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Amazingly Bad
October 13

You would think that after 12 seasons, that people would know how to play The Amazing Race. Alas, most of this crop appear to have gone through CBS's Casting Central, and only three or so teams know how to play. I'm not trashing the show - I love The Amazing Race, and I think this is one of the best crafted reality shows on television, but the lack of smarts this season has been spectacular. If you're planning to participate in the race, here is a quick primer about what to do - and what NOT to do - if you want to stick around.

1. READ. THE. CLUE. How many times have we seen this come back to nail someone at the end of a leg? Most recently, it happened to Mark and Bill, who incurred a 30 minute time penalty for taking a cab instead of walking, and those 30 minutes killed their chances of sticking around. It made Heather and Eve a running joke in the earlier years of WLTI, and I'm afraid that Mark and Bill, the so-called 'Brains of Amazing Race', are now going to join them.

2. Alliances are good. Enemies are bad. And only make an enemy if you can eliminate them in that leg. This isn't survivor, but creating an alliance with a team can sure help save you some time - the other team can bail you out on a clue that you misread or misinterpreted. Nick / Starr and Ken / Tina are in a loose alliance, and that is paying dividends for both teams. You also do not want to be the villains. Sure it could be fun TV, but it could also put you at the wrong end of a U-Turn or a Yield - something that Kelly and Christie can't wait to do to the same aforementioned Nick and Starr, who tried to get Aja and Ty to do it, but they didn't. It's too bad for Nick and Starr - the U-Turn then could have been enough time to knock Kelly and Christie out of the game - instead, they have a pissed off Kelly and Christie who's gunning to eliminate them. And above all, NEVER HELP A TEAM WHEN YOU ARE NEAR THE END OF THE PACK. It's a nice move…which will wind up being even nicer to the other team as you give that team your spot in the show, effectively eliminating yourselves. Julia and Marianna from last season learned that rule dearly.

3. Do not be afraid to ask directions…again…and again. The locals are your friends - usually. They will usually give you good advice as to where the quickest routes are or the best way to travel somewhere. If you can try to lead you to the place, even better. But here's the key - get more than one person's opinion. Only trusting one person could send you in a very wrong direction (such as what happened to John Vito and Jill) and knock you out. If you can get two or three people native to the area to confirm, then you're in great shape.

4. Check EVERY Alternative. When you're in an airport, there are many many ways to get to a destination. It could be a bit tedious, but the hours you save could be the ones that lead you to a million dollars. On a side note, make sure that the tickets you get you're allowed to purchase legally, as Azaria and Hendekea's mistake cost them severely. Even when you're on a bus terminal, checking to see what transportation is local and what is express can get you the best route  - and maybe a major advantage later on.

5. Take the path less traveled by. If you're in the mid to end of a group of people, it may pay off to take the Detour option that the other teams are not selecting. It could not only move you in front, but even a task that's slightly longer will help because there's no one in front of you that you have to wait for. If you're at the tail end of a group, even if it's a quick task, you're still going to be at the tail end of a group - a place that is a guaranteed elimination spot (see Jones,  Arthur and Anita). As for the Detour or Roadblock themselves, check out the one which plays to your strengths better - or the one that you feel you can complete the quickest.

6. Finally, last leg of the race - everything is immaterial. You don’t need your clothes, or baggage - a million dollars will recoup all of that. Any extra money that you have should be used to buy atlases, cell phones and GPS units (which was done in season 1) or bribe people to drive faster or get you the tickets that you need to beat out the other teams (which was done in a bunch of seasons). It could come down to a matter of minutes - and in some cases, it did - so speed is the only thing that matters. And reading the clues, of course.

So there you go. A quick primer on how to win The Amazing Race. It seems simple, but as we've seen this season, it's not. Make sure you remember the rules, because a failure to follow them will result in your meeting Phil Keoghan at the end of an episode a lot quicker than you would like.

The world is waiting for Gordon Pepper. E-mail him to