Dating couple Ray Housteau and Deana Shane began this week's two-hour episode of CBS' The Amazing Race (Tuesdays, 9 pm/ET) on a high note. On the first leg, they completed a frightening Fast Forward on a suspension bridge and received a pair of Toyota Rav4s for their first-place finish. But their luck deserted them during a labor-intensive Detour in the second hour, followed by a nail-biting footrace to the Botswana finish mat against comeback kings Brian and Greg. Here, the two discuss their contentious relationship, and Ray explains his numerous verbal slams against old people.

TVGuide.com: So Ray, what exactly is your beef with the elderly?
Ray Housteau:
I hate all old people. [Laughs]. No, I'm not that far from being an old person myself, so I can't say anything bad about them. I didn't have a beef with Meredith and Gretchen. Maybe I don't know how to do comedy; my comments were meant to be lighthearted and they were mean-spirited when they came out. But there were a lot of good jokes they didn't put on the show! I said stuff like, "Oh, there's Meredith and Gretchen. They're like a bad case of the runs — they just don't go away." It was so tongue-in-cheek that it must look like I was sucking on a lollipop. I thought I was kind of being entertaining and funny, and it was so mean-spirited that I cringed when I saw it. I've apologized to them and they're so gracious and have accepted it. They know me and they know that the character "Ray" is nowhere near the person that Ray is.

TVG: Yeah, comments like, "They're a couple decades beyond where they need to be" don't exactly sound like punch lines.
Ray:
I thought that was funny, but I didn't mean it in terms of lifespan — I meant they were a couple decades beyond where they should be in this race. But a lot of this was out of respect, because they were a threat. I told them during the race, "You can play the sweet old couple all you want, but you're not getting a senior citizen's discount from me. I know how good you guys are." It just came off much differently than I wanted it to. When I watched the show, I was actually rooting for them to beat me at certain points. I did not like that character I was watching. If I was their family, I'd be very upset with me.
Deana Shane: Your mother was upset with you about that, too. She was!
Ray: It's indefensible and I can't blame it on editing, context, or anything. It was just bad judgment. I didn't mean it to be malicious, but it doesn't matter because the end result is what it was.

TVG: How about the way your relationship came across on the show? Did you recognize yourselves on TV?
Deana:
No, that's not us at all. We are totally a fun couple; we never argue. We have disagreements, but they're like two-second things. It's the stress of the race...
Ray: No, I do have to admit that I don't compete well. I get mean. As long as we don't play sports together, we're great.
Deana: He is very competitive. I first met him when he was playing flag football and he was playing against kids half his age. Then, when he gets off the field, he's a totally different person. He called me one day when I was living by myself and asked me to come over to kill tadpoles on the [surface] of his pool because he couldn't bring himself to do it! When he's not competing, he's a great guy.

TVG: Deana, would you talk back to him when he yelled at you? You seemed somewhat passive on the show.
Deana:
Oh yeah, I wouldn't put up with it. I was like, "You shut up over there. Just leave me alone!" I stood up for myself. I'm not a dumb person or in a bad relationship. I know what kind of person he is and I can take care of myself. It looks like he walks all over me, and that's totally not true. I'm a tough girl. You talk to me, I'm going to talk back to you.
Ray: People who knew me would call me up and say, "Give me something here — I have a hard time defending you!" It was very, very tough to have people who know me see me on TV like that.

TVG: You've gotten engaged since the race ended. Do you credit the show for that?
Ray:
We absolutely give credit to the show, although when you watch it, you might wonder why. The thing is, you can't judge this relationship by the competition, because there's so much more to it. I love her heart and the way she is with my kids — she's just a perfect person. Would I have competed better with a different person? Yeah, but that's not what this relationship is about. And because we feel that the race is directly the reason we ended up getting engaged, the color scheme for the wedding is going to be an Amazing Race theme. We're going to pay tribute to this great show.
Deana: We thought that maybe we'd run in with our backpacks on. But he'd probably scream at me, "C'mon, Deana!" [Laughs]

TVG: Looking back, do you regret quitting the meat challenge?
Ray:
No, we knew the rules. We decided ahead of time that I'd do everything with running, jumping and lifting and Deana would do everything else. Then we found out she had to eat four lbs. of meat and we knew we had made a huge mistake. So, at that point, we knew we might be going home because she's not going to eat it. And even if she did eat it, I wouldn't have made her do it because she would have been worthless the rest of the race. All Rob did was let us know how difficult a time everyone was having. We knew the penalty and that we were going to take that; we just thought we'd be eliminated with it. When he told us, "We're not finishing and you guys shouldn't either," we realized that the teams behind us were going to have a difficult time, too. It's not like he discovered the magic solution. He did a favor for us.

TVG: It sounds like you and Rob thought a lot alike.
Ray:
Rob is a guy I know I could hang out with in real life. But there's a big difference between us: He doesn't care that people know that he's done this or that, and I did because I didn't want to put a target on our backs. Locking the bus doors in Chile was my idea. Rob spoke Spanish and he talked to the driver and he took the credit — or the blame — for it. I came up with the idea and he's getting all the flak because he basks in that bad-boy image. That's Boston Rob. And that's fine with me, because it worked to my benefit.

TVG: Finally, on the flight to South Africa, it looked like you somehow scored seats in first class. How did you manage that?
Ray:
That's a great story. It was a long flight, and we always worked the planes. So we started working the flight attendants, flirting a little bit and talking to them. And we managed to work our way into first class! We got massage chairs, food, movies, everything. We traveled in style. The pilot even came out to talk with us, and we talked for quite a while. And when we landed, he let us get off the plane first and escorted us through customs. He even gave us his phone number and the next day we called him and he came out and led us to the lion reserve. We tracked each other down again after the show — and he's coming to the wedding!