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

One thing you can say about Madison couple Dave and Rachel Brown on “The Amazing Race” is that they do not do anything halfway. On the first two episodes of this season, they won huge, dominating the competition.

And last night’s episode proved that, when they blow it, they blow it huge, too.

A “complete and utter failure” was how a dejected Dave Brown described it at the end of the episode, as the couple somehow managed not to complete any of the three (let's face it, uber-tough) challenges put before them successfully. But what’s more “amazing” is that, despite going 0 for 3, they somehow managed to stay in the game. Host Phil Keoghan said they’re the only Amazing Race team ever to do that, which is not exactly something to brag about, but whatever.

In Paraguay, they met their Waterloo with a “Detour” challenge that gave teams one of two options – build a 10-by-10 pyramid of watermelons, or untangle and restring a 36-string harp. For some reason, Dave and Rachel, like most of the teams, opted to go with the watermelons.

I blame the word “watermelon,” which conjures up images of fun, tasty goodness. Let me rephrase the challenge; Build a 10-by-10 pyramid of heavy, round, slippery rocks. Now does that sound like a delightful time?

While border agents Art and JJ smoked the competition by building a formidable melon ziggurat on the first try, most of the teams (including Team Madison) had a terrible time keeping their pyramids from toppling over. In the blazing heat, the frustration on the faces of Dave and Rachel was palpable, and they started snapping at each other (“You are the least encouraging person I’ve met in my whole life”) for the first time on the show.

Eventually, the couple gave up and went to the harp-stringing challenge, which looked time-consuming but generally simpler. Seeing several other teams ahead of them, they decided to play their ace in the hole. In Episode One, that had earned a so-called “Express Pass” that allowed them to skip a challenge, so they steamed ahead behind Art and JJ to the final challenge.

This was another exercise in frustration – this time, contestants had to do a choreographed dance while balancing a full bottle of water on their heads. (Do they not have those mesh bottle holders in Paraguay?) “I have an odd-shaped head,” Dave complained as bottle after bottle smashed to the pavement. In the end, our team couldn’t complete the challenge and had to take a two-hour penalty, waiting and hoping that all the other teams wouldn’t catch up before then.

In the end, with the penalty, they were the sixth of the nine teams to cross the finish line. Hopefully, such a humbling experience will cause them to dig deep for next week’s round, which takes the contestants to Italy.

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