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The Amazing Race 10: Thinking Smart in Episode 5by Jeffrey Clinard -- 10/19/2006
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I’m always thrilled to see teams asking the right questions. Every single team asked the travel agents about the fastest way to Chennai and believed them when they got the answers. The small problem that no travel agent in Vietnam gave the teams the fastest connection was not the fault of the teams. There were three routes that were faster than the twelve noon destination time several teams obtained, and teams that got better routes from travel agents who extended their search to multiple connecting cities ended up on a faster flight (though the connection was tighter) to Chennai.
However, several teams had the choice of taking a flight with confirmed seats or taking a chance on getting seated during the final leg of the flight. Thinking smart means knowing when the odds favor taking a chance, along with the downside risk of losing the bet if seats are not available. The vital elements are the connecting cities, the destination city, the tightness of the connections, and which city is the key.
To that end, Delhi was the key city in the flight plan of many teams. Even without confirmed seating, it was worth the risk to take the route because Delhi is a huge city and the chances of getting seated on another flight with only a small delay was very high. The flight David & Mary took still arrived much earlier than their initial arrival time of twelve noon. They did lose about 30 minutes in the process, but they had a long way to go in the leg with a Detour and a Roadblock. Still, the last flight is the primary reason for their last place finish.
The two teams that went through a single connecting city (Peter & Sarah and Dustin & Kandice) ended up with the best flight of all, obtaining tickets on an earlier flight to Chennai. That’s why it is always nice to get to a connecting city as quickly as possible. Indeed, Peter & Sarah and Dustin & Kandice both used the time in Bangkok to their advantage, finding and obtaining seats on an earlier flight which allowed them to jump to the front of the pack. They ended up being the only two teams at the Detour when it opened, and ended up in the first two positions in the leg.
The Detour had a quick, if somewhat frightening option in moving the crocodile from one pit to another. The “Wild Rice” option was much more tedious and took quite a bit longer. The fact that it was only 200 yards from the clue box was not a good enough reason to pick it, though it didn’t hurt for teams to take a quick look. The Roadblock was actually more frightening than the crocodiles, if you ask me. Unclearly lined streets, children, cows, and crazy motorized rickshaw drivers made it something of a wild ride.
Finally, I really like the new non-elimination penalty. Time is the most important resource in the race. Teams have usually gotten past the money problems fairly easily in past races; time problems are harder to fix. Given the time of day David & Mary checked in, they are substantially behind right now, though the teams might bottleneck at some point. From their perspective, the worst place for a bottleneck to occur would be very late in the leg, while the best place would be very early in the leg. They need to build up a lead on the travel segments of the next leg, or hope somebody picks a bad Detour option, breaks the rules, or gets lost.
Nobody was eliminated, and some teams had more luck than others, but which teams were thinking smart in Episode 5?
Peter & Sarah: They came in first place, largely because they had some breaks go their way. They left Vietnam on the slowest route of all the teams (except Dustin & Kandice), but did take the time in Bangkok to find a faster flight, which put them in the lead. They never looked back, retaining their lead for most of the rest of the leg. Peter is rather annoying with his micro management, but he was smart enough to borrow a cell phone when he was fooled into thinking the Cho brothers had obtained one and made reservations. Overall, they ran a good leg, which, combined with their luck, led to a first place finish.
Dustin & Kandice: It’s pretty clear that the beauty queens only take information and give nothing back. That’s OK; it’s an individual race and teams should try to get an advantage when they can. Still, if they want to keep information private, Dustin should have concealed the new boarding passes from Peter after they got a better flight. They did put their hands over a cab driver’s mouth to keep him from helping Peter & Sarah’s cab driver, but karma caught up to them when another cab they took blew a tire. Overall, their flight put them in a solid position, and they ended the leg in second place.
Rob & Kimberly: This team did the best of all the teams who arrived on the second flight and even seemed to stop bickering for most of the episode. Of course, Kimberly did manage to complain about not being in Europe and needs a crash course in Hinduism to explain the “homeless” cows, while Rob didn’t seem to realize that “don’t drink and drive” also applies to traffic laws in India. Still, they did not mess around with the “Wild Rice” option and pretty much ran another pretty much mistake-free leg to land in third place.
Erwin & Godwin: I like the brothers and find their antics amusing, but most instances of a team trying to mess with the minds of another team have backfired. Their fake cell phone actually spurred Peter to borrow one and make a real call. In addition, while they have been working with some teams, they have been too free with their information. Better flights should be kept a secret; the time advantage can help a team avoid elimination or even come in first place during a leg. Still, the brothers abandoned the “Wild Rice” Detour choice fairly quickly and landed in the middle of the pack at the end of the leg.
Lyn & Karlyn: The single moms impressed me in their ability to somehow get around local regulations in Vietnam to join up with the Cho brothers on the flights. They were able to get on what they thought would be the fastest route to Chennai (even with the informed risk of the seating out of Dehli), and with four good ankles between them were able to secure the last available seats on the final flight leg ahead of Mary & David. They did waste some time with the “Wild Rice” Detour, but quickly abandoned it and hauled a crocodile. They finished in the back of the pack, but they didn’t really make all that many mistakes during the leg.
Tyler & James: The recovering addicts do not have the best luck in the world, as their cab driver in Chennai did not bring them to the bus station. Instead, he brought them to a bus stop. While they ended up getting to the next clue box, it was a dangerous move in more than one way. First, the bus depot would have more information about the buses, including if there were direct buses, as opposed to local buses that make lots of stops along the way. Second, the move had questionable conformity to the rules. They had to take a bus to Mamallapuram. They did, but their departure point was quite possibly closer to Mamallapuram than the depot. I suppose if the instructions said they had to take a bus from Chennai to Mamllapuram they technically complied, even if the point they boarded the bus was at the Chennai city limits. However, the picked a rotten Detour, somehow missed the instructions to wear local garb, and wasted a lot of time by completing the “Wild Rice” detour. Their position reflects their mistakes in the leg.
David & Mary: The married couple had a lousy leg, starting with not getting good information from their travel agent. While I think their decision to make an informed risk on the air travel (and somehow convinced the airline to wink at the local regulations) was a good one, they ended up getting stung and lost a half hour over most of the teams (though they still thought they had two hours on two other teams). They compounded their problem by picking the “Wild Rice” option, even when they knew they were well behind Tyler & James when it came to that particular task. David & Mary have major problems going into the next leg, and will have to think smart to make up the time and their penalty.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these other recent Amazing Race 9 articles:
Jeffrey Clinard has written about the Amazing Race since its debut season, writing over 100 articles about the show. He can be reached at Realityfeedback@bookslv.com.
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