HitFix Interview: Bill & Cathi talk 'The Amazing Race'
From near-elimination to 5th place, the 'older' Racers share secrets
By Daniel Fienberg Wednesday, Nov 30, 2011 2:45 AM
While Bill and Cathi Alden were the last team to reach Phil Keoghan in September's season premiere of "The Amazing Race," it looked like they were going to be the latest in a long line of "older" teams to make early exits from the CBS favorite.
Instead, the 60-something married grandparents were spared by the first Non-Elimination Leg of the "Amazing Race" season and rather than falling to the back of the pack again, Bill & Cathi went off on a run of solid legs that took them all the way to the Top 5.
Yes, Bill & Cathi were eliminated on Sunday's (Nov. 27) episode, but not before winning a slew of admirers, including Keoghan, their fellow Racers and one Belgian weightlifting judge, who was especially impressed with Bill's wiry physique.
Whether climbing rock walls, churning butter or carrying beds on their backs, Bill & Cathi never seemed like anything less than the equals of their younger rivals.
Bill & Cathi discuss their "Amazing Race" experience after the break...
HitFix: So how have friends and loved ones responded to your new-found careers as bodybuilders?
Bill Alden: Shocked.
Cathi Alden: Yeah, everybody was, of course, just as mortified as we were that we were up there, but they've all been really kind and supportive.
HitFix: What was the biggest challenge of that particular task for y'all?
Cathi: To be honest, it was to memorize the moves in the right sequence and with the right definition. This is a highly polished artistic skill that these people have, so it was very difficult for us to learn it. Plus, we truly were mortified at what we were wearing, so our brains were not functioning at 100 percent.
HitFix: On the other hand, Bill received a very enthusiastic compliment from one of the judges. How did that make you feel?
Bill: Well, it felt good. I never expected to be exposed to that extent and I'm not a very avid dancer anyway, so as Cathi put it, the stress... When we went up there the first time, we didn't have it down, but the fella said, "Come on. You've gotta get up there and do it once so you've got the idea." Well, after being booed, the idea was "I'm not gonna go out there again."
HitFix: Cathi, you referred to the "artistry" of bodybuilding. I assume that was something you wouldn't necessarily have realized before you had this experience?
Cathi: No! In fact, when we opened the clue, it was something like "Who wants to do a little bodybuilding?" and so I'm thinking -- wrongly, of course -- that first of all, we would keep the clothes that we had on on and then that we would learn some things and demo them. I didn't have any idea that it would be as precise and strict as it was.
HitFix: Going back to the very first episode of the season. If you guys had actually gone home after that very first leg, how would you have approached the whole "Amazing Race" experience?
Bill: Well, the thing that occurred there, that we got turned around, what would have been the very large heartache is that we knew we could do these tasks and to be deprived of not getting the opportunity to show that we could could do them would really hurt. The million dollars, that's just a huge bonus, way out there, no question, but to not have been able to show that we can do this, that would have really hurt.
Cathi: I just totally agree. You go into it knowing that you have some skills and strategies and not to be able to demonstrate any of those would have made us feel bad. We would have had a lifetime of, I think, sorrowful thinking, whereas what we have now is just great memories and knowing that we did the best job that we could at that moment.
HitFix: In terms of your energy and subsequent approach to the race, how beneficial was that reprieve?
Cathi: I think it just shocked us into realizing that we needed to absolutely have a strategy for every moment. We couldn't wait until we got somewhere to think about how we were going to behave. We started strategizing whenever we were on the conveyance: "OK. We have to know which door to go off of the train. We have to know probably where the center of the station is." So we were much more active strategists after that.
HitFix: Was that just an example of you guys experiencing the sort of thing that we maybe don't instantly think of when we're sitting and watching the show on our couches?
Cathi: Absolutely. We had viewed it for years and been pretty judgmental, which I will never do again. You don't see how tired the teams are. You don't see the very, very big difference that getting off of a train 90 seconds ahead of another team can make in terms of getting the great taxi. You don't see that.
Bill: Also, when we were wandering around in Taipei for four hours, that's four hours of wandering around in 95 degree heat and the other teams were already in their hotel rooms. So for older folks to give up those four hours and be in that stressful situation, it's really hard. So every moment that you can rest, you'd better.
HitFix: Cathi, what kinds of things did you used to judge people for?
Cathi: Oh, we judged them for being stupid! And, again, when you just watch people, you don't have the empathy of knowing how exhausted they are or how difficult the communication can be. So when they do things that are not thoughtfully strategic, I was always pretty harsh with them. I won't do that again, because when people make mistakes, it's generally because they're tired or don't have all the information. It's not that they really are stupid.
Bill: Also, when somebody runs right by a clue box and the camera goes and focuses on the clue box, you think, "Well, they're either blind or they have their eyes shut," but in reality, you get a preconceived notion that something is going to be a certain way and it's hard to see beyond that.
Cathi: I think the best example of that was the sign at the orphanage. None of us had any idea that there was a second step to handing over the money that we had earned. So everybody's in a rush. Everybody's in a panic because we're trying to get to that Pit Stop. So eight of the 11 teams didn't bother to even look at what else was on that table. So kudos to the three teams that did see it, but it's hard.
HitFix: So as fans of the show, but also now as experienced Racers, what was it like watching the orphanage episode, watching the Taipei episode and seeing yourself fall into those traps?
Bill: [Laughs ruefully.]
Cathi: It was hard, because what you want to do is reach into the television and slap yourself so that you'll do it differently, but you know you're not gonna do it differently.
Bill: Also, you've been caught not paying close attention, so at the very next situation, we were extremely apprehensive to not try everything and then it was an obviously thing and we should have just gone with what we had. But yeah, it's set up so well to get you into those kinds of predicaments.
HitFix: When you guys got to the Pit Stop on Sunday night, you talked about how pleased you were with how you'd done and Cathi, you mentioned how this made a statement that age was not something that should stop you from doing things well. Did you guys feel like you ever really were at any kind of disadvantage on the Race?
Cathi: You know, we did not, except we wondered if we recovered more slowly than the other teams, just in terms of snapping back after a 12-hour Pit Stop in which you had to eat, sleep, wash your clothes, do interviews and be ready to go again. We wondered if, because we were older, it was harder on us than on the other teams. But other than that, it really isn't a foot-race very often. We saw Cindy & Ernie and Tommy & Andy duke it out in a foot-race, but that isn't very often the case. More often it's making wise decisions and making good judgements about how to do things.
Bill: And then there's the other aspect to it and that's luck and bad luck. You can say what you want about believing in luck, but the deal is that you ask the right person and "Boom!" you're on your way in the right direction and you ask another person and, not intentionally, but they can send you in the opposite direction and then you're 30 minutes down the tube. So luck had a lot to do with it and we knew that coming in.
HitFix: "Luck" would presumably be something that wouldn't be impacted by youth or age.
Bill: Absolutely. There's another aspect of it and it has to do with the age that we are and that's communication and media. The younger teams were so comfortable and it was such second nature to them to ask somebody for their phone or we know the Internet, but they went even beyond and so that was a disadvantage for us, that we weren't growing up in that era.
HitFix: But let me spin the communication issue a different way. You two seemed to have a fairly massive advantage in terms of the communication just between the two of you. I don't think we saw you guys bicker at all during the entire Race. Were you surprised with how well you held it together?
Cathi: You know, I think we wasted no energy in the entire Race on trivial matters like not getting along or having to worry about each other's feelings because we'd been harsh. So I do think that the maturity of our relationship was a huge advantage, because we were in synch for the entire Race. That kinda surprised us, because we are not always in total agreement on how to do things.
Bill: Well, you know that there's tons of footage that isn't shown, because they just pick the apples. But even in driving, we're comfortable with a Garmin now, but we had to go back to maps and to verbal directions and stuff and even at that, because our long relationship, throwing darts and blaming each other isn't going to move you any closer to your goal, so we even did great on stuff that you didn't see. It was second nature and we were just very goal oriented and we do races in other ways, so... Yeah, it was an advantage for us to be so well attuned to each other.
HitFix: Give me a favorite moment from this experience that we didn't get to see on TV...
Cathi: My favorite moment was in Yogyakarta when we had a taxi cab for the entire day and he got us early in the morning and we went to the cave and we kept that cab driver all day long and he was a dear. He just became part of our team and he wanted us to win and he would have done anything, including ruining his entire car, on our behalf. We were sad that there wasn't much play for him, because he buoyed us up for the entire day. He was splendid.
Bill: My favorite was at the same time in Yogyakarta. We came in late at night. We were actually on a veranda and the sun, it got lighter and lighter, and we were looking down into a valley and then the imam started their call to worship and one would do it and then another one over there and then another and it was... I mean, the hair on your neck came up, because you were looking down into the gray dark and you could hear them, they were on loudspeakers, and it was just surreal, really.
HitFix: And as a last question, what advice would you give to future "older" teams on "The Amazing Race"?
Cathi: Whether you're on "The Amazing Race" or you're just doing life, I think you have to approach everything with gusto and an attitude -- It's Phil's attitude: No opportunity wasted -- that you just have to embrace anything that you want to do and give it a go. It'll work however it works, but to not try is, to me, the greatest tragedy.
Bill: You hear about and you see people who retire and then sit down and that's where they stay and so my advice would be to don't sit down and don't give up. I'm kinda a stay-at-home person and Cathi is a traveler and she is my best friend, so I go with her and I have a good time and even though I may be apprehensive to start with, I get out there and do it. Like Cathi says, it doesn't have to be a race. It's just life. Go out there, keep on your feet, keep active and see as much as you can see, because it's just worth it. http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/the-fien-print/posts/hitfix-interview-bill-cathi-talk-the-amazing-race