Wisecracking, occasional Mean Girl Vanessa and her affable, but occasionally pugnacious boyfriend Ralph were one of the more polarizing teams on the recently completed season of "The Amazing Race."
For some fans, Vanessa's loopy and occasionally biting wit, plus Ralph's solid physicality made them an easy team to root for.
But for other viewers, it felt like Vanessa was picking on "Big Brother" veterans Brendon & Rachel, which would only be a negative if you happen to believe that Brendon & Rachel didn't deserve to be picked on.
Ralph & Vanessa had a steady, but unremarkable "Amazing Race" run, always competitive, but never rising above third on any Leg.
At least they had a memorable departure as Vanessa, nursing an injured ankle from an earlier fall, was forced to complete in a Japanese game show Roadblock that asked contestants to sprint against the tide of a treadmill, periodically leaping to grab rubber chickens. It was an exhausting challenge under any circumstances, but with a sprained ankle, it seemed to be untenable. While Ralph urged Vanessa to quit and take the penalty, Vanessa battled through, refusing to quit. They still finished in fourth and were eliminated, but at least they left with their heads up.
In their exit interview on Monday, Vanessa & Ralph discussed that last Roadblock, their battles with each other and with Rachel & Brendon and why fighting may have been the secret to Dave & Rachel's winning success. HitFix: Obviously nobody wants to go home on "The Amazing Race," but it seemed to me like your elimination was portrayed in a very positive light, especially in terms of Vanessa's effort. Do you take any solace in that?
Vanessa Macias: [Laughing. Unconvinced.] Ummm... Sure? I guess so? If I would have wussed out, I would have been horribly disappointed in myself and as much as I feel like I did let Ralph down, regardless of how I finished, I would have felt worse about it had I just quit. So yeah, I guess. It's better than quitting.
Ralph Kelley: [Also unconvinced.] Losing is always hard for me. I'm very competitive. But considering the circumstances and how it went down, we were so close to achieving the goal which we set out for, which was to be on every leg of the Race, obviously racing for that last mat. So... I guess?
Vanessa: Yeah, I guess that's a "No..." from both of us. HitFix: Vanessa, when you knew this was a Roadblock that you were going to have to do, what went through your mind when you saw what the actual Roadblock was, given your physical condition?
Vanessa: We were joking about it in the car. We knew I had to do the Roadblock and I was like, "It's going to 'Run this Marathon' or 'Jumping Jacks for Half-an-Hour.'" I knew, in my heart-of-hearts, I knew it was going to be something physical. I was kinda ready for it, but I was not ready for THAT. Who's ready for rubber chickens and a freakin' treadmill in Japan? Like who ever says that sentence? HitFix: And how quickly did you realize how hard it was going to be for her, Ralph?
Ralph: Actually, she was downstairs getting dressed to come up and as soon as I walked in, I realized what the Roadblock was and my heart basically stopped, because I knew that this was not going to be a good situation. HitFix: And relatively early on, we saw you start urging her to quit. What was the point at which you realized that that might be a better option?
Ralph: Honestly? Before she'd even set foot on the treadmill. I don't know how many times they showed it last night and I don't know how many times she actually tried and fell. I know we were there for a long time and you could just see in her face that it was killing her. I already knew it was gonna hurt her. She seriously injured her ankle and then we had to fly and she was on it for, I dunno, probably 24-ish hours before that challenge? It was one of those things where there was no true point where i was like "Quit," but I was just giving her options and letting her know that I supported her if she couldn't do it.
Vanessa: It wasn't early when he suggested it. It was just cut that way. But I would say I did it around 30 times. I'm sure it was not only just painful to watch, but nerve-wracking on top of that, because it's still a race and I'm going. running, falling down screaming, getting up, running, falling down screaming. But we were still in a hurry, so if you're just standing there watching this happen and watching a million dollars slip out of your hands because of a misstep, then yeah, I'm sure it's pretty nerve-wracking. HitFix: Vanessa, when you went down in the episode before, you mentioned that you have a pretty high threshold for pain. How bad was this?
Vanessa: This was really bad. I've broken that ankle. I have a screw in it. I've torn that Achilles tendon. I've broken all of the bones on top of that foot. I've broken a lot of bones in my life and still played or danced or done whatever I was doing. But this was just continuous, non-stop and the treadmill, most of the problem is that you're making your ankle roll over more easily. It was excruciating. It was absolutely excruciating. HitFix: Under those circumstances, did you actually come close to quitting at any point?
Vanessa: Yeah, we discussed it briefly. Very briefly we discussed it and assessed the situation. You know: What would a penalty be? What would that entail? Is there a possibility of anybody getting that lost where it would behoove us to do it? But no, you have that flash of desperation and then you have the flash of, "You know what? I'm here. We came here for a reason. We came here for a million dollars" and that's a huge carrot to dangle in front of your face and going through everything that we went through, thinking about the watermelons, for God's sake, and all the adversity that we fought to get to that point and everything that Ralph had to do and he pulled through. I just didn't want to let him down. HitFix: What was it like watching the Battle in Bavaria on TV? And what did you guys learn from that fight?
Vanessa: I have learned a lot from watching a lot of the different arguments on air, the fights and behaviors. Let's just say that. HitFix: No more details there?
Vanessa: I've realized that I have the capability to be mean. I have that in me. I can be mean. Everybody who knows me is saying, "Wow, you're really nice to me" or "You're nice to the people around you." I get really mama-lion around people that are close to me. If you say something mean to me, then typically I let it go, but if you say something mean to somebody close to me, then I'm gonna tear your head off. And the means by which I tear people's heads off? Probably it's not OK. Some of the things that I said, I should have never said and I'm taking that and learning from it. HitFix: How about you, Ralph? What did you learn from watching things unfold?
Ralph: I'm just glad I didn't pick up the coat like she told me to, because I would have been blasted by my boys back here in Texas forever and ever. No, I'm just kidding. Honestly? There was so much more to that. It's the way it was cut. We know what happened. I wasn't nice. She wasn't nice. And it was just one of those times where all the pressure from all the racing and being basically stuck together for however many days we were, up to that point, it just all came out in that one instance, that journey up the hill. The funny thing is is that we've argued before and we know how to push each other's buttons and we were pushing all kinds of buttons going up that hill. It was just an argument that got aired, honestly. There was so much more to it that didn't. I really don't know what else to say about it. I don't know if I necessarily learned anything from it. HitFix: You talked a little bit around this, Vanessa, but was there a first incident or an inciting incident that happened with the "Big Brother" team that got you guys off on the wrong foot? Suddenly, it just seemed like you guys were at war and it didn't really make sense on TV. Did it make sense there?
Vanessa: Yeah, it made sense. There was an incident that didn't air, about which I was told I couldn't disclose. It was just something...
Ralph: They just challenged our personal beliefs and it just really struck a nerve and then, all of a sudden, you see the escalation after that.
Vanessa: When everybody's sitting down at the airport and getting to know one another, we're talking about what we do in our personal lives. Of course, I come from a political background and they challenged my political beliefs in a really weird, vivid, strange, odd, offensive way. And I'm a hard person to offend, so if you offend me, then it's gotta be out there. And it rubbed me the wrong way. So, from that point on... HitFix: How good were Dave and Rachel? And what made them so good, do you think?
Ralph: Physically, they worked well as a team. They were physically fit enough to get through the challenges, except for Dave's head and the whole bottle deal, which I would have loved to have watched. A lot of it, honestly, it's luck. It would have totally changed everything, they went for that Fast-Forward and they barely beat the New York Boys. Props to her, she pulled through with Dave and they worked well together. But really, the Race, there's so much luck involved. A wrong turn from a cab-driver? A missed clue? Another team making a wrong turn? There are so many factors that are involved. They knocked it out. You can't say that they didn't earn everything that they got.
Vanessa: We're all in the same situation where everybody's facing different variables. And they argued so much more than I knew! Maybe that was just the cut they got, but they argued. We heard it when we were next to them. Maybe, and I think there might be something to this, but when we argued we had our best finish. They're just so hot, they're so mad and so passionate, that they took it out on the field. So I think that may have been it. They're fit. They're smart. They're competitive. And they're MAD. You can't mess with that. HitFix: And what was it like watching them reach the end and have to turn back around and return to the Roadblock? You guys were there for that... What was that moment of awkwardness like from your point of view?
Ralph: It was heartbreaking. We saw them turn the corner.
Vanessa: They were so happy!
Ralph: I was like, if I was in their shoes, I don't know what I would have done. It's just like, you turn the corner and all the other teams are there clapping and you see Phil and you see him smiling and Dave was jumping up and down... and he tells them that, um, yeah... they forgot to do part of the Roadblock. I felt so bad for them, because I really did not expect for them to pull it out. I didn't know where they had to go, but we knew that part of their challenge was coming across that water, so they had to make their back and get back to whatever challenge they were at, so I really didn't expect for them to come back through first.
Vanessa: That was impressive. You're there and you have to clap and you have to smile, but you don't want to. I was kinda looking away like, "Oh, I can't look them in the eye and do this." You know, Dave & Rachel were of my favorites, but JJ & Art were my favorites and I was really rooting for them to win, so when that happened, I kinda had a little flutter of hope like, "The boys are gonna pull it out! The boys are gonna pull it out!" So I thought for a second that maybe Art & JJ were gonna pull it out.