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The Amazing Race 8 (Family Edition): Thinking Smart in Episode 10by Jeffrey Clinard -- 12/13/05
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Over the course of the season, I’ve felt that there has been something missing from this edition of the race. It’s not the teams - they are as varied and amusing as any the race has had. It’s not the locations; there are plenty of interesting locations in the United States. It’s not the tasks; they have been varied and interesting for the most part.
As I see it, the real problem with this edition has been the large number of legs where the teams drive themselves from place to place. Legs like those tend to be less interesting as there are fewer ways for teams to catch up and pass other teams due to superior racing. In the last episode, the Godlewski sisters got behind at the detour, and that was pretty much it for them. It’s hard to make up the ground when everybody is driving themselves from point to point.
The primary purpose for the drive-yourself legs through the United States has been to isolate the teams from the general public. The reflecting pool in Washington D.C. is the only U.S. location where teams had any kind of extended contact with the general public, and that was in the second leg where almost all the teams were still in the race. Every other location has had a very limited number of people the teams came in contact with. Sometimes it was due to the nature of the location, such as the Utah tree. Sometimes it was because the attraction was visited outside of normal operating hours, such as the Space Museum (where the producers ensured the arrival time was after hours, due to the use of charter buses). At Yellowstone, the teams were guided to Old Faithful by a firefighter. He served more of a purpose than to hand them a clue; he was also keeping them away from the other tourists.
The isolation factor has also shown up in the sleeping accommodations which have been provided for the teams while they are in the United States. First it was tents, where teams were required to camp overnight at controlled locations. Then there was the night in the trailer home dealership, which again kept them away from the public. At this time, the teams have trailers, eliminating the need for them to mix with the public at a motel.
There aren’t any easy answers to the problem of keeping the teams somewhat isolated from the public while traveling in the United States, yet still providing ways for teams to catch up and pass other teams by making smart racing decisions. My own best answer is to reverse the usual order of the roadblock and the detours in each leg. With the detour at the end of the leg, it always opens up the possibility that a team can gain ground by making a better choice than some of the other teams. This has occurred in few editions, such as Amazing Race 4 when Reichen and Chip delivered chickens instead of riding elephants, and Amazing Race 7 when Brian and Gregg decided to fill the eggs with water. In both cases, they arrived at the detour in last place, but by taking the opposite choice of the other teams, managed to pass another team and stay in the race. Another way to provide a final detour option that blurs the order in which teams are racing is a long route via motorized vehicle, or a short route via human or animal power.
Of course, if the producers want to be clever, they might consider sending out a number of “decoy” teams which would serve as a smokescreen to conceal when the real teams arrive and leave. With decoy teams closing resembling eliminated teams (in terms of age, ethnicity, and composition), it might provide a different kind of race secrecy, through disinformation instead of an attempt to control the information.
The second half of this week’s double leg had a detour choice of “Pioneer Spirit” or “Native Tradition” where teams had to either put up a tepee or put together and ride on a horse-drawn wagon. “Pioneer Spirit” proved to be the faster option, with the Bransen and Linz families gaining ground on the Weaver and Godlewski sisters as a result. The roadblock was a fairly straightforward task of finding golf balls on a course, with the main trick being that teams needed to look in the holes as well as the fairways and greens.
All three teams have done an excellent job racing all season, and earned their chance at the run for the million dollars. To win it all, they'll need to thinking smart in the final legs, making the right choices for their team, and worrying about their own race rather than that of the others. Looking back, which teams were thinking smart in episode 10?
Bransen Family: The Bransen family ran a mistake-free leg, picking the faster detour option, which put them in second place after the Linz family. They were then able to pass them with a mistake-free roadblock, as they realized the holes needed to be checked. It put them in the lead and earned them another first place finish. To win the race, they need to keep up this kind of racing. Well done.
Linz Family: The Linz family has a long history of running good legs with a single minor mistake which results in the loss of a first place position. While they do have one under their belt, the tradition continued in this leg, as they didn’t initially think to check the holes of the golf course during the roadblock. Otherwise, they ran a good leg, making a good detour choice and leading for the first several segments. To win, they’ll need to stop making the kind of minor errors that have plagued them since the beginning.
Weaver Family: The Weaver family dropped position due to their pick at the detour, which resulted in a loss of time compared to the two leading teams. However, they did finish before the Godlewski sisters, and maintained their position (despite nearly getting a ticket), which has put them in the finals. One reason this team has done well is that they have an excellent understanding of both their team strength and the strength of their individual members. All them members have completed roadblocks on their own (including three by 14-year-old Rolly), and they have generally made good choices at detours. To win, they’ll need to rely on that ability.
Godlewski Family: What went wrong? For the most part, they picked the slower detour option and had a harder time completing it than the Weaver family did. This put them at a time disadvantage which they were never able to make up. They ended up being a much better team than I expected, and ran a good race, but it just wasn’t good enough to put them into the finals.
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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