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The Amazing Race 5: Thinking Smart in Episode 4by Jeffrey Clinard -- 07/31/2004
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In a leg that spanned from South America to Russia (going from summer to the Russian winter), it wasn't the long flights or the twenty hour bus trip that was the single most important factor in the race. It was a few minutes looking for an alternative bus. How important where those few minutes? Put it this way - those few minutes bought three hours at the FRONT of the leg. They were important because they were daylight hours, travel agents were nearby, the trip took 20 hours by bus, and the teams knew exactly where they were going on a long flight. Four teams boarded a bus with confirmed flights all the way through, and four other teams were left scrambling at the airport to get tickets. One of those teams lost the race. Opportunities like this don't crop up often, but when they do teams should be prepared to take full advantage of it.
In fact, travel agents can be so useful teams might want to consider, when faced with an airport trip, a trip to the nearest travel agent instead of the airport. On-line ticketing terminals travel faster than the swiftest cab, and booking the fastest flight (and standby on even better ones if they can) should be seriously considered, particularly if the travel agency is open. If not, teams might try an internet kiosk. Just for kicks I went to a well-known travel site and checked on a flight from Berlin, Germany, to Tokyo, Japan, and came up with flights, including the all-important arrival times. Even if teams can't book flights on it, it still provides a nice list of top-priority airlines to hit when the counters open.
Next, there is the subject of alliances. Frankly, they work the best when several teams have a clear time advantage over one or more teams. It's easy to be gracious when you're ahead of the pack. It's hard to be that way when you're at the end of it. The conflict between the twins and Chip and Kim shows the later; the gratitude of the teams to Colin and Christie for the bus tickets showed the former. At best, teams should have working agreements, with the understanding that it is a race, and sometimes teams have to do what they have to do. It also shows that if a team wants a favor, they should be willing to give a favor first. Colin and Christie have done so. Mirna wanted one from a person she had just been rude to a few hours before.
One thing that hasn't shown up yet in the race is hours-of-operation for the Detours and Roadblocks. It has sometimes served as an equalizing position in legs of the race, but the options in St. Petersburg were open all night (apparently). The Detour provided a choice between a close location and a more remote location, with some physical ability in each. What was faster? Downing a shot of vodka. Despite being further away, the task did not require the teams to change into protective hockey gear. Getting in and out of the gear probably more than ate up the time saved. However, since I'm a rather big hockey fan (I didn't miss a single home game of the Las Vegas Wranglers ECHL hockey team last year), and if I were in the front group, I might have done it anyway. I actually own a sword and can get vodka shots anytime, but how often could I get in net against hockey professionals? Of course, you might respond how often am I in a race for $1,000,000 as well, but quite often the tasks are balanced, and I could argue the shorter trip would save on cab fare. Ok, I admit it... vodka shots were the best path... but going in goal would be hard to resist!
While there is no doubt the roadblock was an awful task, and did shuffle the position of several front running teams, people have eaten worse in a quest for $1,000,000 - just ask ex-Survivor contestants. Of course, the difference is that as nasty as the food might have been, they didn't have to gulp down a kilo of the stuff. Sometimes you just have to hold your nose, gulp it down with water to chase it, and plow through it. Some teams did, and passed teams that suffered through it.
So looking back, which teams were thinking smart in Episode Four?
Chip and Kim: First place, and well earned! What this team didn't do was whine, moan, and complain. It got them Colin and Christie's favor at the bus station, which allowed them to get to the front tier of the pack. Then, at the airport, they conceded that Brandon and Nicole had done a SMART thing in racing ahead and trying to get even better tickets. Something told me they watched and LEARNED from this experience. Yes, this team conceded good play - and I have no doubts they'll try to emulate it instead of bad-mouthing it. Finally, Chip ate up at the Roadblock. Bottom feeders no more? Exactly!
Colin and Christi: Do I give a single team the most credit here? Absolutely, they figured out the express bus thing - then suggested a trip to a travel agent. With three hours, they were absolutely right to try and grab the best tickets available - and after that to try and get even better tickets! As far as taking the bus tickets - well, they were the first team to play SMART, and they bought themselves some favors. All the other teams at the agency agreed to give them the fastest flight. This is a favor they bought by giving the others a favor first, and they ended up respected. This team has raced smart for two legs now - very smart.1 2 Next-->
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