Commentary

Racer Mechanics: From Budapest, Hungary to La Pietra, Corsica, France to Lalibela Lookout, Ethiopia

For the last few weeks, with the sixth, seventh, and eighth legs, The Amazing Race has mostly treaded water around Europe, where the Race was often marked by tasks that were often less than interesting (except maybe for the Speedo TM display during the water polo detour in Hungary), a slow, water torture-like elimination of two teams, and the completion of TAR’s first ever überleg. Then the Race picked up speed in the last few legs, going to Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea and on to eastern Africa. The season’s two fast forwards showed up, as two teams that had been trailing decided it was advantageous to use them, but one of those teams also decided upon a more questionable use of the second of the Race’s three Yields.
However, they continued to have problems with following the directions in the clues.
Lori and Bolo (average placement 2.00, 4.25 overall) — After being in the lower group from the beginning of the Race, and seemingly on the verge of elimination at the mid-point of the überleg, Lori and Bolo began to show some better racing skills. Bolo applied a principle best shown by Colin in season five (to keep checking for a faster or earlier transportation alternative) and found a train that came through Eger to Budapest in the middle of the night; as a result they obtained the e-mail clue and caught up with the other teams. As a result, Lori and Bolo were able to take advantage of the first of two Fast Fowards in this Race, and completed the Budapest leg in first place. However, they continued to have problems with following the directions in the clues. Whether they can continue to be competitive remained to be seen.

Kris and Jon (average placement 3.00; 2.37 overall) — While Kris and Jon struggled a little because of occasional transportation difficulties (and perhaps, due to poor information from well-meaning locals), they continued to show that they were enjoying the Race. They also demonstrated their ability to complete most tasks more quickly than the other teams, which, with the ever present bunching, allowed them to make up for earlier difficulties, such as in the water polo exercise in Budapest, and in the Raise the Roof detour in Ethiopia. They also showed awareness about getting the best flight reservations as quickly as possible, such as on a Air France flight from Hungary to Corsica. On more than one occasion during these legs, Kris and Jon stopped to use a telephone to make flight reservations. Although with all the bunching, these factors have ultimately made little overall difference, it does show that Kris and Jon are a very persistent and alert team, and that overall, they remain the team with the strongest skills in the Race.

Hayden and Aaron (average placement 3.67, 3.00 overall) — Hayden and Aaron had their problems in these three legs, but in general, they have been consistent and have maintained approximately the same relative positions compared to the other teams as they have since early in the Race. But they also have had transportation problems, with taxicabs and Hayden’s inability to drive a stick or read maps. On the other hand, they have been effective on some tasks, such as Raise the Roof in Ethiopia. However, as has been the case for much of the season, specific successes and problems have not affected their overall performance and position among the teams, a trait they have shared with Kris and Jon.

Freddy and Kendra (average placement 4.00, 4.50 overall) — This teams had their good moments, and their not-so-good moments. They had problems in the second half of the überleg, especially in the soup roadblock and with taxicab transportation in Budapest, and had problems with the Mud the Hut detour in Ethiopia when Freddy cut his finger. They also were the victims of a Yield by Adam and Rebecca (at the urging of Jonathan and Victoria) in Ethiopia. Then they’ve had their communication problems as a team. It’s fairly debatable question whether Freddy can carry Kendra to the end of the Race.
However, their decision to use the Yield on Freddy and Kendra is questionable on a number of levels.
Adam and Rebecca (average placement 3.67, 5.12 overall) — It is amazing that a team that has had as many communication problems as Adam and Rebecca has avoided elimination. In spite of the atrocious internal team dynamics, both Adam and Rebecca have had good moments as a team in working various tasks, such as Rebecca’s speedy performance in the soup roadblock in Budapest, and the team’s completion of the second and final Fast Forward of the Race in Corsica, when Adam overcame his fears to go underwater in a old fashioned diving suit. They also show good judgment in the selecting the faster detour in Ethiopia. However, their decision to use the Yield on Freddy and Kendra is questionable on a number of levels. If it was necessary to use the Yield at all, it made less sense to use it against Freddy and Kendra when Adam and Rebecca were aware that Jonathan and Victoria has made a significant error in following directions from a clue, and has already fallen into last place. It is also questionable whether Rebecca should have told Kris and Jon about an earlier flight into Ethiopia while the teams were waiting overnight for a flight from Nice. However, the bunching of teams after they arrived in Addis Ababa made the disclosure immaterial.

Jonathan and Victoria (average placement 4.67, 3.62 overall, eliminated leg 8) — It was inevitable that Jonathan and Victoria, who stayed in the Race more because of Jonathan’s decisions (in spite of his atrocious behavior toward Victoria), would ultimately be eliminated because of Jonathan’s own mistakes at a key point in the Ethiopia leg. It wasn’t the only poor choice the team made, but it was the mistake that directly led to their elimination. (Examples of bad choices, beside taking one donkey with the clue directed them to lead two donkeys to St. George’s church, include selecting the slower choice of a the Zodiac boat/buoy detour task in Corsica after having chosen to attempt the Fast Forward that was taken by Adam and Rebecca.) They also had time-consuming problems with other tasks, such as Jonathan’s problems with the wine making roadblock in Corsica, and Victoria’s injury during the Mud the Hut detour in Ethiopia. In the end though, it can safely be said that an ass did this team in. How appropriate!

Gus and Hera (average placement 7.00, eliminated leg 6) — This team was eliminated at the end of the second half of the überleg, after they continued the same pattern of poor task choices and slowness in completing tasks that had often been the earmark of their Racing performance. Most likely, Gus and Hera might have been eliminated several legs earlier but for the mistakes of other teams; they should be given credit for having made it as far as Budapest.
The best example of Race performance during these three legs perhaps was Bolo’s decision to look for an overnight train to Budapest while waiting overnight in Eger.
The best example of Race performance during these three legs perhaps was Bolo’s decision to look for an overnight train to Budapest while waiting overnight in Eger. The worse example of Racer performance during these three legs (and perhaps of the Race) was the inexplicable (but fortunate) failure of Jonathan and Victoria to take two donkeys and lead them on foot to St. George’s Church after the detour in Ethiopia. (Given that Jonathan was shown clearly reading the clue direction aloud that the team was to take two donkeys, the mistake was even more remarkable.) Placing a close second in the poor decision-making was Adam and Rebecca’s decision to Yield Freddy and Kendra when it was unnecessary to use it or, at least, to use it on Freddy and Kendra rather than Jonathan and Victoria.

Typically, in past Races, the Race becomes more intense, the tasks generally become more challenging, and teams tend to increase the distances and variation in locations, as there are fewer teams. In the next installment of Racer Mechanics, we’ll look at the next two legs of the Race, as the remaining teams are set up to race to the final city in the final episode.