Hippos and rhinos and donkeys, oh my.
It took a wide assortment of exotic animals to doom Winnie Sung and Pam Chien on Sunday night’s “The Amazing Race,” but the quotable duo admits without hesitation that they have nobody to blame but themselves.
After emerging as one of the season’s stronger teams, winning one Leg and picking up a pair of second place finishes, Pam and Winnie struggled with an African Detour on Sunday. First they couldn’t find operational donkeys for the “Brawn” side of the Detour. Then, when they switched over to the safari animal-spotting “Brains” Detour, they were unable to spot an ostrich and confused a hippo for a rhino. In a tight Leg, this was enough to do them in.
In this week’s “Amazing Race” exit interview, the friends discuss their animal difficulties, their teamwork-building exercises and the pressures of racing against other teams.
Click through for the full conversation…
HitFix: You guys seemed very philosophical with the “Amazing Race” experience on Sunday’s show. Did any regret eventually sink in?
Winnie Sung: All the regret that set in happened immediately after we got eliminated when we were walking. We were like, “Wait a second. We should have done this, this and this.” But overall, we don’t really have too many regrets, because honestly how many people can do this in their lifetime? It was like the best time in our life. We had so much fun.
HitFix: You had a decent run on the show. Was there a point at which you’d have felt more regret, do you think? Like if you’d gone out second, would you have been pissed off? Did you feel like you got enough out of the experience once you got to a certain point?
Winnie: I think we got enough out of it. Honestly, we did so much better than what we expected to do. We were just saying “We can’t go home first.” That was our main goal. So we met our goal.
Pam Chien: I think regardless of placement, though, we felt just so fortunate from the very beginning to even be selected for this thing. So going into it knowing that, obviously we wanted to win the whole thing, but just going into it with that mentality and just feeling so grateful right from the get-go, it’s hard to be disappointed. Unless you’re first-out. But beyond that, we were totally fine.
HitFix: Winnie, you said you didn’t expect to go as far as you did, but by the second or third episode, you guys also started sounding much more confident and being disappointed when you didn’t win Legs. What was the evolution of your mindset between insecurity and cockiness?
Winnie: I think when you’re in the moment and you’re racing you have all this adrenaline and for us, a lot of those Legs we were so close to being first that we had that feeling you could almost reach it, so not getting it was like, “Aw man!” But overall, in the big picture, looking back on everything, it was so much fun. Yeah, when we were racing, we were trying to get first all the time, but it’s a race. That’s like the point.
HitFix: Sunday’s episode, had you guys been able to piece together previous what had gone wrong on the Brains Detour? And what did you learn about your elimination that maybe you hadn’t realized?
Pam: When we were doing the Brains Detour, we did not realize at all that we had missed the ostrich. We’re from LA, so it’s not intuitive or it’s not ingrained in us to be able to spot random animals in the wild. After we finished the Detour, we then realized after everything was said and done that we missed one, so for us it was just tricky because that last animal was technically two species and must have looked at [inaudible] and we were so sure that we had spotted 10 animals, but yeah… We didn’t know at the time that we had missed an animal entirely.
HitFix: So was that something you only realized when you watched the episode? And what was your reaction?
Winnie: We watched it and we like, “Oh my God! That’s a freaking rhino.” We’re going to cling to deliriousness, because we’d been out in the hot African son for two hours baking. And it was so stupid and we were laughing at ourselves, because two years prior we went on a safari in South Africa where we were memorizing all these animals. So we were just cracking up. But what can you do at that point when you see these things on TV.
HitFix: It sounds, though, like the rhino/hippo distinction is still causing difficulties to this day.
Winnie: [Laughing.] Yeah.
Pam: That and ostriches. But, to be fair, they were cut outs, so they’re harder to identify. If they were in their natural form, I’m sure it would have been much easier.
Winnie: We know the difference between then.
Pam: Just not as silhouettes.
Winnie: Yeah, not as silhouettes in the bush.
HitFix: And on the Brawn side of the Detour, how long would you guys say you dealt with the stubborn donkeys before switching tasks?
Winnie: We were like a good 20 minutes trying to get them to move and they were just not moving and they were just getting more angry at us and more stubborn as that was happening, so we were like “We’re probably not gonna any further,” so that’s why we decided to switch in the first place.
Pam: We thought switching early was a good decision, because were hoping that maybe other teams would switch as well…
Winnie: Not knowing that me and Pam had such bad eyesight.
HitFix: And then when you went back to Brawn after failing at Brains, how quickly did the donkeys move that time?
Pam: They wouldn’t move again! And we were like, “This is why we switched!”
Winnie: In fact, it was even worse the second time. The second time it took maybe a good 35 minutes…
Pam: Just for them to take one step.
Winnie: And then they kept stopping along the trail.
Pam: We had the worst donkeys.
Winnie: Yeah. We had really bad donkeys.
HitFix: And yet other teams had donkeys that were just trotting along. What was wrong with your donkeys? Or maybe what were other teams doing right that you weren’t doing?
Winnie: I think one of the donkeys really didn’t like Pam.
Pam: It was distracted by Winnie’s body odor.
HitFix: On the episode, you guys mentioned the amount of preparation you had done before going on the Race. What skills did you want to make sure you were proficient at?
Winnie: We’re pretty active, in general. On the weekends, we go kayaking and hiking and climbing and stuff, but we really wanted to make sure that we could work together well, so we did a lot of teamwork-building exercises. We did a ropes course. We shopped together. We ate a lot of meals together.
Pam: We sat around a campfire singing “Kumbaya.”
Winnie: Eating s’mores.
Pam: We braided each other’s hair.
Winnie: Pillow fights. That kind of stuff.
HitFix: And how well did you feel like those exercises worked when you were actually out there?
Winnie: I think it worked really well, because normally, in our everyday life, we’ll fight over the stupidest stuff like parking spots… For me, the teamwork stuff was the biggest help, because we worked together really well on the Race, much better than we interact in every life.
Pam: We’re back to that now.
Winnie: Yeah. We’re back to fighting.
HitFix: One of the things that came up a couple times in the episode was the extra pressure that came from racing simultaneously with and against other teams. When did you guys first realize that was something that was distracting you or being a problem?
Winnie: From the very first Leg, we were like, “Oh my God. Racing in the presence of other Racers is so anxiety-inducing.” And I think every single team felt it. But that’s just something you can’t prepare for. We did all the physical stuff we did. We tried to do all these mental activities. But when you’re in the moment with other people running next to you and maybe, possibly running next to professional athletes? That causes so much nerves and adrenaline and it really throws off your game. That’s one of the things that you’ll never be able to prepare for and you’ve just gotta go in and do it.
HitFix: Do you think that alliance-making might have made a difference?
Pam: No. Truthfully the alliances on this season were more just agreements or people just helping each out and we, for our own person kinda goal, was to be able to do the Race and do everything on our own, so I don’t think it would have benefited us in any way to have gotten help along the way, because as you can, we took ourselves out by screwing up the Detour on our way.
Winnie: We were friendly with other teams on the Race, but the only times we ever entered into agreements, and they were on a circumstantial position, was for the U-Turn, because nobody else wanted to get U-Turned. And that was the only time we entered into an agreement.
HitFix: On your CBS bios, both of you mentioned “bathrooms” as the thing you were most worried about on the Race, so I feel like I have to ask: How were the bathrooms during your “Amazing Race” journey?
Winnie: It was good. We were both completely satisfied with the toilet situation.
Pam: Thank you CBS, for providing…
Winnie: We didn’t have to see unnecessary poo on walls on urine on floors. It was not bad.
HitFix: And just a last question: Could you each give me a favorite moment from this experience that we didn’t get to see on TV.
Winnie: I think mine was when we were driving in New Zealand. We had to drive for long stretches, like maybe two hours at a time, and that was like our only chance that we got to really relax and enjoy the environment we were in and be able to take in where we were and that we were seeing these new things without the nerves of the Race hogging our minds. That was the only time we were able to really relax and enjoy everything.
Pam: Yeah, that was one of my favorite moments, too. But a surprisingly favorite moment for me was all the free stuff we got in airports. People were really generous and we would run out of money and they would buy us food or drinks and it was just so nice talking to people in airports who we didn’t know and getting to know the locals and that was very surprising and so memorable, just all of the help we got along the way in that sense from people in other countries.