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Outplayed, Outwitted, Oulasted
January 4

With Duel's premiere coming on the heels of Survivor's final episode, Survivor got the short end of the stick around here. The Amazing Race is on the home stretch, and seeing the 'new twists' of the Race demonstrates to me that Survivor has learned from the past, the Race has not.

For the first time in a while, Survivor was played by sixteen contestants in two tribes. No racial or age divisions. No competing for the good camp. No exile island. (They did keep the hidden pocket immunity, but I thought that was one of the better tweaks of the game) Burnett and Company got rid of the twists that didn't work, and refined the game back to what made it successful in the first place. I was against the "final three" vote, but after realizing that having three finalists means you can't just bring along the camp loudmouth and coast to victory, so I came around there. I eagerly await the next series, where eight veterans of the game compete against eight new fans.

Meanwhile, the Amazing Race continues to dig its own grave by continually dropping the hammer on trailing teams without giving them a realistic chance to get ahead. If it isn't the U-Turn (requiring a nominated team to complete both forks of a Detour), it's the Speed Bump (where the last place team of a non-elimination leg has to complete a third task before checking in). And that doesn't even take into account the casting, which seems to be more and more made up of teams who fall apart under the stress of the ordeal and argue from check out to pit stop mat.

Even in the realm of in-game challenges, Survivor has the upper hand. Survivor routinely has intriguing and complex challenges that are rife with strategic opportunities, even if they do lean a bit heavily on the whole "jigsaw puzzle" element. The Amazing Race relies far too much on moving something from one part of the city to another, but they did get rid of the luck challenges that were the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack.

With every passing season, it's getting harder and harder to enjoy the Race, but Survivor is continuing to surprise and evolve. I hope you'll continue to watch the latter.

Travis Eberle is hiding a pocket immunity idol somewhere on his body. Send your guesses to