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The Amazing Race 9: Thinking Smart in Episode 4by Jeffrey Clinard -- 03/27/2006
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Luck always plays a role in The Amazing Race, and both parts of the double leg showed several different types of luck. However, luck wasn’t the main factor that eliminated a team, or even resulted in much difference in their placements, despite several events and tasks where getting lucky could boost a team. The two last finishing teams both made a number of mistakes in both halves of the double leg. Thus, despite all the luck floating around, either Wanda & Desiree or Dani & Danielle deserved to be eliminated in the end.
The first bit of luck – good or bad, depending on your perspective – was the crash of the computer systems at the Moscow airport, which prevented all but three teams from getting tickets on an evening flight. While this put them about ten hours behind most of the other teams, and hours-of-operation ended up cutting it down. Still, the three teams that managed to make it out of Moscow were never in serious danger of elimination.
The second location where luck played a role was during the Travelocity Roaming Gnome roadblock. I didn’t really like the task, particularly since each cap or leg section was replaced, forcing each team to work the complete set of gnomes. This made it progressively harder for the trailing teams to find a gnome. It wasn’t even particularly entertaining to watch, though I can understand the deal made for prominent product placement in the show.
The third place where luck played a role was on the Break It detour option. However, this time teams had a choice in the matter – if they didn’t want to test their luck by breaking bottles over each other’s heads, they had an alternative option in Slap It. Slap It was the safer of the two options, and was probably more fun. While there is a certain appeal in breaking prop bottles over heads, the novelty probably wore off fairly quickly and the task became tedious.
Still, the leading teams were doing something right, while main of the trailing teams were doing things wrong. Which teams were thinking smart in episode 4?
Eric & Jeremy: First place in both halves of the double leg. Part of their success can be attributed to good luck, as their finding the clue in the nesting doll ended up giving them the edge to make the earliest flight out of Moscow. While they stalled out during the hours-of-operation, they were still in the front of the pack and never looked back. A bit of luck at the roadblock and detour kept them in the lead all the way to the pit stop. More importantly, they didn’t get lost or make other mistakes. Well done.
BJ & Tyler: The hippies had some luck on their side, but they also made their own luck. They took a chance by waiting by a closed window during the computer crash, perhaps figuring that because of the backup in the line due to the problems, all windows would be open when they came back on-line. It paid off as they were able to get tickets out in the evening, which moved them to the top group of teams. They raced well, without getting lost or making other mistakes. With just a little bit of extra luck, they might have come in first.
Lake & Michelle: This team actually raced quite well in this leg. With their luck from the previous leg, they were able to get tickets out of Moscow before the computer crash, and this put them in the front tier of teams in Germany. Once there, they recruited a local guide to aid them in finding a location in exchange for a five-minute trip out of their way to take him home. Given their lead on the trailing teams and the possibility of the others getting lost, it was a wise decision. They are in third place but probably have a fairly good lead over the remaining teams.
Fran & Berry: I’m so happy to finally find a team that knows how to read maps and navigate. While most other teams had to ask directions, they got a lead by having that skill. They were the first team to decide not to gamble on a luck-based task and completed the detour with only a few problems. Overall, their performance put them in first place out of all the teams with morning flights out of Moscow, and it’s all due to smart racing.
Dave & Lori: The dating couple put in a decent leg, probably spurred by their last-place finish at the end of the first half of the double leg. They’ve decided to race on their own, which is a wise decision given their experiences sharing a cab in Moscow. In the end, they did save money but learned the downside. They had a fair amount of luck in breaking the right bottle fairly quickly but took advantage of it to gain a lead.
Joseph & Monica: One of my thinking smart tips is for teams to realize that when something isn’t working out, they need to cut their losses. Joseph & Monica did exactly that when they finally abandoned the Break It task and learned how to Slap It. Perhaps one of the broken bottles knocked some sense into them and made them realize they were gambling. In any case, they made a good decision by switching and remain ahead of a few other teams.
Ray & Yolanda: One way teams think smart is when they realize they’ve made a mistake, and then fix it. While initially skeptical of Joseph & Monica’s change to the Slap It option at the detour, Ray & Yolanda decided to change as well after seeing their success. The completed it without problems and remained in the race. This team also was wise to take an extra minute and confirm they were going the right way to the detour. It may have cost them a minute, but the downside of going the wrong way is far worse.
Dani & Danielle: Which is the more foolish team, the one that gets lost or the team that follows them? Dani & Danielle made a huge mistake in following Wanda & Desiree in the wrong direction not once, but twice. This team will not do well if they can’t learn to navigate by themselves. While they had more luck than Wanda & Desiree at the roadblock, they were still nearly eliminated due to poor navigation to the pit stop. They were very lucky in both halves of the double leg, but luck can’t last forever.
Wanda & Desiree: What went wrong? Bad navigation, and worse luck. Their problems on the Autobahn put them well behind all the other teams except Dani & Danielle (who were following them). This left no room for other mistakes or to overcome bad luck. Being one of the last teams to get to the roadblock make the task much more difficult and put them even further behind most of the other teams. Even better navigation than Dani & Danielle to the pit stop wasn’t enough to keep them from finishing in last place.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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