Next Sunday night, the 19th installment of “The Amazing Race” will be won by either Ernie & Cindy, Jeremy & Sandy or Marcus & Amani.
Chances are good, though, that when fans of the show look back on the season, most of the memories will center on snowboarders Andy Finch and Tommy Czeschin.
Andy & Tommy won six of the season’s first 10 Legs and in the 11th, they held what turned out to be too prohibitive of a lead when they approached the final clue before the Pit Stop. A misinterpretation of the message conveyed by a group of Panamanian dancers led the Snowboarders off on a wild goose chase. Meanwhile, two of the teams behind the Snowboarders made the exact same error, but due to cooperation between cab divers, they were rescued and Andy & Tommy, off on their own for much of the episode, went home.
During their “Race” run, Andy & Tommy won a legion of fans for their youthful enthusiasm and for their strengths across a wide variety of challenges. Devout Christians, they also polarized some of the show’s audience, particularly after some comments made at a Buddhist temple in Thailand.
Between that polarizing quality, their surprisingly abrupt elimination and their string of dominant wins, Andy & Tommy seem like absolute no-brainers for the next time the “Amazing Race” producers feel like doing an All-Star season. And they assure me that they’re ready for that shot.
Click through for Andy & Tommy’s full exit interview, which covers their Race strategy, their religion and their elimination…
HitFix: How hard was it watching Sunday night’s episode knowing exactly the little detail that was going to be enough to do you in?
Tommy Czeschin: You know, it was tough, but it was fun to watch the episode and see what kinda happened, how it all went down. It was funny that Jeremy was the only one who got that clue, the “Panama Viejo,” off of the belt. It wasn’t even off of the dress. The other teams were in the right place at the right time with the right taxi drivers and we were just a little bit out of the loop, but it was good to see how it all went down.
HitFix: Talk a little more about that… Knowing that two other teams made the same mistake that you did, but were saved entirely by their cabbie, how was it seeing that unfold?
Andy Finch: It was actually a relief knowing that we weren’t the only team that didn’t get it. You feel kinda dumb if everyone gets this easy clue and we’re just left sitting there with our hands in the air. But that wasn’t the case. It was tough, with the dancing only stopping for a few seconds when they opened that dress and it was only one of those girls. And the way that it went down with the taxis sharing information? That’s legit. That’s fair. It happens. They had good timing. It was a bad beat for us, but we had some really great luck earlier in the race, so you win some and you lose some and that’s kinda the way life is.
Tommy: It’s just a tough break. We had a pretty big jump on all of the teams going into the square and that came around to be a downfall for us, that we weren’t in the pack running around, that we were ahead and we felt we had it. I think we had time to make a couple mistakes, but we made more than a couple mistakes and that’s what got us.
HitFix: Do you guys have any sense, just in terms of time, of how long you spent looking at the dancers and trying to figure that out?
Andy: Yeah, we figured out it was somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour. We went back there three different times, so we can piece that together.
HitFix: And each time you were there, it was only you guys there?
Andy: Just us.
HitFix: OK, so obviously a million dollars would be nice, but are you guys somewhat satisfied knowing that you were pretty certainly the dominant team on this season’s “Amazing Race”?
Tommy: Sure, the million dollars would have been awesome and that was the goal, to make it to the finale and win the whole enchilada, but it’s very satisfying knowing that we did run a good race. Andy was a great teammate. We got along well and we worked well together and we won a lot of awesome prizes and trips and money, so it was very satisfying and a great opportunity.
Andy: And we can’t take full credit for all of those wins. We kept being told “You guys are winning because you’re running a clean race” and, yeah, we did. But we made plenty of mistakes and it was just wild how it worked out. There were a lot of other strong teams in that mix of 11 and we just felt fortunate to make it as far as we did, really. We could have had a mistake like this early on, but we didn’t. We made it through 11 legs.
HitFix: On Sunday’s episode, Sandy referred to you guys as “lucky.” Do you y’all look at it as “luck” to some degree?
Tommy: I don’t know if it’s luck. Every day, every leg, the morning of or whenever we would start, we would just spend time on God’s word and we would give every leg to God. He definitely helped us along the road.
Andy: Yeah, we felt like we were being blessed. I don’t feel like God’s a genie in a bottle, where you rub the thing and you’re lucky. You’ve gotta allow to happen what happens. That’s just life. Sometimes it works out in your favor, sometimes it doesn’t. I think we definitely had some luck on our side, though, too.
HitFix: How did you guys feel about the way your religion was depicted during the season? Some episodes it was never mentioned and other episodes, it felt very central…
Andy: We weren’t coming out and being real loud about it, but it was part of our strategy as Racers. I think that’s why it became part of the story. A lot of people felt like we were trying to preach, but it was our strategy. It was to lean on God and faith and to surrender to Him every day. That’s what we try to do in our everyday life is to surrender to Him and go where He leads us, so it was a huge part of our Race and it is a huge part of how Tommy and I approach each other in our friendship and as teammates as we were racing. I think the show chose to add it into the show when it played more of a role, even though it was kinda there every day. It wasn’t something that we came out just talking about, but since we were in the Buddhist temples and there was definitely stuff about God and religion around us, so it came up.
Tommy: The one thing that we wanted to do is just be real and live it and not say something and then just go about it in a poor manner, but we really wanted to just run the Race in a good manner and just live what we were talking about.
HitFix: Andy, you mentioned the Buddhist temple thing and there were some viewers who felt like the comments you made at the temple came across as a little intolerant, the way they were presented. Do you have any clarifications to that?
Andy: Yeah. You know, the question came up “Was I getting weird vibes or anything at the temple” and “No.” I’m very secure in my faith and I know where I stand. I was taking a stand at that point. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and so I might have gotten in peoples’ faces just a little bit just because I feel like so many people nowadays are just afraid to take a stand because they’re afraid to hurt someone’s feelings.
HitFix: OK. So, changing gears. At the beginning of the race, y’all were basically playing rock-paper-scissors for challenges, but by later episodes, you’d started refocusing your strategy and making choices for different reasons. What was the thought process as the game evolved?
Tommy: We started out roshambo-ing for the Roadblocks, who would do it, but then we absolutely got more strategic. If someone wanted to do it, they would call it, or if we thought that one person would be better at it, I’d be like, “Andy, you’d be better at this.” We also tried to keep things even on the whole Roadblock side of things.
Andy: Tommy and I, being a both-male team, similar in age and similar in strength, you’re at a little bit of a disadvantage, because you’re not a well-rounded team. You’re lopsided. So in a Roadblock, we knew that either one of us would pretty much be good at the same things because we’re so similar. There are a couple of differences that we talked about that might decide who did it, but we tried to mix it up and keep it even and do our best at those Roadblocks.
Tommy: Our strategy, going into it leg-by-leg, was just to learn from our mistakes and make every leg better.
HitFix: I’m sure I know what Andy’s answer to this is going to be but I don’t know Tommy’s… Which Roadblock that the other one took do you wish that you could have done?
Andy: [Laughing.] Yeah, you got that right. Yeah. I would have loved to have done the Mustang.
Tommy: Yeah, I was stoked to do the Mustang. It was something where, just switching off like that, there wasn’t anything that I absolutely had to do. I was super-excited about how things went down.
Andy: Come on, Tommy. You know you wanted to dress up in the 1700s and go dance around with those ladies.
Tommy: Yeah, that’s true.
Andy: I saw that jealous eye you had while I was dancing.
HitFix: How have people responded to your tenure as bodybuilders, a task that you got to perform together?
Tommy: You just gotta laugh at it. It’s hilarious and something that neither of us would ever, ever do. It took us a long time to get through that and it was humbling, but you’ve just gotta laugh.
Andy: I’ll tell you what, that show was way funnier than I thought it was gonna be. We were a little worried about it, because we knew we struggled so much and we knew we were wearing floss and having to tuck it all in, but man we were cracking up during that episode. It was so funny.
HitFix: So in the balance, you view that as an amusing and fun thing that you got to do?
Andy: Looking back on it. Not in the moment.
Tommy: It wasn’t amusing or fun, but it was something where we were there and we to get through it. At the time, it was like, “Dude. Andy. What the heck are we doing right now?” But you can’t give up. You’re absolutely not going to give up. You’re going to do everything you can to get through that to impress those judges. At the time, it was just like, “Here we are. We’re gonna get through this.”
Andy: That was a good opportunity for you guys to see our determination.
HitFix: You guys have to be aware that the next time “Amazing Race” puts together an All-Star cast, you’re sure to be at the top of their list. Are you ready to race again?
Tommy: Heck yeah! Bring it!
Andy: Give me a couple months. I just had a few surgeries and I’m trying to heal up. But yeah. I’ll be ready.
Tommy: I would be so excited to do an All-Stars season.
HitFix: If you guys get that chance, what would you do differently?
Tommy: I think we learned a lot from making it so far on “The Amazing Race.” We got to travel the world and you do learn leg-by-leg. You learn little strategies and you learn little things here and there and I think if we did get the chance to do it again, we’d come out swinging.
Andy: As you’re running this Race, you learn about it as you go and you definitely get better at it. So if we did it again, where we were at on that 11th leg, even if we made a fatal mistake, I think we were pretty zoned in and at a good place and I think the goal would be to start off kinda where we were at at the 11th Leg.