The Amazing Race, Ep. 20.04, “Taste My Salami”: Nothing says Italy like cleaning fake statues

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The Amazing Race Review, Season 20, Episode 4, “Taste My Salami”
Airs Sundays at 8pm (ET) on CBS

Digiorno! This cultural gaffe from Big Brother Rachel (in place of buongiorno) perfectly summarizes this mess of an episode. The Amazing Race has surged back creatively at the start of its 20th season, but those gains slam to a halt this week. The challenges are painfully easy and aren’t interesting to watch. There must be more exciting options in Turin, Italy than washing fake statues. Next week, the teams could dress up like gangsters and eat pizza! The challenges this week meet that level of originality. Turin is a gorgeous city with plenty of attractive landmarks. The elevator ride up the inside of the Mole Antonellianna (home of the National Museum of Cinema) is stunning and easily the highlight. Unfortunately, this remarkable location is just the set-up for a less-interesting Detour.

“Taste My Salami” begins with teams getting overjoyed to discover they’re leaving Paraguay and heading to Italy. This can’t be exciting for the Paraguay Ministry of Tourism. The clue says they must obtain tickets from a travel agent, but Mark and Bopper are so pumped about Italy that they drive straight to the airport. This is no good. By the time Art and JJ inform them about the mistake, the Kentucky boys find themselves an hour and 15 minutes behind the pack. Last week, this gap would be a minor inconvenience, but there are few chances this time. Kerry and Stacy get lost heading to the Roadblock, but that doesn’t narrow the gap enough for a close finish. Thankfully, Mark and Bopper survive because it’s a non-elimination leg, and it’s a relief to see the likable guys stick around.

When did The Amazing Race become fascinated with cars? Last season, teams drove around a high-speed track, and this week they visit the Museo Nazionale dell’ Automobile to find a 1916 Ford Tin Lizzie. This episode is basically sponsored by Ford, so why not locate an American car? The big product placement this week is for the Ford Focus and its Active Park Assist Feature, which provides parallel parking without using the steering wheel. This futuristic technology is impressive, but watching all eight teams do the same thing is overkill. The many insert shots of Ford logos also become grating pretty quickly. Amazingly, Brendon and Rachel find a way to bicker even when doing this easy task, but more on that later.

The Roadblock sends teams to the imposing Lingotto Building, once an inventive automobile factory for Fiat (another car reference!) during the early-to-mid 20th century. The inside resembles a large parking structure, and a player must rappel down to grab a clue. The tricky part is a two-minute timer on reaching it, and several people need multiple attempts. This is probably a fun experience, but it doesn’t translate well to exciting television. This location also includes the first Fast Forward, which leaders Art and JJ grab right away. The clue hints at flying a helicopter, but it’s actually a remote control miniature. The mini landing strip on JJ’s helmet is a clever touch, and Art struggles to land it correctly. They do eventually succeed, which leads to their second consecutive first-place finish. The task is fun, but the problem is the use of the Fast Forward in the game design. It rewards the leaders and lets them continue to win, and there’s no strategy involved in choosing to go for it. The remaining teams wisely dismiss the option, and there’s little tension involved.

Another major part of this episode is bickering, and the masters of this craft are Brendon and Rachel. They argue about the smallest squabbles, and she starts crying (or fake crying) at the drop of a hat. Unlike more outlandish characters, Rachel’s behavior is predictable. She rarely sheds any actual tears, so it raises the possibility she manufactures the drama. Sadly, Dave and Rachel follow this trend and have a really grumpy leg that’s not fun to watch. He’s not a good communicator and rarely takes time to listen to her point of view. Should they stop casting couples on this show? Vanessa and Ralph are keeping it together well, but they’re the exception at this point.

The Detour offers the choice between “Clean That Statue” and “Name That Salami”, and the right move seems obvious. The first option requires a significant drive to reach it, but there’s no mystery to the task. On the other hand, the choice to taste 14 different types of salami and identify them after a half-mile walk sounds too risky. Brendon and Rachel take this one and have a really hard time, but they still manage to finish sixth. Kerry and Stacey do better and slide into seventh right in front of Mark and Bopper. It’s no coincidence that the four teams that decide to clean the statues finish second through fifth. Despite their arguments, Dave and Rachel still take second, which shows their strength even when they’re unhappy.

A task that involves eating salami is bound to inspire some crude references, and the teams don’t disappoint. Vanessa takes the win by joking about her activities back in high school, which is silly but very obvious. It’s entertaining to watch the teams having fun, even if their humor feels like middle school. Beyond the silliness, this episode closes with a kind move from Art and JJ that seems really genuine. They won $10,000 for the first-place finish, and they decide to give half of it to help with Bopper’s sick daughter. It’s obvious that these teams really like each other, and it would be great to see more of that type of behavior on this show. Even though this ends up being a non-elimination leg, the gesture resonates beyond the race and reveals a different side of the front-running guys.

Dan Heaton

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