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The Amazing Race Is Not All It's Krakowed Up To Be

In Poland, a couple of teams choose the wrongest possible time to team up, and another teaches us that latkes are basically just Jewish hash browns.

Krakow! Krakow! Two Direct Hits!

For a change, this week we're not going to open the leg with awkward forced interaction with a product-placed fitness tracker. No, this week we're giving each Racer a phone and a data plan so that they can use an app to book plane tickets to their next destination: Krakow, Poland. Everyone pretends to be delighted at the app's efficiency and ease of use, particularly Justin and Diana, who manage to find a flight that lands in Krakow some not-insignificant amount of time before all of the other teams.

We are purposely not told the arrival time of this flight, although over the course of watching everyone else be utterly delighted by using the app, we do learn that everyone else will be on a flight that lands at around 12:40 PM.

En route to the airport, Team Texas gets snarky about Justin and Diana's flight-booking skills: Justin knows all this extra stuff about the show because he actually watches the show like a loser! Other teams are puzzled about their destination: "Krakow's still in Europe, yeah?" asks Logan.

What's Yours Is Mine

After retrieving clues from the bottom of a swimming pool, teams are confronted by a choice between two multi-part Detours. In "Mine," they'll visit a 700-year-old salt mine and deliver a giant log to a landing area, then they'll load a cart with salt and push it back through the tunnel to the starting point. In "Music," they'll have to learn a couple of piano chords to accompany a local violinist, then push the piano to a nearby park and perform until they've collected 100 zloty.

At this point, the Amazing Editors are doing their best to make it seem like everyone is hot on Justin and Diana's heels: while Justin and Diana direct their cab to the mine, James Earl and Denise are first out of the airport, but their slow cabdriver is very swiftly overtaken by the other cabs. While Justin and Diana are suiting up, the other teams roll up to the pool and dive in to retrieve their clues.

The mine task itself is pretty straightforward: haul some heavy shit. Load up some more heavy shit. Haul that heavy shit back. Justin reports that it's "back-breaking work," plus the salt gets in their faces and dries everything out. At least he can't wear his douchey hat under that mining helmet.

While Justin and Diana start to shovel salt into their wheelbarrow (well, according to the editors this is happening concurrently, anyway), all of the other teams are trying to find cabs to take them to their chosen Detours. As luck would have it, strolling over to the nearest expressway and waving at passing traffic from behind the guardrail is not the wisest way to secure a taxi -- a lesson Tanner and Josh must learn the hard way.

Play Us A Song, You're The Cougar Bait

The reporters, cheerleaders, and James Earl and Denise all opt for the "Music" half of the detour, and if you're a musician with any sort of trained ear, you're gonna want to skip this task -- not necessarily because anybody's particularly terrible at playing the pianos (they're not; it's not rocket surgery) but because these pianos have not been tuned since the Soviets were in charge. It's no wonder nobody wants to give any of them money. Busking is slow going for everyone, at first, especially Krista and Tiffany, whose chosen strategy of wandering several blocks away and then just begging random strangers is pretty slow going.

Kelsey and Joey begin to get the hang of it after a while; Joey uses his all-American good looks to charm a few grannies out of some spare zlotys. Older women love him, he explains, but "we're not talking like cougar women here. We're talking, like, the cougar women's mothers." I'm sure it doesn't hurt that he looks like he walked off the set of a 1950s sitcom; nothing loosens those old-lady pursestrings like a good flashback to the days when Paul Petersen and Fabian (or their Iron Curtain equivalents) ruled the airwaves.

Meanwhile, over at the mine, Logan and Chris finish the task rather uneventfully and exit just as Tanner and Josh are arriving.

Following the Detour, teams take a moment to reflect at a museum dedicated to Oskar Schindler, which honors the famous German businessman who saved more than 1200 Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland. For once, Justin's crying doesn't feel like an awkward overreaction.

Matzoh Easy

Getting strangers to give them money continues to prove challenging for Krista and Tiffany, which strikes me as odd because the team of gorgeous women with a penchant for flirting is usually the first team out of such a challenge. Apparently offering up cheek kisses in exchange for donations is far less successful when the person offering the kisses is crying. But they eventually get there. "Crazy girls. Absolutely crazy," says their violinist with a head shake.

After taking a minute to reflect on the painful history of the Jewish people in Poland, the Roadblock takes a dramatic tonal shift into celebrating them. Given a list of Jewish dishes, racers have to identify and deliver the correct number of each one. Things like latkes (which James Earl correctly notes are kind of like hash browns) and gefilte fish (which smells, y'know, fishy) are easy. Things like hamantaschen and haroses are not. Mostly, the most successful approach to this task involves finding a bystander with a phone and Google-image-searching the food items. A less successful approach: get a random bystander to offer their best guess (which results in Justin "learning" that latkes and kugel are basically the same thing...they're not).

Anyway, it's moderately entertaining when these teams don't know their kreplach from their yaprak, but in a season where teams haven't known Rotterdam from Amsterdam, this seems like a relatively minor snafu. And plates upon plates of cold, congealed food from any cuisine family would be pretty grim to consider in the context of a task like this.

What's more, there's absolutely zero drama on the front end: Justin and Diana roll up to the pit stop (located about ten feet from the Roadblock) to find Phil rocking out with a local klezmer band. They take a couple of minutes to party with the locals before receiving official word that they've won their third consecutive first place, which, when you consider that they arrived several hours before everyone else and they haven't been shown in the same frame with another team all leg...well, let's just say I hope you don't break your arm patting yourself on the back for calling that one.

Even Phil's kind of bored with the outcome, to the point where, when Kelsey and Joey and James Earl and Denise check in as teams number two and three, respectively, the only thing he can talk about is what everyone's got planned as far as trying to get anybody other than Justin and Diana onto the top of the power rankings.

In Which The Show Declines To Mess With Texas

Chris and Logan have an overblown argument about who should do the Roadblock: before she became a paparazzo, Logan says, she waited tables, but Chris argues that it's his turn and he doesn't want to wait another leg to get to do something. It turns out to be the right call to have Chris take it, given the fact that he grew up being fed some of this stuff by his Jewish grandmother, and he's able to leapfrog over Texas and the cheerleaders; he and Logan are Team Number Four.

This leaves only two racers out on the course, and Josh reasons that this is a capital time to team up and share answers. He voices over something about friendship and integrity as he steps back and lets Tiffany get her plates approved by the judge first...which, when the Pit Stop turns out to be about 15 feet away, looks like an even dumber decision than it already was. Naturally, the cheerleaders check in as Team Number Five, leaving Tanner and Josh as the last placers. "I bet you'd like to continue racing with them," Phil says to a tearful Krista and Tiffany. Well, guess what? They get to! It's a non-elimination leg, although with a Speed Bump and a U-Turn to contend with in the next leg, Team Texas is going to have a Texas-sized challenge ahead of them.

Verdict

There's definitely not much to recommend this episode: an anticlimactic first-place finish, followed by a final sprint to the mat that turns out to mean absolutely nothing in the long run. Not only can you skip this, you probably won't even need to be filled in on anything in order to pick it up next week as though there was no episode at all.

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