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The Amazing Race 8 (Family Edition): Thinking Smart in Episode 5by Jeffrey Clinard -- 11/01/05
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The teams have finally left the United States, had the option of the only fast forward on the entire race, and encountered a non-elimination checkpoint. I originally thought the penalty for coming in last place in a non-elimination leg would be relaxed for the family edition, but it seems that there are no longer any free rides on the race.
The Godlewski sisters did prepare for the possibility of a non-elimination leg and bundled up before meeting Phil on the mat. They lost their money and what was left of their baggage, but are still in the race. I think they’ll come out of it OK in the end, though I’m already getting images of the four of them tramping through Central America carting around bags with their clothes. Heck, maybe they’ll just look like they went shopping.
The detour provided a choice between “Rhythm,” where teams located four different instruments at four different locations and gave them to a bandleader, or “Coos,” where teams used binoculars to located replicas of tropical birds and identify them on a field guide. The tasks were fairly balanced, though “Coos” turned out to be the faster option, particularly if teams paid attention in describing the birds to the other team members. However, the roadblock, getting a hit or a home run off of a championship Panamanian little league team, took it’s toll on Sharon Godlewski. I don’t think she was necessarily the wrong person for the task, but she struggled with it, and it allowed the Gaghan family to overtake them.
The Godlewski and Linz families teamed up to complete the detour, and for some reason, to “Get these Florida people (the Weaver family) out of here.” However, the trouble is that there are few practical ways for any team to get rid of another. The Yield remains the only game mechanic where a team can slow another one down. A few times teams have found faster transport and allocated the available seats (Colin and Christie in Amazing Race 5), and others refused to aid broke teams (something tells me the Weavers wouldn’t be getting any handouts if they had finished last) but otherwise teams have to focus on their own race. If anybody has any practical ideas on how teams can conspire to eliminate another one, I’d love to hear them, and I’ll put the best ideas in a future column.
Finally, there is the Fast Forward. It was the only one in the race, and with the limited number of Fast Forwards since Amazing Race 5, it’s really become a matter of the first team to get the clue should go for it. Both the Gaghan and Paolo family chased it, and one team got it, but the other team got away with the loss of it. I don't think it was so much superior racing as getting a lucky break at the roadblock though – with the detour tasks so balanced it wasn't a matter of figuring out the faster one. Most fast forwards since Amazing Race 5 have been on non-elimination legs (both in Amazing Race 5, one in Amazing Race 6, and one in Amazing Race 7).
In a leg where teams went to the Panama to play baseball and visit the canal, which teams were thinking smart in episode five?
Paolo Family: They may have fought, bickered, and had their emotional moments, but they ran their best leg of the race so far. They made the first plane to Panama, and had an excellent position to take advantage of the fast forward. DJ was able to put aside his fear of heights long enough to bungee jump, and the family earned their first place win. Well done.
Weaver Family: The other teams don't like them, and I think part of the reason is because the Weavers are one of the best racing teams in this race. They have the highest average rank so far, and if it all comes down to negative comments shared between teams, they seem to be giving as good as they gave. In addition, this team isn't getting involved in alliances, which is smart, as it means they are focusing on their own game. In this leg, their later flight turned out to be irrelevant when the teams bunched together waiting for the hours-of-operation, and while they had a bit of trouble overshooting their dock, they went for the faster detour. This gave Rolly a little extra time to get a hit, and sent them to the finish line ahead of all teams except the fast forwarding Paolos.
Bransen Family: Well, while teams aren't getting any free rides on the non-elimination legs, a local managed to get a free ride to work courtesy of the Bransen family. While I think they were right to try to get a local guide to help them, it backfired. In any case, they did complete the detour and roadblock quickly, and placed well once again.
Linz Family: The Linz siblings ran a fairly decent leg, though they got into the whole “get rid of the Weavers” mentality, which is a strategic mistake. The managed to get on the first flight and worked with the Godlewski sisters during the detour, but that option turned out to be the slower one. However, I don't think they are too far behind the leaders, and are still one of the more competitive teams.
Gaghan Family: I feel one of the fundamental problems with this family is that they are relying more on their legs than their brains. They made a nice dash to the ticket counter for the second flight (and were prepared for it, given the teams and possibility of running out of tickets), but otherwise they just didn't think smart. They had problems with their boat driver, but didn't use the best trick for getting him to speed up and resist taking other passengers – a small bribe. They chased the fast forward and waited it out on top of the crane. If they were going to wait it out, they should have waited at the bottom, where once the Paolo family completed it, they would have saved some time going back down. They took and completed the slower detour option, and only stayed out of last place due to some good luck in the roadblock. The team has had luck, but it won't last forever, and it time for them to assess exactly what they are doing wrong to get this string of next to last placements.
Godlewski Family: The Godlewski sisters did not run as bad a leg as their placement indicates. While they made the second fight, they caught up while waiting for the attraction to open, and were the only team to be shown using money to encourage their pilot. They worked with the Linz family at the detour, though they took the slower option. What the leg came down to was a roadblock that Sharon had difficultly with. I don't know if any of her sisters could have done better, but they lost the leg on that task. Fortunately, they had the foresight to prepare for a non-elimination leg, dressing in as many items as they could before reaching the mat. They did a good job of salvaging a bad situation, which is always thinking smart.
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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