Amazing Race 4: Thinking Smart in Episode 3by Jeffrey Clinard -- 06/17/2003
With three episodes down, the teams are starting to show if they are thinking smart or not. More and more it becomes obvious some teams are doing well, and others, well, are not. Some just need to calm down
First, a word on mistakes. Almost every team will make them somewhere along the line. While in life, most people are judged by the way they handle the mistake, this race works in a different manner. In The Amazing Race, a mistake early in the leg will not cost teams as much as a mistake made in the last parts of the leg. For example, in episode 2, Kelly & Jon made mistakes at almost every part of the trip, but managed a third place finish because they didn't make a mistake in the final part of the leg. On the other hand, a late mistake was directly responsible for Cindy & Russell being eliminated. It comes down to the point that there is almost no way to sustain a time advantage in the race. Nearly every leg of the race bottlenecks the teams at least once.
This leg featured train travel to Vienna, a walk through the sewer systems, a carriage ride, a detour based on classical musicians, and a bungee jump at the roadblock. Then there was the interesting fast-forward option. To begin with, there were three different routes followed by train, and the first team to leave was the last to arrive. Why? Because they didn't focus on the main problem Ė the arrival time, not the departure time. The important thing is to arrive first, not depart first. It's a key example of knowing when minutes save hours. A few minutes researching the arrival times of the trains could save hours of actual time.
Of course, it didn't matter, because the sewers didn't open until at least 11 hours after the last team arrived in Vienna. So much for an early train advantage. The only other advantage at this stage was to be in first position at the sewers, but that ended up not meaning much when everybody was allowed into them at the same time.
I hate to repeat myself, but thinking smart tip #1 (follow instructions) came into play again at the horse-drawn carriages. It's the most basic rule of the game, and one teams still fail to follow. The instruction was to get the pass in order to claim a carriage. Some teams ignored the instructions and boarded the carriage. Surprise! They were kicked out by the teams who read the instructions correctly by grabbing the pass. It must have been frustrating for these teams that lost the carriage, but they have nobody to blame than themselves.
The detour allowed teams to either carry a bulky and heavy string bass six miles to a well-known place, or a piece of sheet music to a lesser-known place eleven miles away. When given a choice between a well-known place, or a lesser-known place, it is usually advisable to take the well-known place. The task itself showed that the ten teams who took the Mozart option (bulky object to a well-known place) over the Beethoven option (sheet music to a lesser-known place) was the smartest choice.
Should anybody have used the fast-forward in this leg of the race? Perhaps yes. The last group of carriages had lost one hour on the first group, and a half hour on the second group. This likely meant a one in four chance of being eliminated at this leg if the option wasn't used. Aside from Steve & Dave, who had already used their fast-forward, the other three teams were in a position where they were vulnerable. So it wasn't a bad idea for those teams to try and claim it to remain in the race.
In order of their arrival at the pit stop, let's see which teams were thinking smart, and which were not.
Steve & Josh. First place, via fast-forward. They took the second train, but were in the last group of carriages, which probably meant a one in four chance of elimination. So the use of the fast forward was not a bad idea at this point in the race. While they might have been able to beat out Steve & Dave, they decided not to chance it and took advantage of the fast-forward in order to guarantee themselves a good position in the race when starting the next leg. Indeed, it enabled them to get an earlier train, so they may be hours ahead of the others.
Monica & Sheree (have used fast-forward). This team is performing in high gear. They were on the first train, one of the first teams in and out of the sewers, and the only team first in the carriage to actually grab the pass, thus gaining the right to travel with it in the first group. They had the best train of all teams (except fast-forwarding Steve & Josh) to the pit stop. They came in second place, and it was well earned.
Reichen & Chip. This team did well in working with a local to get the express train into Vienna. They did, however, flunk the next test, which was getting the pass from the carriage instead of the carriage itself. While infuriating to them, it was a legal move by the other teams to kick them out because they followed the instructions correctly. They made up for it by completing the detour and roadblock quickly, and got on the first train (of those who didnít use the fast-forward) to Gmunden. Third place is their reward.
Tian & Jaree. This team left on the first train, and their words at the sewers in Vienna show they clearly are thinking smart. They stated they wanted to be first everywhere so they could gain an advantage. So they were first at the sewers, not knowing if they would have to go in as groups, or everybody would be allowed in. That's thinking smart. Next, they grabbed the pass off the carriage Jon & Kelly were on, thus being in the first group. From there on it was smooth sailing through the detour, roadblock, and getting to Gmunden.
Mille & Chuck. This team took the second train, in a manner that showed that the hours are everything in this race. Millie's asthma delayed them such that they missed the first train, a move that cost hours. They grabbed a carriage pass in the second group, and performer the detour well. However, given Millie's condition, Chuck should have performed the roadblock, if nothing else than as a safety measure. There are more important things than winning the race.
Jon & Al. While this team took the second train, the bottleneck at the sewers evened everything out. What was smart of them was to read the instructions and realize they could grab the pass and kick out another team from the carriage Ė Reichen & Chip. From there on they performed a bit under par, arriving in sixth place.
David & Jeff. This team went on the fast train, but got stuck in Vienna because they made an error of trusting another team (Reichen & Chip) to grab a carriage pass for them. They should never rely on another team's assistance like that; they should have run and tried to grab a pass themselves. That error led to them ending up in the last group of carriages, and thus at a time disadvantage. They did perform well enough after that, but they'd have done better if they had relied on themselves instead of others.
Kelly & Jon. For all their work in getting on the first train and the first carriage, they blew it by not grabbing the pass per the instructions. They were smart enough to send Jon out to grab a pass on the second group of carriages, then proceeded to make another mistake by choosing the Beethoven detour. Despite Jon's warning that the Beethoven option was probably a trap (being much further away), Kelly insisted, and admitted later they had erred. Jon showed he was thinking smart in this section of the race by trying to confirm the location of the house on a map (this is where spending a few minutes would save hours of going to the wrong locations), showing he might be the wiser of this pair. Kelly should learn to listen to him since it appears he's usually on the right side of matters.
Steve & Dave (have used fast-forward). This team started off on the wrong foot when they, despite several hours head start on the others, actually were the last to arrive in Vienna. While they talked with the locals and made the attempt to press their advantage by leaving Venice first in an attempt to keep from bottlenecking, it actually worked against them. Of course, the teams bottlenecked anyway, so their mistake was nullified to some extent, but they were only saved from elimination due to Cindy & Russell's error. To their credit, they never gave up even when it looked like curtains, but they will have to race smarter in order to avoid elimination soon.
Cindy & Russell. What went wrong? To begin with, they missed out on the first train. Still they were ahead of Steve & Dave at the time, but bottlenecked again when they were on the last group of carriages. Still, what really killed this team was not following instructions. The got tickets for the wrong city, and the clock was running while they ate sandwiches, unaware of their error. By the time they figured out where the pit stop was, they had lost any chance of staying in the race. If there is ever a next time, follow the instructions!
Jeffrey Clinard lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his cats, Lam and Princess. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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