Amazing Race 4: Thinking Smart in Episode 7by Jeffrey Clinard -- 07/14/2003
Over half the teams are gone, with Tian & Jaree being the latest to hit the mat in last place. Only five teams remain, and, of the remaining ten racers, only two of them are female. This brings up an interesting point – of the twelve teams that started, five were all-male (two of them have been eliminated, two were all-female, and five were mixed-gender. It's the first time there has been an uneven mixture of genders in the race (previous races have had the same number of all-male and all-female teams). This brings me to my next question: Is there a gender bias in the race?
The models were the latest team to be eliminated, thus ending the hopes for any all-female team to win the race for the first time. Indeed, no all-female team has done better than 5th place, which was won by Nancy & Emily in the first race. However, all-male teams have won twice (Amazing Race 1 and 2), and come in third place twice as well (Amazing Race 1 and 3). On the flip side, all female teams have been the first eliminated twice (Amazing Race 2 and 3). In fact, only four females have ever crossed the finish line; Margarita (Amazing Race 1), Tara (Amazing Race 2), Flo (Amazing Race 3), and Teri (Amazing Race 3). By contrast, no all-male team has ever been the first eliminated. So why do all-female teams tend to stumble and fall?
Amazing Race 1: Kim & Leslie (Teachers) failed to look for the flag at the Eiffel Tower, wasted a lot of time searching it from the top down, then got into an argument with their cab driver near the pit stop. Pat & Brenda (Working Moms) went to the wrong pendulum in Paris, and by the time they figured out their error, it was too late for them. Nancy & Emily (Mother / Daughter) ignored a route information instruction (either find a van, or take a bus), suffered a 24 hour time penalty, and were eliminated entirely because of it.
Amazing Race 2: Deirdre & Hillary (Mother / Daughter) were eliminated in episode one after taking the slowest flight and fell to the bottom of the pack. Peggy & Claire (the "Gutsy Grannies") were eliminated because they took a bad travel route in their leg of the race (and by all accounts were over 24 hours behind the rest of the teams). Mary & Peach (Sisters) went for a Fast Forward that had already been taken in an attempt to make up time, and just got that much further behind (they also gave up).
Amazing Race 3: Gina & Sylvia (Mothers) repeated the error of Deirdre & Hillary, getting on the slow plane and dropping to the bottom of the pack. Heather & Eve (Law School Roommates) repeated the error of Nancy & Emily by failing to follow instructions and losing due to a time penalty.
Amazing Race 4: Monica & Sheree (NFL Wives) lost because they were the last team to figure out they needed to board a bus. Tian & Jaree (Models) lost because they were in next-to-last position, and the last place, in-shape Reichen & Chip did the smartest thing possible by taking the alternative detour and hoping for the best.
In any case, there is no consistent reason why all-female teams don't do well in The Amazing Race. The other reality TV shows I watch regularly don't seem to have this gender bias. Survivor has had three male and three female winners, and even the runners-up are evenly split in gender. In three editions of The Mole, two winners have been female. Similarly, the three editions of Big Brother (U.S.) have produced two male and one female winners. If anybody has some good ideas of why The Amazing Race has this bias, I'd be interested in hearing them.
Getting back to specifically this episode, this leg featured travel around India, a messy Roadblock, a Detour choice between chickens and elephants (The Amazing Race people like elephants; they've been featured in three of the four seasons), and the Fast Forward option. The start of the leg featured travel to Panvel Station by either train or cab. The train was the better way to travel, but four teams opted to take cabs. Then on the train out of Panvel Station, five of the six teams decided to upgrade to first class at a cost of thirty-two dollars per team (Millie & Chuck were the holdouts). While this was over 40% of the funds given to the teams at the start of the leg, it might have been worth it, since it was a 25-hour ride. Teams who have economized on the trip so far could afford a small luxury (the clowns initiated the whole thing, and everything shown has demonstrated they've had great money management skills).
The Roadblock was one of the more physically demanding ones we've seen, with one member being dragged 100 yards through the mud by a couple of bulls. Since only one bull team was available, it was possible for teams to shift position during this task, and it did happen, causing Tian & Jaree to slip. It was a contributing factor to their loss, but not the only one. It's worth noting that every other team selected a male to take the trip through the mud – and none of them slipped. It's also the only Detour I've ever seen where the task was revealed to the teams beforehand. How is this? Well, the producers ADVERTISED it. The billboard on National Highway 47 clearly stated "GO HERE" with a picture of the bulls pulling a man. However, none of the teams were shown to have actually bothered to read the billboard, which would have been thinking smart.
The Detour featured a delivery, either by elephant or by bicycle. Which one was faster? Well, it largely depends on the condition of the team. An in-shape team was probably better off delivering the chickens via bicycle (baskets); an out-of-shape team should definitely have delivered the fabric via elephant (trunks). As far as the Fast Forward, no team elected to use it in this episode, which was wise considering that Tian & Jaree, who had already used theirs, finished last. Reichen & Chip, who were in last place for much of the leg, should have considered it, but they won their gamble.
So, in order of their finish, which teams were thinking smart in episode seven?
David & Jeff. First place for the second leg in a row, winning another cruise. True, they did take a cab all the way to Panvel Station, but the teams that didn't spent the money on a hotel room, so maybe it all evens out (though given the choice, I'd select well-rested over arriving to the train station first, particularly since everybody bottlenecked at train departure time). They took off for National Highway 47 and never looked back. They might have improved their time a bit if they had picked "baskets" over "trunks" (and saved themselves some wear and tear on the male anatomy), but it's hard to argue with first place.
Jon & Al. The teams started off right by asking their cab driver about the options for getting to Panvel Station. They opted for the train option, going from Victoria Station to Panvel. While the last team to arrive there, it made absolutely no difference in the race, since the departure time of the train from Panvel was the same whether you were there ten hours or ten minutes before it left. Could they have come in first place? Maybe. If they had selected "baskets" over "trunks," they might have beaten David & Jeff to the pit stop and won the cruise. However, the elephant ride was a fairly safe choice, since it was clear other teams were selecting it, and there was always the chance the other option might have been a trap. Second place is excellent at this stage of the race.
Kelly & Jon. They, like the clowns, spent their first several hours of the race resting in a hotel and taking the train out of Victoria Station to Panvel. They raced steadily after that, and managed to pass Tian & Jaree at the Roadblock. The only place they really made a mistake was during the elephant ride, where they navigated incorrectly. It didn't affect their position in the race, but it cost them time. This was a mistake they can't afford to make on future legs. We also learned from Kelly that elephants aren't just hard on the male anatomy.
Millie & Chuck (have used Fast Forward). Like most of the rest of the teams, they grabbed a cab all the way to Panvel Station instead of taking the train. On a dollars and cents basis, this wasn't the right choice, but it didn't end up making any difference in the race. They had bad luck with their cab, first running low on gas and being overtaken while they refueled, then having the cab overheat. One of these was preventable (see Reichen & Chip, below), the other was just one of those things. They did pick up the pace going through the Roadblock, and didn't make the mistake Tian & Jaree did with their Detour task. If things went a bit differently, they might be a few positions higher – or they might have been eliminated. Equal amounts of bad luck and mistakes by other teams balanced out, and they finished in the middle of the pack.
Reichen & Chip. While this team had the right idea at the start by getting information from the hotel concierge, they proceeded to take a 90-minute cab ride to Panvel Station, instead of the more economical train. They had the right idea before starting on National Highway 47, finding a cab that had enough gas, but they spent way too much time doing so – and their cab ended up running low anyway! This put them in last place, something they never recovered from until the very end of the leg. Where this team really excelled was in their detour choice. They were the only team to pick the bicycle / chicken (baskets) delivery option, and that was largely because they had no choice. Simply put, there was no way they could catch up to Tian & Jaree (or Millie & Chuck) if they selected elephants, so with nothing to lose, they took the bicycle route. Given their physical condition, it was the smart choice, but one they almost blew anyway by failing to navigate correctly. It took some luck, but they were able to squeeze in ahead of the models and are still in the race.
Tian & Jaree. What went wrong? Well, a lot of little things conspired to produce a loss at the end. They were the only team to stumble at the Roadblock, which cost them time and position, dropping behind Jon & Kelly. Then at the Detour, they failed to follow instructions and forgot to put the fabric on the elephant before boarding. That caused another delay and another loss of position, this time to Millie & Chuck. After that, they ended up in sight of Reichen & Chip when they were leaving the Detour via elephant. If the married couple hadn't seen them, they might have picked the elephant option as well and been eliminated. What we ended up with was a combination of factors, each seemingly minor at the time, but in total, enough for elimination. Any number of small changes in their racing might have prevented their loss.
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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