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The Amazing Race 5: Thinking Smart in Episode 7by Jeffrey Clinard -- 08/20/2004
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I've never thought that how teams get along with each other plays much of a role in the race, simply because no matter how a team might feel about another, there isn't much they can do to eliminate them. However, sometimes teams do feud, and it got particularly nasty in this episode, with Colin forming a coalition of teams that worked together in finding flights. Meanwhile, Mirna and Charla formed their own group with the bowling moms - and spent a lot of the down time at the Cairo Airport bad mouthing him, both amongst themselves, their partners, and to the twins. When such a rift happens, and teams are forced into taking sides, the smart teams will not gravitate to the team they think is RIGHT - they should work with the better team. In this race, I do have to put the vast majority of the blame on Mirna for the feud, and also believe Colin is the better racer. He and Christie are constantly on the top of the leader board; Mirna and Charla, despite some strong finishing positions, never led.
This leg of the race also highlighted just how important it is to get along with the locals. Working with them may have made the chair hauling task a better option for most teams. Local guides in this kind of challenge are a necessity. However, on the other side of the coin, how should teams handle dishonest locals who are attempting to rip them off? Kami and Karli and Brandon and Nicole had quite a bit of money extorted out of them - and were denied an exit from the bus when they protested. While negotiating a price (and departure time) up front is the best way to handle it in third world countries, sometimes teams may have to bite the bullet and pay up, particularly if they feel they are being threatened with physical harm (or incarceration). The thinking smart tip about not being penny-wise and pound foolish hasn't come into play much since the first season (where a few franks may have cost a team the race), but when it does, it's probably better to pay up and curse later than spend a lot of time arguing the matter.
Mirna, Charla, Linda, and Karen got hit with a delay in their air travel, which ended up costing them several hours. It put them on the last charter flight; they lost 90 minutes to the front-running team. If the flight were not delayed, I'm virtually certain Charla and Mirna would still be in the race. However, their travel plan was a good one. When booking flights, teams should look at the arrival time, plus the number of connecting cities, the time between connections, and the importance of those airports to air travel. Fewer connections mean the less chance a single delayed flight can upset the entire plan. The more time between flights, the better chance a team can recover from a delay. Finally, certain cities are hubs, or have a great deal of air traffic which provides more options if a connecting flight is missed. In this case, the alternative flight with the 30 minute time advantage (in theory) was always a good bet since the number of connecting flights was the same, but sometimes fate takes a hand and upsets the best plans.
Every team took the "Busy" detour option. Was it faster? That's an academic question since we didn't see how much time it would take for a team to cycle to the honey farm, don protective clothing, harvest the honey, and then get out of the protective clothing. I don't trust Phil's voiceovers regarding the time it would take to complete a task, since most of the time I think it's misleading. However, if there was one team that should have considered it seriously, it was Mirna and Charla. Fair or not, Charla's short legs could not keep up with full height person’s when it came to moving an cart through the city. Tasks have to be considered in the context of what each team's strengths and weaknesses are. Teams that don't keep that in mind end up paying the price. The roadblock was another eating contest. While I like them better than the luck-based tasks, this marks the third time it's been used in this race (first chocolates, then caviar, and now egg). It's good local favor - but I think it's been overused in this race.
So what teams were thinking smart in episode seven?
Chip and Kim: The married parents pulled off another great leg, being among the leaders, and finishing in first place. They won points with me early on in the leg by correctly figuring out that it's brainpower that is the real key to the race. They made good decisions every step of the way, even deciding that if there were going to be two camps at war with each other (Colin and Mirna), they might as well hitch their wagon to the better of the two teams. Chip gets along great with the locals, and plowed right through the egg to pass up Colin. They won a vacation to top it all off. They earned it - well done!
Colin and Christie: This season’s smartest racing team made a few mistakes in this leg, which is more than usual, but still finished in second place. First, no matter how much you hate a team, I cannot agree with attempts to block them at doorways, or in aisles, or anywhere else. I called Mirna on it last week; I'm calling Christie on it this week. It doesn't accomplish anything except to make you look bad, or potentially get hurt (if they had just run over her). Second, they let an opportunity for a faster flight slip by them. The fact that it ended up being delayed and cost the teams that took it doesn't mean it wasn't the correct decision. Finally, even though Christie had done the caviar task, the correct answer to which team member should have eaten the egg was the person who could get it done faster. Teams have to play to their strengths, not attempt to balance out tasks. Finally, Colin added way too much oil to his egg, which compounded his problems in eating it. The Amazing Race Insider footage provided that useful insight - and the reason why they didn't finish in first place again.1 2 Next-->
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