The Amazing Race, Rachel Brown, Dave Brown

Rachel and Dave Brown of madison are one of 11 pairs criss-crossing the globe completing challenges, with a $1 million prize awaiting the winning team on CBS’ hit reality show “The Amazing Race,” which kicks off its 20th season at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19.

ROBERT VOETS — CBS

Sunday night's episode of "The Amazing Race" was full of challenges that looked like they were fun to do, but were probably a big pain in reality. For example, teams (in snow-covered Bavaria) had to style a man's beard in a specific nutty pattern, full of loops and sticky-out parts.

From the safety of the TV couch, it looked like fun. But some of those patterns looked pretty intricate, and you were still having to wax and style a stranger's beard. Although next week's promo seems to include a challenge involving shaving a hirsute man's body, so the beard intimacy doesn't sound so bad in context.

Also tricky were collecting pieces of gingerbread along a trail and then using them to build the tiled roof of a gingerbread house, or curling with the Travelocity gnome. I know he's a corporate mascot, but I find myself charmed by the Travelocity gnome despite myself, especially when the little guy is spinning across an ice rink.

Madison's Dave and Rachel Brown seemed to be communicating much better this week, and had big smiles on their faces as they cruised to a fourth-place finish. Being from Wisconsin, they clearly had the nearest thing to home-field advantage on this snowy leg.

Meanwhile, the strain seemed be showing on Vanessa and Ralph, who sniped mercilessly at each other throughout the entire episode, leading to my favorite exchange of the night: Vanessa: "I can be mad at him and still love him." Host Phil: "Okay." I think Phil has seen enough inter-couple squabbling on the "Race" to be a little skeptical about that one.

Meanwhile, border patrol agents Art and JJ cruised easily to their third first-place finish in a row, officially upsetting two-time winners Dave and Rachel as the frontrunners. As the number of teams start to get winnowed down, expect to see both teams sticking around for a while.

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