Into the big top, where even more clowns and jugglers are goofing around while the racers try to figure out how to get their plates spinning atop pointed poles. Jill keeps tipping hers off the end of the pole, and Thomas snaps at her for it, which doesn't seem like a wise thing to do to someone who's holding a long, sharpened, wooden stake. Michael seems to get the hang of it so quickly that I'm tempted to make a bad pun about China (yes, I know, Michael is from Taiwan). In this task, they first have to get a plate spinning on a handheld pole, and then transfer it onto a stationary pole positioned on a rack of ten. It's all about not only balance but angular momentum, so if the plate stops spinning, it falls. As you can imagine, plates are hitting the ground pretty fast (and they must be shatterproof, because later in the episode we don't see racers wading through ankle-deep drifts of crockery shrapnel). Brook and Claire seem to get the hang of it quickly. Chad tries to walk Stephanie through getting a plate started, with his typical level of supportiveness (which is to say zero). Nick, however, seems to have a quick knack for it; it's the atmosphere that's freaking him out. "My grandma had a clown room, growing up, that we would all have to sleep in as kids," he interviews, "so when you woke up at nighttime, you'd just see a clown face on the wall, and it'd scare the crap out of you." In the present day, Nick tells one of the Russian clowns," Don't touch me." Oh, Nick, they're more scared of you than you are of them. Okay, maybe not.
Out in the courtyard, amid even more highly saturated levels of madcap tomfoolery, Nat and Kat are working on translating the accordion tune into a numeric code, because with Jonathan and Connor gone, they're the reigning nerds in the race now. Across the courtyard, Mallory's picking it up quick. Apparently she's the musical one, but. Gary's keeping up well.
Michael and Kevin have a bunch of plates up and spinning, but Kevin's discovering their maddening tendency to slow down and fall off just as you're getting the tenth one up there. There are more troubles for Stephanie and Chad, too. Outside, Nat and Kat have the first phrase of the tune down and are surprised to learn there's more. Stupid Russian folk songs, going on and on. Gary and Mallory are also surprised at this news, even though Mallory is musical. Inside, Jill and Thomas are still struggling. He decides to try taking over the spinning from Jill, and almost immediately drops the plate and says, "Let's go." Sure, now that it's too hard for him as well. Did he miss the day they taught plate-spinning at Notre Dame? As they switch tasks, we hear his theory that, if the challenges are right next to each other, it's worth giving the other one a try. They seem to feel a little more comfortable with the accordions, at least at first. "Piece of cake," Thomas says, squeezing his in and out while holding his fingers down on a random chord. He's kidding, but I've seen Detours where that would be good enough to earn a clue.