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The Amazing Race 17: Grading the Race, Episode 2by Avidan Ackerson -- 10/07/2010
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Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week's Grading the Race, the column formerly known (for one week) as, “Racing From the Couch.” I changed the name and added some new aspects to the column this week. It's very much a work in progress, so if you have any suggestions for improvement, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Of note, I mistakenly said the Tour de France uses a green jacket after each stage when it is a green jersey. Thank you to those who noticed the mistake.
This week, we only had two tasks, a Roadblock and a Detour. While the harrowing taxidriving was certainly an ordeal for many of the teams, that's not a task. That's being on The Amazing Race.
Roadblock: Selling Sunglasses
Clue: Who's ready for some shady dealings?
Task: Given a rack of sunglasses, the racer performing the task had to sell pairs of sunglasses in Makola Market until they made 15 cedi (about 10 dollars). No pair could be sold for less than three cedi.
Creativity: 3/10. There have been many tasks where teams had to sell or buy items in a market. For example, Season 3, Leg 11 had teams selling fruit in Vietnam. To stick teams in the middle of a crowded marketplace and try to sell things to natives is so uninspired, I nearly gave this a 1/10. The saving grace for this challenge was the added rule of a minimum price. I'm willing to bet that if teams could have sold each pair for one cedi apiece, it would have been a very easy task. For that bit alone, I gave the task a few extra points.
Difficulty: 9/10. Hoo, boy. First, you're trying to sell the same thing as a ton of other vendors in the area. Next, you're required to sell that item at a price no lower than three cedi in what was clearly a poverty-stricken area. In fact, according to ( UNICEF ), the average annual income of a person in Ghana in 2008 was 670 dollars (about 1000 cedi). I doubt the average person in the market could easily spare three cedi on sunglasses, so there was certainly an obstacle to overcome. Add in the lack of people skills for most of the teams, and you've got a recipe for disaster.
Most Valuable Player: The easy answer for this would be Brook. We finally saw a team use their gimmick effectively. Brook leveraged her home shopping network hosting skills while convincing people that they looked cool wearing her glasses. She showed up second to the task and left in first, wasting no time clearing her merchandise at low, low prices.
Honorable Mentions: It's worth noting two other performances. Connor was able to make two sales for 10 and six cedi respectively, rather than trying to sell five sets at three cedi each. And there was Mallory, who sold one pair for 15 cedi after a somewhat suspicious individual tried to buy the entire rack.
Major Failure: Oh, Nick. You showed up in first place and left second to last. Along the way, your potential customers stole your glasses and laughed when you asked for money. Nick wandered around the market failing to make a sale, and didn't seem to be putting any effort into the task at all. It’s not surprising he did so poorly.
Overall Grade: B-. While unoriginal, the difficulties racers faced made the Roadblock an entertaining task.
Detour: Tune in/Check Out
Tune In: Teams installed an antenna on the top of someone's house and hooked it up to the television. Then, they had to adjust the position of the antenna until they got a clear picture on the screen.
Check Out: Teams went to a specialty coffin maker, chose a coffin, and transported it to a showroom.
Creativity: 4/10. The Check Out option was thoroughly uncreative. Almost every season has had a task that requires the transporting of an incredibly heavy or unwieldy object through city streets. Tune In was a bit more creative because it wasn't just installing the antenna, it was making the antenna point in the right direction. But again, there have been similar tasks. We've seen teams carrying mattresses to beds (Season 10), buying items for orphanages (Season 7)... Basically, a bunch of “do good for the community” tasks. But this time, there was TV. Yay.
Difficulty: 3/10. Check Out was only hard when teams had to figure out how to cross a road congested with traffic. Tune In's primary challenge was angling the antenna, which most teams solved quickly.
Most Valuable Players: None, really. No team had a more remarkable success than any other.
Major Failure: The only major failure lay with Jonathan & Connor, who gave up midway through Tune In to switch to Check Out when they couldn't angle the antenna correctly. Never mind the fact that they did pass through the correct position at one point; these Ivy League graduates didn't understand the concept of reversing the direction.
Overall Grade: C-. Not hard, not creative, and fairly boring.
Green Jersey of Stupidity
It was hard to come up with a candidate for the Green Jersey of Stupidity this week. No team made any major mistakes, other than having the unfortunate luck of getting bad taxis. Chad could be dinged for thinking he could use sex appeal to sell his sunglasses during the Roadblock. And if Jill & Thomas had decided to use their Express Pass, they would have been a lock for the jersey.
But I'll have to give the jersey to Nick & Vicki again for Nick’s underwhelming effort during the Roadblock. They went from first to ninth only because Nick couldn't muster up any people skills to sell sunglasses. Even his protests when his customers walked off with the glasses were weak and feeble. Had he been more assertive and proactive, I think he could have cleared out of the task much faster and ended the leg in a better position than eighth place.
See you next week for more Grading the Race!
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Avidan can be reached at email@example.com. He can also be found on Twitter at @TalkingTV where he live-tweets shows, reality and non-reality alike.
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