Reality Bites: The Amazing Race: All Stars - Episode 7
by Rachel Jaffe
Published: April 2, 2007
Last week's debacle at the airport will surely go down in the annals Amazing Race lore. Never before have the teams been so spread out. How spread out? Let's check the times of departure from the Old Fort in Zanzibar:
Schmirna: Charla and Mirna left at 4:20 a.m.
Cha Cha Cha: Danny and Oswald left at 4:28 a.m.
Baldies: Uchenna and Joyce left at 7:55 a.m.
Beauty Queens: Dustin and Kandice left at 8:00 a.m.
Dysfunctional Duo: Eric and Danielle left at 3:15 p.m.
Guidos: Joe and Bill left at 7:01 p.m.
The teams were to go over 5,000 miles, to Warsaw Poland, where they were to find Chopin's childhood home, Czapski Palace. By locating the Chopin lookalike playing the piano, the teams would find their next clue.
As in a previous episode, the racers were guaranteed tickets on a flight out (in this case, one that would get them in at 11:25 a.m. the next day), but were allowed to work on getting earlier flights.
Joyce and Uchenna went to South African Airways, but they weren't open yet. So Joyce and Uchenna called a travel agent -- and ended up talking to the same travel agent that Schmirna, Team Cha Cha Cha and the Beauty Queens were at! Under their combined pressure, the travel agent hung up on Uchenna. The Beauty Queens lucked out with their travel agent, who got them the last two tickets of a route via Addis Ababa and Frankfurt, for a 9:10 a.m. arrival. (The Molly Rule of travel: always go through Addis Ababa when you have the chance.) Once South African Airways opened, Joyce and Uchenna got tickets to Johannesburg, then Frankfurt (where they'd have to get tickets at the airport), where they'd join the Beauty Queens for the 9:10 a.m. Warsaw arrival. Meanwhile, Schmirna and Team Cha Cha Cha were stranded at the travel agency, trying to get tickets. The Dysfunctional Duo caught up to them at the airport, but decided to leave after hearing the others had already been there for 7 hours -- missing out on the connection through Nairobi and Amsterdam and arriving in Warsaw at 9:45 a.m. Instead, Eric and Danielle found a travel agent who told them there was nothing earlier than the 11:25 a.m. arrival that they already had.
Meantime, the Guidos, hours behind the others in leaving, had no choice but to take the prearranged flight. However, amazingly they've already moved up in the rankings from a far sixth place to tied for fifth with the Dysfunctional Duo. As Joe teasingly remarked to them, "We're a lot happier to see you than you are to see us!" Their travel arrangements took them to Kilimanjaro and then Amsterdam. Unfortunately for them, their flight into Amsterdam was late, and they were not allowed to board the plane, despite being able to see the plane still on the runway. The two teams freaked out at the prospect of falling even further behind. Joe even ran out on the field and yelled at the pilot, but of course it was to no avail. The teams were stuck in Amsterdam until a 6:30 a.m. flight then next morning to take them to Frankfurt, and then an evening flight to Warsaw.
Joyce and Uchenna experienced a milder form of this disappointment. They, too, were not given the tickets that had been reserved for them. Poor Baldies had to wait for a flight that would not land until 11:02 a.m., leaving the Beauty Queens a clear shot for being first to meet "Chopin."
Detour - "Perfect Pitch" or "Perfect Angle"
The clue at Czapski Palace was a Detour, which presented a choice between two tasks -- in this case, Perfect Pitch (in honor of Chopin) or Perfect Angle (in honor of the first female scientist to win the Nobel Prize, Marie Curie). In "Perfect Pitch," the teams would travel 0.75 miles to the Prymas Palace, where they would need to tune an out-of-tune key on a piano. Once a pianist played a piece of Chopin's music and ascertained the piano was in tune, he would provide the next clue. In "Perfect Angle," the teams needed to go 0.5 miles to the Escada boutique, pick up a mannequin, and carry it 400 yards to the Panoramik Laboratory. There, they would x-ray the mannequin to find the clue -- but the clue would only be visible if the x-ray was taken from just the right angle.
Dustin started playing the piano when she was six years old, so even though she didn't have experience tuning a piano, it seemed the better task to the Beauty Queens. I was glad they chose this option, because I was curious at the tuning process. Apparently, each hammer hits three strings, so you have to determine which string is associated with the key in question, and then adjust it by tightening or loosening the string. The Beauty Queens made quick work of the tuning process, and received their clue -- a piece of music titled "Jan III Sobieski Lazienki," which referred to a monument commemorating the king with that name.
The Beauty Queens were on their way out as Team Cha Cha Cha and Schmirna were on their way to Czapski Palace. Danny and Oswald, with a compatible taxi driver, got there quickly. Charla and Mirna had a harder time, with neither their cab driver nor people in the street proving particularly friendly. But both teams ended up huddled over pianos. Team Cha Cha Cha broke a couple of piano strings in the tuning process, but finally achieved a tone close enough to merit approval from their pianist. (For his part, their pianist was cute enough to merit approval from Team Cha Cha Cha -- and me.) Charla and Mirna probably broke a few ear drums in their efforts to tune the piano. "Sounds good to me," commented Mirna hopefully at one of their early efforts, but the pianist wasn't fooled.
Charla and Mirna gave up and went to the "Perfect Angle" task -- missing the arrival of Uchenna and Joyce at "Perfect Pitch." Schmirna again could not easily find people on the street willing to help them, until a young lady took pity on them and pointed them in the right direction. After several x-rays, they finally saw he clue, which contained the name of King Sobieski.
After finding the monument to King Sobieski, the next clue was to look around on foot for the pit stop. The Beauty Queens were easily the first ones there, and their reward for being Team Number One was a trip for two to a resort in Puerto Rico. They were followed by Team Cha Cha Cha, and then Joyce and Uchenna. The latter were amazed to hear that they were Team Number Three. Uchenna had remarked in the cab before the Detour that they had not seen another team in 22 hours. It's easy for us at home to forget that psychological aspect of the game, when the teams have to go hours sometimes without knowing how or what other teams are doing. Charla and Mirna were Team Number Four. And as for Guidos and the Dysfunctional Duo? They were still traveling.
Starting A New Leg
I think this is unprecedented in Amazing Race history -- some teams are starting a new leg while two teams still have yet to finish the previous leg. (There have been two occasions that I can recall when racers were told to stop competing because the leg was now moot -- the Guidos in the last leg of Season 1 and the Gutsy Grannies in Season 2 -- but of course with two teams yet to check in the leg is still active.)
The first destination of this leg is the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. To get there,the teams would need to pick up tickets to one of two charter buses, which they would find at a monument to the Polish Underground Resistance. The first bus would leave at 1 p.m., and the second at 5:00 p.m. (So the Beauty Queens, for example, had a nice long rest between starting the leg at 10:54 p.m. and then getting on the bus at 1 p.m. the next day.) Of course, the first bus contained the Beauty Queens, Team Cha Cha Cha, and Team Baldies. Charla and Mirna were disappointed to be on the second bus.
But who else would be on the second bus? The Guidos and the Dysfunctional Duo were still playing catch-up in Warsaw. They reached Czapski Palace at approximately the same time, but made different choices when it came to the Detour. Eric and Danielle chose "Perfect Pitch," while Joe and Bill surprised me by choosing "Perfect Angle." I think that was a mistake on their part. The Dysfunctional Duo were slow at tuning the piano, but Joe and Bill were even slower to determine the correct angle to x-ray their mannequin in order to find the clue. The Dysfunctional Duo was the fifth team to arrive at the pit stop near King Sobieski's Monument, and the Guidos were the last team to arrive.
But ... this turned out to be another non-elimination leg. So the Guidos were not eliminated, but were marked for elimination. If they did not arrive in first place in the next leg (unlikely, considering others were already starting the next leg), they would incur a 30-minute penalty. Could they catch up? Well, working in their favor was that they did make it into the second bus to Auschwitz, meaning that they would effectively be starting this leg on the same level as both Schmirna and the Dysfunctional Duo.
For the record, and for comparison purposes, here are the official departure times for this leg of the race:
Beauty Queens: Dustin and Kandice left at 10:54 p.m.
Cha Cha Cha: Danny and Oswald left at 1:06 a.m.
Baldies: Uchenna and Joyce left at 2:26 a.m.
Schmirna: Charla and Mirna left at 4:50 a.m.
Dysfunctional Duo: Eric and Danielle left at 1:50 p.m.
Guidos: Joe and Bill left at 3:32 p.m.
I am always of mixed feelings when the Race goes to significant spots. On the one hand, one of the joys of the show is the ability to engage in some armchair travel. On the other hand, sometimes the racers are so focused on getting their next clue that the places and experiences are not given proper respect.
In this case, I think the producers did well. Both buses arrived after dark, and seeing the stark buildings with the glaring light was moving. Each team lit a remembrance candle and put it on the railroad tracks, and took a moment of reflection. Many of the teams were deeply moved. Uchenna spoke from the heart about the books never written, the ideas never tried, and the relationships that never got to grow. Oswald, from Cuba, felt a connection with the lack of freedom he escaped. "It reminds me of where I could have ended up living for the rest of my life. It makes me very grateful to be out of there, where I don't have to worry about expressing who I am as a person," he reflected,in tears. Joe and Bill, when they got there, also felt grateful to be living in a time and place where they didn't have to hide who they were. Charla and Mirna related the experience to the Armenian Genocide, which had directly affected their family. Leaving Auschwitz, the teams entered waiting cabs, which also helped to maintain the decorum of the place.
The next clue was at the Juliusz Slowacki Theater, 40 miles away in Krakow. The first two to find the clue were Team Cha Cha Cha and Team Baldies. This location represented an Intersection; from this point on, until further notice, the teams would have to pair up and work together. With two teams there, it was natural for Danny and Oswald and Joyce and Uchenna to decide to work together. This was, however, bad news for the Beauty Queens, who had had trouble with their cab. With no other team present to pair up with, they had to wait for the other teams, hours behind, to catch up.
The clue envelope also contained a Fast Forward. A Fast Forward is a task which, after being performed correctly, allows the team (in this case, it would be a double-sized team because of the Intersection) to skip all remaining tasks and go directly to the pit stop. Only one team can win the Fast Forward, and there are only a few available in the race; additionally, no team can win more than one Fast Forward.
The Fast Forward task this time was to climb two towers in Market Square: the Fire Guard Tower in St. Mary's Church and the Town Hall Tower. They needed to count the number of stairs in each tower and add them together -- if they had the correct total, they would win the Fast Forward. Knowing they had a good lead on the other teams, the teams wisely decided to climb the towers together. Everyone agreed that the Town Hall Tower had 111 steps, but there was disagreement on the number in the Fire Guard Tower. Since Oswald's and Uchenna's numbers were the same, and they felt confident, the racers agreed to follow them -- and they were right! Joyce, Uchenna, Danny and Oswald all proceeded to the pit stop.
Detour - "Eat It Up" or "Roll It Out"
I had wondered if some of the trailing teams might try for the Fast Forward -- it would be easy for teams to miscount the steps (as evidenced by the disagreement in the number of steps for the Fire Guard Tower), and how often would a team want to climb both towers? But no, the remaining teams didn't seem to contemplate trying for the Fast Forward.
Schmirna was the first team from the second bus to reach the Juliusz Slowacki Theater. The Beauty Queens contemplated waiting for one of the other teams, but were eager to get going so asked Schmirna to pair with them, which Charla and Mirna agreed to do. This left the Guidos and the Dysfunctional Duo as the remaining combined team -- and if there was a less comfortable team than Schmirna and the Beauty Queens, this has to be it!
Aside from the Fast Forward, the clue envelope also contained the Detour for this leg: "Eat It Up" or "Roll It Out." In "Eat It Up," the joined teams would travel 1.5 miles to an old market, where they would use traditional methods to make a 3-inch link of Polish kielbasa sausage. Then each team member would receive 2 feet of cooked sausage to eat. When everyone finished their share, the teams would get their next clue. In "Roll It Out," the joined teams would go 1.5 miles to Krakow's Old Jewish quarter and find the J. Mazurek bakery. There, they'd have to roll out 20 bagels. Then they'd have to go .25 miles to the Klezmer Hous restaurant with a delivery of bagels. In this case, both sets of joined teams opted for "Eat It Up."
As might be anticipated, the making of a 3-inch link of sausage went quickly. The eating, however, was more difficult. Dustin threw up as soon as she finished her plate. Charla forced herself to throw up in order to finish her sausages. Despite the women arriving first, the Guidos and the Dysfunctional Duo were the first to finish and get their clue. Each team was back to competing on their own, and they were drive 20 miles to the town of Scala, where they were to look for the Pieskowa Skala Castle. The Beauty Queens snuck back into the lead when the Guidos and the Dysfunctional Duo missed that they needed to drive themselves. Meanwhile, Mirna had a breakdown trying to deal with driving the car.
Roadblock: "Who Wants To Be A Knight In Shining Armor"/The Pit Stop - Pieskowa Skala Castle
Of course, after having won the Fast Forward, Baldies and Team Cha Cha Cha were first at the pit stop, Pieskowa Skala Castle, and they didn't need to worry about the Roadblock. Unfortunately, while Phil declared both Teams as "Number One," he only had one first-place prize. Team Cha Cha Cha immediately ceded it to Joyce and Uchenna, so they won the trip to St. Lucia. (No explanation was given, but possibly it was because Danny and Oswald had previously won a trip for coming in first this season, while Joyce and Uchenna had not.0
The remaining four teams did have to do the designated Roadblock. A Roadblock is a task that only one partner may perform. This Roadblock was pure Castle themed. The designated partner had to put on a suit of armor, lead a horse to the castle, and then go inside to find the mat. Dustin had no problem guiding the horse to the castle, and she and Kandice were easily Team Number Three. Charla, however, had a great deal of trouble leading her horse. It often turned around and wandered in the wrong direction, and a couple of times Charla took what had to be painful falls. Nonetheless, she and Mirna were Team Number Four.
The end result was rather anticlimactic. The Guidos had a slight time advantage over the Dysfunctional Duo, but there really had been no chance for Bill and Joe to make up the necessary 30 minutes; thus, due to the penalty from being marked for elimination, they were eliminated.
I was somewhat disappointed, because I really don't like Danielle and Eric (who were bickering more than ever this leg). But I was also impressed at how the producers had managed to keep the show competitive without it seeming contrived. (The late-leaving buses to Auschwitz were perhaps suspect, but not glaring.) Ultimately, I think what doomed the Guidos (and me, to more of the Dysfunctional Duo) was the Guidos' decision to choose "Perfect Angle" over "Perfect Pitch." Prior to that decision, they were virtually tied with Eric and Danielle, and if they had been able to beat the Dysfunctional Duo in "Perfect Pitch," as I think they would have, then Eric and Danielle would have been the ones with no scope for recouping the 30-minute penalty. Still, there's no denying that, by whatever means, the Guidos made up a lot of ground -- so no team should assume that they can't recover.
Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6