Newlyweds Max and Katie had won the past three legs on The Amazing Race 22 and looked like they might make it a fourth straight victory on the final leg. But then came the spy Switchback Roadblock. Despite getting there first, Max had trouble locating his spy and completed the task third, but the two were able to recover for a second-place finish. "It was hard to watch. We loved watching the first half [of the two-hour finale]," he tells TVGuide.com. "I wish we had a week to enjoy that victory instead of just slamming the door on it. But it was fun. We'd been dreading watching D.C. since we did it." Find out how much time they lost at the challenge, if they think of themselves as villains and more.
Amazing Race's Bates and Anthony: We were confident we'd be first
Do you know how far behind Bates and Anthony you were?
Max: I really don't know. Far enough to lose! It was really all luck in the suitcase. Bates got it on, like, his fourth try. I had asked probably all 50 agents and the 50th agent was my guy.
Katie: We probably spent an hour there. It definitely felt longer.
Max: I was literally doing laps around the Tidal Basin and then I realized that the agents weren't going in a straight line. They were stopping, turning around and going the other way as well. ... It was a terrible feeling because we felt it slipping away from us.
The globes task was partially based on luck too. Does it bother you that there were two luck-based challenges in the final leg?
Max: The globes didn't bother me. It was partially based on luck, but there was some skilled involved. You did have to know what the countries looked like and what the order was. But the suitcase will bother me forever. It was all luck finding the guy and then you were also able to use your notes [to do the briefcase code], so it didn't even test your memory.
Katie: The globes one was extremely easy. ... You know the final challenge is usually something memory-related about the season. Even if you are not a smart person or don't know geography, every time you're on a flight for 12, 18 hours, you look on a map and you know what country you're going to and what it looks like. It was just a matter of finding the right globes. There were only a couple right answers. Once Bates and Anthony had gone through, there were fewer globes for us. I knew at that point that they were ahead of us. It was really disheartening.
Were you resigned to second place? Did you think maybe they could've gotten lost?
Katie: Yeah, that was always in the back of our minds. Maybe they got lost, maybe they got a bad cab. But Bates and Anthony are a very strong team and if you give them an inch, they'll take it a mile. They're professional athletes, they're very competitive and we knew they were first.
Max: And we were headed to such a well-known location for the final Pit Stop that it was pretty much impossible to not know where it is. Even the worst cabbie is going to know how to get to Mount Vernon.
Phil told me he thinks you get the award for Most Improved Players. You definitely turned it on after all your issues in Botswana. What changed?
Max: I think we just started to learn how to race. The biggest thing for us was in the beginning we ran a little bit out of control. We were making bad decisions, like in Africa. Instead of stopping and asking, "Are we heading the right way?" we would continue driving that way. We realized it was better to stop and lose five minutes to ask for directions or confirm you were going the right way than to lose an hour by racing out of control. We were more focused.
You were the first to notice the Titanic menu. Are you surprised no one else saw it right away or stopped to check?
Katie: Yeah, it did take them a bit. We did miss it at first, but I'm a really detail-oriented person. When I read the clue, it said five courses and we grabbed the table menu and there were only two. So we started plating, but I knew we were missing something. So before we started running down there like chickens with our heads cut off, I made sure to double-check. Mona and Beth had a really hard time with that. They asked us for help, and so did Bates and Anthony, but the guys figured it out sooner. We played dumb and didn't help them.
Get the scoop on 39 must-watch finales
Anthony did end up telling Mona and Beth about the menu though.
Max: Yeah. He totally didn't mean to and you could tell he was upset by that. The second he did it, you could totally see that he had made a mistake. Bates would've killed him had he been there to see that.
Bates was already going to kill him anyway.
Max: [Laughs] Exactly! That was funny that it slipped. They had asked us and we were like, "I don't know. I think it's the soup. We just kept trying until it was right." We were just trying to create more chaos than anything else.
You guys were aloof and were considered the villains, and you freely admitted that you'd fake being nice to people in the premiere, but you wound up in an alliance with the hockey players and the singers. Do you consider yourselves villains?
Max: No. I think it's hard to consider yourselves villains when you're in the back for half the Race! Everyone's just going to laugh at you. We never wanted to be in an alliance, but it was more of an anti-alliance. John and Jessica, Mona and Beth, and Joey and Meghan had made an alliance, and [the latter two teams] kept it up, especially last week when they thought they were on the first flight, so the rest of us just grouped together. We didn't really go out of our way to help Bates and Anthony or Caroline and Jen. We took their help if they were offering it and we didn't backstab them. Obviously you saw how those two really helped each other and told each other about every flight and stuff. We didn't mind being part of the group to help out, but we weren't invested as Caroline and Jen were.
Would you have U-Turned Bates and Anthony if you had the chance?
Max: People ask us that all the time and we would've. Obviously they got there first and U-Turned Meghan and Joey, so it only made sense to U-Turn Mona and Beth. We wanted to buy some insurance. I honestly think we were all expecting to be U-Turned. It's a race — no personal feelings. But I don't think we were really villains. We were kind of loners, but I think we have self-awareness. Sometimes villain teams don't have self-awareness. We knew people's perceptions of us.
Amazing Race's Joey and Meghan: It's our fault for not being thorough
I loved your reaction to learning that John and Jessica didn't use their Express Pass and got eliminated.
Max: [Laughs] I thought that I was just saying what all of America was going to say.
And that's what we were saying.
Max: Yeah! That's how I felt. And Joey and Meghan were trying to defend them. I know everybody was thinking the same thing and maybe nobody had the balls to say it, but I was just like, "Holy crap! You've got to be kidding me. How is that possible?!" That episode was one of the most fun ones to watch because even Phil was just like, "Oy vey. I don't understand it." And [John] was just in complete denial. To this day, I still find it crazy.
Did you really think you were going to meet Obama?
Max: When you open those clues, you believe most of the things you read. I would say within two minutes of reading that clue, I said to Katie, "Wow, if Bert [van Munster, the creator] pulled this off, he's really got some skills." Then I thought to myself, "We've really got problems as a country if the president's taking the time to meet reality show contestants not even knowing when they're all going to arrive." [Laughs] So we didn't buy it for very long, but it was certainly entertaining.
What's next for you guys?
Max: Hopefully All-Stars! [Laughs] We have dreams about the Race every night now.
Is your recurring dream a recurring nightmare now? You turn the corner and you see Bates and Anthony run by you?
Katie: [Laughs] Yeah! And we have recurring nightmares about the Tidal Basin and the suitcases, having it slip through our fingers.
Max: It's hard just not to think about how close it could've been. Maybe we still would've lost, but you never know. Katie and I talk to fans of the show and we say, "You might hate us, but did you notice us?" The general consensus we got was, "We hated you. We didn't want you to win, but we did enjoy watching it." It was kind of like a trainwreck for them. [Laughs] That's our hope — to get another crack at it.
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