Originally aired on Sunday, 04/01/2007
*** (3 stars out of 5)
It’s a Very Special Episode of The Amazing Race: All-Stars
– it’s inexplicably two whole hours long!
- The teams leave Africa and head to Poland for the next leg of the race.
- Once again, flight scheduling challenges leave two teams so far behind the pack that the front runners actually start the next leg before the lagging teams even finish the first.
- The teams and the show take a brief but powerful visit to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.
- The teams are forced to work together through an Intersection challenge, and a Fast Forward puts one pair of teams way in the lead.
After so many seasons of showing us the thrill of global travel, The Amazing Race: All-Stars
seems to be taking a new angle: the crushing tedium of global travel. This leg of the race starts with the racers frantically trying to get out of Africa to Poland. And by frantically I mean: sitting in a small local travel agency for over seven hours while the agent crawls through the flight listings. That is some edge-of-your-seat television!
Charla Baklayan Faddoul and Mirna Hindoyan were first to depart after the rest period, but, knowing Oswald Mendez and Danny Jimenez were scheduled to depart just minutes after, decide to wait for them and share a cab into town to a travel agency. All the teams have been provided with tickets to Poland, but there is the possibility of there being earlier flights, so most of the teams make an attempt to find one. Uchenna and Joyce Agu depart not too long after and head out to another travel agency in town. The Beauty Queens, Dustin Seltzer and Kandace Pelletier end up at the same travel agency as Charla and Mirna and Danny and Oswald.
The agents at Uchenna and Joyce’s agency haven’t arrived yet, so the pair calls around and winds up calling into the same agency that the other three teams have just entered. The agent at that agency begins to help the two over the phone, but is pressured by the three teams in the agency, especially the Beauty Queens, to hang up. On the one hand, it seems a little devious on their part; on the other, how many times have you been in a store and the clerk starts to assist a person on the phone and you feel like, “But I am standing right here! Take a message and call them back!” So I couldn’t find too much fault with Dustin and Kandace for doing that.
Danny and Oswald say they are channeling the aggression of Charla and Mirna, and they do indeed let them take the lead in wheedling the agent to look for flights. Mirna also makes a point of telling her agent not to help the other one who was booking a flight for the Beauty Queens. No worries for the Queens; their agent is actually able to come up with the series of flights that lands them into Poland the soonest and they are off.
For the other teams: no such luck. Thus begins the looooooooooooong wait for the other teams as their agents slowly work through the flights. Uchenna and Joyce’s agent is able to work it out after only four hours, but the other two teams are stuck waiting over seven hours. This gives Eric Sanchez and Danielle Turner time to catch up despite their delayed start time, and they arrive at the same agency as the other two teams.
Finally the agent is able to find an earlier flight for Oswald and Danny and Charla and Mirna, but there is no room for Eric and Danielle. They finally opt to take the pre-booked flight. The two are starting to experience some significant difficulties and are seriously arguing with one another. I wish I cared but neither seems particularly likeable so I don’t.
Team Guido (Joe Baldassere and Bill Bartek) is finally able to start the leg of the race, and they are starting so late that they are not even sure if they can make the pre-booked flight. They race to the airport, and find their favorite friends, Eric and Danielle, preparing to take the same flight. The four run into a patch of bad luck when they are late to a connecting flight and the flight staff refuses to let them board. Joe from Team Guido loses it and races out to scream at the plane, because crazy behavior is ALWAYS a good idea with regard to air travel. Needless to say, it doesn’t work.
The two teams have to stay in a hotel and wait for the next morning. They shake and agree to meet and head to the airport together.
After some additional airport shenanigans too tedious to recount, finally the teams start to arrive in Warsaw, and their first stop is to find a local monument to receive their next clue from a man dressed as composer Frederick Chopin. Dustin and Kandace arrive first and read their clue: it is a Detour, and the choice are Perfect Pitch or Perfect Angle. In Perfect Pitch, they have to tune a piano, and in Perfect Angle, they have to carry a mannequin through the streets to a laboratory where they must then position an x-ray machine just so to find a clue hidden within the body.
One of the Beauty Queens plays piano (I’m sorry, so many episodes in and I still lose track of which is which with these two and Team Guido), so they opt to complete that challenge. I have noticed that it seems like the Beauty Queens don’t generate a lot of positive comments, and I must admit I didn’t see the season they were on so there might be a lot of information I don’t have…but they are growing on me. I think it’s mainly that – contrasted against the panic merchants Charla and Mirna – I appreciate their lack of agonized screeching when the chips are down. I don’t know, maybe that isn’t saying much, but by this point in the game, a lack of screeching is all it takes to win me over.
Charla and Mirna and Danny and Oswald arrive next, and Charla and Mirna experience some extremely cold shoulders from the Polish people. I am half-Polish myself and I feel vaguely guilty about this. As abrasive and difficult as the two can be, it’s hard to imagine that they could offend so many so quickly, usually before even opening their mouths, so one is left with the impression that maybe the locals don’t like little people.
Their trouble gives Danny and Oswald the chance to pull ahead. I have also been a fan of this cute pair for the race so far, but I am disappointed to report that this leg they resort to the same weird accent thing that Charla and Mirna always use when speaking to non-English speakers. I expected better. They head over to Perfect Pitch as well as Danny plays piano. It’s no done deal, though, as they keep breaking strings. Charla and Mirna show up, but they have even less luck that Danny and Oswald.
Meanwhile, Dustin and Kandace speed to a local statue as directed by the clue from Perfect Pitch, where they receive the next clue telling them to head to the Pit Stop. They arrive at the mat in first place and win a trip to Puerto Rico. Danny and Oswald finally get the Perfect Pitch and also race to the mat, arriving in second place.
Uchenna and Joyce have now arrived in Warsaw, and after a brief actual detour when dropped at the wrong locale by a cabbie, they make their way to complete Perfect Pitch. They arrive right after Charla and Mirna have given up on this challenge and instead decide to run out to complete the other challenge, Perfect Angle. Uchenna and Joyce make quick work of the pitch challenge, and arrive at the mat in third, amazed since they haven’t seen any of the others in almost 24 hours.
Charla and Mirna struggle to carry their mannequin through the streets and get lost. A friendly young Polish woman (finally!) stops to help them and brings them to the lab. They get a correct x-ray, read their clue, and head out to then arrive at the mat in fourth place.
Because there is such a huge lag between the first four teams and the last two, the first to complete this leg are actually able to start the next before Eric and Danielle and Team Guido have even made it to the mat. Dustin and Kandace are first to depart, and they are directed to a location where they will take a charter bus to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Wow. I admire the producers of the show for taking the time to bring the racers there, but wonder how this incredibly meaningful place with such a horrifying history will be treated with respect in the middle of a scavenger hunt reality show.
As the teams wait for the charter buses (the first three teams will be departing at 1:00 PM, leaving Charla and Mirna to take the next at 5:00 PM), Eric and Danielle and Team Guido finally arrive and head to the challenge. Eric and Danielle complete the Perfect Pitch challenge, and make it to the mat in fifth place. Team Guido opts for the Perfect Angle, and they arrive last. But! It’s a non-elimination. So they will be marked for elimination on The Amazing Race: All-Stars (they must arrive first to mat next leg or face a 30-minute penalty before being checked in).
Eric and Danielle continue to fight. I continue to not really care about them.
Danny and Oswald, the Beauty Queens and Uchenna and Joyce all depart on the earlier bus and drive to Auschwitz. The place is profoundly disturbing to see, just as a television viewer, and so it is no wonder that all of the Racers seem very affected by this visit. It’s unsettling in its silence, and the day the teams visit is a foggy one, making it even starker. None of them can keep from imagining what it felt like for the thousands upon thousands of people brought there as they arrived at the same spot in those cattle car trains.
Uchenna seems really shaken by the history of man’s cruelty to man, and Oswald comments that, having grown up gay in Cuba, he feels he himself escaped from a repressive regime, and so is all the more heartbroken when thinking upon those who lived in a different time who did not. There is no challenge to complete here; they just take a moment to light a candle and reflect in silence on the weight of the history of what happened there.
Now the three teams head in separate taxis to Krakow to find their next clue. It is an Intersection – a challenge where the teams must pair up with another team and work as one for the duration of the challenge. There is also a fast forward option they can take instead of completing the Detour.
Due to taxi difficulties, Dustin and Kandace are delayed reaching the clue box. This allows Uchenna and Joyce and Danny and Oswald the chance to pair up. This is especially bad news for the Beauty Queens. Because they must pair up with another team to proceed, they will have to wait the four hours or so for the other set of teams to arrive. They are seriously bummed.
Uchenna and Joyce and Danny and Oswald opt to take the Fast Forward option. The two teams work together well to complete a relatively easy challenge: they climb two towers, counting the steps in each, and provide their total count to a guard at the top. They get it right on their first try and race off to the Pit Stop. Arriving together, Phil tells them they have won a prize, but it’s only for two of them. Oswald and Danny graciously give it to Uchenna and Joyce, WHO ACCEPT IT and I am like, WHAT? You guys already won ONE MILLION DOLLARS. Give the prize to the boys!
The Beauty Queens must wait for hours as the remaining three teams also take a sobering trip to Auschwitz, and for their trouble they get: Charla and Mirna. For a moment, they contemplate waiting for another team to arrive, but common sense and competitiveness overrides their distaste for the two and they decide to pair up. The Detour requires they either Eat It Up – make a sausage and then eat a LOT of sausage – or Roll It Up – make twenty bagels.
Inexplicably, they decide to Eat It Up. This does not seem like a good idea, but there you have it. They complete the sausage-making portion with no trouble, and then settle into eating. Meanwhile, Eric and Danielle and Team Guido once again find themselves thrown together and also decide to Eat It Up. Unfortunately for them, their cab driver doesn’t know the area, so their delay gives the women a good head start.
The Beauty Queens are gamely digging in, as is Mirna, but Charla is having some difficulty getting through her sausage. Then the other teams show up, and this puts more pressure on the girls. Team Guido and Eric and Danielle make their sausage and then get to eating. Despite all the guys’ concerns, Danielle does pretty well and it’s actually Eric who is slowing down the group.
One of the Beauty Queens suddenly and rather explosively vomits but did manage to get through all her sausage, as does her partner and Mirna. Charla continues to struggle, and eventually sticks a knife down her throat to make herself throw up. This is a television high point, I think.
She does get through it, though, and the two teams are able to now separate and race to their next location. Charla and Mirna bicker in the car, as Mirna yet again has to bring up how much harder she has to work than anyone else. I’m really starting to think that it’s not this TEAM that’s annoying, it’s mainly Mirna. I mean, Charla can be a little confrontational but she’s nowhere near as hysterical (as in frantic, NOT humorous) as Mirna. Mirna gets into YET another fight with a taxi driver she is trying to follow. Poland is just not working out for her.
The other two teams finish and race off as well, and everyone heads to the Roadblock, where one teammate must put on a suit of armor and lead a horse to a castle. Charla, who has just been subject to a tirade about how she never does anything, has no choice but to, literally, suit up and lead that horse. It doesn’t go well. The horse seems to want to walk in circles rather than a straight line, and Mirna seems to think the best way to help improve the situation is to ENDLESSLY SHRIEK AT CHARLA.
Is there any situation in the universe where endless shrieking is a good and helpful idea?
The Beauty Queens complete the Roadblock and land at the Pit Stop in third place. Despite all the drama, Charla and Mirna end up in fourth.
Team Guido arrives in fifth, but, as Phil informs them, they have to wait thirty minutes before they can be checked in. Since you can see Eric and Danielle in the background of the shot as Phil tells them this, you can see where this is ending: with Team Guido heading home to their dog, Guido. Their time on The Amazing Race: All-Stars has come to an end.
But our time viewing it has not, so we will tune in next week!
-Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Images courtesy of CBS)