Art Velez and J.J. Carrell won three Legs on this season of “The Amazing Race,” coming in second behind Dave & Rachel’s record-breaking eight Leg wins. Fittingly, Art & J.J. also found themselves coming in second for the season.
However, when it came to stirring up trouble, nobody could top the two Border Patrol Agents.
They fought with Rachel & Brendon over Team Big Brother’s tendency to follow, rather than figuring things out for themselves.
They fought with Nary & Jamie, after the federal agents attempted to pass themselves off as teachers.
And they fought with Dave & Rachel about a fairly trivial promise involving U-Turns.
In the end, none of those confrontations had any bearing on the Race, which came down to Art’s difficulties making it down a hill on a traditional Hawaiian tribal sled, a Roadblock that saw the border agents go through the emotional roller coaster of thinking they were done, realizing they were in first and watching their newly-discovered lead vanish in a matter of seconds.
Art & J.J. discussed that roller coaster, their fighting spirit and more in their exit interview earlier this week.
Click through for the full conversation…
HitFix: First of all, talk me through the roller coaster of that final Roadblock in Hawaii. You think you’re out, you’re done. Then suddenly Dave & Rachel show up behind you. What was going through your heads then?
Art Velez: When we had gotten our cab and ended up going the completely different, opposite direction, we knew that we’d fallen really far behind and then as we followed through some of the challenges, we figured that we had at least worked our way up to second place when we got to the sled portion. So I was doing the sled portion of it and I was like, “I’ve just gotta get down here before Rachel & Brendon show up, so that we at least secure second place,” because I always thought we were in second place. By the time Dave & Rachel showed up, I had probably been doing that challenge for a little over an hour, maybe an hour-and-a-half and had gone down that hill close to 40 times, so by the time they showed up, I was already physically exhausted anyway and I was just like, “Wow. Where did they come from?” I was like, “Did we do something wrong? Or they messed something up.” And then I’m thinking, “Well, maybe she’s gonna have as much trouble as I am with the sled.” And then when she got it done the second turn, I was completely deflated. I was like, “Holy cow. I can’t believe she just got that on her second try. So that part right there was probably the most defeating part of the whole Leg.
JJ Carrell: Like Art says, we got the worst cab driver in the history of Hawaii and ending up going God-only-knows-where and we changed cabs and it was frustrating because everything that we wanted not to happen happened at the beginning, but we said, “Hey, you know what? Let’s just plug through it.” This was a neverending Leg, where there was Roadblock after Roadblock and after we kept getting more Roadblocks, Art and I kept thinking, “Man, we’re blowing through these things. I think we’re making up time. We might only be 15 or 30 minutes behind them and maybe they’ll slip up.” We got to the sled and we both thought we were in second place. Then to see him just time and time again not be able to get down and to see them show up, Dave & Rachel, at the top of the hill? At first it was exhilarating because we were like, “My God! We can win this.” And then it was deflating to think, “We’ve been here for an hour in first place and we haven’t done it.” It was a roller coaster. The best way to really get a visual of how we felt was to be at our party last night with 300 or 350 people. When Dave & Rachel show up, the place erupts and we’re in first place. And then it’s just down. And then we’re up. And then we’re down. It was an emotional roller coaster to actually watch it, even knowing the ending. But we tried our best, man. It just wasn’t in the cards. It still bothers us to this day, but it was an incredible experience of a lifetime.
HitFix: After all of your criticisms during the season of Team Big Brother for following and not going their own ways, how did you guys find yourselves following Dave & Rachel with a cabbie who didn’t know where he was going at the start of that final Leg?
JJ: The only reason we told our cab driver to follow them was cuz our cab driver, like I said, thought he was on planet Mars. He had no idea where we were going, where it was or what we were doing. He couldn’t talk and he wouldn’t let us use his phone. So the only thing that we could do was to follow them. And we said, “Hey, you know what? If anybody knows how to get there, it’ll be these two. Let’s just follow them.” Then once, obviously, he lost them within two seconds of us asking him to do that, we just told him to beeline for a hotel and we’ll change cabs and that’s what we did.
Art: You’ve gotta figure, we’re coming out of the airport and everybody’s right in a line with each other, so as long as you’ve got a visual on somebody, then that way you can go and do it and keep ’em within eye-sight. As soon as Rachel and Brendon didn’t have anybody to follow after the ice challenge, they ended up taking a cab to a completely different place and that just follows in line with as long as they didn’t have anybody to follow anywhere at any time, they ended up getting lost. That was the one instance in the whole Race where we said, “Follow somebody.” And that was strategic because we were towards the very end of this thing.
HitFix: Over the course of the Race, you guys had active fights with three different teams. How much were those fights strategy? How much was boredom? What caused all of that?
Art: Well, the one with Nary & Jamie, that was just a thing of, we deal with people who lie to us on a daily basis in our job. That’s what people do. We confront people without immigration documents and they lie to us and they tell us that they have them and then we end up questioning them until they say, “OK. Yeah. I don’t have any.” My wife’s a teacher. My mom was a teacher. My grandpa, my grandma, my aunt. I come from a family of educators and all they do when they get together is talk about parents, kids, other teachers and administrators. And these two women didn’t. So when I was having a conversation with somebody else and wasn’t even talking to them and all of a sudden they pipe in as a third party to a conversation I’m having with somebody else with completely different verbiage that law enforcement officers use, I was like, “These women aren’t teachers. They’re cops.” And that was it. Personally, I could care less what it is they did. It was just a thing of saying, “Hey, you know what? Whatever, man. If you guys wanna say you’re teachers, you’re teachers, but I’m telling you you’re not teachers, so whatever.” I really didn’t care. It was just a distraction in the whole thing of it. We were never threatened by them and we never really even talked to them, because every time we would get somewhere, they would go off and do their own thing. So it was like, “Whatever.” It is what it is. Like I said, it’s not like they were ever gonna beat us in a Leg anywhere. They were never even close throughout the whole Race.
JJ: And you know, Dan, you’re right that there were some times where we did things and said things strategically, like Nary & Jamie. There was already high drama in Africa, so we figured, “Why not?” I actually turned to Art and said, “Hey, let’s go stir up the pot.” We knew we were gonna confront ’em. We just didn’t know when and we figured, “Hey, this is a great time to do it. Let’s go ahead and get them involved in the drama.” With Brendon & Rachel, there were things that were done that were never shown on TV and I think it started on Day 1 when we’d see them follow us and they wouldn’t do anything, they’d just follow. And then where the tide really changed with them was when we were in the airport in Buenos Aires flying out from there to Paraguay, we showed up with a couple other teams in an Internet cafe and none of the teams will talk to us. They won’t even say “Hi” and they start saying rude things to each other about us and we’re like, “Holy cow, what’s going on?” And then I confronted Mark & Bopper and I said, “What the heck is going on?” and they go, “Oh, Big Brother said you did this and you did that.” That’s when we realized… We’d never watched “Big Brother,” but we realized they were playing “Big Brother” on “The Amazing Race” and they’re pitting teams against each other. So we were able to identify immediately that would be a problem, so let’s go ahead and get them out of the way. And then with Dave & Rachel, there’s a whole backstory to that that wasn’t show and he just didn’t keep his word, so that just kinda rankled Art and I.
HitFix: JJ, you were pretty brutal in your impression of Rachel & Dave’s fighting. How do you guys look back on those two as competition and as as team that you guys spent a month with, basically?
JJ: I give them an incredible amount of credit. They’re great team. They overcame a huge mistake that we should have capitalized and they ended up winning the Race. They won eight Legs. I have nothing but respect for the way they ran the Race. They were on-point. But… I don’t know… I mean, as far as the way that he talks to his wife or whatever, that’s between them. Everyone has their own marriages and relationships and stuff like that. For Art and I, it was just about running the Race to win it. And if we came off a little confident, or if you want to call it “arrogant,” I know this is gonna sound arrogant, but we just really didn’t give a rip what anybody really thought or what people write about us. People that know us through our profession, or even extended professions through other agencies and our families, they loved it. They said, “That’s totally you two guys and that’s totally how the Border Patrol thinks and does things.” For that, we’re fine. For some reason, in America, being an intelligent, ambitious and confident man, somehow that became a sin in our country. But we’re not gonna apologize for that. I’ll apologize for Art’s harsh behavior and his attitude sometimes, but I can’t control Arthur. I can’t control Arthur. That’s just the way he is, Dan.
Art: [Laughing.] And the thing too that you’ve gotta remember is that just the fact that we’re Border Patrol agents, automatically some people don’t like us anyway, just because of our profession. That’s a whole other ball of wax, but we’re already starting out just because we’re PAs, we’re patrol agents, and right there, there’s a segment of the population that automatically hates us. So you know what? It is what it is.
HitFix: So that pretty much answers my next question which was: You guys watched the whole season… No regrets for anything you saw?
Art: Not a one, other than I wish Rachel would have been my partner and then I think we would have won.
JJ: [Laughing loudly.] The only thing that I regret is that if I could have killed Art on the top of that hill and tied him to that sled and then pushed him down the hill and then just carried the sled to the finish line, that’s my only regret that I have.
HitFix: On that last challenge, would you guys say that that was a challenge where simply having a female center-of-gravity was a large advantage?
JJ: It’s funny, because right when Rachel came up over the hill, the female warrior that was down at the bottom turns to me and says, “This is a challenge that female warriors dominate in. They go head-and-shoulders above males.” And I was like, “Great.” And sure enough, the second time, “Boom.” There she is. So there is some truth to that. But that’s no excuse. Rachel is… What a tough lady she is and she does it with a great personality and a smile on her face and is very endearing. So I have nothing but respect for her talents and for her personality and the way she conducted herself, even thought she called us “a-holes,” I still think she’s great.
HitFix: And, as a last question, are you guys still planning on giving Mark & Bopper that portion of the prize that you promised them?
Art: Absolutely. That was something that JJ had come up with when we were on that 18-hour bus ride. He’d talked to Bopper and Bopper had mentioned the troubles that his daughter was having and JJ came to me and goes, “Hey, if we ever end up winning a Leg where we win money, do you wanna split the money with Bopper?” And I was like, “Absolutely, man. That would be a great thing to do.” When we got there and we were in Italy and we had no idea where those guys were anywhere in the Race, because that’s where we took the Fast-Forward and got there pretty quick and Phil told us we’d won the money and JJ was immediately saying that we wanna split it with those guys. We’re men of our word. There’s absolutely nothing that’s happened or anything that’s been done that would ever change the fact that Bopper’s daughter’s still sick and he still needs some help. We were at that time willing to help and we’re still willing to help. Absolutely.