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The Amazing Race 4: Thinking Smart Before the Raceby Jeffrey Clinard -- 05/27/2003
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On the last three series of The Amazing Race, I wrote up articles each week on how to think smart to remain in the game, and ultimately win. Some teams did well because they thought things out; others did poorly because they refused to use their heads. So what does thinking smart mean in The Amazing Race? What should the twelve teams be thinking of doing even before they leave Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles?
1) Follow Instructions. It seems obvious, but several teams have ignored instructions, and it came back to bite them. Nancy and Emily ignored the instruction on either taking a bus or a van, and suffered a 24-hour time penalty, which ended up costing them the race. If they had followed the instructions, they would have beaten Joe and Bill at that checkpoint and remained in the race. Other teams were given time penalties for not following instructions, like Dave and Margaretta, who didn't climb the Eiffel Tower, or Joe and Bill, who ignored the "take a train" instruction. Blake and Wil both failed to follow instructions to complete ALL tasks before returning to their partners in Australia, and wound up having to re-perform some of the tasks. Heather and Eve failed to walk to the pit stop and it cost them the race (and even provided a Reality TV Hall of Shame Moment). Read carefully and follow the instructions.
2) Look for Loopholes. All that said about following instructions, if the task is open-ended, look for ways to get there faster. For example, getting to Tunisia required a boat trip. All of the players took the same ship, but going on a cargo ship or chartering a vessel would have fulfilled the requirements. The train in France was another example; the instructions only said to get to a point, not how to get there. The smarter teams took the local's shortcut. This is the edge that can help teams avoid elimination.
3) Know When Minutes Save Hours. When the last race began, the teams had their choice of three flights (with limited seating). The smart teams raced to the airport to claim the direct flights and gained hours. Other teams tried to call or otherwise get information, and suffered for it. Matt and Anna were in this group, and while it wasn't the only reason they lost, it was one of the big reasons they were eliminated first. Gary and Dave lost a first-place position in Las Vegas because they tried to save a few minutes in violating airport security about abandoning their car at the airport. Instead, they got on the last flight because they chose minutes over hours.
4) If Something Isn't Working Out, Cut Your Losses. Searching for the vans in India wasted a lot of time for several teams. If faced with a choice like that, give yourself 15 or 30 minutes, and then cut out and go for the sure thing. The working moms also faced this problem when they went to the wrong pendulum. After 30 minutes or so, they should have cut their losses and rang Quasimodo's Bell. However, there is always the converse to be considered. Gary and Dave abandoned their detour tasks twice, and the second time it cost them. When there are fewer teams, you can't cut losses so easily. It's better to stick it out and hope for the best than take the risk that the travel time plus the task time will make up for the time needed for the detour choice.
5) Know When to Use a Fast Forward. Since teams can only use that option once, it's important they play that card at the right time. Rob and Brennan should NOT have used it on the first leg, since they were hours ahead of the trailing teams. They won anyway, but it wasn't smart thinking. Joe and Bill raced Nancy and Emily for it because both of them were six hours behind and desperate to stay in the race. That was thinking smart (for both teams). Peach and Mary tried for the Fast Forward twice, both times with good reasons. They lost because a team that shouldn't have used it did, and they just got that much further behind. Ken and Gerard knew it was a 1 in 3 chance of elimination if they didn't go for the Fast Forward early, and beat out the twins to the first Fast Forward and stayed in the race, a good move. Dennis and Andrew used it as a desperation measure in England, but still ended up losing because they just couldn't make up the time. It's a delicate balancing act, but it comes down to asking if the Fast Forward will save a LOT of hours, or be the difference between being in the race or being eliminated. If the answer to both is NO, don't go for it.
6) NEVER Get Overconfident. Joe and Bill assumed their knowledge of Paris would breeze them through the tasks there. They got a rude shock when they found out most of the other teams had beaten them to the sewers. They also assumed with their Fast Forward they'd beat other teams to the next checkpoint. Surprise! They were the last ones there, but because Nancy and Emily blew it, they remained in the race.
7) Spend Money Wisely. One of the main reasons Joe and Bill lost is because they got the late train in India (along with Nancy and Emily). This was because they had taken cheap transportation on this leg. I assume it was a money issue. At this point, everything compounded, and they eventually found themselves 24 hours behind the leaders. Money should be spent to get places FASTER, not on luxuries. This isn't to say that spending money on a place to sleep during dead hours (checkpoints, or time before a task place opens) is a bad idea. Just go to Motel 6 instead of the Ritz. It wasn't worth the extra time for Flo and Zach to find cheaper lodgings at one point in the third race. In this case, the time was worth the money (and the bickering, but that was another matter). Remember, fatigue screws up both the mind and the body.1 2 Next-->
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