Brains beat brawn when BJ Averell and Tyler MacNiven won the $1 million prize in The Amazing Race 9. But it turns out the close friends' fun-loving hippie image almost did them in off camera. How? Read on.
TVGuide.com: We never really saw you guys having to go through customs, but you obviously had to. Did you ever get delayed?
Tyler MacNiven: In Japan we got held up in customs because we fit the hippie stereotype. Often you'll have hippie guys try to smuggle in drugs because they're very hard to get in Japan. In customs there we had to go into this backroom to get strip-searched and it was all in Japanese, like some movie where these officers were getting us naked and going through our bags.
BJ Averell: Dogs were sniffing through our bags.
Tyler: That really did happen. We were in the middle of the race, too, so we were frantically trying to get through the strip search, but luckily we didn't have any contraband on us at the time.
TVGuide.com: So you're nervous because you're on the race, but they think you're nervous because you hid something in a cavity.
TVGuide.com: What does "TTOW" stand for?
BJ: Truth, justice and the American way.
TVGuide.com: No, for real.
BJ: It's basically the Chinese word for "good times." We went to China in 2002 and ended up with these awesome shirts that randomly said TTOW on them. In Asian countries, they like English characters and it didn't mean anything at the time, but since we bought the shirts and have been yelling out the phrase on national television, it has become our power call to the universe.
TVGuide.com: Tell the truth by the end of the race, could your orange pants stand on their own?
Tyler: Yeah. They're horizontal corduroy and we realized that they were the perfect pants to race around the world in, because of the wind-resistance decrease.
TVGuide.com: Did you have them fumigated?
Tyler: We would wash them at every pit stop.
BJ: Tyler was sort of like the laundry lady in Sicily. He would go to the sink and use up several bars of soap just scrubbing our clothes clean. You'd be surprised how dirty and smelly it gets you.
TVGuide.com: In Australia you raced to the pit stop in your underpants. Why didn't you put on your pants in the car?
BJ: Well, it was partly our overconfidence. I thought we were going to be racing for first place, not realizing that Ray and Yolanda had already come in first and that one of the last three teams might get all of their stuff taken away. It was basically a mad rush from the detour to the pit stop. I was driving and we didn't really have time to put on shoes, socks and pants.
TVGuide.com: You mention you were a bit overconfident. How did you react when you found out Fran and Barry had seen more of the world than you had?
Tyler: We were still confident we could beat them, because they're so old! [Laughs]
BJ: And the hair on Barry's shoulders slowed him down, because of the wind resistance.
Tyler: Confidence actually does help you a lot on the race, because a lot of times you don't know where the other teams are, and if you just assume you're in first place, you'll tend to be more relaxed and not make as many mistakes. If you think you're right behind somebody or somebody's right behind you, you may make a decision that ends up costing you a lot of time.
TVGuide.com: I thought you might be out of the race in Oman, when BJ got so tired from digging that he lay down. BJ, did you literally cry?
BJ: I did lay down and cry! [But] there were no tears! It was too hot in the desert for tears. At first, I was running from pile to pile, but after a while in the sun, it starts to wear on you. We just knew we had to keep going, so I would flop down on a pile of sand and keep digging in that pile.
TVGuide.com: Did you have a mantra to keep yourselves going?
Tyler: Luckily he had his partner Tyler cheering him on from the sidelines and giving him water.
BJ: I knew that when I finally found that buried oven, I would be able to get Tyler to shut up.
TVGuide.com: Tyler, it seems like BJ did a lot of the hard stuff digging in the hole, running with the flags.
BJ: Yeah. We split the million 60-40.
Tyler: We switched off roadblocks back and forth, so it was all chance who got which roadblock. The ones that looked hard were just because it took BJ so long to do them. Mine were actually just as difficult. I just made them look easy.
TVGuide.com: OK, then, in your humble opinion, who had the hardest task?
Tyler: I think BJ did the hardest task, digging through the mounds.
BJ: Tyler did the search through the jail in Perth. That seemed really tough!
Tyler: When we got to the airport, that was, like, another roadblock, getting the earliest ticket. It would take a very long time, and it's so fast on the show, but that's where my and BJ's strength came through. We could squeeze onto just about any flight.
TVGuide.com: When you picked up the hitchhiker, how long was he with you? And what happened to his friend?
BJ: Only one guy was hitchhiking. It was great having him there because he knew a shortcut to get to the airport. When we got to the gas station, if we didn't have him with us, we might not have been able to exchange our American dollars for Omanian dollars.
Tyler: BJ picked up a girl in Brazil that wasn't shown. We met her while we were waiting for the repelling to open up.
BJ: There was a little romance with Priscilla in Brazil-a. She was my Brazilian girlfriend.
TVGuide.com: Why did you start lying to people?
BJ: [When we tried to start] the MoJo rumor, that was basically for fun. Obviously there's no rumor going around other than the one we were spreading right there. The only other people who would be involved in the rumor would be Jeremy, Joseph and Monica, and they were all right there.
Tyler: We say a lot of crazy things and do a lot of pranks, and that one just so happened to make it on national television.
TVGuide.com: What will you spend your money on?
Tyler: VirginGalactic is offering tickets to outer space for $200,000 and after taxes we'll have about $260,000 each, so we're thinking that since we've never experienced that final frontier, we might go there.
TVGuide.com: No, really.
Tyler: I'm thinking of buying a boat and sailing around for a while. A floating house! That way, when my lease is up I could still be living in San Francisco, but be able to sail around whenever I want.
BJ: I'd be more up for getting a house house. One that's on ground.
TVGuide.com: Which team would you travel with again if given the chance?
BJ: We have visited Eric and Jeremy down in Florida, are seeing Wanda and Desiree here in New York, then are visiting Lake and Michelle in Mississippi. We would like to see Fran and Barry and go skiing with them.
Tyler: MoJo invited us to go wakeboarding with them.
BJ: Ray and Yolanda offered to run a track meet with them.
TVGuide.com: Did you really visit Eric and Jeremy?
BJ: Yeah, we actually watched an episode with them. We would totally like to hang out with those guys in the future, because we shared this experience of racing around the world with them.
TVGuide.com: Which episode did you four watch together?
BJ: We watched the one in Siracusa, where we come in first and they come in second. We would have rather been there for an episode where they came in first and their friends were happy, but they were like, "Oh, you Hippies!"
TVGuide.com: What was your favorite leg of the race?
BJ: My favorite leg was Yolanda's leg.
TVGuide.com: That was a very "Eric and Jeremy" comment, by the way.
Tyler: Our favorite leg was the last leg because we won a million dollars!