Dave and Connor O’Leary’s “Amazing Race” journey reached a painful end when Dave tore his Achilles heading for the mat at the end of the season’s second Leg. But then a funny thing happened.
First, the father-son pairing capitalized on an early alliance to receive an Express Pass from John & Jessica and used that advantage to win the third Leg.
Then the cancer survivors used an advantageous flight and a couple strong task performances to reach another Pit Stop in first.
On Sunday’s (March 17) episode, though, Dave & Connor’s run came to an end. With doctors telling Dave he needed surgery within the week, they elected to fly from Bali to Hanoi before bowing out gracefully.
In this week’s “Amazing Race” exit interview, Dave & Connor discuss the medical odyssey, their brief triumphs over adversity and how soon they’ll be ready for another shot at the million.
HitFix: So you won a couple Legs and you got to go out on your own terms, at least some what. In your minds, does that count as a successful “Amazing Race” experience or do you have regrets still?
Connor O’Leary: It’s not that we wanted to go home like that, but overall it was an amazing experience and winning a few Legs in the process wasn’t bad either.
Dave O’Leary: Obviously we regret that we had to leave “The Amazing Race,” especially when we felt like — Not that that there weren’t a lot of great teams. There were and you never know what can happen — but we felt like at least we had a shot and if we’d been healthy, we may have been able to go at least to the end.
HitFix: Obviously one was because of the Express Pass, but given your condition, were you guys surprised that you were able to collect those two Leg wins?
Connor: Yes and no. Yeah, we were lucky and we got a great flight and there were only a few teams we were going against, really, but I thought we had a good chance. If the tasks weren’t too labor-intensive, I thought we had a chance and we lucked out there. We ended up winning.
Dave: Bali was great. We loved building the offering and that was something we obviously could both do and we did it pretty efficiency and then we got to the surfboard challenge had to make a decision who would go, it wasn’t too hard to decide. Connor’s a great athlete, so I felt pretty good about where we were and the opportunity to catch up and maybe pass Pam & Winnie.
HitFix: Could you talk me through the decision-making process we saw on Sunday’s episode, the decision to fly to Hanoi to be eliminated there, rather than doing it in Bali?
Dave: We got an email back from an orthopedic surgeon early, as we were leaving Bali. In fact, it was right before we went to the travel agency. So Connor and I talked about it and we said, “We may as well go to Vietnam.” It’s some place we wanted to go and we didn’t want to just leave the Race. We wanted to leave the Race and be able to go to the mat and kinda withdraw. And you said, “on your own terms” and it wasn’t necessarily that, but we wanted to be able to kinda say good-bye. So we opted to go to Vietnam. We were within the timeframe that the surgeon said I needed to be back and so we knew that if we left in Vietnam we would be good. We really wanted to complete another Leg, but we had no idea how long that Leg would be. We didn’t know if it would be a Leg in Vietnam or if it would go on to some other country and it would take another three or four days and if that was the case, we knew it would be too long for us. So we opted to go to Vietnam and withdraw on the mat.
HitFix: And was that just an immediate turnaround from Vietnam? Did you get to the mat and go straight back to the States and to surgery?
Dave: We did.
HitFix: Talk me through what the recover process has been like…
Dave: I was lucky. I actually got home at 10 o’clock at night and had surgery the next day. The recovery process, it’s really kinda an ugly surgery. You look like Frankenstein. I have a six-inch scar up the back of my ankle and the recovery process they say for full recovery is about a year. I’ve been lucky. I actually got back on a bicycle when I was in my boot and could kinda pedal a stationary bike and I’ve recovered to the point that I’m out on a road bike and able to ride. I can’t stand up very well and pedal, but I’m still able to ride and a couple of months from being able to run, but I feel really good. I’m really glad that I came home and had the surgery. It would have been silly to try and keep going and jeopardize my health.
HitFix: Had you guys had any awareness of what last night’s Leg consisted up? And what was your reaction when you watched the episode and saw what the specific tasks were?
Connor: Yeah, we had no idea what the tasks were going to be and, you know, we may have been able to make it through the next Leg, but you just never know. We didn’t know if it was going to be some crazy, labor-intensive task, or…
Dave: Yeah, but we both said last night after watching it, “We could have done that.” I think I could have even done the bamboo jumping.
Connor: Yeah, we probably could have done it last night for sure.
Dave: Who knows where we would have wound up, but I think ultimately we could have done it.
Connor: We would have put my dad on the Roadblock where they had to watched the performance. Yeah, my dad could have whipped that out no problem. And then we could have completed the other tasks. So yeah, you just never know. But at that point, it just wasn’t an option for us. We had to get back.
HitFix: And how stunned were you guys when you realized last week that you’d actually gotten to use your Express Pass, but John & Jessica hadn’t gotten to use theirs?
Connor: I was shocked when we found out. It was pretty shocking that they didn’t use theirs.
Dave: It’s certainly disappointing for them. Who knows what was going through their minds at the time, but it seems like when he saw Chuck down at the surfboards, he would have immediately just said, “OK. I’m gonna go use my Express Pass.”
HitFix: When they handed you the second Express Pass, I kinda inferred that John was mostly giving it to you because he assumed with your injury, you might be leaving the Race and might not get to use it at all. Did you get that impression as well?
Connor: Yeah, I don’t think that hurt at all. I think they saw us, at that point, as “OK, these guys aren’t a huge threat. It’s gonna make us look good to give it to them. If we don’t give it to them, it’s gonna look real bad.” So yeah, I think it played in real well for them that we were hurt and that they could give us the express pass. I don’t know if they would have if we weren’t hurt, so who knows.
Dave: We exercised that Express Pass because we weren’t catching any fish and we just knew, unfortunately, that if we had to stand in that spot another 20 minutes and try and catch fish, we wouldn’t have had a chance. We picked a guide and went to his spot and it was the wrong spot, so we said at that point, “Let’s use it.” Shoot, if we’d been able to catch fish on the first task, we never would have used it, obviously.
HitFix: Dave, it looked like this was not your first time on crutches. [He starts laughing.] You were moving around pretty well on those things.
Dave: You think? [Laughing.] I was an avid skier and I broke my leg when I was in high school, so I got around that way. And I’ve had my ACL done twice… It wasn’t the first time on crutches, which I guess is a good thing.
HitFix: How much slower did you guys feel like you were out there when Dave was hobbling around?
Connor: For somebody-on-crutches standards, we were fast, but we were definitely not as fast as somebody on two legs. Getting out of the airplane, we had to wait, we had to get his crutches, we started trying to track down a wheelchair…
Dave: And Connor’s got both packs.
Connor: Yeah, I had both packs on. And we were lucky we were fairly proficient with crutches and made due, but we weren’t as fast as somebody on two legs, that’s for sure.
HitFix: That brings up my next question. Connor, how much harder did you feel this made things on you for these couple Legs?
Connor: I’m lucky that I’m in fairly good shape, so it wasn’t a problem for me carrying both packs and all of that. We were a little bit slower, so it really wasn’t too stressful on me. What was stressful was that we were working on one leg and we knew ultimately we were going home. It was something we both wanted to do really bad and we wanted to win, so it was a bummer, but there was nothing we could do.
HitFix: Dave, you’ve gone through cancer and you’ve gone through the various surgeries you mentioned earlier. What was the pain level that you were experiencing out there?
Dave: I was fortunate. Once I got in the boot, the pain was really minimal. That’s really kinda what made our decision to go forward. We got to Tahiti and went in and had the sonogram and there was a little confusion on the translation in terms of how serious the injury was and it kinda got cleared up, frankly, off-camera where they said, “Oh, it’s not a minor tear. It’s a major severing and you do need to have surgery. You’re being advised to go home right now and have surgery.” So we went from that and got the boot and once we got into the boot, I felt great. I thought, “Gee, I can keep going.” That’s when we made the decision to go on to New Zealand and when we got to the mat in New Zealand, we were debating whether or not we should pull out, but we didn’t even have the chance, because the Race kept going. So we said, “Well, we’ll go do the next Leg.”
HitFix: Did you guys give any thought to the fairness to the other teams out there, continuing to run even as you knew you’d eventually be dropping out?
Connor: Oh no, I didn’t see that at all. Everybody’s out there to race and if they can’t beat somebody on one leg… I mean, if somebody beat them with one leg, then I think they need to go home. We ran a fair race and so did they. I didn’t see it as “We were cheating somebody out of their race at all.”
HitFix: And as a last question: I assume you guys would love another shot at “The Amazing Race.” When do you think that you’re going to be ready to race again, Dave?
Dave: Sixty days. I’m serious. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. As soon as I can run again. I’m walking fine. I can ride a bike. I just don’t want to injury it again. They’re saying “Wait six months to start running,” but once I can start running, I’ll be fine. I’ve been swimming. I feel pretty good. It’s certainly not what it was. My left calf is about half the size of my right.