Despite being written off by their rivals early on, The Amazing Race's sexagenarians, Meredith and Gretchen Smith, wound up doing pretty well for themselves on the globe-trotting series (Tuesdays, 9pm/ET on CBS). The retired couple finished the race in fourth place, which makes them the oldest team ever to reach the final four. "I told Gretchen that we've struck a blow for snowheads everywhere," Meredith happily tells TVGuide.com. In addition to enjoying their newfound fame, the Smiths are also celebrating the birth of their first grandson. His name? Meredith IV, of course!
TVGuide.com: It was interesting to see how the airport situation reversed itself in this week's episode. Last week, you, Uchenna and Joyce scrounged around for an earlier flight. This time, you both opted to stick with the first flight you found.
Well, we did hear about the Frankfurt flight. We also heard that it was completely booked, although we had a feeling that Rob and Amber were on standby. But at that time, we figured that a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush. And quite frankly, we were both exhausted. The idea of not having to run so hard was pretty sweet.
Gretchen Smith: Also, international connections are oftentimes difficult to make. We were hoping they might miss the connecting flight. We discussed the decision with Joyce and Uchenna, who felt pretty much the same way. So we weren't alone!
TVG: What was your strategy going into the race?
When we first started, we thought it was cute to say things like "Old age and strategy will outperform youthful exuberance." It wasn't long before we found that that was pretty silly to say. When we saw the quality and class of the teams we were up against, we knew we were in for something more.
Gretchen: It hit us literally in Lima, Peru, when we stationed ourselves at the front of the bus. We were in a great position and got off and started running the five blocks to the clue box. So we're jogging along and suddenly, like a band of Indians, the other teams come running along, screaming and yelling and leaving us in their dust. So our strategy really — and I know it sounds corny — was to just play by the rules and try to respect our competitors. We didn't want anyone to think of us as the "old team" and we knew they wouldn't give us any slack anyhow.
TVG: You made it further than any other team in your age group has before. Do you think it's possible for an older team to actually win the race?
Absolutely. There was actually a point in the race where we thought we might have a chance. Anything can happen in a racing situation. You can have the best car at the Indy 500 and blow a tire and you're out of the race. In retrospect, we think that we probably squeezed it as far as we knew how and got every drop out of it. Coming in fourth was no shortcoming as far as we're concerned.
TVG: There were certainly several moments — like when you were pushing that elephant in India — where viewers were more than a little concerned for your health.
Well, a lot of things happened on that challenge. First, Gretchen was told by a local to get on top of the elephant. Then kids in the crowd kept riding under the elephant, so I had to pull Gretchen and all these kids underneath. We also had a broken wheel, which made it difficult to steer. At one point, the wheel went over my foot and broke three bones! So from that point forward, I was racing with an injured foot. So that's what you were seeing. When it looked like I was going to have a heart attack, I was really in pain.
TVG: Speaking of India, did you ever figure out why the crowds gave you the rock-star treatment?
No, we didn't figure it out. Maybe it had to do with our being older. The other teams said that none of them got that reception. But we had a great time with those people. What they didn't show was I said, "We need a taxi," and they all banded around me. It was wonderful. I said, "Meredith, I don't know what to do when they start cheering." And he said, "Blow them kisses." So I was blowing kisses like the prom queen.
TVG: Gretchen, you have a very... er, distinctive voice. Do you get that often?
I always knew that. I have to record my answering-machine message 50 times to get the voice right! I keep trying to change it by talking lower or something. But it's been my voice for 66 years. When we go into a supermarket now, someone will go, "Oh, you're Gretchen from The Amazing Race!" They don't say that they recognize my face. They say, "We recognized your voice!" And I go, "Oh nooo! Don't say that!" [Laughs]
TVG: Ray said some pretty mean things about you both during the course of the race. Did his comments bother you?
We actually felt sorry for him when he was on The Early Show. It was almost like "The Meredith and Gretchen Show," with Ray defending himself. You know, Ray's a good guy. There's nothing wrong with him. I think he was frustrated because he had to hang with us, but he wanted to be up competing with Rob and Amber. He actually sent us an e-mail before the show aired and said, "Don't be surprised about some of the things you might hear from me. I stuck my foot way down my throat any number of times. It was only done in the heat of competition and don't take it personally." And we didn't.
Gretchen: I told him, while we're playing true confessions, we were calling you "Velcro" all the time because you were sticking so close to Rob and Amber!
TVG: How did you feel about those two, by the way? You did go along with one of their ideas by quitting the meat-eating roadblock in Argentina.
I think Rob took more credit for that than he might have deserved. I couldn't eat that meat, and I was ready to figure out something myself. I felt that if I could get it back up once I got it down, I could complete it. So I went over in the bushes and tried to upchuck, but couldn't. He's a very manipulative guy and it came out on the race. I think viewers will make their own judgment as to how he played the game. My feeling was that it wasn't a totally level playing field. He had plenty of prior experience. People recognized him and Amber throughout the race and were falling over themselves to offer them a hand. You saw his character on Survivor and he was no different in this game.
TVG: If you ran the race over, what would you do differently?
Everyone seemed to think that my having been a flight attendant was a definite advantage. If I had had to serve a meal or evacuate an airplane, I could have done very well, but otherwise, it offered no advantage at all.
TVG: What's a funny moment that didn't make the final cut?
When we were in Soweto, Uchenna and Kelly came to our room during the night and brought us some clothes. [Editor's note: They were stripped of all their possessions after coming in last on a nonelimination leg.] Kelly brought two T-shirts for Gretchen and Uchenna gave me a great deal of things, including several pairs of boxer shorts. They fit Gretchen perfectly! So Gretchen wore Uchenna's underwear for some of the legs.
Gretchen: Oh, they did not fit me! They were way too big! Way too big! Have you seen the size of Uchenna, Meredith? Shame on you for saying that. [Laughs]