Amazing Race's Mel: I Wouldn't Have Quit Had Mike Not Been There
Mel and Mike
Amazing Race: Unfinished Business got down, dirty and cold in Japan this week — so cold that Season 14 alums Mel and Mike White opted for medical attention during the frog-searching mud pit Detour, which ultimately booked them a trip home. "It was such a tough race. They wanted to make it tough because we had all experienced it already," Mel tells TVGuide.com. "It was too tough for me." Still, the 70-year-old writer says he and Mike — who is working on the upcoming HBO series Enlightened — have no regrets about throwing in the towel.
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Any regrets giving up on the Detour?
Mel White: No. I wish it wasn't, but the Race was too tough. The first day, we ran about 5 miles and that's when I tipped over in the ferry, but they showed that at the beginning of the second episode! [Laughs] Then, I was in that frozen mud for an hour and my son just insisted that I get out. It was raining and it felt like sleet. We were both treated by doctors and were found to have serious hypothermia. I said [to the doctor], "Well, it was colder than I thought." But even bad memories are good memories when they're with your son.
You were adamant about not quitting. Would you have quit if Mike weren't there?
Mel: No, I wouldn't have. I was very disappointed because I knew I would've found the frog had I stayed another day or two! Michael, it was more important for him for me to get out of the mud than for him to win the Race. Michael is so into The Amazing Race that he left his own series and said, "I'm taking time off to do this." And the HBO people said, "All right, Mike!" And we're the second team out, so it's disappointing, but Michael never complained about it at all. ... Today at breakfast, he said, "Dad, tell [the reporters] I'm sorry I can't be there [for interviews] because I'm finishing up this whole series, but don't tell them that I was disappointed or in any way disappointed in you or what we experienced together." So I have to believe him.
How long did it take for him to convince you to get out?
Mel: I'm not really sure. They gave us eye detectors and things in our ears, but the mud had caked on my ears, so I couldn't hear a thing. Finally, he told the producer to pull me out, and the producer came up and said, "Your son insists that you get out now." I went, "Why?! I don't want to get out! I want to find the damn frog!" "No, c'mon, get out." But it felt good to get out.
Did you head to the Pit Stop after Jaime and Cara found their frog?
Mel: Well, the thing was we weren't actually last. When we got to the Pit Stop, Jaime and Cara were just arriving, so it was ironic that we could've found the frog, gotten some medical attention and still could've beaten them — if we had found the frog. I will never eat frog legs again! Frogs are off my list!
Why did you choose the mud task over the purity one?
Mel: We couldn't do the purity one because it had to be done in the daylight, so we didn't have an option. It was getting dark already.
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You guys made the bad call to take the earlier, connecting flight, which wound up being late. Do you think you may still be in it had you taken the later, direct one?
Mel: It may have made a difference. Maybe we would've done the other Detour. There were only so many frogs left by the time we got there. Then we learned that the frogs that were left had been stomped down into the mud, so it was very difficult to find them. We made a wrong decision to take the earlier flight. But we couldn't have known there would [be engine trouble]. ... Margie and I both felt this was the wrong flight, but Mike was saying that 15 minutes would've made a difference, so we took it. Wish we hadn't. But, you know, it's about the luck of the draw.
Why did you travel with three other teams once you got to Japan instead of just by yourself or with one team?
Mel: Mike and I always felt that helping another team was better than tricking them. At that point, getting to Tokyo and finding Kamakura was very difficult. We thought, "Let's just stick together and not drop into one area we can't get out of." But halfway through, we thought being in a pack was slowing us down, so we did make a bad decision to do that. And as you saw, we took off with Margie and Luke.
What are you up to now?
Mel: I'm retired now, so I'm having fun watching Michael do his new series. I always wondered if Mike would be as wonderfully successful as he was because a parent always worries. I'm kind of basking in Michael's successes and watching him handle it with such aplomb, dignity and class. I just love being around my son. Being retired, it gives me a chance to be on location and see him doing his work and it really feels good to see that his dreams came true. Lots of people's dreams do come true in this business!