Normally the first team eliminated on “The Amazing Race” ends up being pretty anonymous, because it's just too hard for producers to give quality time to so many players in a crowded premiere episode.
Say what you want about All-Star seasons or the specific All-Stars this season, but very few people were ambivalent about Twinnies Natalie & Nadiya Anderson, who earned fans and haters alike for their first season, which included a contentious money incident, some smart U-Turn strategy and lots and lots and lots of yelling.
On Sunday's “Amazing Race” premiere, though, only the yelling was in evidence and even that was half-hearted after a while. Natalie & Nadiya got an early advantage getting on the first of two flights to China, but struggles in a wedding district saw them fall from first to last. By the time they started bickering at the top of the Canton Tower over ferris wheel cars, they were basically doomed, before they got to their first Roadblock or Detour.
In the season's second “Amazing Race” exit interview — I also chatted with Bopper about his medical departure — Natalie & Nadiya talk about the mistakes they made, how things might have been different if they'd had allies from their season and the All-Stars they're disappointed they didn't get to race with more.
Click through for the full Q&A…
HitFix: OK, so let's start by talking about last night's episode. I know it's always hard to tell out there, but can you give me any sense at all of how long that wedding dress search actually took?
Nadiya Anderson: It literally was a nightmare. We hadn't drunk any water all day and we were literally on our feet with the Afghanimals for hours. It seemed like three hours or four hours in total of us searching in this one strip of dress stores, one street and then the back streets behind this one street. We were running in circles for hours with these guys.
Natalie Anderson: Our flight was like two hours ahead of the second flight and then once we landed we had that two hours and then we were searching for another one hour before the other teams came and then that's when we realized we had been out with these guys for three hours. Me and Nadiya had big backpacks. The Afghanimals packed really light, they had these little small school backpacks, and I couldn't believe that we physically could have done that for three hours straight, just running around bloody China.
HitFix: So in retrospect, what could you or should you have done differently so that it didn't take as long as it did?
Nadiya: I mean, hindsight is 20/20. If I could go back and change it, I would probably say, “Let's get on the second flight to China!” I think being ahead of everybody else, we just didn't think about doing things the smart way. We just went about it the craziest, fastest way we could. Maybe breaking off from the Afghanimals would have paid off, but then when we tried to do that, they found the clue immediately. So honestly, the only thing we could have done was just try to calm down and take it one step at a time.
HitFix: We saw last night that there was at least one time you guys were standing right in front of one of the shops, decided it wasn't correct and went back to looking. Did you realize when you actually found the location how close you had been?
Natalie: Yes! When we came back and then when we realized we were basically in a five step radius of all the stores and then by the time we realized that all the clues were gone in each store and then we only had to find the last store which had it, it was so defeating to know that we'd been right there and then all the other teams who landed in China two hours later had got the clues that, in our eyes, we deserved those clues, because we were almost there and we were ahead of everybody! We ended up getting the s***iest end of the stick and it kinda sucked and that kinda set the tone for Nadiya and I for the rest of the Leg. It was just a s***-show then.
HitFix: What was your reaction when you saw those teams from the second flight show up?
Nadiya: At that point we checked out. When we saw the other teams show up, we really realized how much of an idiot we had been the whole morning and that we had absolutely made zero progress and taken no advantage of the fact of us being in the first flight. Natalie and I are used to racing in the front of the pack. We always want to come first. We've aways been the strong team, so we're never the team that's like, “We can't come in last! We can't come in last!” We're always the team that's wanting to come first and I think it really caught us by surprise and we weren't ready for being in the back of the pack at that point.
Natalie: Also, we had never relied on anybody for help in our first season. Never once did we go to a team and say, “Let's work together?” or “You wanna do this?” Trey and Lexi were our alliance, but we could have raced without them. It was such a real friendship. It had to do with the Race as well, but it was very mutual. It wasn't like, “I need help! I need help! I need help!” And then in this situation, we realized, when we saw the other teams, we were like, “Oh my God, if we have to start begging for help, which so not like us, it means that we're completely out of our element.” We'd kinda just lost what me and Nadiya were good at, which was staying in the front and just doing our own thing and racing well. It ended up being exactly what Nadiya said. At one point Nadiya said, “If we don't get our stuff together, we're gonna get eliminated” and that was just a really eerie foreshadowing.
HitFix: That brings me right to my next question: In your first season, you guys really were on your own most of the time, but on Sunday you paired up with the Afghanmals, you paired up with the Country Girls. Was that, I guess again in hindsight, a mistake?
Natalie: Yeah, it was a mistake. We didn't go in having any alliances and that was kinda in the back of our mind. We were like, “You know what? Everybody else is coming back with all season-mates and Nadiya and I are kinda just the loners.” The only reason we were willing to work with people when they reached out to us is because we didn't want to put a big target on our back. We kinda had a target after the whole U-Turn thing our season and we didn't want teammates to be like, “You know what? Get Natalie & Nadiya! If there's a U-Turn, let's U-Turn them and get them out,” because we're very competitive and they've seen the way we've raced before. Unless you're in an alliance and you know that you're one of our teams that we're gonna support through the end, we're willing to do anything while we're racing, as long as it's within the rules. Obviously, I'm not gonna go and beat up somebody, but keeping somebody's money? When we were asked about that the last time, we said, “Of course I would keep it again, because it's part of the Race.” It's what makes racing fun. So that was kinda in the back of mind. So we agreed, like when the Girls came up and when the Afghanimals reached out to us like, “You want to do this together?” We're like, “OK. Fine.” And we just kinda went in without really being like, “Nadiya, let's just do what we're good at, which is Race by ourselves and forget everybody else.”
Nadiya: Also, it's a totally different experience doing All-Stars, versus the first time when you come in and everybody's strangers, everybody's starting from a blank slate. Now you're coming back and there's classic teams like The Globes and Luke & Margie and The Cowboys and all these other dynamics of people. I feel like it's almost like you're obligated, you're almost a part of this “Amazing Race” family. It's weird. It just kinda threw us off our game, because we're used to just doing our own thing and basically saying, “Screw everybody else” and doing it on our own.
HitFix: Talk a bit about your reaction when you saw the other teams you were racing against, when you initially saw the competition.
Nadiya: Honestly, it was just demoralizing. We just felt like such losers, because me and Natalie are so good at keeping our leads and even when we're falling behind, we're so good at just moving ahead, just keep on going. We just felt really bad and then all we kept on hoping was, like, “Please let there be some physical challenges where we can beat some of these weaker teams, teams that we know are so much weaker than us that we can just outright just beat and just move on and pass them up.” But we just weren't lucky enough to have something like that.
HitFix: I meant more at the very start in Los Angeles, when you saw the 10 teams that would be your competition, the other All-Stars.
Natalie: Well, we were running out one by one, me and Nadiya had obviously heard of all the teams and once we were called for All-Stars, we did our research on the past seasons and we tried to figure out who they would call back. Some of the teams immediately we were excited to see were the Globes, because we just loved the way they raced. We loved the fact that when they switched up Mark & Bopper's team into a Mark & Mallory team, we were really excited, because I just remember watching her and there was this one incident where she was in India and she runs out of the airport and she's like, “I love India already!” so me and Nadiya were really excited. We didn't get to race with her, obviously, because we got kicked off first, but we were really excited to see her on the starting line.
Nadiya: And for us while we're racing, we don't really care who we're racing against. We don't care if they're strong teams, weak teams. We don't care. We're gonna race our best regardless of who's there, so it didn't really matter. None of the teams really intimidated us at all. We just learned from our past season that you can't judge a team based on looks or ability. We all learned the hard way about the Beekmans, because we thought that they were the biggest non-threatening team, but they ended up winning our season, so we really don't pay attention to whoever we're racing with. We were not worried about it.
HitFix: But you mentioned earlier that a lot of the other teams knew each other from their previous seasons. Would it have been better for you if there had been another Season 21 team out there?
Natalie: Yeah, I feel like it would have totally a different story if me and Nadiya were walking in there and we had the Chippendales or Trey & Lexi there on the starting line. It just immediately sends out a message like, “Alright. Natalie & Nadiya, no matter what, if you mess with them, then their alliance, Trey & Lexi is gonna be upset about that, so you can't mess with them.” Or if James and Jaymes were there, it would have been an unfair thing, because everybody who watched our season knew that that alliance was one of the biggest, strongest alliances. Even though it wasn't successful at the end, it was a really strong alliance and the way we manipulated to get out Abbie & Ryan was something that had never been done and it was a pure trust factor. Like we weren't there to execute what was planned, but teams did what they were supposed to do out of a strong or bigger goal. In China, we'd have rolled with Trey & Lexi or Chippendales, if they were there, and I feel like our fate would have been completely different.
HitFix: You mentioned the excitement at seeing the new pairing of Mark & Mallory. What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of being out on “The Amazing Race” with somebody who you maybe don't know, as opposed to you guys, who know each other so very well.
Natalie: I just feel like Mark and Bopper are like the same person, so one of the advantages is that Mallory brings a completely different skillset to the Race that Mark and Bopper don't have. They have a very similar upbringing, they have very similar strengths and similar weaknesses, whereas Mallory would bring a very dynamic difference aspect to racing. But Mallory's a very, very brave girl, because I don't know if I would be able to put myself in that situation, because I raced with somebody I've known my entire life and I'm so close to that I could not imagine doing this with somebody I barely I know, let alone somebody so different from me.
Nadiya: Yeah, I wouldn't race with anybody else but Natalie. I just can't see myself racing with anybody else but Natalie. It's such a volatile, high tension, stressful situation, I wouldn't be able to rebound. There's only a very few people I would be able to rebound and be myself with and having them be themself with me and just be able to move on. Yeah. It would be a difficult situation for me.
Other “Amazing Race: All Stars” exit interviews: