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Not Winning
March 11

There's been lots of talk recently about "winning," and there are two people who didn't pay much attention.

On Survivor, there's no person I would more want to have on my team and I would less want to face off against than Russell Hantz. He's gotten to the end of the game twice in a row, but didn't win either time. With a third golden ticket, he had a chance to change his game, but he was put out before that chance could be fully realized.

His tribe decided to throw a challenge and vote him out, and I think this was a terrible mistake so early. The same thing happened in Pearl Islands: the team that was ahead eight-to-five decided to throw a challenge but they also lost the next two so the teams ended up even into the merge.

On the second cycle of the game you just don't throw a challenge so you can get someone out. Eventually you're going to lose anyway, so why not wait until then? And since the first half of episodes this year focus on Redemption Island, there's only a single tribal challenge, so if you throw a challenge, you lose out on a sweet reward too. I think the purple tribe showed a remarkable lapse in judgment by getting him out. Russell has already played the game, he's a known commodity. Short of a miraculous finding of pocket immunity, there was not a thing he could do to stay in the game other than win out at Redemption Island.

The current run of Amazing Race has eleven returning teams who have a score to settle. Ron and Christina Hsu are a paradox. Christina is competent and driven and capable of achieving, except that her partner is completely unfit. In the first few episodes, Ron has chastised other racers, berated his own daughter, all the while being inept at challenges, taking breaks, losing his gear, even eating the food produced by challenges. I would be joyful if Ron was eliminated from the competition, but it would mean that his daughter was out as well, and that would be terrible.

The difference between the two is that Russell didn't really ever had a chance. Everyone knew his game going in, and his tribe was too keen to get him out. Ron has no excuse: he is the master of his own fate, he is the one who will implode and destroy the chances of his team capitalizing on this rarest of second chances. And that's to his shame.

Travis Eberle would love to be able to run the Amazing Race just once. Console him at traviseberle@gmail.com