Interview: Margie & Luke talk ‘Amazing Race: All-Stars’

On Sunday (March 23) night, Margie & Luke had one of those rough “Amazing Race” Legs that happen every couple seasons. They started near the back of the pack and after an unfortunate flight situation they were in dead last as they reached Sri Lanka, many hours behind the other teams.

Even though Brendon & Rachel faced a SpeedBump in the Leg, Team “Big Brother” made a successful travel gamble and pulled even with the other teams. Margie & Luke never got close enough to even see another team at a challenge, much less stick around.

That actually made for a relaxed Leg for the mother/son team, who were in their third tour of “Amazing Race” duty. They needed it after a rough last Leg in Kuala Lumpur, where a bartending Detour frustrating Luke, who couldn't attempt the alternative DJing Detour because he's deaf. 

In this week's exit interview, Luke & Margie talk about the travel announces leaving Kuala Lumpur, problems that basically caused their elimination. They also discuss the bartending Detour and its frustrations. Finally, they talk about how they've changed as a partnership in their three Races.

[Logistical Note: I conducted my normal phone exit interview with just Margie at the beginning of the week. After that conversation, I emailed a series of questions to Luke and he responded via email. I've stitched the two conversations together, Oral History-style. I think it makes sense!]

Click through for the full Q&A…

HitFix: On Sunday's episode, we saw the tough flight decision that you guys had that eventually determined your fate. How close did you guys come to actually trying for the Singapore connection?

Margie O'Donnell: We tried the Singapore connection. They would not sell us tickets for a less-than-30-minute connection at the airport. They wouldn't do it. We had to have gone to the travel agent and Luke and I spent about an hour, they didn't show it, but we spent about an hour searching for the travel agency with a cab driver who had no idea where he was going. We got taken into a room by security forces and held there for about 20 minutes and they wouldn't let the camera crew in or anybody in. It was just a nightmare. So once we got to the airport, they could get us to Singapore and the only way we could get that second leg ticket was to buy it in Singapore. So that's just the way it was at the airport. So we were aware of that other flight, but we didn't want to take a chance on it, because we would have had to go out of security to purchase the tickets and then come back in. So the other way we could have done it is if we had gone through the travel agency. It was very disappointing and we didn't want to get stuck in Singapore. We probably would have been better off, in hindsight, but…

HitFix: So that would have been your preference? To have tried to make that tight connection? Because certainly Sunday's episode didn't make it look like that was your preference.

Margie: Right. There was a really nice man that had a computer and we had all the flight information in front of us. Yeah, it didn't look that way to me either. So we had all of that flight information in front of us, but when we spoke to the people at Singapore Airlines, they would not, at that counter, sell us a ticket for that second leg of the flight because of the 30 minute connection. We just wouldn't have been able to do it. And when we were speaking to the first airline, the guy kind of insinuated that it wouldn't be a problem. There were four seats on that flight. They were three first class and one in economy and we couldn't take first class seats, but he said that sometimes if there's empty seats, they'll move other people up and then they'll you go standby in those economy class seats. But again, we had a confrontation… Well, not a confrontation, but we had the director of the airline come and talk to us and she said that under no circumstances would we be able to do that, but not until 45 minutes before the flight. We were kind of led to believe that if there were seats available — and at the time we checked, there were — we would be be able to get on. We were very disappointed.

HitFix: Interesting. And we couldn't tell from the editing, but when you guys were in the middle of what you just described, did you know anything about what was happening with Rachel & Brendon? Where they were? If they were still in the Race? Etc.

Margie: Yeah, we actually saw Rachel & Brendon in the airport. We saw them at the counter. They were right next to us at one point, so we were aware that they were going to Singapore. We didn't know that they had gotten that 30 minute connection, but they had made those arrangement through the travel agency. So we knew they were going to Singapore, but we didn't know anything beyond that. We didn't know if they were gonna take a chance and try to run out and buy tickets. We didn't know that they had tickets and they weren't offering us any information.

HitFix: That means that at least in theory, when you guys were in Sri Lanka, you must have at least had the possibility in your mind that anything could have happened to them in Singapore and that they could still be behind you, right?

Margie: Yes, we did. We just thought, “We're just gonna continue to race as hard as we can. We're gonna act like we're still in this thing. We don't know where Rachel & Brendon ended up.” So yeah. We still had a little glimmer of hope. But they also didn't show that our flight out of Kuala Lumpur was delayed by two hours, so not only did we have to take a flight at 6 in the morning, but the flight was delayed by two hours. So it was just a mess all around.

HitFix: Luke, It sounds as if there was a lot of frustration involving the flights out of Kuala Lumpur. How stressful was that and then how were you able to find that calm state of mind that you seemed to have through that last Leg in Sri Lanka?

Luke Adams: I had no idea why it was such that difficult to book the flight out to Sri Lanka on that night! We never had so much trouble with the airports on our previous seasons. Soon as we got in Sri Lanka, we knew that the race was pretty much over for us so we want to enjoy Sri Lanka much as possible cause we know that we probably would not get another opportunity to visit Sri Lanka again for a long time. No point of getting all frustrated in Sri Lanka. 

HitFix: So what was it like being on that final Leg in Sri Lanka and never seeing any other teams, it just being you and Luke?

Margie: I think when we actually landed in Sri Lanka, once that additional two-hour delay… We knew that there were morning flights from Singapore and we knew that even if Rachel & Brendon didn't make that connection, that they would have made it out early, that there were many more options out of Singapore to get to Sri Lanka. Once that two-hour delay happened, we just sat on the plane and we just kinda made peace with it. We felt like we ran a good Race. We felt like we did a good job. And if a miracle were to occur? We would have been thrilled, but… I don't know. We were kinda hopeful that we were still in it, but kinda resigned that we were not.

Luke: It was nice to not be stressed out for once and just enjoying what was going on around us. Sri Lanka was just so beautiful country, glad we got to enjoy it. We figured we were in dead last place so we wanted to enjoy the scenery much as we can. 

HitFix: We didn't see it on Sunday, but did you guys fully complete the Detour and the Roadblock?

Margie: We got to the place and the tide was out so far for the fishing that we did not complete the task, no.

HitFix: And what about the Roadblock?

Margie: We actually went to both locations. We had to take the train and then we had to take a bus and we went the route, but it was so late that we did not complete the tasks.

HitFix: As everyone was doing the Roadblock, everyone seemed sort of terrified by the idea that you guys might come in out of nowhere and that it would turn out that you were some sort of master seamstress who would have made up all that time with sewing skills. Are you?

Margie: [Laughs for a while.] I think the impression comes from everybody kinda looking at me like the mother on the Race, so I guess everybody's mother knows how to sew. I know how to sew. I would not say I'm a seamstress. I can run a sewing machine. I probably would have done OK on the task. I own a sewing machine. I use it periodically. I don't make clothes or anything like that, but I probably would have done pretty well on that one, though.

HitFix: We've had circumstances in which Phil Keoghan has met teams that were way far behind either at the airport or at one of the challenges. Did you guys like the fact that you got to at least go to the individual stops along the way and meet him at the pit stop?

Margie: Oh yeah! We were thrilled. It was a really long day. The train ride, it was funny that when I watching it, everybody had seats on the train. We had to stand the whole time. We packed in like sardines. There was a scene I was so disappointed wasn't in the show last night, a group of monks got on the train and they all had on these white shirts and white hats and Luke was standing holding a thing on the train and they all were holding onto Luke and they came up to a little above his waist. It was hysterical. Yeah. It was really cool. We got to see Sri Lanka. It's so beautiful. We had a two-and-a-half hour train ride and then we had to catch a bus and we went a whole different way back. It was very, very pretty. We were thrilled. We thought when we got to the airport, we thought, “OK. Phil's gonna be there.” But he wasn't, so we were very happy that we got to see Sri Lanka.

HitFix: And with last week's episode, how hard was it to watch and reexperience the Kuala Lumpur Detour and the frustration of that task?

Margie: Well, you know, the frustration that Luke felt for that task was more related to the fact that we couldn't change task. And people did change, because that trick-drink task was really, really hard. So the Afghanimals, they changed and they completed that beat thing very quick. Well, not very quickly, but I think after two tries. The frustration that Luke had was both of us had to participate. He couldn't hear. So we did not have an option, at that point, to change tasks. So that's where the frustration was from. We even went up to see if he could feel the beat, maybe if he could do it. We walked up there and he was like, “I can't.” The frustration was, “Why would they have a hearing task if they knew there was a deaf person on it?” So we didn't have the option to change tasks and that's where the frustration came from, not so much that we couldn't do it, but that we didn't have an option to go do the other task.

HitFix: That was gonna be my next question. What is the level of annoyance that you feel about the show doing a Detour where you guys didn't have a choice at all?

Margie: We knew going into it. Season 14, we were told, “We're not gonna make any special accommodations” and we were fine with that. And there have been tasks before that I have had to do. One of them was the parasailing in Season 18, the paraglide in the Swiss Alps, I had to do it, because you had to listen to verbal commands during the flight. He wasn't so frustrated with that, because it was one task that one person from each team had to do. The frustration came this time because we didn't have the option to switch. We knew going in that they weren't going to make any special considerations for us and we can't expect that. It's a game. That's the way it goes. That's the way it is. I'll tell you, there's an outpouring from the deaf community. They're not very happy about it. But what can you do?

HitFix: Luke, how hard was it watching the previous episode and having to re-experience that Detour in Kuala Lumpur, specifically not really having the choice in Detours?

Luke: There was one important part that was not shown on TV. We tried to switch the task and we realized how the deejaying task is a hearing-based task. It”s pretty much based on following the rhythm & music. There”s NO way that I could have pulled it off so we realized that we were left with no choice but go back to martini-glass task. I got really flustered with how the Detour tasks were designed. I thought it was unfair how other teams had two tasks to choose while we were stuck with one task. It was a pure frustration. It was not easy to watch teams to come by and go quickly. I was in Race mode and just want to finish the task ahead of one team at least! I was more frustrated about how deejaying task was not deaf-friendly to me. I mean, I have done couple musical tasks on previous Races but it was barely enough for us to be able to complete the tasks. But for deejaying task? There”s no way we could have done it as a team. It would”ve been nice if we were able to switch the tasks but we couldn”t. In the past, I think we only had to switch the Detour tasks once so we never really had to switch the tasks. I really thought we could pull it off with the martini-glass task but it was pretty hard! It take a lot lot lot of practice to make it perfect. People have told me that they could see how the Detour tasks were unfair and share my pain so that”s nice to know that people could see why I was pretty frustrated in the bar. Wish they have showed the part where we tried to switch the tasks.

HitFix: And what was that attempt to do the DJing task like?

Luke: Soon as we switch to the DJing task, I could feel low vibration but I knew there”s some kind of song that we would have to listen and follow the rhythm. We went back to bartending task right away. I didn”t want to waste any time on trying DJing Detour by knowing that there”s no way we could pull it off at all as a team. 

HitFix: And Luke, how did Rachel and Brendon's support at the end of that task help you and did it change your perception of them?

Luke: That was so sweet of Brendon & Rachel to give us the pep talk. The Bartending task seemed really really impossible to pull it off. I figure that if we took a time penalty that we might somehow beat Brendon & Rachel to the mat. I didn”t think we were able to pull it off with bartending task. We were there for a really long time. I adore Brendon & Rachel for giving us the pep talk. That”s so nice of them

HitFix: And just as a last question: How has each incarnation of Margie & Luke that we've seen on “The Amazing Race” been different? How have you evolved through these three journeys?

Margie: In think in Season 14, the first time we were on, I hadn't really watched the show. I'd seen a few episodes. I travel for my job a lot and Sunday night I usually was on an airplane and now you just press a record button, but you had to put a tape in to record back then. So I didn't see many episodes of it. I knew Luke was a huge fan and I was aware of the show, but when we went on the show, Luke really had to guide me and tell me what was going on. When I went to get fitted for my backpack, I had no idea I had to carry it myself, even. I was that naive about the show. He was the strategic one on that season and I was kinda the boss, like I was still like the mother, but he knew how to play the game. As it evolved, I have learned how to play and what needs to be done and we became more equals, not so much mother-and-son, except for when I yelled at him to clean up his mess, then I guess the mother came back out in me. But I don't know. We're pretty simpatico. We get along really, really well. We enjoy spending time together. I just think the way our relationship changed from less mother-son as we went on to more like friends, I think, is how I describe it.

Luke: I have made a big transition from being a college kid on the first season to full-time working adult on this season! It”s just so incredible to see how I grew up over the seasons. It”s great to watch my mom transformed into a such a great role model for the older women and for the parents with deaf children and for the parents with gay children. It”s really a great honor to have her as my mother. She”s such an incredible and strong woman. It”s a great feeling to know that our special relationship on the show have made an impact on many people”s lives. 

HitFix: And Luke,would you have one more Race in you or are you done now?

Luke: I would love to do it again and again with my mom. It is just incredible way to see the world! 

This season”s “Amazing Race: All-Stars” exit interviews:
Joey & Meghan
Mark & Mallory
Natalie & Nadiya