Season 20: Episode 6 - "This is Wicked Strange"
Posted on Mar 26, 2012 02:15pm

In Baku, Azerbaijan, army wife and combat pilot Rachel & Dave won a high stakes Fast Forward against trainer and club promoter Joey "Fitness" & Danny who couldn't recover and came in last.

Departing the Pit Stop in first place at 8:48am, border patrol agents Art & JJ ripped open their clue sending them to the Land of Fire, Azerbaijan, a name earned from the country's rich reserves of oil and natural gas. After flying over 2,000 miles to Baku, the capital city of this former Soviet Republic, teams had to travel to Temple Ateshgah (The Temple of Fire) for their next clue.

Leaving almost 30 minutes later in second place, their best start yet, trainer and club promoter Joey "Fitness" & Danny now set their sights on winning a leg. Joey "Fitness said, "Physically, we're definitely the strongest, if not one of the strongest, teams left so now is gonna be the time."

Starting in last place at 11:42am, federal agents Nary & Jamie commented on how the other teams' perception of them as "teachers" coupled with their low finish in the last leg probably had the teams thinking that Nary & Jamie weren't a threat. Jamie added, "Having teams not see us as a threat was part of our whole strategy in the first place. That's why we chose not to use our profession and put it out there."

Landing in Baku, Azerbaijan just after 4:00am, the seven teams raced by taxi to Temple Ateshgah in the predawn darkness. With fires burning bright both inside and surrounding the temple, Rachel & Dave ran inside first and listened to the driving, rhythmic music of an enthusiastic band as the army wife and combat pilot searched for their clue. After spotting a sign on a door that announced "Open at sunrise", Rachel & Dave got swept up in the festive mood around them and joined a group of dancers who circled around a fire pit. Dave joked, "This place is like an ancient rave." With no racing until dawn, all of the teams joined in the dancing as Dave asked Bopper, "It's like a hoedown for you, right?"

After dawn broke over the ancient stone temple, a man greeted the teams and opened the door allowing them to enter a small room and take a clue from inside. Emerging from the room in first place, Rachel & Dave opened their clue to find a Fast Forward, allowing a team to skip all other tasks and go to the Pit Stop. In this Fast Forward, teams had to travel to a roadside hay market where local growers sell hay to the farmers in the area. Once there, teams had to unload 150 bales of hay and stack them ten across, three wide, and five high. The first team to correctly stack their hay would win the Fast Forward. While five teams ignored the temptation of a Fast Forward and jumped into taxis heading to Occupational Training International, two teams, Rachel & Dave and Joey "Fitness" & Danny decided to roll the dice and go to the roadside hay market. The methodical combat pilot Dave said, "It's a risk versus reward. So we'll give it a shot." Club promoter Danny remarked, "We're taking a little bit of a risk, but we want first place today, man. If we're gonna do it, we're doing it today." Seeing Rachel & Dave in a taxi just ahead of him and Danny, Joey "Fitness" said, "They're not beating us. We gotta beat them."

Reaching the roadside market lined with massive trucks stacked full of hay bales and surrounded by sheep, Rachel & Dave and Joey "Fitness" & Danny each went to separate trucks and began to unload the hay. For their teams, Dave and Joey "Fitness" stood on top of the huge stack of bales and threw them down to Rachel and Danny who began sorting and stacking them into the 10x3x5 shape. As Rachel spit hay out of her mouth furiously stacking each bale thrown down to her, Dave coached his wife from above saying, "Remember, a solid base!" With the bales piling up, Rachel shot back to Dave, "Don't throw them right on top anymore!" Meanwhile, Danny took a less formal approach, commenting, "We've done everything without a strategy so far. I never look at the instruction booklet." Tossing bales down to Danny, Joey "Fitness" motivated his teammate, saying, "You're not going to let a girl beat us." While Rachel & Dave continued battling Joey "Fitness" & Danny for the Fast Forward, the taxi driver of Bopper & Mark darted through traffic, described by Bopper as "driving like an absolute maniac." However, the cost of speed came at a high price for Mark whose stomach couldn't withstand the roller coaster ride through traffic. Bopper later joked, "Any time my partner's in the back seat there better be a barf bag around." Even though he hurled into a bag, Mark admitted that suffering through a queasy taxi ride was far preferable to him and Bopper trying to navigate themselves through an unfamiliar city.

At the roadside market, Rachel and Danny continued to stack hay bales while Dave and Joey "Fitness" kept tossing more down. At one point, Rachel appeared overwhelmed by number of bales Dave threw down to her, each one crashing to the ground sending a cloud of hay into her eyes and nose. Concerned that Rachel would slow down, Dave cheered her on, shouting, "Don't give up. Work smarter, not harder." Seeing that Joey "Fitness" & Danny held a slim lead, Rachel went into overdrive, doing everything she could to ensure she and Dave won. Feeling the pressure, Wisconsin resident Dave said, "The Midwestern work ethic definitely kicked in. It was all or nothing for us." Nearing completion of the stack, Dave further helped his team by aiming a bale to where Rachel needed to stack it, giving the army wife and combat pilot the edge they needed to win the Fast Forward award over Joey "Fitness" & Danny. The pumped up Rachel & Dave jumped into their taxi bound for the Pit Stop at Esplanade while the dejected Joey "Fitness" & Danny got in theirs trying to catch up to the other teams. Stunned at the loss, Joey "Fitness" muttered, "We got beat by a frickin' girl." Stepping onto the mat in first place at the Baku Esplanade, army wife and combat pilot Rachel & Dave screamed with shock and delight after hearing they had each won a 2013 Ford Taurus SHO. Rachel promised, "Now that we're back on top, I think we're gonna stay on top."

Searching the ground of Occupational Training International, best friends Bopper & Mark spotted a yellow and red metal crate that held their next clue, a Roadblock. Oil is the number one industry in Azerbaijan. To get to offshore oilrigs, workers who commute via helicopter must undergo mandatory rescue training. In this Roadblock, one team member would be strapped into a helicopter mockup. After being submerged underwater and capsized, they had to escape from the frightening craft simulation. Once they surfaced, they had to swim to their next clue.

After gearing up in bright yellow suits, helmets, and goggles, Bopper, JJ, and Jamie all took seats in the helicopter mockup that sat in the middle of a training pool. The three racers received instructions on how to properly prepare for the training exercise and how to escape once they are submerged. When the alarm sounded and the craft submerged and began filling up with water, Bopper, JJ, and Jamie all took deep breaths, assumed the tuck position and placed their hands on the windows next to their seats. Jamie later commented, "My main thing was stay calm." Once the racers were fully submerged and strapped to their seats upside down, the safety light went off and the escape began. Initially, JJ couldn't get his window open, began to panic, and accidentally swallowed some water. On the experience he later said, "When that drowning feeling comes on you, it's really frightening." Keeping his cool, JJ tried again to push the frame of his window and this time he knocked it out, allowing him to swim through the opening to the water's surface where he met up again with Jamie and Bopper. The three racers swam to a life raft, helped each other into it, and picked up their next clue instructing them to travel to Old Town Baku and find Toghrul Karabakh carpet shop.

After watching Brendon swim to safety and complete the Roadblock, a worried Vanessa prepared herself for the daunting task, confessing, "I have a really strange fear of closed in spaces and being underwater. I'm so scared." With her hand visible against the window, the helicopter mockup disappeared below the water's surface and turned over. Concerned for his partner, Ralph anxiously watched and waited for Vanessa to reappear, hoping nothing went wrong. Having some trouble busting out the window, Vanessa kept her composure, knocked it out, and swam to the surface as Ralph breathed a sigh of relief, and joked, "She's gonna be pretty pissed that her hair's wet."


Brendon & Rachel, Art & JJ, Bopper & Mark, and Nary & Jamie all descended upon the Toghrul Karabakh carpet shop together and opened their clue to find a Detour having to choose between Apple and Oil. Apple required teams to search an old Soviet car that local vendors use to transport produce from the countryside hundreds of miles away to town. Rummaging through nearly one ton of apples they had to find one specific apple marked with a Race flag. In Oil, teams traveled to Naftalan Health Center where they had to clean up a client after he soaked in a therapeutic treatment of crude oil, known for its healing properties. Using a metal shoehorn, they had to scrape the black crude oil off the bather's body. Then they had to remove any excess oil by using water and sponges.

As Nary & Jamie began sifting through an endless pile of apples at the fruit market, Art & JJ, Brendon & Rachel, and Bopper & Mark all raced to Naftalan Health Center. Walking into a stall in the center, Art & JJ met a very hairy Azerbaijani man with gold teeth who climbed into the bathtub. The border patrol agents couldn't believe their eyes when crude oil began spewing out of the spigot filling the tub and entirely covering the man. A stunned JJ asked, "Is this normal?" When the gentleman stood up, he was fully covered in crude oil and the border patrol agents gingerly began using the shoehorns to scrape it off his skin. Scraping the man's back clean, Art said, "This is so wrong on so many levels."

As Art & JJ continued to scrub their patient, Bopper & Mark and Brendon & Rachel joined in on the oily adventure with an equal dose of shock and amusement that the border patrol agents had. Mark later complained about the clients, "They got too much daggone on "˜em! They need to shave!" Watching her client bathe in the viscous oil, Rachel said, "The whole thing is just from another planet." Mostly laughing and sometimes grimacing, the three teams washed and sponged down their clients removing every bit of oil from the crevices of their clients' bodies. The dirty work paid for each of the teams though as border patrol agents Art & JJ took second place at the Pit Stop, best friends Bopper & Mark snagged third place, and PhD student and event hostess Brendon & Rachel placed fourth.

At the fruit market, dating divorcees Vanessa & Ralph now joined Nary & Jamie in searching for a marked apple. The federal agents sifted through and removed every apple from the trunk of their Soviet car and still hadn't found the marked one. Returning to the massive stack still remaining in the backseat of the car, Jamie told Nary, "Come on. We'll do this double fast now." Minutes later, Vanessa dug through the entire trunk of her and Ralph's car and hadn't unearthed the marked apple either. Reaching through the open window of the backseat, Nary finally pulled out an apple with a red and yellow colored leaves on its stem. After waving goodbye to the throngs of Azerbaijani men watching, federal agents Nary & Jamie jumped into a taxi and reached the Pit Stop at the Esplanade in fifth place.

With Joey "Fitness" & Danny completing the helicopter rescue and heading to the fruit market, Vanessa & Ralph felt the pressure as they continued searching through their car for the marked apple. A frustrated Ralph said, "It's crazy. The farther down you get, it seems like they multiply." Vanessa added, "It's just like a needle in a haystack. It could be anywhere." After more searching, Ralph, just like Nary, finally found the marked apple buried deep in the backseat of the car.

ONE LAST SHOT As Joey "Fitness" & Danny searched through their car for an apple, Vanessa & Ralph panicked when their taxi driver disappeared after stopping to ask for directions to the Esplanade. With no idea what to do and time ticking away, the dating divorcees simply stood next to their taxi waiting for their driver to return. In the time Ralph & Vanessa nervously waited to get back on the road, Joey "Fitness" & Danny found their apple and jumped into a taxi knowing they got through the Detour fast enough to give them a shot of staying in the race. Still hopeful, Joey "Fitness" commented, "We honestly went from tenth place to second place. The Race is crazy. If we get blessed again with not being eliminated now, we have a good shot."

In the end, Joey "Fitness" & Danny's luck ran out as dating divorcees Vanessa & Ralph beat out the trainer and club promoter to the Pit Stop. When Phil told the disappointed Long Islanders that they had been eliminated from the Race, Danny said, "I think we could've won this Race. We just made one mistake." Joey "Fitness" added, "It wasn't our day today. We had a good run though. We were just starting to get better. We made it six legs. For a couple of kids from Long Island, not bad at all."

2006 ROUTE MARKERS Detour: A Detour is a choice between two tasks. In this Detour, teams had the choice of Apple or Oil. Apple required teams to search an old Soviet car that local vendors use to transport produce from the countryside hundreds of miles away to town. Rummaging through nearly one ton of apples they had to find one specific apple marked with a Race flag. In Oil, teams traveled to Naftalan Health Center where they had to clean up a client after he soaked in a therapeutic treatment of crude oil, done for its healing properties. Using a metal shoehorn, they had to scrape the black crude oil off the bather's body. Then they had to remove any excess oil by using water and sponges.

Apple: Nary/Jamie, Vanessa/Ralph, Joey "Fitness" & Danny
Oil: Bopper/Mark, Brendon/Rachel, Art/JJ

Roadblock: A Roadblock is a task that only one team member can perform. Oil is the number