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Rob's Race
Travis Eberle

I never thought I was going to do this, but there's a first time for everything. I am going to praise Rob Mariano's play on the current iteration of "The Amazing Race." And I'm as surprised as you, because I thought the finale of "Survivor: All Stars" was quite possibly the biggest let-down in the history of the genre. Anyway, Rob is doing something that other teams have not thought to do so far: play the meta-game.

On it's surface, the Race is simply a rally race around the world, with the standard twists thrown in, along with the challenges and games that other shows have. Anyone who plays the game just like this will not get very far, without a heavy dose of luck, or ten clueless teams for competition. There is so much in terms of unexplored strategies and tactics, and now we have a team that’s doing it.

On the first episode, Rob used his notoriety from the Survivor shows to get help from locals in the town. Now I didn't know that "Survivor" was carried in South America, but good for him to use his fame to help out. The other teams call him dumb and lazy, but it must be nice to only see him from the rear because he’s kicking your rears up and down the racecourse.

For example; he collected some spare change and money from teams in order to bribe a bust driver to only open the front doors, or to skip a certain stop. Other times it was to take an Express Route. Money isn’t just for taxis and bus passes, it can be used many other ways. I loved watching the teams sulk after the bus blew through the station without stopping. That would have been fine, but Rob gave the bus driver only a portion of the collection money, he kept five dollars for himself. How devious!

Of particular note is last week's Road Block: another eating challenge. One member of each team was required to eat four pounds of cooked meat. And it's not just a big steak, there were all sorts of organ meats and yummy stuff like that. The current rules state that a team that does not finish a Road Block is assessed a four hour penalty that starts from when the next team enters the Road Block area. Rob figures out that there's no way that he'll finish that much meat no matter what, so he voluntarily quits the challenge. Being one of the first teams to roll up to the barbecue pit means there are several other teams yet to show. He manages to convince another racer that he also won’t be able to finish. The genius of this didn't hit me until several minutes in. Rob has guaranteed that his team won't leave the Road Block last, and he also has a lead on those teams who show up later. Rob knows the rules of the game, and knows how to use them to his advantage; something we sadly haven't seen much of so far in the show’s short history.

So, I raise my glass to you, Boston Rob. I hope you win, and I hope you and Amber enjoy the money, and enjoyed the Race. Bonne chance.

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