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The Amazing Race 8 (Family Edition): Thinking Smart in Episode 4by Jeffrey Clinard -- 10/21/05
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During the fourth leg of the race, Stassi Schroeder repeatedly talked about how one minute could make the biggest difference in the race. However, while it’s always good to gain minutes, spending the minutes wisely can often lead to a better position in the race. Knowing which minutes are important is one of the keys to the race.
The Schroeder family lost the race partly because they did not understand how to use minutes well. Despite being told by a local police officer, Mark and Char decided that the Southern Colonel wouldn’t be a mobile home sales center. When they finally recovered from that mistake, they made an additional one - and so did the Gaghan and Weaver families.
Of course, this mistake was grabbing departure times without checking other mobile homes for better times. It’s happened before on the race, most notably in Amazing Race 7 where teams were frantically digging through sand piles for the last departure time. In this case, the Weavers, Gaghans, and Schroeders all put themselves at a 20 minute time disadvantage, and made it very likely one of them would be eliminated. It drives me out of my mind when I see teams make fundamental mistakes like this. There isn’t any excuse for it either; the worst that can happen is that a team ends up in the last group anyway. The only person I’m giving a pass on for this is Stassi Schroeder, who wanted to keep looking, but was overruled by Mark and Char.
Another way taking a few minutes can save time is during navigation segments. The Gaghan family plotted out a better route to Anniston, Alabama and saved about 30 minutes’ time (thanks to reader Bert from Huntsville for that data). The Schroeders, for whatever reason, didn’t take the time to consult their map and ended up losing a lot of valuable time on the trip to New Orleans by not taking 55. One team gained time; another lost time.
There was no Roadblock shown in this episode. Outside of the first episode of each race, only once before has an episode not had one aired, during Amazing Race 5, when Colin decided to risk jail over a $50 dispute with his cab driver. The Detour provided the choice of “Work” (cutting lumber) or “Play” (playing blackjack). Which was faster? Well, overall the “Work” option seemed to be faster, with the Paolo family arriving at the park in third place, and leaving in first place. However, part of the reason teams had some problems with “Play” was because they weren’t thinking smart in their approach.
The “Play” option is one of the detour tasks that I put into the category of gambling. They offer a chance at a faster completion time if the team gets lucky. I usually only suggest gambling if a team is trailing and desperate, or if it provides a way to bypass a long time for the other detour option. Still, the reason the task became frustrating for several teams (causing two teams to abandon it) was because players were playing blackjack as individuals instead of as a team. The quickest way for all four players to beat the dealer was for the dealer to bust. It makes the players hands totally irrelevant. The time spent trying to improve each individual’s hand was wasted; what was more important was for the dealer to bust. Thus, after the cards were dealt, each family member should have declined additional cards, and simply let the dealer play out his. If he did, great, if not, it’s time for the next hand, and it’s a quick loss of the hand. No team won a single point due to all four team members having better hands; all points were won on the dealer busting.
Finally, as in many races, there is a team none of the others seem to like much. No team seems to like the Weavers much, though I’ve only gotten hints about why through the Schroeder interview on The Finish Line. Well, nobody has to like a team, but there is very little that a team can do about another one. Since I started out this article with talk about how Stassi Schroeder was right about the minutes, I’ll close by saying she was dead wrong in worrying so much about the Weavers, even complaining that they (gasp) were departing at the same time. Teams should concentrate on themselves, not the other teams.
In a leg that spanned Alabama to New Orleans, why did teams end up in the order they did? Which teams were thinking smart?
Bransen Family: First place, yet again. Simply put, they did pretty much everything well and quickly, from riding the Partybike to finding the Southern Colonel and locating the best departure time. They lost a bit of ground during the detour, but they had some luck on their side and made up the time with a good dash to the pit stop. Well done!
Paolo Family: This team dramatically improved their position through the mistakes of other teams, coupled with some good choices of their own. While they trailed for a good portion of the race, they ended up with the second departure time by default - three teams jumped the gun on it and they benefited. They made an attempt to hide their success at finding the right gas station from the Godlewski sisters which almost worked, then picked the faster detour option. If they had been a bit quicker in the French Quarter, they might have won the leg.
Linz Family: The Linz family continues to race fairly well. They were among the leaders for most of the race, and secured one of the first departure times at the Southern Colonel dealership. Where they ran into trouble was at the detour. They picked the “Play” option at first, but because they didn’t understand the right strategy for it, they had problems. Finally they abandoned the task and changed to “Work.” They did a good job of it, but by that point they had dropped a few ranks on the leader board. Still, this team has done remarkably well since their disastrous first leg.
Godlewski Family: This team maintained their fourth place rank, but had a few bumps along the way. They ran a good first half of the leg, getting to the office chair and riding the Partybike without any problems. They used the internet to locate the Southern Colonel, and were the last team to make a good choice about which time to take. The team did make one small mistake in overshooting the British Petroleum gas station. Simply because they couldn’t see the numbers on it wasn’t an excuse - they should have been noting the addresses of other buildings and known they were getting close. However, they recovered, did a good job with the detour, and finished in the same order they left. Overall, they ran a good leg.
Weaver Family: The Weavers had a traumatic leg, revisiting their group nightmare in the form of race museums and the speedway. It was a bad part of the leg for them, though they decided to get through it as quickly as possible. However, they did not search for the better departure time, and lost time due to it. They were also lucky at blackjack, winning quickly though they did not employ the optimal strategy. Bad choices but good luck kept them out of the basement of this leg.
Gaghan Family: The Gaghans came in next-to-last for the second time in a row, largely because they were not thinking smart. While they did some excellent route planning to take the faster route to Anniston, they had a very sub par performance after that. They didn’t search for a better departure time, and had absolutely no idea what the best strategy was for winning the “Play” detour option. It cost them time, and if the Schroeder family hadn’t made even biggest mistakes, they would have been eliminated. They simply must be smarter if they are going to last in the race.
Schroeder Family: What went wrong? Pretty much everything. I’ve already noted how Mark and Char discounted the notion that the Southern Colonel could be a mobile home sales center (and lost four and a half hours in the process), and how they threw away 20 minutes by not searching for a better time once they arrived. They also made a big navigation mistake which put them in last place going into the detour. However, I think they made the right choice in the Detour. They were in last place, and a whole leg full of bad decisions led to their own elimination.
Jeffrey Clinard has been writing about The Amazing Race since the first edition, writing over 80 articles about it for RealityNewsOnline since it’s premier season. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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