Time is money -- and both can be gained by thinking smart in The Amazing Race. Some teams moved ahead due to smart moves. Others, such as the mother/daughter team, made some not-so-smart decisions that helped their competitors.
In the first leg of the race, the teams bunched into three groups, depending on their flight. Aggressively getting to the airport and being in the first group resulted in about 4 hours time savings over the second group, and 7 hours over the final group of teams. It reinforces my idea that air travel savings is everything; the rest is just being smart.
In the first episode, 7 teams got flights that virtually guaranteed them survival to leg #2. Of the other four teams, one was doomed. A 4- or 7-hour advantage buys time for a LOT of mistakes. In the second episode, it repeated itself for the most part. In the end, Lenny and Karyn’s early advantage made up for a LOT of their mistakes. Granted, the finished next to last, but at least they are still in the race. Even then, I think they got lucky.
Right now, I see everything as being a matter of hours or minutes. Air travel means hours. That is the BIG thing in this game. Gaining hours is worth money, time, and risk. Minutes are the local problems; solving the puzzles and completing the tasks. At this point, gaining the hours are everything.
So, how do the teams stack up. This is one man's opinion.
Pat and Brenda (Working Moms). What can I say? They won their gamble on the fast forward. They may have missed out on the fun of taking photos of wildlife in Africa, but they also avoided the grueling climb up the Eiffel Tower. I'd love to know how much time they've gained on this leg of the race; since you can only use it once, I have to wonder if the time they've bought is worth it at this point. Still, in this episode they executed everything very well, and went from fifth to first, making up the four hours they were behind the leaders, and then some. These hours could be crucial.
Joe and Bill (Life Partners; a.k.a. Team Guido). Second place in each leg of the race, and without a fast forward. That isn't luck, it's smarts. Still, even this strong team made some mistakes. Along with Frank, Margarita, Rob, and Brennan, they jumped off in their cars and wasted two hours running around in the dark looking for the museum. Granted, they didn't have the luxury of a daylight departure to ask questions, but the clue pretty much told them in was in Songwe Village. I also think ditching their alliance partners was a mistake. Any team could run into bad luck or problems (just look at poor Lenny and his efforts to locate the flag on the Arc de Triomphe); this is the kind of thing an alliance helps your avoid. Maybe they see no immediate advantage, but in the mid-game, this could be the key to elimination or survival.
Rob and Brennan (lawyers). What held for Joe and Bill regarding the Songwe Museum holds for them as well. Otherwise, the one other mistake they might have made was burning their use of the fast forward too early in the game. They do not have that option again. They are doing nicely, in third place probably not far behind Joe and Bill. I'm not counting them out by a long shot. Still, without the luxury of a future fast forward, they are vulnerable. They have not pressed their advantage, instead the squandered it. The time to ally was at JFK or on the flight. Instead they allowed Team Guido and Frank and Margarita to tailgate on their track, and have squandered their early advantage.
Frank and Margarita (Separated Parents). Again, we have the Songwe Musueum issue, and this is the team that had them running around for two hours. Despite their place in the race, I still see them as a weaker team, because of the relationship between the two. He's still pushing, and she's still getting pushed. I can't help but feel they may just crack. They are still finishing second best to the stronger teams. I'm uncertain if their early advantage on the early flight will last through the long term.
Kevin and Drew (Fraternity Brothers). I worried about them last time, because I couldn't figure out their relationship and attitudes. I also thought there were in a mental fog. I don't think so now. They climbed in rank, and are thinking straight now. I expect their position to rise in the coming weeks. They made a huge jump this week because they were focused. If they remain focused, they are a force to be feared by the other teams.
David and Margaretta (Grandparents). Their position largely stems from the initial separation of the groups in the first set of flights from New York. I believe they are gaining on the initial leaders, and are getting along well. I'm a bit worried about them due to their age, but one of them had to have climbed up the tower and had eyes sharp enough to get the clue. That says a lot about their toughness. Granted, they made an error in going for the first fast forward, but they were in a position that they could afford the risk. If, as hinted in the previews, they miss out on a vital train, they are in bad shape. Without any firm confirmation, I take that as a CBS rumor. Still, while this team has made few mistakes, I continue to worry about them.
Paul and Amie (Engaged). Ugh. Where to start with them? Their constant bickering, coupled with their ugly American attitudes, sure adds tension to the show. Right now they are surviving because there are plenty of teams that are just as bad, but don't have as good game skills. In the long term, it will all catch up to them. They are way behind, know it, and don't seem to be able to pull together as a unit. I don't expect them to last long.
Nancy and Emily (Mother/Daughter). It's funny. I like these two. It's not blinding me to the fact that they are not a strong team. It's just that their personalities and relationship is much different than any of the other teams. I've got to ask Emily this question through... why in the world did you point out the flag on the Arc de Triomphe to Lenny? If you saw it, keep your mouth shut, walk around the tower once so he doesn't know where you figured it out, and then bolt down those stairs. If he is eliminated, that's not your problem, and you buy time for the next start in any case. If you want to formally ally with them, that's one thing, but that information was a one-way street. Emily, I like you, you are a pretty young lady, but show some smarts... please! Ask Lenny for an alliance or for money, or whatever. Just don't volunteer what you discovered. For all you knew, it was a battle between you and him for avoiding elimination.
Lenny and Karyn (Dating). They got really lucky. If Emily hadn't pointed out the flag, I think Lenny would still be on the tower trying to figure it out. Given the clue, I'd have looked at the Arc de Triomphe first; it's the most famous structure in France save the Eiffel Tower. Three climbs up the Eiffel Tower was two times too many. They need to pick up their game and fast, or it's game over. They dropped from a strong position to a weak one. Listen, you had time on your side. You should have asked for help with your clue. There are NOT that many MONUMENTS in Paris. A few questions, a few francs, and you would have had an answer.
Kim and Leslie (Teachers). What went wrong? Well, almost everything. Failing to scout out the Eiffel Tower before going to the top of it was one thing. Your dispute with the cab driver was another. Finally, Emily gave Lenny and Karyn the location of the pit stop. Any of these things taken alone wouldn't have killed you, but that combo proved fatal. You had a good position and squandered it. I like you two, but you lost fair and square. It all came down to when you should risk minutes to gain hours, and when to risk hours to gain minutes. At the Eiffel Tower, you wasted hours. You should have invested a few minutes to try to find the flag at the base instead of the time your squandered to get to the top and ask questions that meant nothing. You also failed to value time against money in your dispute with your cabbie. I don't know by how long you lost... but your delay probably cost you the game.
Jeffrey Clinard is a graveyard shift computer expert working for two major Las Vegas resorts. He has a Master's degree in marketing, a job he could not be paid enough to return to. He makes use of both his intuition and logic in his occupation and in his hobbies of reading detective novels and analyzing reality TV shows.