Nicole and Travis
Travis and Nicole started The Amazing Race 23 as the ones to beat, but things took a sharp turn after Nicole struggled with the angklung Roadblock in Indonesia, requiring Amy's help and ostensibly incurring her husband's harsh criticism. But the ER doctors, who placed third after Nicole took 21 tries (!) to do a flour drop, insists that their tense relationship in the back half of the season was all editing. "There's definitely a lot more to us that was not aired, and that's fine," Nicole tells TVGuide.com. "But we gave them other material and they ran with it." Find out what you didn't see on the show, why Travis says he was hard on his wife, if they thought they cheated and more.
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Why did you have so much trouble with the flour drop, Nicole?
Nicole: I don't know. I was trying to time it. The first time I did it, I was pretty close, so I tried to do that repeatedly, but it didn't work! It took probably an hour. ... We thought there would be another Roadblock that would potentially be more physically intense, so that's why I decided to do it.
Travis, you seemed very agitated waiting.
Travis: I was actually doing fine. Towards the end of the Race, I was more encouraging. What you saw on television was a small portion. But in reality, I was actually very optimistic. I felt then same way I still feel: Nicole's never going to give up. She was going to keep working. My only concern, which I said two or three drops before she got it, was that I don't want her to lose confidence and get flustered. Right after I said that, she put one in the water, and I said, "Oops, I think she lost confidence." And they showed that! In the Race, you never know what's coming, so there's always a possibility [to catch up], so I wasn't that discouraged. I thought it was going to be really difficult because we were down to the toughest teams. They would have to make a mistake for us to catch up, but they didn't.
You guys obviously had high expectations of yourselves. A lot of fans think you, Travis, were too hard on Nicole.
Nicole: Well, first of all, it was definitely disappointing to come in third. We went on the Race to win, so yes, I didn't want to disappoint Travis, just like anyone wouldn't want to disappoint their partner. No one wants to disappoint anyone. But as I said [on the show], it's life. Things don't always work out the way you want it to work out. We're very, very happy for Jay and Amy.
Travis: I consider myself pretty darn competitive. The one thing we said in the beginning, which I still believe, is we came on the Race knowing we can win and some other teams came on hoping to win. To not win when you know you have the capability of winning is really tough. Although it appears on TV that I was really, really down on Nicole, I really wasn't. It was just my level of expectation is so high because I've seen Nicole for 14 years excel tremendously at everything. For me, it was unusual to see her struggle at anything. It was me, not her. I think that was the hardest thing for me. Unfortunately, I get caught up in the moment and it takes me longer to bounce back. In our private time is when I'm better able to do so.
You think your bad moments and critical comments of Nicole were overblown?
Travis: Yes, way overblown. It wasn't portrayed on air, but I think we were the most loving couple around. That's the only disheartening thing about television. Phil, consistently during the Pit Stops, would say, "When Nicole and Travis come up here, we feel like we have to pull a bed out!" None of this aired, and I understand why. One time Nicole and I kissed, and Phil was like, "Oops! I hope there wasn't any tongue involved!" That side of our relationship wasn't really shown.
Nicole: There's definitely a lot more to us that was not aired, and that's fine. But we gave them other material and they ran with it. We get it.
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Nicole, it seemed like you hit a wall in the last half of the season. You struggled with the Roadblocks, and Amy had to help you. What happened?
Nicole: First, I was really disappointed with the editing [on the finale]. With the robot, I helped Amy first. At one point, she said to me, "Please don't leave me." And I looked at her and said, "I would never leave you." That got cut out. They just showed when she came back to help me. Of course it was "good television." But I don't feel it was accurate. But yes, I definitely struggled with a couple of those Roadblocks. I don't know what happened. I think it was fatigue and frustration. The Race is so different and so much more overwhelming than anything you do in real life.
Was the angklung Roadblock accurate?
Nicole: Oh, that one was a mess! [Laughs] I definitely did not know what to do. I will wholeheartedly admit that. I'm not making excuses because ultimately it falls on me. But at the same time, I think if everyone had followed the rules, I think the outcome would've been different. We were given instructions that we had to sit in the arena, and the Afghanimals went outside. They put their pieces together outside the arena. But it's reality TV and me struggling made it easier to have a dramatic moment, and that's OK.
Travis: There's something we call the Curse of Being First. The great news is you're in first. The bad news is you might have no idea what you're doing and you have nobody else doing it next to you to get an idea. That was a common theme for us. We were at the angklung for a long time with no clue about what we were supposed to do. By the time she started figuring it out, other people got there, saw her and capitalized on it.
Why did you chase Leo? That was great editing: They showed you talking about how you want to set a good example for your kids and then you chasing him trying to copy his model. I talked to the Afghanimals earlier and they said the rules said only one person could be in the answer area. [Ed. Note: Check back Thursday for our interview with Leo and Jamal.]
Nicole: Right. We were also supposed to be in the arena, and he was not sitting in the arena. I don't know why they didn't get a penalty. But I figured, "Well, if he had been in the arena, I would've been able to see what he's doing." That's why I ran after him. Usually on the show, when people are doing a task and other people look at them, that's not considered cheating. The same week on Survivor, they were doing a puzzle and one person didn't want to look at another's, and Jeff Probst said, "You guys are all doing the same thing. Looking at somebody else's is not cheating." Everybody was like, "Oh, [Nicole's] a hypocrite!" Everyone has an opinion, and that's fine. It only looks bad was because [Leo] said, "You can't look at it." But it is what it is.
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Were you as hung up as you appeared to be about the Afghanimals lying about the U-Turn? You guys were pretty sneaky about the Express Pass too.
Travis: We were not hung up on them lying. ... We did the Express Pass thing secretly, but I don't think that's sneaky. Yes, we didn't like them lying. But you sit for the interviews and if [producers] asked us about the Afghanimals, the question tended to be, "What do you think about their strategy?" If you ask me that 100 times, I would give you the same answer 100 times. If you air that 100 times, it seems like I'm saying something 100 times about them lying. They asked what we think, so we said it. When we were at the U-Turn, we thought about it strategically and who was closest to us and who would be a threat, and that was the Afghanimals.
You had an alliance with Jason and Amy, but would you have helped them as much as Amy helped you — literally doing a task — if they had been struggling?
Travis: Yes, and we did on little and big things. A number of the things we decided, we advised them. I think that's why in some of their interviews, they say, "We want to run the Race like them." We had been like a big brother, big sister couple to them.
Nicole: Yeah. In Japan, when Marie and Tim were going to do the body bowling, they wanted to go, so we said, "Don't do it. The fish calling is here." Even though we were competitors, we were there to help each other. We had said since the compass that we would help each other as much as we could to ensure that we'll both get to the final. And we all followed through on our word.
You proposed an alliance with Tim and Marie to get the Afghanimals out, so why did you ignore Marie when she asked where the robot model was?
Marie: I can't speak for Amy, but I honestly didn't hear her. I was so in the zone trying to get the pieces together. I've never lied to Marie. She said something later, and I said, "Marie, I really did not hear you." She might still not believe it, but I didn't.
What are you up to now?
Nicole: Back to reality!
Travis: Normal lives. Our kids have been extremely excited about the show. I think the fact that it's over is going to be a big disappointment to them. They don't have Sunday night TV time. And despite what some people are saying on social media, our kids loved it. They're very happy and are talking about how when they grow up, they'll go on and which combination of two will go. It was a wonderful experience, and I had a great time spending time with my beautiful wife. Television is one thing. Our reality is different. I love my wife so dearly. Would I love her to be the best at everything? Yes. But she can't be and neither can I. No one can. Do I have high expectations? Yes. Am I very competitive? Yes. Will I always love my wife? Definitely.
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