Amazing Race 21Amazing Race

Guest Post: Why Helping Others Doesn’t Pay on Amazing Race

The following is an Amazing Race blog from Rob Has a Website Contributor, Jessica Liese

I’m incredibly excited to be blogging and RHAP-porting on all things Amazing Race for Rob and the gang this season. Please hit me up on Twitter during the shows (or any time, really) with your questions and comments!

In Survivor, it’s almost impossible for a contestant to get far without teaming up with other players. But in The Amazing Race, that’s not the case. It’s telling that only one team has ever brought Survivor-style scheming into The Amazing Race with any degree of success, and that team contained Boston Rob Mariano. (That team also didn’t win. Twice. Although it’s possible that if CBS cared to let Rob and Amber onto the race for a third and/or fourth shot, they’d eventually come through.)

Put bluntly, anybody who comes into The Amazing Race trying to make day-one alliances is on the wrong damn show. Alliances don’t guarantee your safety in a game where the other players don’t determine the outcome. Without even going so far as to solidify an alliance, turning the race into a cooperative effort is ultimately useless. Pointing another team to the next clue site or giving them the answer to a challenge puzzle is certainly a nice thing to do, but the small amount of goodwill it engenders typically has no net effect on a team’s performance. It is a race, after all. The real enemy in The Amazing Race is the race itself – navigation, culture shock, luck, and, of course, the challenges. And anything that takes your eye off of the real enemy is never going to win you a million dollars.

In the first leg, Amy and Daniel lost out on first place (and a chance to double their money should they win) in part because they gave directions to another team. But ultimately, their undoing wasn’t their helpful spirit – it was random chance. They were running what looked like a very strong race until they got the wrong cab driver. It happens to someone every season and it hurts to see it happen to an otherwise likable team. We saw it when they helped Ryan and Abbie at the end of the first leg – they were genuinely nice people who were worth rooting for.

But back to the question at hand—all other things being equal, does it ever pay to be in cahoots with another team?

In terms of sheer morale…maybe. Helping other racers can be good karma, for whatever that’s worth—and for all those hours you’re not running a hard race, I suspect it can be worth a lot. During those long layovers and hours spent waiting for a Roadblock location to open, it’s always a preferable situation if your company consists of friendly competition rather than hateful vendetta. Plus, once the episode airs, no viewer is going to root for a team of “not here to make friends”-heads who refuse to be even remotely nice to their fellow racers.

So when is it okay to help other teams? Basically, one or more of the following things must be true:

If you are 100% certain you are going to finish ahead of them. Amy and Daniel know this one all too well.

If you are 100% certain neither of you is getting eliminated. In the middle of the pack, early in the race, it really doesn’t matter if you’re in 5th place or 6th if there are ten seconds between the two of you. In this case, knock yourselves out helping each other. It’s nothing but good karma.

If it’s down to them and another team that’s likely to best you in future challenges. If you like your chances better against one team than another, why not give a boost to the team you’re likely to beat later, and say a sooner goodbye to someone who might make your path to victory slightly less smooth? When U-Turns start to come into play next episode, I believe we’ll see more consideration paid to this kind of thing.

In a nutshell, it can enhance the experienceBut as with every competition, teams who value the experience over the competition do so at their peril.

Standout teams in this week’s episode: Natalie and Nadiya for snagging the Express Pass during a basically flawless leg; Caitlin and Brittany for powering through a task that was giving even the big strong guys some trouble; Trey and Lexi for being quietly competent and supportive of the other teams as well as each other.

On thin ice this week: I bet you think I’m going to say the monster truckers for their potentially game-ending flight gamble. But gambles are going to happen, and it could just as easily have been them out in front where Team Long Hair was (Long Hair Don’t Care is just too much nickname for anybody – to me they are Long Hair or possibly LH;DC). As long as they’re not, say, trying to get from Rio to London via New York City (that really happened in an early season of the show), sometimes it’s worth it to try and snag a flight away from the pack. It didn’t cost them much in the long run this time, and it actually wasn’t a bad gamble when you consider that more often than not, when flights are scheduled to arrive in the middle of the night, the actual race tasks won’t start in earnest until first thing in the morning.

More troublesome were Gary and Will, as Will stumbled on the balloon animal task. Grace under pressure is quite possibly the most important thing an Amazing Racer can have, and it’s even doubly important for the teammate who’s NOT under the direct pressure at hand. Gary was doing no good for his partner when his increasingly histrionic reminders to breathe started to seem better aimed at himself. Will eventually found his footing and finished the task, but it seems as though he might have gotten there a little more quickly if he hadn’t been distracted. At moments when your entire race hinges on your partner’s performance, you have to be able to step back and give them space to succeed. Much as I love superfans, I fear these guys (well, Gary, anyway) are a little too tense to last much longer.

Become a patron of RHAP