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Amazing Race 4: Thinking Smart in Episode 2by Jeffrey Clinard -- 06/07/2003
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In week 2, teams traveled down ski runs on rafts (or without them in one case), via train to Venice, where the race's next checkpoint was. There were several route information envelopes, a detour, a roadblock, and, of course, the fast forward option. Let's examine these options before looking at each team.
To begin with, Thinking Smart means understanding the race. The producers always want it to be close, so they will deliberately put bottlenecks in the race, causing everybody to "catch up" and thus even out the playing field again. The trouble for the teams is, they never know exactly when it will happen. It's what makes using the fast forward early a mistake, unless teams think it will be the difference between keeping them in the race or being eliminated.
Getting to the race, first teams needed to travel to the bottom of a ski jump and take the van with the snow raft up to the top, then take it down the jump to get to the next route information box. Seems simple enough, but one team didn't bother to read their instructions clearly (Thinking Smart Tip #1), and took their cab to the top of the hill.
From there, teams needed to get to Venice. According to the instructions, teams could not use air transport. That paved the way for Thinking Smart Tip #2, looking for loopholes. While Phil's voiceover stated they needed to board one of two trains, it was up to the teams to figure out the fastest way to get to their destination in Venice. Nine teams took the fast train. While it can be said they lucked into it, chance does favor the prepared mind, and nine teams were in a position to take advantage of it.
The detour was to get to the same route information box by one of two ways - over water or over land. The difference is that people on the street were allowed to ask for help in finding it, whereas the gondola route prohibited such help, forcing the teams to rely on their own navigation skills to get there. Here I'd have to say, when in doubt, go via the path that allows you to get help. The few teams that took the land route got to the box faster. Interestingly, when the lead gondola took the wrong turn, everybody followed! It ended up nearly reversing the order in which the gondola riders got to the route information box!
Next, there was the roadblock. It's the kind of task that is making me consider rewriting Thinking Smart Tip #13, which indicates that the tasks are almost irrelevant. The tasks are getting harder to complete in each new edition, and this roadblock was proof positive that some of the tasks are going to separate the teams. Indeed, this one was designed so that no team could help each other (four teams at a time, each with a different mask to find) . Some teams had an awful time completing this roadblock, some by failing it outright a few times, others taking forever to match the photograph with the right mask. However, there is a another part of this tip which came into play, which indicates that finding the checkpoint is usually the bigger problem. In this case, finding it was one thing, but more importantly, some teams which found it went ahead and abandoned it to go sightseeing. Despite the title of the episode ("It doesn't say first come, first served. And we're bigger."), here it was indeed first come, first served. This ended up shuffling the order in which teams were allowed into the party, providing those who stayed until opening an advantage over those who went sightseeing instead. We'll have to wait and see if this experience didn't teach a few teams a little lesson.
Finally, there are the little things, such as arranging for a taxi to be around when teams leave a checkpoint, or having one stick around while they complete a task. It seems minor, but it is the real difference between a smart team and the rest of the pack.
So, in order of their finish, which teams were thinking smart in episode two?
Steve & Dave. This team used the fast forward in this leg of the race. Was this Thinking Smart or not? Well, maybe. Everything bottlenecked, and they assumed they wouldn't be able to keep up with the other teams, particularly given the injury they suffered in the last leg of the race. So perhaps they felt it would be the difference between being eliminated and staying in the race. However, all things considered, it would have been to their advantage to have waited and used it later. They had some time advantage over two other teams, and if they had gotten and stayed in line at the party roadblock, they'd have remained in the race and kept that option open. They probably have six hours of time advantage over second place (other teams indicated they had six hours to kill before the roadblock opened), and should hope they don't have bottlenecks in the next leg of the race.
Reichen & Chip. This team jumped from near the bottom to second place, all without a fast forward. Why? Because this team understands lines. They got in the line at the roadblock, and stayed in it. Ironic, isn't it, since they were the ones willing to line jump earlier in the day. They were third in, but first out, because Chip was able to stop the right person, make a good comparison, and get the sealed envelope. While this team has no allies, they are showing they have good racing skills. Perhaps there is good reason for the other teams to want them eliminated.1 2 Next-->
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