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The Amazing Race 9: Thinking Smart in Episode 5by Jeffrey Clinard -- 03/31/2006
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In this race more than many others, the teams are finishing in a manner that greatly reflects their ability to race. BJ & Tyler and Eric & Jeremy have been at the top, and the weakest teams have been systematically eliminated from the race. This is a bit surprising given the number of luck-based tasks that have been featured in the race; still it seems that better racing is winning out over better luck.
While weaker teams are being eliminated fairly quickly, it seems that among the remaining teams most of them have learned something from previous editions of the race. Two teams tried to bypass ticket lines by using the Internet to make flight reservations, a team that feared elimination used the Yield correctly, and several teams are making choices on detours designed to play to their strengths. However, no team is running a perfect race, though the results of BJ & Tyler and Eric & Jeremy are hard to argue with.
The detour is the third time in as many legs where one of the choices had the primary attribute of luck. Actually, I’m getting a little tired of it, and am still wondering why so many teams are selecting luck-based tasks over more physically demanding ones. Then again, in practice, it seems that many teams are getting lucky with the chance-based tasks. Because of the inherent risk in the “Laundry” option, I think “Foundry” was a better choice for most teams, though many of them proved me wrong. Only two teams opted to move the church bell, but they didn’t seem to have many problems. The roadblock was a kind of puzzle, but one of its real tests was how quickly teams figured out after assembly there were two extra pieces. At least one team fell into the trap of assuming they did something wrong when faced with a completed statue with extra pieces that didn’t fit anywhere.
Finally, the first of only two Yields came into play, and it was used more or less correctly by Lake & Michelle. The only times a team should use it is to try to knock another team out of the race (usually a strong team that has fallen behind), or when a team is close to last and fears elimination. Lake & Michelle were towards the rear with only two teams trailing them, and made the right choice in yielding them. They knew Dani & Danielle were behind them, but weren’t really sure how far back either they or Ray & Yolanda were. It could have been one minute; it could have been an hour. Plus, when faced with a choice between putting the Yield on a weak team or a moderately good team when the fear is elimination, it’s better to hit the weak team to buy an extra margin of safety.
Overall, several teams are racing well, and other teams are making mistakes. Which teams were thinking smart in Episode 5?
Tyler & BJ: First place, and for a good reason. They used the Internet to bypass the wait in line for tickets and ended up being the only team on the first to flight. That bought them a lot of time early in the leg, and they never looked behind them once the entire leg. I do think that as two strong young men, they should have done the Foundry detour, but their karma is working for them so far in the race. Well done.
Eric & Jeremy: The beach bums were disappointed in their second place finish, and believe they should have arrived in first. There is some merit to that, as they spent their time goofing off in wheelchairs at the airport instead of figuring out how to reserve tickets via the Internet. That move prevented them from booking the earlier flight, and they had to settle for second place. They also decided to search the laundry instead of haul the bell. It worked out for them, but they were a fairly strong team and probably should have elected to get physical.
Joseph & Monica: I’m not quite sure what to make of Monica’s talk about playing the part of a dumb blonde. I don’t know exactly how she expects that to assist them in the race, but if it works for her, I guess it works for her. This team played well to their strengths, lugging the church bell and finishing first among the teams in the third flight into Italy. They are quietly doing a good job of racing.
Fran & Barry: This team has really started to do well, making much better decisions about detour options and navigating exceptionally well. They’ve also refused to help Lake & Michelle, thus allowing them to make their own mistakes. Indeed, by refusing to help them, they indirectly put them into a position where they felt they had to use the Yield. Overall this team is playing to their strengths and is doing well because of it.
Lake & Michelle: The married parents continue to make, and then get away with, mistakes. While they were the first team to try to book tickets on the Internet, they were unable to do so, then ended up booking tickets on the last arriving flight because they failed to ask the right questions. They then managed to get lost on the way to the roadblock, though they did realize their mistake before showing up in front of Phil only to be sent back. Overall, their mistakes led to a fear of elimination. This led to their use of the Yield, and it worked just like they planned, costing Dani and Danielle the race. However, they wouldn’t have needed to use it at all if they hadn’t made so many other mistakes. There is also one other problem this team is facing - so far Lake has done every roadblock. While Lake did a good job on the statue, they need to start putting Michelle in or at some point they won’t have a choice in the matter.
Dave & Lori: The dating couple ran a fairly decent leg, deciding that physical tasks were not their strong suit and thus taking on the laundry task. They were able to complete it, but Lori struggled at the detour due to her refusal to accept the fact that there were extra pieces. Of course, the task was designed like that, but she seemed to struggle the most in figuring out the trick. They are doing OK, but will have to kick it up a notch if they want to win the race.
Ray & Yolanda: This team did well on the tasks, yet still was nearly eliminated because they did a poor job of navigating to the roadblock. They played to their strengths by lugging the church bell, and Ray did a stellar job of putting together the statue. However, getting lost most likely would have led to elimination if it weren’t for Dani & Danielle’s problems, and Lake & Michelle’s choice to yield them. This team got very lucky, and will have to do better or face elimination.
Dani & Danielle: What went wrong? Many things. First, they did not prepare well for the race, as their ability to drive a stick shift was limited. This put them at the rear of the pack. Being at the end of the pack also hurt their ability to find a clue in the laundry, as several had already been located. They were then yielded, but even then they were ahead of Ray & Yolanda going into the roadblock. The trouble putting the statue together (combined with Ray’s skill at the task) was the final factor that led to their elimination.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these other Amazing Race 9 Episode 5 articles:
Jeffrey Clinard has been writing about The Amazing Race since the first edition, writing over 100 articles about it for RealityNewsOnline since it’s premier season. He can be reached at Realityfeedback@bookslv.com.
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