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The Amazing Race 9: Thinking Smart in Episode 7by Jeffrey Clinard -- 04/14/2006
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Every season when I draw up my “Thinking Smart Before the Race” column, I go through and make some additions, deletions, and changes to reflect the previous season and anything that emerges as a trend. However, I've never had a single thought about changing the number one thinking smart tip – follow the instructions. Inevitably, a team fails to do it and pays a price for it.
In this episode, three teams failed to follow the instructions; Lake & Michelle, BJ & Tyler, and Ray & Yolanda. All of them got off at the wrong train stop and elected to take a bus to the correct train station instead of getting on board the next train. This cost Ray & Yolanda position in the race, while both they and BJ & Tyler lost an additional 15 minutes. Frankly, they were lucky to only get that much of a time penalty – usually it's 30 minutes, plus time saved. However, there are indications they really didn't save much time at all as the two teams on the second train (Fran & Barry, Joseph & Monica) caught up to them on the roadblock. Essentially, they squandered a pretty good lead.
Another point I keep trying to make is how the tasks, while interesting, usually do not determine which team is eliminated. Traveling by the fastest method and navigating correctly are two essential keys to smart racing. Two teams made some serious navigation errors, leading Lake & Michelle to elimination, and sending BJ & Tyler way back to the end of the pack. This is why another of my thinking smart tips is to get along with the locals. They can provide information as to where race locations are, and the best way to get there.
The first fast forward came into play, with three teams attempting to go for it. Eric & Jeremy's luck continued to hold as they got the right plate, winning the both the fast forward, first place, and tickets to the red carpet for The Da Vinci Code. The other two teams that went for it (Fran & Barry and Joseph & Monica) ended up losing their chance at the first train out. Ordinarily this would mean one of them would have been eliminated, but both teams pretty much ran a mistake free leg after that, while all the others had their set of problems. As I've said before, mistakes made at the beginning of the leg are much easier to recover from than mistakes made at the end of the leg.
The detour options of “Herculean Effort” or “It's All Greek to Me” was one where teams needed to examine their strengths as a team, and make the choice accordingly. The more athletic teams were better served with the “Herculean Effort” option, while less physical and/or brainier teams should have gone for the “It's All Greek to Me” choice. Really smart teams would have started scratching off the names off all the cities that did not have nine letters, and then strike out ones that had an incorrect letter.
In the end, another team was eliminated because of navigation problems, which is an essential part of racing. Indeed, most teams ended up in an order which more or less reflected the severity of their mistakes in this leg. Which teams were thinking smart in episode 7?
Eric & Jeremy: First place, and due to... well, luck. They made the choice to go for the fast forward, and their incredible lucky streak on the race continues to hold up. Still, even with the fast forward advantage they managed to navigate correctly and reach the pit stop first. They had the cracked code and won a nice prize, plus they have a pretty good lead going into the next episode. They may have had a lot of luck, but they are racing very well.
Monica & Joseph: The couple pretty much ran a mistake free leg, and ended up in second place because of it. Being first to the clue box which contained the fast forward put them in the best position to try to get it. However, despite a head start on the task, they lost out to Eric & Jeremy's luck. Despite their problems getting to the train station, they wisely took advantage of a local's suggestion to take a bus. Overall, they put in good solid racing, which when combined with the mistakes of other teams, put them in second place.
Ray & Yolanda: The dating couple put in one of their strongest legs in the race so far, but like two other teams, they failed to get off at the right train station and violated a race rule. That meant despite making the right detour choice and good navigation to the pit stop, they had to wait out a 15 minute penalty and watch another team pass them. Still, their racing has improved quite a bit.
Fran & Barry: The married couple raced fairly well, though they were not without their share of mistakes. One error was going for the fast forward. Three other teams had beaten them to the clue box, and by their own admission they are not as fast on their feet as most of the remaining teams. They should have taken that into account when making their decision to go for it. It ended up costing them time when they got onto the second train out, and they were dead last at the roadblock. However, they have one of the keys to the race – they can navigate well (yes, I know the statement is ironic given that they managed to crash their vehicle into a tree and break their rear window in the process.) They made a good choice at the detour and ended up in fourth place.
BJ & Tyler: This was definitely the hippies’ worst leg of the race. They made two big mistakes, the first being their error in getting off the train, and the second, even worse one, of driving for an hour in the wrong direction. Very few teams have ever gotten away with a navigation error of that magnitude. Even though they avoided elimination, they are probably a few hours behind Fran & Barry. They need to hope for an equalizer in the next leg, or a non-elimination leg if they want to remain in the race.
Lake & Michelle: What went wrong? In a nutshell, poor navigation. Given BJ & Tyler's navigation error, something must have gone seriously wrong with the married couple in their attempt to get from the detour to the pit stop. It was only seven miles away, and they should have had a time cushion, but it seems like they had a total breakdown in communication with each other and anybody who could have helped them. Any team that has that many problems in such as short distance deserves to be eliminated.
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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