Full Show Index
Advertise With Us
Write For Us
The Amazing Race 5: Thinking Smart in Episode 11by Jeffrey Clinard -- 09/20/2004
View Printable version of this article
It's been a fun season of The Amazing Race, with a few new game mechanics and some very interesting teams. I've learned a lot about how they work, along with the changes to the Fast Forward option, and will be giving the largest revision ever to my usual “Thinking Smart Before the Race” column.
In this final column of the season, I thought I'd go over the major game changes and give my thoughts on each one now that we've seen them in action over the course of the race. Overall, I think there were many good ideas, a few bad ideas, and room to tinker with them to make an even better Amazing Race in the future.
Strategic Options (Fast Forward and Yield)
I've missed the Fast Forward being available in each leg of the race. It's often provided an interesting sidebar adventure which goes on outside of the main tasks in each leg. It's also a strategic option that can give a team a chance to recover from bad luck or bad racing. It's a short-term fix, but sometimes that's all that is needed. However, what I didn't really care for was the trap put in the second Fast Forward. The producers had their little joke (and made up for it with it being a non-elimination checkpoint), but another joke like that and teams will ignore the Fast Forwards in the future. Simply put, there might be too much risk in it.
Yield is a good idea with a few implementation problems. The biggest problem I see is that it's not available in every leg, and ended up only being used once in the entire race. While there were times I thought teams would use it if available (particularly in mid-race), it wasn't. In short in ended up being under-utilized, though when it was it made for some interesting television.
My basic feeling is that there should be some kind of strategic game mechanic on each leg of the race. However, since there are only so many things that can be shown in an hour, I think both options would be a little much to put in each leg of the race. Instead, I'd like to see one or the other in each leg of the race. That opens up the possibility for an interesting diversion in each leg of the race. It can also escalate blood feuds (like Mirna / Colin) to a whole new level if done like that.
This was one of the better moves made by the producers. With all-male teams (usually fit and athletic) winning three of the first four races (and no all-female team placing better than fifth), the race seemed unbalanced. This season contained only one all-male team (Marshall and Lance, who weren't exactly trim and fit), and three all-female teams (Kami and Karli, Linda and Karen, and Charla and Mirna). Linda and Karen will be the highest finishing female team ever after this race; Kami and Karli tied Nancy and Emily already for the #5 position. I definitely want the trend to continue, since it makes for a more balanced race where everybody has a chance to win. I also think the producers to opt for more unusual casting decisions – how about two reality TV web site writers who have never met (hint, hint)?
In all, leaving teams without money has been more of an annoyance than a real burden to the teams who have been faced with it. From what I saw, the twins handled it well, Brandon and Nicole had a hard time with it, and the bowling moms were somewhere between the two. Overall, it works well if teams are given a fair shot at recovering from their situation. I'd like to see penalties for last place at non-elimination checkpoints to continue, though I wouldn't be adverse to seeing the penalty change from time to time in order to make things more interesting. For example, perhaps teams could be forced to perform both detours, or have both team members complete the roadblock individually. Teams should never know what problem they are going to face.
Three of the final four teams have hit last place in non-elimination checkpoints (Chip and Kim are the skillful and lucky survivors, though they also ran out of money at one point). Perhaps it shows that almost any team can take advantage of a second chance. Brandon and Nicole fell into a trap with the Fast Forward situation; Colin and Christie were Yielded – both events led to last place. There is long history of teams that had bad luck and were eliminated, though the vast majority of teams were eliminated due to poor decision making.
In this leg of the race the Yield was used for the first time. Should it have been used, then and there, on Colin and Christie? Absolutely – they were in last place for one of the few times in the race, and it was to every team's advantage to try to knock them out of the race with the Yield.
In the Detour, teams had the option of Fowl or Plow. Nobody picked Fowl, so it's hard to determine which option was faster. I will note that we've seen herding operations done in reality TV shows before (sheep in The Mole and The Amazing Race; goats in Survivor: Africa). The trick, of course, is that domesticated animals have a herd instinct; they all move together. The demonstration of the duck herding option showed that quite clearly. Whether or not teams could figure out how to tag-team scare them from one pen to another faster than the plow operation is a matter of debate.
As a side note, I would hope some kind of safety rule should be implemented. Several teams got their drivers to break speed laws. I'm quite uncomfortable with it, and rather think the rules should require local traffic regulations be followed – or at least violations not be encouraged and rewarded by the teams. I'm not as concerned about the safety of the teams as much as the safety of the bystanders. The worry about lawsuits and publicity (headline: “American Reality TV Show Causes Death of Local Girl in Speed-Related Accident”) should be enough to make it seriously considered.1 2 Next-->
View Printable version of this article