Attention Amazing Race fans! Victor Jih, who won season 14 along with his sister Tammy, will blog about the ins and outs of the Race for PEOPLE.com. Check back each week to hear from Victor, who along with his sister is now back to being a full-time lawyer — and to talk all about the new season, which begins Sunday, Feb. 14.
One year ago, millions of Americans watched as my sister and I, and ten other teams, lined up at the Los Alamitos Air Force Base to start our race around the world. This Sunday, a new crop of eleven teams get their chance to do the same. I’m jealous. In a new twist, the teams will start in a random park in downtown Los Angeles and have to make their way to the airport as quickly as they can… taking public transportation. As one team puts it in the preview, “Who rides public transportation in L.A.?”
I remember the feeling of excitement as you line up, completely unaware of what is about to unfold or what your first destination will be. I remember stressing out because, even though I had lived in L.A. for over a decade, I had no idea where Los Alamitos was or how to get to the airport. You would think all of us would have our eyes on the prize — one million dollars — but the truth is, the one thought going through every racer’s mind has nothing to do with the prize, but, “Please, don’t let us be the first team eliminated.” No one wants that honor. Even beyond the first leg of the Race, most teams never think about winning the whole thing — just not losing that particular leg.
So what does it take to be successful on the Amazing Race? It’s part luck, it’s part savvy; it’s part life experience, it’s part having a curiosity about the world; and it’s part having a strong relationship. But in my opinion, the most important component is being able to make good decisions under bad circumstances. The Race is designed to put ordinary in extraordinarily difficult situations of fatigue, stress, and time pressure. How you react in that artificially intense situation is both what differentiates winners from losers and what makes the show so entertaining to watch as a viewer.
I’m excited to watch this season unfold with all of you. Each week, I’m going to share my thoughts on what I think the most questionable decisions were that leg. I feel particularly qualified to talk about bad decision-making because for those of you who watched my season, you’ll probably remember me as the idiot who dragged his little sister up the mountains of Romania for four hours — nearly taking us out of the race in the third leg! A bad decision of that magnitude would normally spell disaster except we were lucky another team made an even worse decision, stranding themselves in the wrong country.
For the current racers lurking out there in cyber-land, don’t worry. This will all be in good fun. And let’s all be honest, what is fun about the Amazing Race is being able to speculate how we as viewers would react if we were in similar situations. Would we have made the same mistakes? Would we have approached certain challenges the same way? Would we have been equally confused? Of course, we get to make these decisions in the comfort of our living rooms, eating chips, and with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight. But who says life is fair?
I can’t tell much about the teams from the brief web bios, and I don’t want to prejudge anyone. But I am curious to see what kind of decision-makers Jeff and Jordan of Big Brother fame will prove to be. It’s one thing to be good at making strategic interpersonal decisions in the comfort of a gilded cage. It’s another to be able to make time-pressured, competitive decisions in completely foreign contexts. I’m very curious to see how they will fare, and I’m not singling them out because they beat my sister and me as “America’s Favorite Duo” in last year’s Fox Reality Channel Awards!
Let me know your thoughts! I always love talking about the Race and will try to answer some of your questions. Also, I have a contest with Stephen Fishbach (who writes a similar blog for this season of Survivor) to see who will get the most comments. I have to beat him in something. At some point, he has to run out of quotes from Machiavelli and Sun Tzu — don’t you think? — Victor Jih
Tell us: Which team do you think will prove to be the best decision-makers under pressure? Which team do you think will be the first to melt down? And do you think Stephen Fishbach has actually read The Prince or The Art of War, or does he simply have a particularly militaristic quote book?