And we’re back! Phil reminds us that Justin and Diana bickered hard last week, but came in first, while the Chacs finally retired their catchphrase for good. On with the Race!
We begin with a flashback to the bickering, as we see how Justin emotionally manipulated Diana by strategically withholding affection in order to break down her independence and convince her that only his opinions matter, and providing it once she capitulated. Or maybe they just made up. Either way, they’re now on their way to Krakow, Poland, via a flight they booked on their blah blah blah Travelocity blah blah convenient blah blah insanely blatant product placement. Once they get there, they get to go swimming to find a clue tied to a brick at the bottom of a pool.
The other teams all get seats on a later flight with the Travelocity app, and the Douchebros cautiously get upgraded to Dudebros by admitting that they had completely overestimated their own abilities and completely underestimated the difficulty of the Race. They are improving in my estimation both for their newfound humility and for their lessened screen time, especially since what they do have this episode is spent less on plotting and scheming and more on racing. They all get on their respective flights, with the Cheerleaders bouncing down the airway and gesticulating wildly to the cameras while shouting, “Poland! Poland!” in weird, croaky voices. Between this and the goat thing from last week, I’m starting to suspect that these two get hilarious when they’re sleep-deprived.
Justin and Diana get to the pool well ahead of everyone, and Justin once again displays the enormous penis-head that lies beneath his hat as he dives for the clue. It leads them to the Detour, which comes in two flavors, “Mine” and “Music”. “Mine” is the physically taxing but reliable task, where the teams go and work in a salt mine, loading and pushing a mine cart with salt. “Music” is a begging task, which I’ll admit I always hate–the teams have to learn a simple piano tune, push a piano to a town square, at which point one partner accompanies a violinist while the other holds out the cap to locals until they get 100 zlotys.
Justin and Diana decide to go back to the sale mines, while everyone else is still racing for the pool. Joey and Kelsey take the opportunity to once again do that weird creepy live correspondent act that’s tremendously disorienting when you’re watching everyone else act all spontaneous and babbly. The Dudebros, meanwhile, foreshadow a bit by commenting on how even though cute girls are their weakness, they have no intention of following them because they always wind up further behind when they do that. They also mention that someday, Anakin will be the death of them!
Once everyone else gets their clues, they all go taxi hunting again because they all let their taxis go, and it turns out that none of them are in a good taxi-hunting location. The Paparazzi manage to get out in second (heading for “Mine”) and the Reporters in third (heading for “Music”; the Cheerleaders and Southern Gothic decide to hoof it to the Music task because it’s closer. This just leaves the Texas boys floundering for a taxi. They look like they’re set to do this for a while.
Meanwhile, Justin and Diana finish mining and get their next clue…which sends them to the Oskar Schindler Factory. There’s no challenge here, because that would be unforgivably tasteless–they simply take a tour of the Holocaust museum there, and contemplate Schindler’s heroic and life-saving work. I’m really torn on this. On the one hand, it’s a major shock to the system for these teams to go from “Oh, Race, we’ve got to do wacky shit like haul mine carts and play piano” to “now contemplate one of the most horrible and inhuman acts in human history and the man who risked his life to save 1,200 people from it.” On the other hand, if the Race is to mean anything, it can’t just be about running around using the rest of the world as cutesy backdrops for your attempt to win some money. The things you see, the things you do need to stay with you and remind you of the scale of the world we live in, the good and the bad alike. A Race that ignored the history of Krakow wouldn’t be worth watching.
But hitting these people with it so suddenly, then asking–no, demanding they bare their souls and show their reactions to it on national television, it feels intrusively personal. I don’t think I’d want anyone videotaping me and asking me how I felt after I visited a place like that, and I felt like I’d done something wrong by watching them as they went through the museum. I ultimately don’t know how to feel about this part of the episode, other than to admit that it is intensely emotional in a lot of ways that I can’t sum up or judge easily.
Oh, and the Cheerleaders are having trouble rolling their piano down the cobbled streets and it slams shut on their thumb! (See what I mean? How do you segue from “Holocaust” to “wacky piano races”?) They also manage to lose the cover and the sheet music temporarily, but persevere.
Chris and Logan get into the salt mines, and make morbid jokes about tunnel collapses. They nonetheless begin shoveling salt. The boys, meanwhile, have found a taxi, but are having problems finding the mines. Justin and Diana are outpacing everyone anyway–they’re already to the Roadblock, which Justin is taking for the team. It involves correctly talking to helpful locals and asking to borrow their smartphones…er, correctly guessing…which traditional Jewish dishes are which in order to fill an order for a table of patrons at a local Klezmer House. Justin does the smart thing and asks some waiters for help.
The teams doing “Music” have gotten their pianos into position, and are now begging passers-by for change. I don’t love people who are being given money to race for more money having to ask strangers for money, but at least Krakow seems affluent enough that they’re not actually begging from poor people. Joey makes his cash quickly by acting as a gigolo for elderly women (hey, that’s pretty much exactly how he describes it too), but Tiffany and Krista are a little too desperate-sounding to put people at their ease. They get behind pretty quickly, as Denise and James Earl make their money fast as well. (There’s a distinct undercurrent of, “If I give you a lot of money, will you stop playing now?” to the locals’ reactions.)
Josh and Tanner finally get to the mine just as the Paparazzi are leaving, and begin their journey to the bowels of the earth. Tiffany and Krista also contemplate using flirting and an implied promise of sex to get their money, but the elderly women are a little less interested in them. And there aren’t any young men to smooch, so they feel crushed. They’re about to find a new sense of perspective, of course, but first they have to beg money. They do so, but get out of the Detour in a distant fifth.
The Reporters, Southern Gothic, and the Paparazzi get their tour, and emerge in second/third/fourth. Josh and Tanner mine like crazy, talking about how emotionally drained they are by the frustrations of the Race…again, they are about to get some valuable perspective on being hit with a lot of emotions at once. Meanwhile, Justin gets his order right the first try, and finds out that Phil is right inside the restaurant waiting for them with a Pit Stop. They take first, and Phil mentions that there’ll be another U-Turn next leg. Justin says, “They’ll have to get there first–what are the odds of that?” in a line that lands with the same approximate impact as, “We’ll be fine traveling at this speed as long as there are no icebergs,” or “Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances.”
Kelsey takes the Roadblock for her team, and heads straight for a local with a smartphone. James Earl does the same. Both of them are instantly aware that attempting to brute-force the challenge, given the number of dishes involved and the varying quantities of each dish, would be so time-consuming as to be impossible, and so local knowledge is essential to complete the challenge. (Foreshadowing? Me? Naaaaah.)
Kelsey and James Earl decide to work together on their task, and come out in a close second and third, respectively. This is where it becomes obvious that there is a serious disparity between the Racers’ expectations and the reality of the leg design–the Racers are all expecting a long distance between the Roadblock and the Pit Stop where they can gain on the people who finish before they do, but Phil is basically less than twenty feet away on the other side of a couple of narrow doorways. Working together is basically conceding placement, but the Racers have no way of knowing that.
Tiffany arrives and promptly decides to brute-force the challenge. She loads her platter up with random dishes, walks them down to the Klezmer House, and is informed that hey, that isn’t right. She goes back for another try just as Chris and Logan get to the Roadblock and have another one of their patented 0-60 screaming matches about who should do the task. Chris feels like it should be him, because they don’t want to get into a situation where one of them has to do all the Roadblocks for the rest of the Race. (Ever since the third season, teams have to split their Roadblocks evenly to avoid one person carrying their partner through all the challenges.) Logan, on the other hand, feels like it has to be her, because it has to and she has to do it and he should shut up and just let her do it! He does it. As he walks away, she shouts, “You’ll fail!”
Turns out she’s holding the clue, still, and that’s her charming way of reminding him that he needs it, but even so, can these two get eliminated about three legs ago?
Josh and Tanner get their tour of the Schindler Factory, and they both admit that it drives all their frustration about the Race clean out of their head as they feel awed, saddened and humbled by the experience. They come off well in this episode.
Tiffany and Chris (who has decided to brute-force the challenge as well) charge into the breach. After their second or third failure, they start asking for help, but the boys have caught up. They’re all very tense as they start schlepping their platters around, but they don’t know they should be even moreso–there is no chance to catch up after the Roadblock. Tiffany and Josh decide to work together, but by then Chris has gotten his platter right and the Paparazzi check in to the mat in fourth.
And then things get ominous. Josh decides to allow Tiffany to go first, because she offered to help him with his platter. But he doesn’t know that this is as good as a concession, because there’s nowhere they can overtake the girls. Tiffany gets hers right and heads into the restaurant, and they’re more or less to the mat by the time Josh gets his order checked. They come in sixth and last…
But holy shit, non-elimination leg! Josh’s chivalry doesn’t cost them the Race, and the boys who had been up at the front of the pack barely stave off elimination. They’ll be doing a Speed Bump, of course, but judging by the way both teams react, it’s actually a pretty emotional moment at the end of an emotional day. This was about as exciting as a non-elim leg could be, despite teams with a rooting interest being a little thin on the ground at this point, and a solid episode.
Next time, the Race heads to India and there is yet more U-Turn drama. See you then!