Interview: Rowan & Shane talk ‘The Amazing Race’

When I talked to “The Queen of Bingo” stars Rowan Joseph and Shane Partlow before they embarked on their “Amazing Race” experience, the long-time buddies and co-stars were in performance mode, giving nearly endless answers, playing off of each other energetically.
I spoke with a less enthusiastic Rowan and Shane this week following their “Amazing Race” elimination. They were sent packing after a tough Leg that included a bad cab ride, a mistaken gamble on a long-haul bus to Santiago, Chile and a strange Roadblock in which Rowan did a full task along with an unaffiliated amateur shoeshine worker, rather than one of the marked shiners, leading to a long delay.
Despite all of those misadventures, Rowan and Shane finished the Leg right behind Baseball Wives Nicky and Kim, very nearly surviving.
In their exit interview, Rowan and Shane discuss the circumstances behind their elimination and I pull teeth.
Click through for the full conversation…
HitFix: Regarding Sunday’s episode, with the bad cab in Iquique and the bad bus to Santiago and then the shoeshine thing, you had a roller coaster Leg where it kept seeming like you were almost entirely out and then you kept getting caught back up again. What was the emotional swing like for you guys out there in Chile?
Rowan Joseph: Up and down.
Shane Partlow: I would say down and up.
[Long pause.]
HitFix: Was it hard to keep your energy up? Did you keep getting adrenaline bursts when you realized you were still in it? And then you kept getting brought down again?
Rowan: Yeah, I guess.
Shane: I agree with Rowan. It was what you said.
HitFix: Talk to me a bit about the bus decision. Teams often talk about how they wish they had more travel flexibility and control. You guys actually took the travel into your own hands. What was your thought process at the time about leaving the pack and how did you feel as that progressed?
Rowan: Even though I know that there are people that said that we’re stupid, the reality is that in that portion, we actually were thinking. I take buses and have throughout my life quite a bit. I lived in New York for 18 years and would travel to different places and it wasn’t unusual to have an Express bus and have a Local bus. We were looking to see if where was an Express bus, which there were. The student who we spoke to spoke fairly good English and we repeated numerous times that we’d be getting in, arriving in four hours, “cuatro hora,” so we felt confident that what we were doing was right. But it didn’t turn out that way.
HitFix: And what was your thought process, Shane? I assume this was a decision you made together.
Shane: Follow the leader.
HitFix: You have the 24 hours on the bus ride to stew, was that time you were able to rest or was the decision and your position eating at you as you went along?
Shane: It didn’t eat at me. We made our decision and that’s what we did.
Rowan: We rested pretty much.
HitFix: Why did you guys think that you had found a magic bus that none of the other nine teams had found?
Rowan: As I just said, because we told that it was going to be arriving in four hours and it’s not at all unusual, even in Chile, it’s not as common-place in Chile as it is in the US, but there are Express buses and Local buses. We had every reason to believe and were led to believe that we were going to be on an Express bus that wouldn’t be making as many stops. And, in fact, if you noticed, we were supposed to be two hours behind, but we got in 15 minutes behind the other teams. That wasn’t really a magic bus that we got on. What it was was they pulled another bus off of the road that didn’t make as many stops, that actually they pulled off the road for us to go on. So there were Express buses and there were Local buses, just as there are everywhere. The thinking was not unsound. The communication is what got mixed up. The magic was that we stayed in it to the very end.
HitFix: Yeah, you looked like you could have been out entirely, but then you got to that Roadblock and there were the other teams. What went through you minds as you saw, “OK. We’re actually still in this”?
Shane: We’re back. For the third time.
HitFix: Rowan, talk me through your memories of the confusion with the shoeshine guy and how that compared with what we saw on TV?
Rowan: It was fairly accurate. It was my mistake. I read the clue. I went to the shoeshine area where there were people shining shoes and I went to a gentleman and he was kind enough to give me the demonstration I was supposed to get, to allow me to sit in his chair, to pull over a customer from somebody who standing nearby, to get them to let me give them a shoeshine, to have them pay me and I paid him. I went through all of the steps. The problem was that I didn’t look for the designated marker, the shoes that were hanging, which I didn’t see. I went to the wrong area and either my persuasion or, more than likely, the fact that I had a camera crew with me was enough to dazzle the gentleman and let me watch the demonstration, let me shine someone’s shoes, let me get paid for it, let me  pay him, let me pack up all his stuff and let me walk away with it. So it was completely my mistake and the kindness of that gentleman.
HitFix: When you were doing that, in your head was part of you thinking, “I can’t believe that this is supposed to be as hard as it is”?
Rowan: That actually we started to think when we left the ranch, that’s when we started to think that. It is very hard. We know. We watch it on television, so we’re used to it being hard, but when you’re doing it, you can’t actually stop and go to the refrigerator and get a pop. So it’s a different reality.
HitFix: Shane, could you see what was happening with Rowan and the shoeshine? And what was going through you mind at that time?
Shane: I could not see what was going on with the shoeshine. I could see where they were running to, but we were in a holding area which we had to stay at. When I saw Bunny or Kim running back and forth saying she lost something, I knew we were still in it and I kept yelling at Rowan, “Keep going! Keep going!” holding a McDonalds hamburger that I had in my hand that they were giving us just to keep going.
HitFix: And Rowan, from your point of view, how heated did that confrontation with Marie really get? It looked like it was only a little heated, but then you also called her the Devil, so…
Rowan: Yeah, I mean, Marie is Marie. [He laughs.] God bless her. The name probably will stick for the rest of the season.
HitFix: Other than that incident, how well did you guys feel like you were getting along with the other teams? You were the slightly older team and sometimes that’s an issue.
Shane: Great. 
HitFix: You wouldn’t have wanted things to be better or worse?
Rowan: Well, obviously we would prefer to be better. We wouldn’t want to be worse. Yeah, definitely better.
HitFix: At the final mat, Rowan, you told Phil how much more you came to appreciate Shane as a result of this, even beyond the time that you’d spent together previously. Could you elaborate a little bit on that?
Rowan: That was dubbed. I don’t remember saying any of that.
Shane: I’m a ventriloquist. It’s me saying that.
Rowan: And I’m the dummy. Yeah, it would be hard to elaborate. It’s pretty much as I said. I think the Race, probably for both of us, made us appreciat each other more. 
Shane: And you say the darnedest thing when you’ve had no sleep for 48 hours.
Rowan: I still wouldn’t take it back.
HitFix: And Shane, from your point of view, did you find new things that you didn’t know about Rowan as a result of this?
Shane: No, it was just reenforcing how much determination he really does have. Even though he might be saying he might not be able to do something, but I think he underestimated himself in some aspects. He was like a warrior. 
Rowan: We never gave up. There are teams who have or do or would have in the past and we never did. It was fun to watch, because it was exciting for us too. It really was that close at the end.
Shane: And our cab almost ran out of gas and I said, “We’re walking.” It was 10 miles and I said, “I don’t care if we run out of gas. We’re walking. We’re finishing this Leg. I’m sorry to everyone that’ll have to wait for us.”
Rowan: Our cab, he literally had to stop for gas which, God bless him, he had to pay for out of his own pocket, because we were almost out of money at that point. I think if he hadn’t, it probably would have been a footrace with Kim and Nicky. But it was great.
HitFix: Going back to something you were talking about earlier, Rowan, about the realization that this is harder than this seems on the couch, was it something that impacted you even on the first Leg? And was it something you could describe beyond just mere exhaustion?
Rowan: So many factors. You do realize almost immediately that you are in a competition with other people who are right there, so there’s a certain energy that comes from the other teams and that plays into it. The clock is always running, even when you’re sleeping on a plane. That’s what happened to us on the bus. The way that really played out was we were all on a bus together and we made a stop at another place and that’s when we got off and when we got off, that’s when we went to that bus desk. We’d been stopping at much smaller stations along the way and some of them were just outside the gas station and there was no bus ticket office at all. This one that we had stopped at was about six hours into the trip?
Shane: We were 20 in. We only had eight hours left.
Rowan: It was only six hours left out of the 24 and when we got there, it was a huge bus station with a lot of counters, so that’s why we got off and I said, “Boy, look at this. Let’s see if there’s a quicker bus from here.” The way that they edited it, it looked like we all got on the same bus and we just chose a different bus. We were actually on the same bus with those people and we came to a huge bus terminal that was much closer, six hours to Santiago. And at that point, that’s when we thought, “Oh. OK. Maybe there’s a faster bus and we can get a direct bus from here in.” It’s a combination of thing. Even the doctors, early on with them, having the situation of having taken the cab and not running. It’s just when you’re in the moment, it’s so intense. You are right there next to the person you’re competing with. The tasks are not of an ordinary nature. It’s not like you’re running a 100-yard dash. You’re doing something that, despite the age or physical capabilities of the other teams, by virtue of what it is you’re doing and by chance and by any other number of factors, anything can go any way and you’re always aware of that and that heightens your sense of excitement and your sense of danger, in terms of being knocked out of the Race. You don’t get that at home when you’re watching. You just get to watch us experiencing it.
HitFix: You guys talked several times about the difficulties and struggles of being a blue collar, working actor. Have you guys seen any impact yet from the extra visibility that this show has given you in the way your acting is being received?
Rowan: No.
Shane: Not really.
Rowan: No. Because we’re going to be in smaller towns and we’ve been doing the show for 10 years.
Shane: Yeah. I would say, “No.”
Rowan: For a 103-year-old team, we feel like we did OK. It’s the Race is. Circumstances could have been different, but we fought all the way through to the end.
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