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The Amazing Race 5: Thinking Smart in the Final Episodeby Jeffrey Clinard -- 09/27/04
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Well, when I wrote my column last week, I figured it would be the last one of the season. Survivor is here (and my usual articles on it take quite a bit more work than Amazing Race), and I've been quite busy with personal affairs (mostly getting things ready for my upcoming vacation). However, enough took place in the final legs of the race to merit some attention. I'll wrap up this season and depart a bit from my usual style by providing my thoughts chronologically, rather than by teams.
To begin with, the importance of the Yield put in Colin and Christie's path in the last leg increases in importance, as the charter flights separated the teams, and really made it a two-way battle to stave off elimination. Indeed, if the Bowling Moms had gotten to the airport a bit earlier, it might have been all over for the dating couple. While the roadblock proved troublesome for them, they may have lost the race the moment they dropped a position and ended up on the second charter flight.
As it played out, it came down to Colin and Christie and the moms in a search for the island with the right flag. Outside of the taxicab incident in Africa, it is where Colin and Christie made one of the biggest mistakes in the race. Put simply, they should have followed the moms in the search for the right flag. That would guarantee them equal footing for the next part, and if the race has shown anything, it's that Colin and Christie can get tasks accomplished more quickly than the moms. On the flip side, the bowling moms were absolutely right to take the chance on a different island. That move gained them twenty minutes - and if the roadblock hadn't been so demanding, they would have gotten the final three slot. Thinking smart means knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each team. In a straight battle, Colin and Christie had to be given the edge. It occurs as well with detours - if it's a battle for last place, and one team has selected one task, it might be worthwhile taking a chance on the other.
In Calgary, the detour choice seemed obvious - slide was better than ride. It was much less physically demanding, and if they failed to make the time, they did it in less time than a failure with the bicycles. The bikes would also wear out a team - making it harder to complete the task a second time.
Also in Calgary we had both dating couples lighten up the load - a smart idea which went terribly wrong when they checked them into the airline. That move cost both teams the flexibility to jump on a different aircraft - giving Chip and Kim the edge they needed to win the race. The lesson is to leave the packages with a hotel where they can be sent for later.
Ironically, it was Chip and Kim's late arrival to the airport that gave them the edge needed to win the race. They ended up with the better flight, and concealed that information from the others. It was absolutely the right move. I always advocate playing a no-limit game at the end. A ten-minute advantage at that phase was worth $1,000,000.
Chip mentioned that if Colin was on top of his game, he'd have had reservations on multiple flights. Indeed, if teams can do that, they should! Planes can be delayed. Connecting airports can get fogged in. Hedging bets with multiple reservations is a smart idea if the race rules allow it. On a side note, it can't hurt to keep checking the flight information to learn about delays.
Colin, however, did play out his own version of a no-limit endgame. Arranging for a car and driver ready and waiting at the airport was a very smart move. Even better, he got a driver that thinks traffic laws are merely suggestions. As long as it's not against the rules, it's fair game - a high stakes one. I actually favor some kind of enforcement of traffic laws on the race, but as long as they could do it, they played no-limit. All things being equal, that move may have been the edge they needed to win the race.
In the end, what went wrong for Brandon and Nicole? Simply put, they had no advantages going into the final city. Chip and Kim had a better flight, and Colin and Christie had arranged for no-limit transportation. In that way, they failed to play a no-limit game at the end. No team ever gets to the final three without doing a lot of things right, but races are often won with a single endgame advantage.
What about Colin and Christie? They are one of the best racing teams I've ever seen, but it came down to checking their baggage on the flight. It seemed like the right move, but it ended up biting them by eliminating the flexibility they needed to get on the same flight as the married parents. It may have been a $1,000,000 mistake - in every other way they planned for the end of the race better than any team I've ever seen. I still think both of them may need to see a good therapist (Colin tends to lose it when things don't go his way), but they certainly won't have any problem figuring out where to go for their honeymoon. I lost track of how many vacations they won over the course of the race.
So what went right in the end for Chip and Kim? Well, for one thing, they did a great job of learning from their early mistakes in the race. They started making better decisions, and once they got over that learning curve, they really started performing well. They were friendly and nice to both the natives and the other teams, but didn't let it get in the way when they had to make strategic decisions in the endgame (such as choosing to Yield Colin and Christie, and pretending they were on the same flight as the other teams to Dallas to blindside the other teams).
Jeffrey Clinard lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his cats, Lam and Princess. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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