Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic
October 12, 2010 10:00 AM

This week on the Amazing Race, the nine remaining teams continue to explore Ghana.

The teams race first to the neighborhood of Jamestown, where one member must master a pro boxing training circuit at the Akotoku Boxing Academy. Teams then travel to a marked supply depot at the Dodowa District, where they must transport construction supplies to a local school. At school, teams must remain in the classroom until they can pass a pop quiz on African geography.

When one of them can identify the location of Ghana, they get a choice between a Bicycle Parts or Language Arts task. Teams can either play with other kids and learn how to roll a bicycle rim across a soccer field or solve a word puzzle using native African symbols. (In other words, teams make the same tough choice I made every day in school – should I “play” with the jocks at recess or sit silently and do “language arts” by myself.)

In a topsy-turvy leg, teams struggle with some simple tasks.

Who would have thought the most challenging task for many was counting to two? It was particularly amusing to watch the Language Arts detour task. Every team, except for Connor & Jonathan, struggles with the word search game because they cannot find the “decoder” chart even though it was blown up and plastered on the side of the schoolhouse building.

To be fair, simple tasks become difficult under the pressure of the race.

It is no accident that Connor & Jonathan sail through the tasks because they happen to be the first ones there. When many teams are at a challenge at the same time, herd mentality takes over and teams quickly become more focused on each other instead of the task itself. The only reason teams start chasing school children with a stick of chalk is because they are looking at what Brook & Claire are randomly doing instead of looking up at the building-size decoder chart right in front of them.

The most telling task for me was the African geography quiz: In truth, this was not about testing knowledge of geography. I doubt any one (other than maybe Kevin) actually knew from personal study where Ghana is on a map. Instead, this was a test of who was playing to win.

Teams should have known where Ghana was because they should have anticipated it. In my experience, teams typically fall into two categories.

There are teams who race to win: During our season, there were teams who would spend every spare moment obtaining information. At airports, my sister and I would make sure we figured out exchange rates, learned what the flag looked like and grabbed every free map.

Then there are teams who just want to enjoy the ride: As Kevin puts it, “To us, this is worth more than the million dollars we are competing for. We just want to stay in each leg to experience these different countries.”

It is clear certain people anticipated and were prepared for the quiz, namely Chad, Thomas, Rachel and Nat. Unlike others, they didn’t need to rely on the process of elimination or lucky guesses. If those are the teams that are doing the extra preparation work between tasks, then barring bad luck or bad judgment, I would think they are the ones more likely to last the longest in the race.

By the time the dust settles, placements are completely reshuffled. Connor & Jonathan go from sixth place to first, and Gary & Mallory jump from last to second. On the other hand, Michael & Kevin go from third place to last, but are saved by Michael’s refusal to quit and a non-elimination leg.

Tell us: Which teams do you think are just enjoying the journey? Which teams actually want to win?

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