Exclusive: Misa Tanaka and Maiya Tanaka talk 'The Amazing Race'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 02/21/2012
Misa Tanaka and Maiya Tanaka were eliminated during Sunday night's premiere broadcast of The Amazing Race's twentieth season.
The "Sisters" duo became the first team eliminated from the around-the-world competition after they arrived at the CBS reality show's first Pit Stop in Salta, Argentina in last place because they lost time looking for the spot where The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan was standing and came across some other minor obstacles along the way.
On Tuesday, Misa, a 27-year-old car buyer from San Diego, CA, and Maiya, a 25-year-old professional golfer from San Diego, talked to Reality TV World about their The Amazing Race experience -- including how far behind the other teams they believed they finally arrived at the Pit Stop mat, how they managed to get lost at the end of the leg when Phil admitted he could see them running around from a short distance, whether the incident in which Maiya's car got stuck in the sand lost the team valuable time and contributed to their elimination from the Race, and who they thought were some of their toughest competition.
Reality TV World: How far behind Joey "Fitness" Lasalla and Danny Horal do you think you two arrived at the Pit Stop?
Misa Tanaka: We were seconds behind Joey and Danny. I mean, running up to the mat, we saw them still standing on it. They were actually just walking off the mat as we were running up to it. It's just we took the most roundabout way ever to get there.
Reality TV World: You guys finished the empanada task before Joey and Danny but you clearly couldn't see Phil on the mat and seemed to run around the location of the Pit Stop although you were in the correct area. Could you guys talk about what happened there? Why do you think you got so confused and lost and do you think you could have done something differently to have avoided that situation?
Maiya Tanaka: Basically what had happened is Phil, at that point, we knew we had to finish really fast because our bags were still in the car. So from that point, we went to the car, we got our bags, and we kind of started from the outer perimeter of the place.
We were kind of just running around a little bit frantic knowing that Joey and Danny were just a few empanadas away from finishing. So, we basically were a little bit frantic. We were a little dehydrated and basically had tunnel vision.
Misa Tanaka: Yeah, when you're that exhausted and frantic and under so much pressure and you're that dehydrated and you haven't slept, the elements change in how you process things. So, you do get tunnel vision and that's the last thing that I expected to get.
I'm usually pretty calm and collected when it comes to being under pressure from experience in buying cars and competing to buy those cars up at auctions. So, I really didn't think that it would have that much of an effect on me. But it truly did. I mean, just the combination of all of those elements really impacted our ability to kind of take a bigger look at the entire area, and we just didn't see Phil at all.
Maiya Tanaka: I'm used to it because of golf too, basically, the pressure. But it's more like a calm and collected kind of "execute this shot" kind of pressure as opposed to "frantic, hurting, we need to beat the guidos." (Laughs)
Misa Tanaka: And on top of it, we were looking for Phil on a mat and we just didn't know exactly what that was going to entail and what that was really going to look like. (Laughs)
Reality TV World: Were a lot of members of the public also hanging around at the Pit Stop location? Because some viewers have expressed surprise at how you wouldn't have noticed all the cameramen and production people that also must have been near Phil and the greeter at the Pit Stop mat.
Misa Tanaka: I did not expect at all for there to be a million camera people and some other cast members as well when they got finished would be standing around and everything. In my opinion, I just didn't think that there was going to be interviews or something conducted with the general public standing around as well and production.
And so, I just thought it was going to be maybe a couple cameras and Phil and the ambassador of Argentina. So, looking at all those mounds of people, it just didn't cross my mind that that was supposed to be what we were looking for.
Reality TV World: How long would you say you two actually got lost for?
Maiya Tanaka: We weren't really lost. We were just kind of searching and we kept running into production the wrong way. So basically, we'd go one way and kind of get shooed off, so we'd have to take drastic U-Turns all the time and we kept going one way and they'd be like, "Nope not it."
So we did a lot of those like step forward, turn around, and no, this isn't the way. So, we were literally like seconds -- we beat Danny and Joey at the empanadas by a matter of just a few empanadas. So we knew it was just really, really close and when you're frantic and running around, I don't think we really had an estimation of time. But it was really close.
Misa Tanaka: Right.
Reality TV World: You arrived at the empanada task in last place, but Joey and Danny took longer than you guys to make all 120 of those empanadas. How long do you think it took you to complete that task and how difficult would you say it was?
Misa Tanaka: It wasn't that difficult. It was just kind of tricky in the fact that there was a specific way to fold those empanadas. You had to do them in specific patterns, but it wasn't all that difficult for us to complete just because we're used to making something similar with Japanese wontons.
So, the patterns and stuff weren't hard for us. We knew we'd be able to execute very well and to complete that challenge really quickly. We arrived probably I'd say, what? Maybe 10 minutes after Joey and Danny. And so we got through those empanadas I would say probably, I don't know, six or seven minutes before them and were able to run back and get our backpacks.
So, I mean, they were literally right behind us. Like Maiya said, they were only a few empanadas away from being completed. So we made up a lot of ground seeing that they were there ahead of us like a good 10 minutes.
Maiya Tanaka: We love cooking and we're used to working together with each other, and especially in the kitchen, we'd do that all the time with our mom. So, that's kind of one advantage we did have, is that we are girls and we were very confident that we can complete the challenge in the fastest time we thought.
Misa Tanaka: Joey and Danny's empanadas were a hot mess. (Laughs)
Maiya Tanaka: They were! (Laughs)
Ours were nice and pretty. (Laughs)
Reality TV World: You girls seemed to pass some of the other teams once you landed in Salta and headed to the sky diving Roadblock task. What allowed you to gain some ground at that point? What happened during that time?
Misa Tanaka: During that time, I was driving very aggressively and I think, I don't know, we were able to keep up with the pack. And so, me and Maiya are both really good at being able to decipher where the clues were hidden and what to look for.
So we kept our eyes open so we didn't make any mistakes in going to get those clues. So we would literally jump out and grab those clues fairly quickly and then continue on. So I think that kind of helped us out a lot.
Reality TV World: Maiya, your vehicle got stuck in the sand while Misa was in the air. Could you talk about what happened there and how long did you have to wait until someone finally stopped to help you out of the ditch?
Maiya Tanaka: Well so basically what had happened was I was excited because I knew how to drive a stick and I knew how to read a map and use a compass, so I was the first one out of the gate at the airport. Danny was still tinkering with trying to figure out how to drive a stick and [William "Bopper" Minton] was driving down the runway! (Laughs)
So basically, I knew where to go and I drove off the road probably 50 yards -- about a chip shot away from where I was supposed to, because I got a little excited that I knew where I was at and I saw my sister landing. I saw her in the sky, so I just wanted to pull over real quick and check to make sure -- trying to find that "X" on the map.
And then I got stuck in the sand, and I was there for, I don't even know, time didn't really exist. All I knew was I had to figure out a way of getting myself out of that situation and I was able to chat with the locals a little bit. I waved down every car and motorcycle that passed by and it was kind of a process.
The first guy I waved down was a motorcycle guy and he had some rope. The next car we waved down was a car and we tied the rope to my car and it snapped the rope in half. So we tied a knot in that rope and the other got stuck in the sand as well and so we had to figure out how to get that car out.
And then finally, a truck came along and some guy had steel wires and we were able to make a little concoction to where we could pull my car out. So it was definitely a team process in Argentina.
Reality TV World: So how much of your elimination would you attribute to that incident considering when you met up with Misa on the ground, you guys fell back into last place?
Maiya Tanaka: Well the funniest thing is, is didn't put us into too much of a deficit because that whole time I was stuck in the sand, I didn't see a single team pass me and I knew I was in the right direction. So it was not until I had already waved down the truck and we had set up the wires and the rope that another team passed me.
It was Danny poking his head out of the window waving at me and the clowns, I think [Cherie Gregg] passed me first. So I saw them, but it was only a matter of a few minutes. So I definitely just caught a second wind and knew I had to go run to my sister as fast as I could so we could catch up to the rest of the teams.
Reality TV World: So it sounds like you guys could kind of sense you were in last place but were very optimistic you could recover, right?
Misa Tanaka: Oh yeah, definitely. When Maiya got to me, we actually had to jog back through the desert back to our cars and as we were jogging back through the sand, we were probably 50 yards away from our cars and then we saw a bunch of teams at the same time -- like three cars driving past us.
So we knew we weren't that far behind and like I said, it was probably 10 minutes or so that we arrived last at the empanada-making challenge. So we knew that we had a pretty good chance of recovering, at least so that we wouldn't come in last. That was the last thing that was crossing my mind. I felt like we were still in it.
Reality TV World: What were your thoughts when you found out Rachel Reilly and Brendon Villegas were competing on The Amazing Race? Did you feel they were going to be a big threat and at what point did you discover they had competed on Big Brother? Because it seemed like most of the teams didn't weren't aware of who they were.
Misa Tanaka: Yeah, I had no idea that Rachel and Brendon were on Big Brother. I had no clue who they were. I thought Brendon was like a baseball player the whole time. (Laughs) So I didn't know until we reached the airport in Santa Barbara, California, and they actually told us because we were discussing what we did and everything and they were very upfront that they were on Big Brother.
To me, I didn't think that they were going to be -- they weren't going to have an advantage or anything like that. I thought that maybe they would have some strategy skills behind them, but other than that, we didn't really encounter them too much when we were on the Race.
Reality TV World: Looking back, do you think you two or any of your fellow Racers were jealous or upset that Rachel and Brendon were competing on The Amazing Race for a million dollars despite the fact Rachel had already won a million from competing on Big Brother? How did you guys feel about that?
Maiya Tanaka: I don't think it would have been different. I think the only thing that we looked at was I knew with Big Brother, you kind of have to be concocting a plan and kind of manipulative and you know, I was aware of that. But that's why I made a point of trying to get to know them on the plane and everything.
But we're not really the jealous type of people and we figured we could outsmart them and outrun them, so we weren't too worried and it was really early on in the Race. So we kind of didn't really make any assumptions besides the fact that all the guys were huge (laughs) and like very athletic. We didn't really let any of that stuff get to us. We kind of were just playing our own game.
Reality TV World: Who did you think was your biggest competition while you guys were on the show? And were there any teams you weren't really threatened by for whatever reason?
Misa Tanaka: I definitely thought our biggest competition was going to be [Art Velez and J.J. Carrell] because we knew that they were in border patrol and they were going to be able to stay calm and collected under pressure and they were going to be able to read maps and be able to analyze the best decision and make split-second decisions very quickly and accurately. So, I thought that they were going to be a huge threat.
Maiya Tanaka: My money was on the twins [Elliot Weber and Andrew Weber] just because they were double trouble. Basically, they were both very athletic.
Andrew lied to us about being a professional soccer player. He said he worked with kids (laughs) so we knew they were in it to win it and we knew they were going to do whatever they had to do to try to win it. So, we had our eyes out for some of the athletic guys that basically we knew were going to be tough competition for us girls.
Reality TV World: How did you decide who was going to the Roadblock task? Did you just plan to switch off week to week or did you base your decision on who seemed to be a better fit for the action described or was more excited to do it?
Misa Tanaka: As sisters, we definitely know what our strengths are, and so, it was definitely a decision that was going to come pace by pace and we were going to analyze each Roadblock individually. So, it was a really, really easy decision for us because we know Maiya is a lot -- I mean, I'm pretty good at directions and I can find my way around, but she's definitely better with map reading and her compass skills.
So when they asked who's better with directions, it was definitely an easy decision to say that Maiya was. It worked out perfectly because I love adventurous things and Maiya's pretty adventurous herself, but I'm really not afraid of heights or anything like that. So, jumping out of a plane was actually pretty fun.
Reality TV World: How were you cast on The Amazing Race and was it your first time applying for the show?
Maiya Tanaka: We had watched the show multiple seasons and that was absolutely my favorite show ever and basically, my sister and I just got together and I'm kind of the idea-maker and she's kind of the executer, so I just told her, "We should do this. We can totally do this with our skill sets and how we work together and just being sisters." And so as soon as I mentioned it to her, she was like, "We're making a video right now..."
Misa Tanaka: "...We're definitely going to do it!" So we made sure to print out the application and then we created the video and then we just sent it in! And we were lucky enough to be chosen.