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The Amazing Race 9: Thinking Smart in Episode 8by Jeffrey Clinard -- 04/25/2006
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Fran & Barry's stated goal was to move up just one place in the leader board during this leg. Instead, they came in first place for the first time, and actually led several times during the leg. While they are right in that they aren't as fast on their feet as some of the younger teams, what they do have is the ability to navigate from maps very well. It's their game edge – other teams keep relying on locals for instructions.
It's not to say that getting directions from locals is a bad thing. It's far better to stop and ask than drive aimlessly. Lots of teams have lost the race because they got lost. Monica & Joseph were wise to take a few moments to ask directions, even if it did cost them a first place finish. Eric & Jeremy and Ray & Yolanda both had navigation problems which potentially could have cost them the race.
The final team of BJ & Tyler did not seem to have any navigation problems, but they had something worse – terrible luck, though the luck was not of their own making. It's another case of Swedish Roulette where a luck-based roadblock put a team from the front of the pack to last place. Granted, BJ & Tyler were not eliminated due to the task like Lena & Kristy were back in The Amazing Race 6, but they lost their money and possessions. I'm going to repeat just how much I find this kind of task unfair, boring, and bad television. I don't mind the luck-based tasks if they are a detour option, because teams have a choice in the matter. However, finding one of six ovens out of 117 mounds wasn't a pleasant task to either participate in or watch.
The detour provided a choice of loading a camel onto a pickup truck and taking it to one location, or searching watch towers for a message box, then delivering it to a silver shop. Which was faster? Well, the less risky option was delivering the camel, while the watchtower option was potentially a bit faster, and had a much greater downside risk. Personally, I'd have opted to load the camel and deliver it. It didn't seem to be all that physical (no more than running and climbing watchtowers), and didn't rely on any luck to complete it quickly.
In the end, Fran & Barry came in first with a combination of luck and skill, while BJ & Tyler came in last through bad luck. However, what teams were thinking smart in episode eight?
Fran & Barry: The older couple raced quite well, booking flights and navigating from point to point with very few problems. That provided the game edge that allowed them to beat Monica & Joseph to the pit stop and take away a nice trip to Rome. Superior navigation can overcome raw physical strength in the race at times, and the grandparents are playing to their strengths.
Monica & Joseph: Despite their bickering, they ran a fairly decent leg. While they initially made a bad choice in the detour, they abandoned it and completed the camel option fairly quickly, because they were able to figure out how to read the map. This allowed them to make it to the roadblock in third place, and finish it first. If they had been able to follow a map just as well to the pit stop, they probably would have come in first place.
Ray & Yolanda: The couple has done a lot of bickering over the last few legs, and some of their communication breakdowns have cost them time. They got lost and were quite a bit behind the rest of the teams getting to the detour. Their leg got much better after that; they made a good decision on which detour option to take, had some luck on the roadblock, and navigated correctly to the pit stop, thus finishing in third place.
Eric & Jeremy: The beach bums had their worst leg yet, and it was all due to poor navigation and an intense desire to take chances to get ahead of other teams. This was demonstrated by their surging forward while the rest of the teams were paused in front of the river. They took the first chance, and made it to the detour in first place. They picked a good option, but their navigation skills suddenly eluded them as they got completely lost on the delivery. This put them in fourth place entering the roadblock. While they were the third team to complete it, they elected not to play it safe and tried what looked like a shortcut to try to gain a position instead of just being content with a safe position in the race. This cost them a lot of time, and only the horrible luck of Tyler & BJ prevented them from losing all their money and possessions. This team may have learned that coming in first isn't quite as important as staying in the race in most legs.
Tyler & BJ: This team started the leg with two different delays. They missed the first charter bus, which put them an hour behind the other teams. This led to them not being able to get on the first flight, which also set them back an hour or so. However, hours-of-operation caught up to everybody, and the hippies were in the front of the pack for the rest of the leg. They would have done much better if it hadn't been for the luck-based roadblock. However, they were smart enough to change their clothes before checking in at the pit stop, though they should have layered up a bit more.
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 email@example.com.
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