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The Amazing Race 5: Thinking Smart in Episode 1by Jeffrey Clinard -- 07/09/04
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The teams set off on the longest Amazing Race yet, out from California’s Santa Monica Pier to Uruguay in pursuit of a finish line and the $1,000,000 prize. Along the way teams made smart decisions, dumb decisions, asked or failed to ask the key questions, and were presented with a new game mechanic - the Yield.
To begin with, the Yield is an interesting concept that provides some strategic implications, though I suspect it may be used more emotionally. Strategically, the Yield can be used to stall out a strong team in order to assist a weak team. As an example from the first race, Kevin and Drew could have used it to stall out Bill and Joe in India. This might have allowed Nancy and Emily to overtake Team Guido and beat them to the next pit stop. Kevin and Drew would have benefited as a stronger team was eliminated with Yield time. In addition, it could be used as a desperation measure by a team in next-to-last place to stall out the last place team just to ensure survival for another leg.
However, I suspect that teams will use it emotionally. Teams can’t afford to be despised by the others like Team Guido (who earned a Hall of Shame moment for attempting to block Nancy long enough so that she missed a flight). Otherwise the others teams will just get together and activate the Yield against them in every leg. A jerk like Wil or a shrew like Flo could be taught a rather interesting lesson if their team starts to find themselves waiting out a Yield in leg after leg. Teams might also have to reconsider the benefits of getting a boat or a bus to take off and leave another team in the dust (particularly if there are plenty of teams behind them). Teams that watch others leave while waving goodbye at them might find themselves hit with a Yield.
In addition, Yield can only be used if the target team is behind the team using it. As position tends to bounce around, every team has a fair shot at it, but sometimes teams aren’t aware of which are ahead of them are behind them (as often happens when they separate at Detours). A team that uses it should be pretty sure their target is behind them (and hope they haven’t used a Fast Forward to bypass it entirely).
A welcome addition in this race is some kind of penalty for arriving in last place at a non-elimination pit stop. I don’t know what it is, but since it is a race, it might be thematic to give the last-place team a 10 pound penalty like they do to racehorse. Of course, they might simply have them forfeit their cash or not receive cash for that leg of the race. All those possibilities would definitely fit Phil’s warning that it would make life difficult for that team.
As always, teams had a choice of two different flights out of their first city, and I kept asking myself if the teams would ask the right question - which one ARRIVED first. Alison asked that key question. Lots of teams didn’t. Then when it came to selecting ferry times, no team seemed to do the obvious - find a time, then have one team member guard it while the other searched for a better one. If the partner found a better time, the first team member would abandon the envelope and search for a better one. Since there was an overnight stay involved, there only reason a team should have pulled the tab for a confirmed ferry is if they decided the had found the fastest one, or if another team was threatening to take away their best shot.
The Detour choice of Chip or Zips provided a quite interesting choice. Upon hearing the options, I would have immediately picked Chips. With 20 chips there was a better than 50% chance of coming up to the good on a 38 number wheel (assuming it had the 00 slot) if all were bet on the first spin. Limiting the chips to five per spin made the option less palatable, but the option did offer a faster completion if the number hit (and teams were definitely better off betting the maximum number of chips each time - even if they lost, they would lost FAST). It would be even more tempting if there was a backlog of teams waiting to use the zip lines (and no teams in view to the rear). Indeed, all four teams that selected the Chips option got lucky (as a collective, they beat the odds by a fair margin), even if only two teams made an informed choice in the matter. The Zip option was probably more fun, and a sure thing, but it can’t be denied the time risk might have made the Chips choice a better bet. Consider this - the order of initial arrival at the checkpoint was Kim and Chip (Chips), Kami and Karli (Chips), Alison and Donny (Zips), and Marshall and Lance (Chips). All three Chips teams were in the LAST ferry group, meaning they gained an hour over the first ferry team, Alison and Donny. Even discounting the two teams that had to go back and find the detour route marker, a direct comparison of Marshall and Lance put them ahead of two teams with the first ferry, while Charla and Mirna were the first of the second ferry teams to arrive, even after a rough time with the side of beef and missing the shop. The downside risk was probably only ten minutes.
Finally, there is once again the question of looking for the flags. Some teams didn’t, and others looked for them without regard for their context. Teams need to keep both items in mind during their search.1 2 Next-->
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