Sometimes, the goose gets away, and it’s the Rooster who gets cooked instead. Such was the case for The Amazing Race contestants Burnie Burns and Ashley Jenkins, eliminated during season 28’s penultimate leg, just shy of the grand finale.
Throughout their time on the race, the Rooster Teeth video game veterans never picked up a first place finish, but were consistently toward the top of the pack. They placed second for five legs in a row beginning with Leg 6, only to fall on extraordinarily bad luck during their final leg in China.
Here’s what Burnie and Ashely had to say about their key to success on the Race, how their gaming history impacted the competition, their takes on the three remaining finalists, and what they have planned next.PARADE | You earned several second place finishes during the race…Ashley:
We were collecting them!PARADE | What was the key to that consistency?Ashley:
We had a really good track record of choosing the best person for our Roadblock. We were very focused on working together as a team. Everything we approached, we approached with a team mentality: “We’re going to knock this out together. What can I be doing right now to help our team the most?”Burnie:
Yeah, I think the trend for our team across the season was making up ground in Roadblocks and losing ground in Detours. Almost every leg was like that for us. If we could just put together a knock-it-dead Detour, then we would have a pretty good leg, always. Those were the times where we were pretty close to finishing in first. Even in Dubai, when [Brodie and Kurt] used the Express Pass, we switched Detours and did well enough in the Roadblock where we did well enough to get back into second place.Ashley:
And the navigation. We worked together as a team in the navigation for that one, and we drove ourselves straight to our destination every time.PARADE | Not to point fingers, but this season, we’ve seen a few teams melting down at each other along the way. You were both always level-headed with one another. How hard is it to maintain your cool with your partner?Burnie:
Anybody who has traveled with a significant other before knows it’s tough. Travel is stressful. When you add the competition on top of it, and all of the tasks — and you string ten of those trips together? Yeah, it’s pretty stressful. I can totally understand when teams start griping at each other. It’s a way to deal with the stress. But Ashley and I were real careful. We had a thing we would say to each other: “Same team. It’s us against everyone else.” We just relied on one another.Ashley:
The last thing you need is to be against each other when it’s you against the world.PARADE | How much did your career as gamers influence your success?Burnie:
It made us a little more analytical. We approached legs almost as levels in a game. What’s the goal for this level? How do we get through it? That approach definitely helped us a lot.Ashley:
Games have also taught us to think on our feet a lot. When any situation comes up, we instantly look at it as: “What can I do in this moment with the pieces I’m given to make the most out of it for my team?”Burnie:
It would have been nice to have an extra life. [Laughs] That’s part of the race, though. You never know when [non-elimination legs] are going to come. They’re pre-planned, but we have no idea. You just never know. We didn’t even know when we got to the mat in fourth in China. It was possible we were still in it. They’ve done four-team finales before, so you don’t know.Ashley:
You never know.PARADE | So when you were rounding that corner in China, you still had hope as you were running up the stairs?Burnie:
There was a little bit of speculative hope, but we were very sure that we were in last place. In fact, I made a joke: “Hey, maybe we’re in first!” At that point, we had been looking for the Pit Stop for about 45 minutes. We knew at that point we were going home.Ashley:
One thing we’ve heard a lot about the Race, even before we went into it, and it really does bear out, is that the hardest part of the Race isn’t the challenges. Those are very difficult. But the hardest part of the Race is getting from Point A to Point B, because so often, it’s in someone else’s hands. In this case, the clue we were given was a painting of the Shenzen Cultural Center, and it’s enormous. The library is maybe two blocks away from that. The building is so big that it has to be two blocks away just to fit it into the background shot. So we get to that general area, and without being able to speak the language, trying to ask someone where the library is… we asked dozens and dozens of people, and no one could tell us where it was. That’s really the hardest, most frustrating part. We did the challenge. We made the switch. We still got out of the Detour in third place — but we needed other people’s help to find the Pit Stop. We just didn’t get lucky until it was too late.Burnie:
We probably asked people for more directions in China than we did in all of the other legs combined. I wouldn’t be surprised if we asked 40 people for directions that day.PARADE | And how did that go?Burnie:
That sucked. [Laughs]Ashley:
I’m learning Mandarin now. [Laughs] I feel like I have to learn it, because now I need to beat it.Burnie:
I hate to even bring this up, but… we did so much prep for the Race, and the thing that’s hardest to me looking back is I had one of those electric unicycles in my Amazon shopping cart. Literally one of those. When we got back from the Race, it was still in my shopping cart. And when you shop for something online, it shows that thing in ads on every other website that you go to. I kept seeing that damn unicycle everywhere I went for a month after that.Ashley:
It was haunting him.Burnie:
I think I bought paper towels just so I wouldn’t see the unicycle anymore. [Laughs] Isn’t that crazy? And I think, oddly enough, that influenced my decision to do the unicycles. I was like, “Oh, I know what those things are!” But I have no idea why I thought that was going to help us. My mind was just not working after that Roadblock challenge.PARADE | Sure, but on any other day, when you’re not in the middle of a competition, the unicycle looked like the most fun thing ever.Ashley:
Oh, yeah. And that’s one of the reasons we decided to give that Detour a shot, though. Earlier in the Race, in Charmonix, we did what we thought was the safe bet in the Detour and decided to build a tent. Everyone else took the via ferrata. Not only was that a poor decision because it was the longer Detour, but afterward, hearing about it and seeing it, we realized we took the dull one. We should have taken the one that was fun. With this Detour choice, we could go and shut ourselves in an art gallery and hang paintings for a while, but we were so excited to get to China. It’s a bucket list country for us. We always wanted to go. We thought, “We’re here. Let’s do something fun.” We had a lead over Cole and Sheri. The Detours were right next to one another. We knew we could make a switch pretty quickly if we needed to. And we thought, “We’re here. Let’s try something fun before we do the boring thing.”Burnie:
We were only a block away. We figured we would give it a shot and then hop off and do the other Detour. That’s what we did in Dubai, but the Detours were 20 kilometers apart. Here, it was like a block. Way less of a risk, it felt like.PARADE | So you don’t regret going for the unicycle?Burnie:
I think there were a lot of things that day that built up that led to us being eliminated. Choosing the unicycles is probably the thing we had the most control over.PARADE | Where does the bad day begin, then?Burnie:
Really, the leg was designed so well, because the language barrier in China is so severe for all teams. If you look at the way it was structured, the first challenge of the day was to navigate an amusement park. We were sprinting back and forth for about an hour — sprinting from one exhibit to another. The only people we could ask [for help] that were around were not just people who speak another language, but also tourists, because we’re in an amusement park. They have no idea where anything is. Then, after that, the Detour we had to navigate to, we had to ask for directions with our paintings so we can find the gallery, and that took an extraordinary amount of time. Then, the Pit Stop was designed so the clue didn’t tell you exactly where to go. It told you how to get close, and then you need to find directions on how to get to the actual place. It was a day of navigating directions and language barriers. All of those things added up. Adding an extra detour to it didn’t help.PARADE | Tyler and Korey were acting a bit sneaky on your final leg. Was it frustrating going up against them that day?
Burnie: It was more frustrating going up against Tyler and Korey when they teamed up with Dana and Matt, because the challenge was really geared towards two teams working together. That was a big advantage. Not every challenge is like that. You’re not going to carry coconuts for every team. But when you’re trying to find answers for these things, you have two sets of eyes and two sets of legs, and you can split up. When you’re doing a challenge with your teammates, you can’t split up and ask for directions. If you’re working with another team, you can have people split up and share answers. That was the more frustrating part. But the gamesmanship and the misdirection? No, we liked that. That’s fun for us. You heard me firing back. It was a good time.Ashley:
Yeah, that felt like home.Burnie:
We’re used to that. That felt like gaming culture. It’s totally within the rules, and it motivates you to do better.Ashley:
Maybe we would have been a little more bitter about it, if Burnie hadn’t passed them both anyway.Burnie:
Ah, look at you. Building up my ego. [Laughs]PARADE | Looking back at the previous episode, when you made sure the Frisbee Bros would get U-Turned…Ashley:
I love how everybody’s calling them the Frisbee Bros.Burnie:
We called them Dark Horse.Ashley:
It’s something Brodie would say all the time.Burnie:
Whenever something weird would happen, they would say, “Ooh… Dark Horse.”Ashley:
Like, anything unexpected.Burnie:
“Oh, we have to roll all the way out to this fishing boat?”Both:
“DARK HORSE.”PARADE | Okay, so “Frisbee Bros” is appropriate, then. But you make this choice very quickly to burn the U-Turn on Tyler and Korey, so Brodie and Kurt have no chance of reversing the U-Turn. Talk me through the process.Burnie:
Basically, as a team that considers itself to be a strategic team, when we get into a situation, we try to figure out what the best scenario is given the circumstances we have. We can’t change the circumstances; there’s only one spot on the board. We can’t change the fact that Tyler and Korey chose to U-Turn Brodie and Kurt. What can we do in this situation? U-Turning Sheri and Cole didn’t make sense to us. U-Turning Dana and Matt didn’t make sense. Leaving it empty? As a team that’s in second place all the time, if we walked away from a U-Turn board, as a viewer, it would be like, “What are these people doing? Do they even want to win?” So U-Turning Tyler and Korey was just the best outcome for our team. That was the best thing we could have done in that moment. If we had gotten to the board first, we would have U-Turned Tyler and Korey. If we had gotten there and we were U-Turned, we probably would have used it on Sheri and Cole. Those were the options that made the most sense in those scenarios, but we didn’t hit those scenarios. We hit the one we hit.PARADE | Why hit Tyler and Korey instead of Team “Dark Horse”?Ashley:
As we got further in the Race, Tyler and Korey were hitting their stride. The last couple of legs, the Frisbee Bros were starting to run into a little bit more trouble, because they were in a position where Brodie now had to do all of the Roadblocks, regardless of whether they were according to his talents. We thought that at that point in the Race, Tyler and Korey were probably a bigger threat, even though the Frisbee Bros look like the bigger threat on paper.Burnie:
Momentum’s a big thing, too. Teams go through periods where all the sudden they do poorly and need to play catch up, but Tyler and Korey were well past that point. They had bad legs in Armenia and Georgia back-to-back, but they were recovering in Dubai and did really well in Bali. They seemed like much more of a threat at that point in time.PARADE | How has the Rooster Teeth community responded to your time on the show?Burnie:
They’re great. We have a lot of young people in our audience, some of them probably born after the first season of The Amazing Race aired. We get a lot of great posts and tweets from kids and their parents watching the show together. That’s really great.Ashley:
I like hearing, too, how many people didn’t know about the show or didn’t watch the show and are now diehard fans. As fans of the show ourselves, it’s really wonderful that we were able to introduce more people to a show that we love.Burnie:
I mean, there’s a subreddit for The Amazing Race that as of this season just completely exploded. That’s where we spend our time on some of the broadcasts, posting in there. I know it’ll be huge in there next season. They’ll have a whole new audience based on the people that watched the cast this year.PARADE | Did you run into any fans while you were running the Race?Burnie:
We did, but hey, let me ask you a question. Who do you think would be the most recognizable person [from our cast] around the world?PARADE | I would bet Tyler.Burnie:
My bet would be Tyler, too. He was definitely the most mobbable. We were always looking for a group of teenage girls so we could say, “Hey! Tyler Oakley’s over there! Go get a selfie with him!” So we could sabotage Tyler. [Laughs] We were always looking for that opportunity, but it never really presented itself. But the person who was recognized the most was actually Zach King. We could be in a desert in the middle of Dubai and a guy would go up to him and say: “Magic Vines!”Ashley:
It was great.Burnie:
We ran into fans everywhere. We were in an airport in Bali and we had fans follow us out that night to take selfies with us. It’s really great to see fans all over the world. When we got back, we saw lots of fans tweeting at us saying, “I can’t believe they’re going to Shenzhen! That’s my hometown!” And I was just like, “Where. Were. You.” [Laughs]PARADE | Moving into the finale, what were your thoughts on the three remaining teams?Burnie:
I’m taking this from the perspective of how we felt when we were on that mat in China, because we were asked that question then as well. They asked us: “Who do you think is going to win?” I immediately responded: Tyler and Korey. They have so many first place finishes. When they put their heads to it, they’re super strong. They’re certainly capable of having bad legs. Look at what happened in Armenia and Georgia. They were second to last on both of those legs. They can definitely have a bad leg, but they’re in a position to win this thing.
Dana and Matt, they won the first leg. I honestly didn’t much understand their strategy, because they were helping a team that was, in my opinion, much stronger than them get to the finals. But one thing about Dana and Matt is that out of the top five teams, they’re the only team that never used an Express Pass, a non-elimination leg, or a U-Turn in any way. They didn’t use any of the power pieces in the game. They just raced straight through to the finals.
And then Sheri and Cole, they just refused to die. They keep going no matter what. They’re the Energizer Bunny. They keep going. They’re like Pepé Le Pew, where it doesn’t look like they’re moving at a full speed, but somehow they catch up and always manage to make it to the mat.
So, if Dana and Matt can work together, they’re a super strong team. If Tyler and Korey stick to their game plan, they’re great. Then with Sheri and Cole, if they keep their spirits up and their heads in the game, especially with navigation, I think they have a great shot.PARADE | What are you working on now? What’s coming up?Ashley:
We’re about to take a trip to India, which is our other bucket list country.Burnie:
And we’re about to launch a Kickstarter for our first ever card game. It’s called the “Million Dollars, But…” card game. It was a show that we had and it was enormously popular, and it just lends itself so well to a table top game. It’s coming out tomorrow, and info will be all over RoosterTeeth.com.PARADE | Taking one last look back it all, what would you have done differently?Burnie:
I would have bought that damn unicycle.Ashley:
I would have learned Chinese!
Josh Wigler is a writer, editor and podcaster who has been published by MTV News, New York Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, Comic Book Resources and more. He is the co-author of The Evolution of Strategy: 30 Seasons of Survivor, an audiobook chronicling the reality TV show’s transformation, and one of the hosts of Post Show Recaps, a podcast about film and television. Follow Josh on Twitter @roundhoward.