The Amazing Race 20 Watch: Uglier Than a Mud Rail Fence

Last week, the eight remaining teams traveled from Paraguay to Italy. Border Patrol agents Art and J.J. continued to dominate, snagging the season’s only Fast Forward and finishing in first for the second straight leg. Country boys Bopper and Mark had one lapse in judgment that put them an hour behind the rest of the teams, and they came in last. They were not eliminated, however, and not only that, Art and J.J. offered to split the ten grand they won with Bopper so he could take care of his sick daughter. Warm fuzzies!

Starting Line - The Piazza Costello in Turin, Italy. The teams’ first clue told them to head to the Turin train station and catch the first available rail to city (actually, it’s a “municipality”, whatever the difference is) of Ehrwald, which is located in the Tyrol district of Austria. The city is notable because it is right on the border with Germany, and is located right at the base of Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze. Once there, they had to find a local restaurant called the Gasthof zum Rassen.

Clue # 1 was this leg’s Detour. The choices: Fairy Tale and Champion Male. In the former, teams had to follow a “gingerbread” trail to the Bavarian town of Oberammergau, find a “witch”’s house and construct a gingerbread house according to specifications, after which the witch (heh) would give them their next clue. In the latter, teams had to travel to a nearby bar, pick a “beard enthusiast” at random, and style his beard to match a champion from the World Bearn and Moustache Championships (yes, they have those).

Once complete, teams were given a clue telling them to find the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle, which turned out to be the Neuschwanstein Castle located near the city of Füssen, and the next clue was to be found in Prince Ludwig II’s bedchamber. Oooh, kinky.

For finishing in last place in the previous leg, Bopper and Mark had to perform a Speed Bump, which involved them dressing up in traditional Bavarian garb and learning how to yodel a specific tune by listening to a master yodeler. Without sounding too stereotypical, I figured that hog-calling and yodeling aren’t that far apart, which meant the Kentucky boys more than most would be the most suited for the task.

Leg Five’s Roadblock saw this season’s first appearance of the Travelocity Gnome. One team member had to play a game of ice stock sport (similar to curling) by pushing the Gnome onto a bulls-eye in order to receive their next clue.

The Pit Stop for Leg Five was Landhannes Farm, a 200-year-old working dairy farm near the Schwangau-Horn. Usually they place the mat in a wide-open space that’s easy for the teams to see, but this time, it was in a dairy barn, where the teams had to run through a gauntlet of cows. Really weird.

Below is the order the contestants finished in, along with some of their more interesting moments.

1. Art and J.J. - Because they finished the last leg so far in front, they, along with the Jersey Boys and Rachel/Dave, were able to get a jump start on the rest of the teams by catching an earlier train. J.J. surprised me by having some mad beard-styling skills, and, amazingly enough, they were the only team with the good sense to take a horse-carriage ride up the castle road instead of hoofing it on foot. Time management is a specialty for them, and they each won a trip for two to Thailand to go with their Bahamas trips. They are on a serious roll.

2. Joey “Fitness” and Danny - Despite a setback during the beard-styling challenge, in which they chose the man with the longest hair (and, by extension, the most complicated beard), Team Jersey performed nearly flawlessly. Much like Art and J.J., these two know to work together without bickering or losing their shit at the first hiccup. I firmly believe they will be around at the end.

3. Vanessa and Ralph - I will give credit to the dating divorcees, they turned in a really solid leg, and had their best finish so far, thanks largely to Ralph deferring to Vanessa’s expertise during the beard-styling. They spent the rest of the leg baiting each other, which is just painful to watch. I really don’t like them at all, and I think their good luck will reverse itself eventually. Either that or Vanessa and (Brendon’s) Rachel can just duke it out.

4. Rachel and Dave - Turning lemons into lemons seems to be the norm for Rachel and Dave, who (along with Nary/Jamie) made one huge mistake… as it turns out, the Sleeping Beauty castle is right next to a completely separate castle, and they ended up losing time by taking the guided tour in the wrong place. They knocked out the curling in no time, and they remain in the top half. I worry about them, though.

5. Brendon and Rachel - How this team manages to keep finding ways to survive baffles me. They were the last team to complete their Detour, and when I saw Rachel making that Renee Zellweger-pouty expression, I rolled my eyes. But they are a strong team when they aren’t being totally dysfunctional. Which is still way too often in my book. (There was an awesome moment when Brendon jumped onto the mat and promptly fell on his ass. Made my whole day.)

6. Bopper and Mark - It’s impossible not to love these guys. Despite leaving the Starting Line two hours after everyone else, they caught up almost immediately. They breezed through the Speed Bump, and Bopper had an improptu cackling contest with the Detour’s witch. But as much as I root for them, they are also by far the most inconsistent team this season. To run the race well, you need an equal amount of luck and smarts, and it’s only a matter of time before they catch that one bad break that will put them out.

7. Nary and Jamie - It took a lot of years and seasons for The Amazing Race to crown an all-female team champion; they did so by putting strong women against weaker-than-usual men. I said from the beginning that the Feds were the strongest of the bunch this season, but that’s not saying much. They’ve been mediocre at best in every leg, and I would be surprised if they weren’t eliminated in the next two legs.

The following team came in last and was eliminated:

7. Kerri and Stacy - For a moment, I thought the Mississippi cousins were going to make a move, after they kicked the asses Bopper/Mark and Team Big Brother at the gingerbread-house-making. In the end, it came down to a curling contest between the bottom three teams, and believe it or not, Kerri and Stacy actually beat the Feds out of the building. But their sense of direction sucks something awful, and it wasn’t hard for Nary and Jamie to pull ahead of them.

I think I predicted this last week. It wasn’t hard to predict. They seem like sweet girls despite their tendency to squabble, but at no point did I ever get the sense that they really wanted to win. When you’re in the back, your goal should be to catch up, and I never saw any footage of them expressing their desire to do so. Ultimately, they just weren’t that strong a team.

Next week: Azerbaijan. Can you find that on a map? If so, you’re one up on me. See you in seven.