Amazing Race 4: Thinking Smart in Episode 2by Jeffrey Clinard -- 06/07/2003
In week 2, teams traveled down ski runs on rafts (or without them in one case), via train to Venice, where the race's next checkpoint was. There were several route information envelopes, a detour, a roadblock, and, of course, the fast forward option. Let's examine these options before looking at each team.
To begin with, Thinking Smart means understanding the race. The producers always want it to be close, so they will deliberately put bottlenecks in the race, causing everybody to "catch up" and thus even out the playing field again. The trouble for the teams is, they never know exactly when it will happen. It's what makes using the fast forward early a mistake, unless teams think it will be the difference between keeping them in the race or being eliminated.
Getting to the race, first teams needed to travel to the bottom of a ski jump and take the van with the snow raft up to the top, then take it down the jump to get to the next route information box. Seems simple enough, but one team didn't bother to read their instructions clearly (Thinking Smart Tip #1), and took their cab to the top of the hill.
From there, teams needed to get to Venice. According to the instructions, teams could not use air transport. That paved the way for Thinking Smart Tip #2, looking for loopholes. While Phil's voiceover stated they needed to board one of two trains, it was up to the teams to figure out the fastest way to get to their destination in Venice. Nine teams took the fast train. While it can be said they lucked into it, chance does favor the prepared mind, and nine teams were in a position to take advantage of it.
The detour was to get to the same route information box by one of two ways - over water or over land. The difference is that people on the street were allowed to ask for help in finding it, whereas the gondola route prohibited such help, forcing the teams to rely on their own navigation skills to get there. Here I'd have to say, when in doubt, go via the path that allows you to get help. The few teams that took the land route got to the box faster. Interestingly, when the lead gondola took the wrong turn, everybody followed! It ended up nearly reversing the order in which the gondola riders got to the route information box!
Next, there was the roadblock. It's the kind of task that is making me consider rewriting Thinking Smart Tip #13, which indicates that the tasks are almost irrelevant. The tasks are getting harder to complete in each new edition, and this roadblock was proof positive that some of the tasks are going to separate the teams. Indeed, this one was designed so that no team could help each other (four teams at a time, each with a different mask to find) . Some teams had an awful time completing this roadblock, some by failing it outright a few times, others taking forever to match the photograph with the right mask. However, there is a another part of this tip which came into play, which indicates that finding the checkpoint is usually the bigger problem. In this case, finding it was one thing, but more importantly, some teams which found it went ahead and abandoned it to go sightseeing. Despite the title of the episode ("It doesn't say first come, first served. And we're bigger."), here it was indeed first come, first served. This ended up shuffling the order in which teams were allowed into the party, providing those who stayed until opening an advantage over those who went sightseeing instead. We'll have to wait and see if this experience didn't teach a few teams a little lesson.
Finally, there are the little things, such as arranging for a taxi to be around when teams leave a checkpoint, or having one stick around while they complete a task. It seems minor, but it is the real difference between a smart team and the rest of the pack.
So, in order of their finish, which teams were thinking smart in episode two?
Steve & Dave. This team used the fast forward in this leg of the race. Was this Thinking Smart or not? Well, maybe. Everything bottlenecked, and they assumed they wouldn't be able to keep up with the other teams, particularly given the injury they suffered in the last leg of the race. So perhaps they felt it would be the difference between being eliminated and staying in the race. However, all things considered, it would have been to their advantage to have waited and used it later. They had some time advantage over two other teams, and if they had gotten and stayed in line at the party roadblock, they'd have remained in the race and kept that option open. They probably have six hours of time advantage over second place (other teams indicated they had six hours to kill before the roadblock opened), and should hope they don't have bottlenecks in the next leg of the race.
Reichen & Chip. This team jumped from near the bottom to second place, all without a fast forward. Why? Because this team understands lines. They got in the line at the roadblock, and stayed in it. Ironic, isn't it, since they were the ones willing to line jump earlier in the day. They were third in, but first out, because Chip was able to stop the right person, make a good comparison, and get the sealed envelope. While this team has no allies, they are showing they have good racing skills. Perhaps there is good reason for the other teams to want them eliminated.
Kelly & Jon. How did a team that made so many mistakes end up in third place? To begin with, their cab brought them to the top of the ski jump instead of the bottom. Though they did risk injury, they ended up taking the fastest way down from that mistake - becoming human snow rafts themselves. I have to wonder... how did their camera crew get down the slope? Next, they took a bus to the train station. Why? Because they had spent too much money already. Thinking Smart Tip #7 tells teams to spend money wisely. This means faster transport, not luxuries. It didn't cost them this time, but since teams can't see the future, but it might in future legs. So they ended up on the slow train. Next, they chose pathway over waterway, but failed to take advantage of the key reason for choosing that path - asking for assistance in getting to the route box. So they ended up in last place at that particular position. However, by staying in line, they jumped position, being the seventh team into the party and the fifth to get the envelope. This team is making mistakes, but they didn't make the biggest mistake of all in this episode, and ended up in a good position.
Tian & Jaree. There is something I should have mentioned last time, and should be kept in mind for future racers. Pack light. This team is carrying way too much stuff. The models don't need to look good in the race (unless they are using it as a springboard for future employment), they need to race quickly. Now, this team also got the slow train because they were the only ones whose position leaving the checkpoint prohibited them from catching the bus that took them to the fast train (Kelly and Jon also missed this bus, but in their case it was because they took the bus to the train depot instead of a cab). They did beat their slow-train companions Kelly and Jon to the route information box in Venice, and were in the middle of the pack when it came to getting into the party. Obviously, they picked the right person (Tian) to complete the roadblock, the third person to do so. They just might be a better team than most people realize.
Dave & Jeff. This team raced fairly well in this leg, earning a fourth-place finish. Part of this was because they were toward the front of the line, and Jeff was the fifth person to enter the party. This provided the time advantage they got over the other teams. Jeff was the fourth person to leave the party with a sealed envelope, and actually got to the checkpoint in front of the team that exited in the second position. This team has shown definite improvement over their performance in the first leg of the race.
Jon & Al. Not staying in line hurt this team. While they had the fast train, they did complete the detour via gondola. They had good reason to display unhappy faces in this episode; despite the fast train, Al was dead last in getting into the party. Al did get out in the eight position. However, they beat out two teams (Russell & Cindy; Steve & Josh) that had left the party earlier, and that says something for their racing skills. Not staying in line is a mistake they are unlikely to repeat.
Russell & Cindy. Okay, let's start. They left the checkpoint and wandered around in the dark before finding the snow raft task. Next, Cindy seems more interested in winning over Russell than winning the race. Perhaps that's why he's asking other teams for help instead of her? To their credit, Russell was first into the party roadblock, but this team did end up in the bottom tier of racers. Why? Despite being the second to have a photo accepted, they wandered around without a clue as to how to get to the pit stop.
Mille & Chuck. Despite being the first to the Venice route information, Mille was the ninth person to enter the party. She was also the ninth person to leave the party. Along the way, they managed to beat out Steve & Josh to the pit stop, but their position in entering was a mistake they shouldn't make again; it might eliminate them next time. According to them, the three things to keep in mind during the race are: "Number one, trust God; number two, don't be last; and number three, hustle every second we can to make a difference." I might had a number four - don't abandon your position in line.
Steve & Josh. They are next to last, despite Josh being the fourth person into the party. Why? Probably because they failed to pick the right person to send into the party. Josh admitted that much when he entered the room. He was the first to hand over his photograph... to the incorrect person. This sent him back to the rear of the line, a move directly responsible for their poor finish in this leg of the race. The second time around, Josh did quickly find the right mask, being the sixth to complete the roadblock. However, problems finding the pit stop caused this team to drop in position in the race. This team is weakening, and needs to do better in the future.
Monica & Sheree (have used fast forward). What happened to this team? Despite the fast train, a good gondola ride, and being the second to enter the party, they were nearly eliminated. The simple reason is that, despite doing well at racing, the roadblock ended up being a real killer for Monica. While it is to her credit she found the right mask on her first try, it took her forever to complete the task, exiting the party in the tenth position. This team promised not to second guess themselves about their early use of the fast forward, but I'd be surprised if they aren't wishing they hadn't used it now.
Amanda & Chris. What went wrong? Well, it came down to two things. First, Chris was among the last (#8) to enter the party roadblock. He compounded his problem by jumping the gun twice with matching the masks. It was a classic example of knowing when minutes save hours (Thinking Smart Tip #3). Handing off the photo to the wrong person wasted time, sending him to the back of the line twice, and being the last person to complete the roadblock. It was enough to put this team out of competition, despite their tie for first place in the previous leg of the race.
Jeffrey Clinard lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his cats, Lam and Princess. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to sign up for our e-mail update so you can stay informed about new articles on the site! And take a look at the rest of the site. You can find all of our recent Amazing Race articles at the Amazing Race 4 page and take a look at our sections on Fame and The Osbournes. You can even buy reality show stuff at our Reality TV Store!
For more news about The Amazing Race, be sure to check out SirLinksALot!