Roadblock or Detour away from bein' humbled." They've decided they don't want to take big risks on the Race, just outperform the others. J.J. notes how Danny, running in 2nd place with Joey "Fitness," has a pair of odd glasses; he thinks Danny's glasses belong in an 80s movie with a Wham soundtrack! Joey "Fitness" & Danny note how they've kept climbing throughout the Race and hope to seize first place soon. At one point we see a close-up of the Ford logo on the hood of a car. Who sponsors this show? You'd think they'd tell us!

As Rachel & Dave depart, Dave correctly identifies Azerbaijan's location in the Near East; however, as Bopper & Mark puzzle over the location, Mark opines it must be in Africa! Joey "Fitness"/Danny & Vanessa/Ralph arrive at the airport in Munich, Germany at the same time; the former get into an argument when Danny greets their competition with a friendly "hello." They're still arguing about whether it's okay to be friendly toward their competition as Vanessa & Ralph line up behind the duo: "Hi!" Vanessa chirps. Scenes of the teams heading to the airport in Munich, Germany follow; Brendon & Rachel visit a travel agency first, which I thought would lead to some advantage/disadvantage, but ultimately everyone winds up on the same flight, so most of the ticket booking is glossed over.

All seven teams arrive in Baku and take off in taxis for the Temple Ateshgah ("Temple of Fire"). It's still dark outside as they race; Rachel & Dave arrive at the temple first, but the building they need to enter won't open until sunrise. They decide to make the most of their surroundings and join a troupe of dancers around a big fire while musicians accompany them. "This place is like an ancient rave!" saith Dave. Ultimately, all seven teams wind up joining the dance line! It's nice to see everyone getting along (or pretending to).

At sunrise, the building opens and everyone grabs their clues; teams can either head to their next route marker, or attempt this leg's Fast Forward, only the 2nd Fast Forward we've seen this season (probably the last - I think two is the standard these days). Rachel & Dave are determined to get back in the lead after holding first on the first two legs, so they head for the Fast Forward. Joey "Fitness" & Danny have convinced themselves that having moved consistently higher with each leg, they should advance from second to first on this leg, so they also direct their taxi to the Fast Forward. This is a serious risk, as teams seldom get back into the Race if they waste time on a Fast Forward they don't win; this is precisely why Nary & Jamie decide not to bother with the Fast Forward.

So, the other five teams take their taxis to Occupational Training International to search for their next clue. Mark has to use the barf bag in his taxi, something which afflicts him whenever he has to ride in a back seat. Art sees this and thinks it's funny; to be fair, it amuses Bopper too. When Rachel & Dave arrive at the Fast Forward location, they learn the nature of the task: they must unload 150 bales of hay from a truck, then arrange them in a particular way (3x5x10). Joey "Fitness" & Danny start almost a minute after Rachel & Dave, so it's a race; Joey "Fitness" & Danny, having boasted of their strength before, would seem to have an advantage over a male/female team.

At Occupational Training International, Art/J.J., Bopper/Mark & Nary/Jamie retrieve the next clue: Roadblock! J.J., Bopper & Jamie volunteer on this task, which is to participate in a helicopter crash simulation. A mock-up of a helicopter is lowered into a swimming pool then tilted upside down; Racers have no oxygen tanks and must break through their windows then swim to the surface; their next clue waits for them atop a dinghy.

Back at the Fast Forward, Rachel & Dave speed ahead and win the Fast Forward! Joey "Fitness" & Danny are seriously off their game as they realize they have to go back to Occupational Training International. "Beaten by a frickin' girl." is Joey "Fitness'" glum comment. Rachel & Dave head to the Pit Stop, Boulevard Esplanade Estakada.

At Occupational Training International, J.J., Bopper & Jamie all perform their Roadblock at the same time on the same mock helicopter. As Nary & Mark watch their teammates, Mark confides to Nary that Bopper has a crush on Jamie. Evidently this has been going on since leg 3, although this is the first time it's been mentioned; I thought Bopper/Mark & Nary/Jamie were just friends, but Mark suggests otherwise.

J.J., Bopper & Jamie complete the simulation and collect their clues. Bopper helps pull Jamie into the dinghy with him and his hand seems to touch her posterior. Mark watches this with a disapproving glare. To Nary he comments, "He's terrible." The next clue directs teams to the Toghrul Karabakh carpet shop.

Rachel & Dave arrive at the Pit Stop; nearing the location, Dave remarks "I can smell Phil's cologne." Phil rewards the couple with first place and a pair of 2013 Ford Tauruses.

Brendon is next to attempt the Roadblock. It looked as though Vanessa & Ralph arrived at the same time, but Vanessa won't begin the Roadblock until after Brendon. Brendon does just fine, but Vanessa is a bit panicky, being afraid of close spaces and swimming, but she had no idea what the Roadblock was when she volunteered. As Vanessa performs the Roadblock, something seems to go wrong and we head to the commercials with Vanessa seemingly in mortal danger! But then the program resumes and no, she was doing just fine. Vanessa is done the Roadblock before Joey "Fitness" & Danny even arrive at the site; Joey "Fitness" finishes the Roadblock without incident.

By the time Art/J.J., Bopper/Mark & Nary/Jamie have reached the carpet shop, Brendon/Rachel have caught up to them! Their taxi driver clearly knows how to hustle! Teams run inside the shop and come out with their clues: Detour! Now teams choose between "Apples" or "Oil." In the former, teams search through a car loaded with apples and find one which has the Amazing Race flag attached to it. In the latter, teams journey to a spa and help a man bathe in oil, then clean the oil from his body. All of the teams decide on "Oil," except for Nary/Jamie who opt for "Apples," no doubt gambling on it being faster than the other option if they luck into the marked apple.

Vanessa & Ralph arrive at the carpet shop later, but can't find the clues... even though the clues are in their bright yellow envelopes, sticking out in plain sight next to the shop's carpets.

At "Oil," Art & J.J. are the first to begin grooming a man at the spa; their subject sits in a bathtub full of nice black oil. I guess it doesn't look any stranger than a mudpack. J.J. acts very startled by all of this. "What the heck is going on, Art?" and "Art, this is wicked strange!" providing this episode's quote-title.

At "Apples," Nary & Jamie begin digging through their car of apples. "Teachers love apples!" is Jamie's remark, referring to their pretend occupations as schoolteachers. At "Oil," Bopper/Mark & Brendon/Rachel begin the task. Art & J.J. are both being very vocal at how weird they find this. Meanwhile, Vanessa & Ralph finally see their clues. "We are buffoons." saith Vanessa and I doubt anyone watching would dispute her. They decide to tackle "Apples."

Back at "Oil," J.J. yells "Get in his junk, Art! Get in his junk!" Art snipes back, "How about you focus on what we've got to do instead of trying to be funny?" J.J. answers, "I'm in his five, Art! What do you want from me?" Rachel quips "I don't think he minds that I'm rubbing him all over." as she cleans up her subject. Art & J.J. finish the Detour first and receive directions to the Pit Stop. "We feel violated." says J.J. Hey, imagine how the guy you manhandled felt! Bopper & Mark finish next, with Brendon & Rachel close behind.

Art & J.J. seize second place at the Pit Stop. Art notes "it's actually a win," thanks to the Fast Forward. Joey "Fitness" & Danny have only just reached the carpet shop and decide to try "Apples," probably another gamble at luck being on their side. Meanwhile, Nary & Jamie have just finished the Detour, but Vanessa & Ralph are still searching and having bad flashbacks to their ordeal with melons back on leg 3.

Bopper & Mark arrive at the Pit Stop in 3rd place with Brendon & Rachel nipping at their heels, arriving in 4th. Nary & Jamie are a little disappointed to arrive in 5th, probably hoping the "Oil" Detour was the longer option. Vanessa & Ralph finish "Apples" before Joey "Fitness" & Danny even arrive. However, the boys seem to find their apple very quickly, much faster than the other teams who attempted it. The editors try to make this suspenseful, showing scenes of Vanessa & Ralph getting lost en route to the Pit Stop, but it's all for naught - they hold on to 6th place, both crying "Cheese and crackers!" all the way to the finish. Joey "Fitness" & Danny arrive in last place and Phil eliminates them.

I didn't think much of Joey "Fitness"/Danny for the first two legs, but they proved to be stronger than I thought; their elimination didn't strike them because of any deficiency in their gameplay, I would have bet they could have assembled the hay bales faster than Rachel/Dave. After all of their earlier remarks about wanting challenges where their upper-body strength was a factor, it's strange to see them go out on a strength-based challenge. Rachel definitely deserves some props for outplaying them! Over all, Joey "Fitness" & Danny had a good bond with each other and a gentle sense of humour; they were a relief to watch compared to some of the squabbling couples.

This leaves us with just six teams!

  1. Rachel & Dave: It's nice to see them cooperating again, although I'm sure it helped to have a leg where taxis ran everything - a lot of their recent squabbling came from navigation errors. They're an agreeable team when they're winning.
  2. Art & J.J.: Still the most consistently strongest team on the Race, they've really proved themselves over and over. It's nice to see a very strong, winning team who are still friendly to their competition.
  3. Bopper & Mark: So long as these two are in the Race, I'm a happy man. Bopper having a crush on Jamie is an odd wrinkle; I wonder if we'll see more about this...?
  4. Brendon & Rachel: These two haven't been a bother for two episodes now; I'd like to see it last, but, well, see below.
  5. Nary & Jamie: I'm getting a better sense of their gameplay style now and I think they are a strong team, but somehow they never do better than middle of the pack. Even if they make to the final three, I can't envision them winning.
  6. Vanessa & Ralph: Thankfully, these two stopped squabbling. They seemed to bleed a lot of time on this leg, most awkwardly when they failed to see the clues lying directly ahead of them! I don't think they're bad people... insensitive to others, but not bad people.

Next week: Rachel and Vanessa resume trading snark with each other! Blast it, just when this show had become pleasing to watch. Oh, but the Race is also headed to Tanzania! Africa! African legs are always fun! Ah, but this episode won't air for two weeks; I'll see you then!

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