In order to make it home for Sunday night’s installment of “The Amazing Race,” I had to make a tight flight connection at a German airport, sweating it out through international customs and racing across terminals to catch my Lufthansa plane.
In that respect, I understand what “Amazing Race” contestants Abbie Ginsberg and Ryan Danz were going through.
The key difference: I made it to my gate and my plane departed successfully, which allowed me to watch Abbie & Ryan struggle in a German airport for the second time in three weeks, as travel inconveniences and a U-Turn by chums James & Jaymes led to their elimination.
Two other differences: I was making my connection in Munich and Abbie & Ryan were in Frankfurt, while I was returning from a vacation and they were racing for $2 million.
By virtue of winning the season’s opening “Amazing Race” Leg, the competitive dating duo had a chance to be the first “Amazing Race” team to double the show’s standard $1 million prize. And, for several Legs, it looked like they might dominate the course, finishing first or second in five of the first six Legs before the two travel disasters eventually did them in.
In their “Amazing Race” exit interview, Abbie & Ryan talk about the free coffee at the Frankfurt airport, the reason for their frustration at Jaymes & James’ U-Turn decision and their ongoing confidence that they were dominating the controllable elements of the Race.
Click through for the full conversation
HitFix: I guess my first question is… Tell me something about the Frankfurt Airport that somebody who hasn’t spent any time there wouldn’t have gotten to know.
Abbie Ginsberg: They have really good espresso machines and they’re free and after spending the night in the airport…
Ryan Danz: Twice.
Abbie: I think I had about eight cups. You can mix and match. There’s hot chocolate and cappuccino. I downed those. They’re free!
HitFix: In the future. if you guys are taking trips for fun, will you purposely avoid making any connections through Frankfurt?
Abbie: I would definitely recommend transferring in Munich.
Ryan: And while we’re at it, KLM Royal Dutch and Lufthansa will both be getting letters from us and our legal counsel very shortly.
Abbie: Ironically, though, on our flight home, KLM was early.
HitFix: Well, I’m glad you guys can laugh about that now. How long did it take before you were able to find humor in the experience?
Abbie: The flight stuff? What are you gonna do? I think we were frustrated, but we both agree that we, I guess, would rather go out on something that wasn’t really our fault, than lose in a foot-race or fail at a task. Right?
Ryan: it’s just one of those things. What can we do? There was so much other bad luck that happened way before we even got to Amsterdam that pretty much set us for not even getting back near the top. It’s not like they outcompeted us or outperformed us at any point. We were just the victims of bad luck. We were limited to the amount of flights we could take. We’re limited to the airlines we can fly. We’re limited to the cities we can connect through. So at the end of the day, when it shakes out, we only took the flights we were even able to take if we wanted to get in on the same day as everybody else.
Abbie: We even booked two flights to connect. What are the chances?
HitFix: At the end of Sunday’s episode, Ryan, you seemed very frustrated at James and Jaymes for their decision to use the U-Turn on you. How much of that was heat-of-the-moment frustration and how much annoyance still remains?
Ryan: Yeah. Definitely. You have to have some background. If it was Natalie & Nadiya or the Texas team, it’s a much different analysis. We didn’t like them. They didn’t like us. We respected Natalie & Nadiya for how they ran the Race. They were extremely tough competitors. They were good at the challenges. They weren’t lighting up the IQ board, but then again, neither was I, so who am I to talk? Texas was a little different. It felt like they really latched on and you saw that throughout the Race. They couldn’t make their own decisions, they waited at airports for other teams. We made those same decisions, but we had a strategy behind it. They just couldn’t perform those same basic tasks, like making travel arrangements.
So the background of the James & Jaymes thing is that before we even left LA, before we got out of LAX, we had a real sit-down, heart-to-heart. We laid out our thoughts on the Race and on the mechanisms in the Race, like U-Turns, and how it was important for us to win and compete against strong teams and beat them on substance and not process. It got to the point with them, and it really didn’t get played up on the show as much as our relationship with other teams, but from the start, they were our closest allies. We did things for them and they did things for us to help each other, because the end-game was, “Let’s get ourselves to the Final 3 and then let’s race for our lives, all bets are off, friendship’s out the door.” I remember being in Russia and we hadn’t seen them for a day or two and they see us for the first time and Blonde Jaymes says, “I can breath again” when he sees us. And we’re like, “OK. Cool.”
Abbie: Good to know they have our backs, even if we haven’t seen them for a day or two.
Ryan: He goes to the extent of saying, “Don’t worry guys. I’m not gonna let anything happen to you. I know we’re super-far ahead, but don’t worry. I’ve got your back.” That’s so nice to hear. We see the U-Turn and it is shocking and it isn’t shocking. Based on that history? It is shocking.
Abbie: Shocking who did it. We knew we were probably gonna get U-Turned.
Ryan: We knew days in advance. We prepared for that.
Abbie: Were dreading it.
Ryan: One of the things that we did with the Beekmans, in our time together when we got so far behind because of bad luck and other issues, we really strategized moves and moves ahead in the game to account for a U-Turn, so we were steps ahead of them at that point. It just was a reality of our success and they were competitors too and they want to win and they want to get out the strongest team, they said it on the show. Up until Turkey, when everything changed for us with bad luck and other stuff that you don’t see, we were dominating the racecourse. We beat the Chippendales 5-out-of-6 times. We beat Nadiya & Natalie 5-out-of-6 times. We beat Lexi & Trey 4-out-of-6 times. We beat the Beekmans 6-out-of-6 times. All of those teams knew who the strongest was and kudos to them for devising a gameplan and they just have to hope now that they didn’t make a serious error in letting the Beekmans in.
Abbie: I think in the heat of the moment, like you asked. It was “Wow, we can’t believe it was *them* out of the teams that were left that did it.” Did they cost us the $2 million? It wasn’t our $2 million to begin with. It’s a game and we all have an equal shot. We were running a Race where we kept our word, as you could see with the Beekmans, and I think it just shocked us a little bit that it was them that had done it.
Ryan: Especially after they went out of their way to be so open-hearted and warm with us and sharing family stories and backgrounds. We really were surprised that there was a race at hand and that we developed this friendship, even more developed than what we had with the Beekmans in the early stages. We got very close with them, so that was a little surprising. And then I think that the way that the exit interview was edited last night where I said that the Chippendales cost me $2 million. Maybe I said it and maybe that was what I said it in reference to. I don’t remember it that way and I’m not bitter about it. I think in the moment, like anyone would be…
Abbie: You’re caught up in it. You’re emotional. You’re exhausted. You’re overwhelmed. People tend to take one thing you say and run with it and there’s not a lot of room for human error when you’re on a national or international TV show with 10 million people watching every week.
HitFix: You guys started out by winning the first Leg and by the second week you were already talking about winning the most Legs in “Amazing Race” history and all of that. Was there a moment at which you realized that the show wasn’t going to be as, maybe, “easy” as you thought or hoped?
Ryan: It was never not that it wasn’t easy. We won the first Leg and we won the third Leg and that was with the most teams on the racecourse. And then we came in second when the Fast-Forward was used. If that Fast-Forward wasn’t used by the Rockers, we would have won that Leg and the next Leg, too, just on how fast we got through the course and how far they were behind us before they even pulled the Fast-Forward. So you could argue that four of the first five Legs we won. The racecourse wasn’t the problem for us and it wasn’t that it was like, “Oh, this is tougher than we thought.” It was very tough, but we were getting stronger as a team and as a couple and we were seeing ways to win each Leg based on the racecourse and based on some of the things that were laid out on the racecourse and we started to sorta devise better gameplay as we went along. Now that obviously bit us in the butt with the flights that we chose, but what can do? We can’t help if a plane has has deicing problems.
Abbie: And taking away from the last part of it, we ran the Race. We did the tasks really well. We were efficient. I think we can say pre-Turkey and post-Turkey was a completely different Race for us and if you look at it, it really came down to the flight, the way to Russia and the time-gap in-between, if you take away that, you saw us run the actual Race really well. And the way to Amsterdam, again, it’s flight stuff. Yes, it’s tough, but there’s a huge portion of it that’s luck and that’s what makes it so exciting. The cabs and the planes are part of it.
Ryan: I would just add that of the 18 or so Roadblocks and Detours that we encountered, I think we counted that only three of them we actually lost time. That would include the balloons Roadblock in Indonesia and the maps thing in Russia and that would be the scale in Dhaka. We lost time on those, in other words we got to the Roadblock or Detour first and another team arrived ahead of us that had arrived after us. But in each of those instances, on the next challenge that same day, we made up time. So that was important for us to see that we really never really struggled with the tasks and even when we did, we were able to overcome it and make the time back and improve. Us against the course was great. We never had any problems with that. It was us against the travel logistics and some other stuff behind the scenes that didn’t get shown that we couldn’t overcome.
HitFix: I don’t think we’d seen you guys with the Beekmans at all before the Frankfurt misadventure. What was your relationship like with them?
Abbie: Well, before, you have to get that they were at the back of the pack and so when you’re towards the front of the pack, you’re not sometimes seeing everybody during the Race. Even if you go back to LAX, they were on the second flight and we were on the first flight. We didn’t even really get to talk to them for a couple Legs in. You’re very separated, so there wasn’t a lot of room to develop a relationship with them anyways. It’s not that we were choosing to hang out with other people. You’re surrounded by certain people and that’s who you tend to have relationships with. So I would say that our relationship started forming with them as soon as we got on that flight to Moscow and connected through Frankfurt, because we were last with each other. Thank God it was them, because they’re probably the best team to have been stranded with. They’re wise, smart, genuine people and I’m glad it was them.
Ryan: We never really conceptually should have seen them on the Race at any point. We got to the Turkey airport on the day we left Turkey hours ahead of them and we already had a plane flight scheduled that we couldn’t get on for reasons that I can’t go into. So the first plane that you see us getting stuck on is actually a second flight that we had booked and it’s the same flight they ended up on via a coin flip. We really never should have been with them at any point of the Race. We should have been hours ahead and they should have probably been the team to go after the Rockers lost their passport, just because everybody else, including us, should have been four hours, at minimum, ahead of them, because of that penalty they got for the Sink/Swim.
HitFix: Given how competitive you are, especially you Ryan, how surprised were you and how surprised thinking back are you, that you were able to have that “We’re all just gonna race together” attitude with them?
Ryan: Well, I know that the way that it comes across is that we’re sorta saying, “Let’s just stay together and kumbaya,” but there was a lot more strategy behind it. You heard me say on the show last night that it seemed like the Beekman boys were sorta resigned to where they were on the racecourse and how well they had done and maybe that their time had come and they got out of it what they were hoping to get out of is and it was time to move on. So knowing that and knowing sorta the outcome of the synchronized swim before it happened and what potentially was gonna happen if they didn’t close the pool that night, we sorta were protected in our decision and so running together was going to yield the same outcome, which was that we were going to finish ahead of them that night. And the show’s only 40 minutes of actual time that you see, so they can’t possibly get the hours and hours of time that we spent strategizing the night before in the Frankfurt airport, but we were well beyond the Double U-Turn concept in our minds with them. We had strategized way further down the road than the other teams had thought about, so we felt good knowing that even if we weren’t gonna move forward, that we were hopefully putting these guys in a better place than where they were and we were doing everything we could to get them slingshotted back up to the front and hopefully giving them some insight as to what we had learned and why we were successful on the course that they could use as well.
HitFix: As a last question: Early on, you guys expressed some concern at how your personal dynamic, particularly Ryan’s competitiveness, might prove to be a drawback out on the course. Were you guys surprised/impressed/pleased with how well you raced together out there?
Abbie: I think going into it, we were cast as a dominant team, I would say. I think that being that “dating” team, people expect us to bicker and fight and be volatile and combative towards one another, but we were so impressed with one another and how we came across on television, but really how we truly were during the Race. I think that what helped us succeed was being able to step outside of the quote-unquote “relationship” aspect and, because we’re both competitive and come from competitive backgrounds, treat it like a game. You want to be the best teammate that you can be for the other person, so winning or finishing the Leg successfully to precedence over nit-picky little relationship issues and because we both have the same goal, we were able to mesh well and work well with one another instead of against one another. So I’m relieved that it came across that way. I’m not surprised, because we’ve made an effort to really go that route, but I’m sure a lot of people out there were expecting a different side or a different type of relationship from us.
Ryan: Especially from me. I think it’s clear that I got cast, maybe not as a “villain” per se, but at least as an uber-alpha male who was gonna win at all costs and if that meant putting down Abbie and making her feel bad, I would do that. But I’m proud of the show for capturing some of those moments when I was supportive of her, when I sorta deferred to her. Like in Dhaka, when we’re making the mattress, it wasn’t because she’s a woman and I’m a man, but it’s because I respected her background with sewing, having gone to Fashion Institute. I was willing to cede to her a lot of the time, whether it was leading us from Route Marker to Route Marker or… I think the most important thing to me, believe it or not, was more than just winning the Race or winning all these Legs etc, — the things that they kept harping on — the most important to me was how was I gonna treat Abbie and how were we going to be as a couple. I’m really proud of the way she performed. I’m very proud of the way that we managed, even at our lowest moments, to be supportive of each other, respectful of each other, encouraging. It’s so much more than just a race for prize money. It’s really a tremendous life experience and a journey and I know it’s something that we’ll share forever and it’s a very bonding experience and I didn’t want to color that dark with such a competitive nature that I lost out on the person that I care about most.