The Amazing Race All-Stars made its first elimination before the race even started. That "gut-wrenching" start Phil Keoghan described saw fan fave Bopper bow out at the starting line due to an inflamed pancreas. Instead of his BFF Mark withdrawing as well, Bopper was replaced by fellow Kentuckian and now three-time Racer Mallory. "The whole thing was just terrible timing," Bopper tells TVGuide.com. "But as much as I wish I could've gone, I wanted Mark to go even more. He shouldn't miss out on this because of me." See what else the Season 20 alum had to say about his withdrawal and how it all went down.
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How are you doing now?
Bopper: I'm doing pretty good. Thanks for asking. It's all good now. Don't worry.
That's good to hear. So what happened with your pancreas? Did it flare up all of the sudden or had you had problems before?
Bopper: My pancreas had flared up the day before we went to Los Angeles. We were ready to go and we were looking forward to winning this Race. The day before we went to Los Angeles, I had woken up with severe pain in my stomach area and didn't know what was going on. I went to the emergency room and they told me that I was having a pancreas attack. I've never had one before. I've never had any problems with my pancreas. I just had a lot of stress at the time. The day I was leaving, my daughter was going into surgery on her arm. It was just a number of factors at the wrong time. I was trying to quit smoking. I was chewing a whole lot chewing gum that helps you quit smoking. I've always been bad about swallowing my gum, so I was really chewing a lot of it and swallowing it. [Laughs] I was drinking a whole lot of boiled tea. It was just a perfect storm of anxiety, nerves and the gum.
You still flew to L.A. though. Were you hoping it would pass?
Bopper: Yeah. I went to Los Angeles hoping this would pass in a day or so and I would be OK. But as I was in Los Angeles, the pain just progressed. I told production I needed to see the doctor. He did some good work on me. He gave me a thorough exam. I was on the borderline of "can and cannot go." He told me for the benefit of my health not to go. And CBS couldn't let me go if the doctor couldn't clear me.
Did you ever fight them on it?
Bopper: I understood. I mean, in some of these countries, if you have a medical problem there, you're up a creek without a paddle so to speak. That was the biggest concern. They knew the places I would go had good medical attention, but you don't know what's going to happen when or where. You could be in the middle of nowhere with an emergency. They couldn't take that chance. So they had to make the decision to pull me out. I know they didn't want to do it, but they had to.
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Did you and Mark consider withdrawing as a team?
Bopper: Mark didn't want to go without me. But if that had happened, I couldn't live with myself. That would hurt me more than anything. Mark needed it for his family as much as I needed it for mine. There was no way I was going to look at him and go, "No, I don't want you to do it without me." I know I wouldn't him to do me that way either. I told him, "You're going to do this Race for your family. I don't care who it's with. I know you're capable of doing it with anybody they fix you up with. You go and do this and all I ask you to do is keep me in your thoughts the whole trip."
Did you know Mallory would replace you? Did you have any say?
Bopper: I had no idea who the replacement was until we were at the starting line. I have no idea how they do it with backup teams and stuff. But I had a pretty good guess that it would be Mallory since she's also from Kentucky and she has the same energy level of what I bring to the game. I sat in the hotel with Mark that night and Mallory's name was one the names that came out of my mouth that I thought they would put him with, and lo and behold, it was her. I was pleased when I saw it was Mallory. I knew he had just as good a chance if he were with me.
How hard was it for you to run out to the starting line as if you were racing? They could've just announced that you weren't going and brought out Mark and Mallory.
Bopper: It was tough. When you're going through the process before the Race starts, you rub elbows with the other teams a little bit — not much. They kind of keep you sequestered from each other as much as possible, but Bopper's big mouth! If I see you, I will speak to you. [Laughs] I kept it to myself the best I could. I didn't tell anybody what was going to happen. I kept it on the down-low. They were totally caught by surprise at the starting line when Phil announced it.
He called it "gut-wrenching."
Bopper: Aw, Phil! I know he didn't want to do that. But having to go to the starting line knowing I wouldn't be racing and after I was pulled out, I got to sit and watch them do the task and all take off knowing that I should've been part of it — it's just heartbreaking. It was really heartbreaking to watch the Race go on without me.
Did you go home after and start treatment?
Bopper: Yeah. I got back home. I went back to the emergency room and they treated me, got lots of fluids. A couple days after, I was back to 100 percent. The doctors told me in Los Angeles — if they had two or three days to work with me, I would've been ready to go. But unfortunately we didn't have that time. The Race started the next morning. I respect CBS and production and the decision they made. They made the decision for my health and they wouldn't want to risk my health to make the show. It was bad, bad timing for everybody. I know production went into some major damage control. I was as devastated as they were.
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But this basically means you're a shoo-in for the next All-Stars.
Bopper: Look, if they called me right now and said, "Bop, are you ready to roll?" — I'll start throwing together a backpack right now, get on a plane to Los Angeles and get ready to run the world, baby.
Would you want to race with Mark or someone else since he did it with Mallory?
Bopper: I would love to do it with Mark again. Like he said, we ride together, we die together. We've been friends too long. But if they ever called and said, "We want you do the Race again, but we're going to mix teams up this time and put everyone with different people and you don't know who it is" — I'm still going! [Laughs] I want a second second chance to race! If they put me with Mark, that's fine. If they put me with whoever, that's fine with me too! I'm ready and raring to run that Race.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)