The ATC Report

Tips for Better Racing, Part 3

The “Fast Forward”

It was once the best part of The Amazing Race, now it's been kicked to the sideline like a Chicago Bears quarterback. We're talking about the “Fast Forward” — the clue that can vault a team from mediocrity into contention, all the while “showing off” a little of the current locale's flavor.

We finally saw one of the few Fast Forwards that now show up in TAR during this last episode — and it took the team that had been in last place throughout the leg straight to first (and another vacation courtesy of American Airlines — but that's a topic for a whole different column).

Fast Forward

As usual, these are the actual Fast Forward folder and clue from the last episode. This might cause you to think that we must have gotten them from Lori and Bolo since they were the ones who completed the Fast Forward. Boy, are you dumb! Every team gets a Fast Forward folder/clue in their envelope, so we could have gotten it from any of the remaining teams. The fact that we actually did get them from Lori and Bolo means nothing. Your logic was still flawed.

Look at the clue and you will again notice how the viewers are misled. The clue tells the racers to pretend to ask a taxi driver if he knows where a certain location is, but then instructs them to follow a flagged car to the location of the Fast Forward “stunt.”

Here's something you probably don't know — every team that has ever attempted to get the Fast Forward has been led to the location of the FF by the production staff. In Races 1-4, the Fast Forward was sometimes rather expensive to produce and the powers that be wanted to ensure that any team who was trying to acquire the FF made it to the location of the task without getting lost. That way their investment in the FF wasn't completely wasted. For some reason, this tradition has continued to the present day — even though the Fast Forward is Fast Fading.

One of the reasons that the Fast Forwards cost so much is also shown in the clue. Rather than take the racers to an actual cave somewhere in the vicinity of Budapest, the production staff decided to rent a basement and turn it into a cave. While the cost to supply power and lighting to a real cave might have been expensive, it couldn't possibly have been more than the costs incurred with renting a basement and then designing and building a “cave” set. Not only that, but the actual story of Dr. Acula might have made for an informative Fast Forward instead. Not many people know of the good doctor's pioneering work in the field of human blood drawing.

As usual, the Fast Forward clue also tells the racers exactly what they will have to do in order to claim the FF. In this case, each team member had to drink a glass of pig's blood. We had been beginning to think that TAR was becoming a bit too much like NBC's “Fear Factor,” and this stunt just strengthened our conviction. Then we saw the last paragraph of the clue and realized how close to the truth we had come!

Here's another question we get asked routinely: “How could you two have possibly thought you would do well, being so out of shape and all?” Since that has nothing whatsoever to do with a column on better racing, we're not going to answer it. But we will answer a different question that we hear almost as much: “How much information does a Road Block clue give you before you open it?”

Road Block

Look for yourself! At first glance, it seems like you don't get a whole lot of info. Face it, “spicing up your life” could be anything from picking Jalapenos to having a fling with one of the other racers. (Don't worry, Geez — we didn't use names. No one ever needs to know about the “Tian” incident. Just keep the monthly payments coming and your secret stays a secret.)

If you look a little closer, though, you see the small type at the bottom of the clue warning the racers that the challenge involves eating. As a racer, the challenge instantly becomes obvious. Any racer worth his/her salt (or in this case, pepper) will quickly combine “spice” with “eating,” factor in the fact that they are in “Hungary” and they are “hungry,” note that this was the first ever two-part episode, and arrive at the knowledge that one of them will have to eat a large bowl of extremely spicy soup. If you didn't reach the same conclusion while watching the show, you might want to reconsider your race application.

The racers usually have a little extra help, however. In this case, the route to the restaurant where the soup was served was clearly marked with signs that stated, “This Way To The Soup-Eating Challenge.” Thus, the racers had a pretty good idea what was in store for them. On our race, the pathway to the bungee jump was lined with signs announcing, “Amazing Race Bungee Jump Roadblock This Way.” If we had only been paying a little more attention, we probably wouldn't have been so surprised.

Anyhow, once the team decides who will do the challenge, they open the clue and…

Road Block

Surprise, surprise, surprise! What do we find but more chicanery from the producers! On the right-hand side of the clue is the part that all the teams read aloud. Over on the left-hand side we find the real story. It turns out that the teams were only supping on tomato soup with some onions in it! And you thought that Freddy really blew chunks into his soup. Have you read Freddy & Kendra's bio? They both claim to be models, and we all know that models are just actors who aren't pretty enough to be on television or in the movies.