Exclusive: 'The Amazing Race's Christie Volkmer, Jodi Wincheski talk
By John Bracchitta, 03/25/2009
"Flight Attendants" Christie Volkmer and Jodi Wincheski had more than enough experience dealing with problems at airports, but they apparently still have a lot to learn about dealing with bad cab drivers.
After falling from first place to last during the previous leg of the race in part because of a wrong directions and a poor cab driver in Russia, but being spared by the season's first non-elimination leg, Christie, a 37-year-old flight attendant from Choctaw, OK, and Jodi, a 40-year-old flight attendant from Houston, TX, once again fell victim to a poor cab driver in India that resulted in their becoming the fifth team to be eliminated from The Amazing Race 14 during Sunday night's broadcast on CBS.
On Tuesday, Christie and Jodi spoke to Reality TV World about how their experiences as flight attendants came in handy during their time in the Race, what accessory they brought with them they both said helped them much more than was shown on the show, and how they mysteriously fell from sixth place to last place just prior to their elimination in India without any explanation from the show's broadcast.
Reality TV World: To get started, the show really didn't do that good a job of showing it on Sunday, but what happened at the end there? You two left in sixth place and didn't seem to run into many problems but you ended up in last place.
Christie: We ran into big problems.
Jodi: They make it kind of look like it was a stop at the gas station, but really that was not it. When we first left [the airport] we got a really bad taxi driver, and he assumed, he had taken everyone else that had gone to India to this place (unintelligible) where they were having a religious ceremony, that that's where we wanted to go. We told them a million times [to go to] Dhula village and literally 30 minutes after we left the airport we circled back around the airport...
Reality TV World: No. I'm sorry. I didn't mean right there at the beginning [of the leg]. I meant after you completed the Detour task. I guess it could've just been the editing [and] you guys were at a different [location than them] I guess, but it looked like you guys were ahead of [Mark and Michael Munoz] at that point.
Christie: Right, are you talking about before we did the Speedbump? You know we had to do the Speedbump with elephant.
Reality TV World: Yeah, maybe my recollection is wrong, I thought you had still finished it...
Christie: Oh, yeah. You're right. We had left ahead. But [Mark and Michael] were about a mile-and-a-half closer to the Pit Stop than we were.
Reality TV World: Okay so it just came down to...
Jodi: Yeah, and traffic in India is bad. So just being that mile-and-a-half closer and not having to deal with the traffic issues as much put them there before us. But it was a two-minute difference.
Reality TV World: Yeah, it looked like you two were scrambling up the staircase as they were arriving at the Pit Stop.
Christie: Yeah, it was close, it was close.
Jodi: The biggest difference was our cab driver. And then doing the Speedbump was probably a 30 minute task, because of traffic again. So that gave us kind of an [hour long] problem right there from the beginning. So we ate up a lot of time doing tasks.
Reality TV World: So the "Shakers" [Detour] task. How long did that take you?
Christie: I'd say that didn't take that long, maybe 20-30 minutes to collect the money.
Jodi: 20 minutes, probably. We were very gracious, we were amazed at how much they were offering.
Reality TV World: Yeah, a lot of the teams seemed to comment on how nice the locals were to them. Based on that, it sounds like you had the same experience?
Jodi: They were phenomenal. I mean, they had nothing. You saw how they were living, just in poverty based on their standards. But they were having a good time, which was nice, and it just goes to show that you don't need to have a lot of money to have a good time. They were dancing and having a great time and offering up what little they could.
Christie: Yeah, they gave us money and they were very respectful. And I've always been a little hesitant of India because it seems, in past shows, that contestants fall apart in India. It seems typically that it's extremely crowded, people are crying, they feel like everybody's grabbing at them, of course the poverty. Our experience was very positive in India.
Reality TV World: Yeah it kinda seemed like you guys were headed that way with those first initial cab rides out of the airport, there seemed to be a lot of emotion coming from everybody.
Jodi: Yeah, it was a little difficult to communicate, that's for sure. You definitely see tough thing [to see] on the side of the road. Having traveled before we've unfortunately seen that in different countries and it's horrible, it's really difficult to see, you know cardboard box houses and children... the children get you. It's unfortunate that people are living like that.
Reality TV World: Before the leg had started there on Sunday night, you both made a point of mentioning how you felt you needed to run that leg perfectly in order to make up ground. Did you think that [cabbie coming out of the airport was your downfall]?
Christie: Absolutely, it was the bad cab. It was just horrible, it was such a sinking feeling when we drove right by the airport we had just left 30 minutes earlier. And he still didn't know where he was going, he had to stop a million times for directions. And really, the gas station, we needed gas at that point! I mean, we had been driving forever, so he was still asking for directions at the gas station.
Jodi: And even with the 30 minute Speedbump and the 30 minute -- minimum -- cab delay, we still came within two minutes at the end. So it was most definitely the cab.
Reality TV World: Just going back a week to the previous episode there, how did you guys end up at the wrong church during the "Russian Bride" Detour task? Was that another cab problem?
Jodi: No. The local that told us... we showed him the name of the church and he said "Oh absolutely, I know where that is, I'm going in that direction." So we said "Great we'll follow you" and he drove us right to that church, which was another thirty minutes out of the way. That was a pretty church, but it was not the right church.
You kinda have to trust the locals, you think they would know, but in that case he was dead wrong (Pauses) Especially when they say "Yes! I know where that is" and that they will take you there. I mean, you're not gonna go "No. We don't believe you, we're not sure."
Reality TV World: What made you guys decide to do "Russian Bride" instead of the snowplow task?
Christie: Apparently they don't stop and ask for directions as gas stations in Russia. The snowplow [location] was written in English, the name of the place, and people don't understand English in Russia and we asked several people how to find that and they didn't know what we were talking about so we switched to the "Bride" because the address was written in Russian and we thought we might have a better chance getting someone to tell us where something was if they could understand the location.
Reality TV World: You had actually started that leg in first place, from what I recall, and you obviously ended up in last with the non-elimination there. Do you think that is what caused you to have that big drop?
Jodi: I mean a 30 minute delay outside the city is a big deal when you go to the wrong church. IT was just (sighs)
Reality TV World: From [the departure time shown] on Sunday night it looked like you actually ended up getting to the Pit Stop [for that leg] a couple of hours after the next closest team.
Jodi: Well, the guy that took us to the wrong church, he left after that, so not only are we 30 minutes outside of the city at the wrong church, but now we gotta find our way back into town and find the right church. So that was 30 minutes out, but then there's an hour trying to get back and figure out you bearings.
Christie: We had a heck of a time getting around in Russia. the guy took us to the wrong church and took us forever out of the way, and that sucked, but at the same time we could not find our way around Russia. We could not find anyone who speaks English, and we would get these maps that are like "cirle-line-circle-line-circle" and we're like "What in the world does that mean?"
There were no blocks, and everyone we ran into seemed to be drunk. And their concept of distance is much different than our concept of distance. They'd be like "It's 15 minutes down the road," and literally we had to throw the breaks on because no, it wasn't 15 minutes -- well maybe walking -- but it was literally a minute-and-a-half down the road. When we finally found the church the last person told us to drive down 15 minutes on a street, and we were there in a minute-and-a-half.
Jodi: The only reason we knew it is because I said "What does it look like?" and he said it was blue and gold. We saw a blue church and said "That has got to be it, finally."
Reality TV World: Christie, can you talk a little bit about your reaction to that underwear run Roadblock challenge?
Christie: (Laughs) Well, it was actually kind of fun. I mean, people were yelling and having a good time and honking. you were really too cold to be embarrassed, it was just frigid. And I mean, when I first found out that I had to strip down into my thong I thought they were gonna give me a little outfit to put on that everyone had to wear. I didn't know that it would be what you were wearing.
So it was a little intimidating at first, but it was actually okay. Especially when I watched it and was thankful that they put that blurry stuff over my butt.
The thing about that too is that the clue says "Strip down to your skivvies" and we found out after the fact that they let some people change into their swimsuit bottoms. I asked and was like "I have a thong, are you kidding me?" and they said "It says your skivvies" and wouldn't let me change, but they let... Well [Jennifer Hoffman] didn't have anything on, so they had to let her put something on. But they let [Tammy Jih] and [Cara Rosenthal] change into swimsuit bottoms and boy shorts.
Reality TV World: Jodi, what was your reaction? Did you think you had dodged a bullet?
Jodi: I was actually really upset at that point, because I thought that it was basically an attempt to humiliate people and I didn't think that... I don't know. It was one of those things that they do for television.
But I was upset about that task, I had thought that it would bother Christie more than it did because she had told me earlier on that she did not want to be in a situation like that. So I just felt for her and was upset about the whole situation. But it turned out to be okay.
Reality TV World: But that was one of those things where, at the time you made the decision of who was gonna do it you didn't know exactly what the task was, correct?
Jodi: Oh no, we had no idea. All we knew was...
Christie: (Interrupting) We had kinda decided that if it was something silly like that, that I as gonna do it because I was upset last season when they did the wrestling like "Oh, why couldn't they have had that for our season," because I like the silly, goofy stuff. So we kinda decided that [I would handle those challenges]
Jodi: And [the clue] said "Who has no shame?" and I'm like "Okay you go." (Laughs) Because I don't like goofy, silly stuff at as much, and Christie loves it so it was a no brainer. And I also had the finger issue, so they made me go to medical and I didn't want to take any more delays than we already had.
Reality TV World: Yeah we didn't see much of the finger on this week's episode, so I assume it didn't end up becoming a significant factor?
Jodi: Nah. It wasn't a really big deal. I mean, everyone's got their finger slammed in a door before. I got a cute little scar so I have a memory forever. (Laughs).
Reality TV World: Christie, based on your post-show comments, it almost seemed like you relished being in the underdog role after finishing last in that non-elimination leg. Was that the case?
Christie: Well, when you're in front there's a sense of complacency that sort of sets in. I mean we were always trying to stay at the top of our game and trying to be competitive. But when you're on the bottom you have to fight, and there is something inside of you that comes out that makes you fight even harder, that maybe you might not have come out if you were in the Top 3. So we did seem to perform very, very well when we were at the bottom and in survival mode.
Reality TV World: Except for that last leg.
Jodi: The other thing about survival mode is that you're kind of on your own when you're at the bottom. It's all up to you, so it's just you overcoming the obstacle ahead, and doing that is a great thing. Whereas on the top there are a couple of other teams, you can all work together and it's kind of easy and it's like "What do you think?" and "How do you approach this?" When you're on the bottom it's just you.
Reality TV World: You two had that leg in where Russia you ended up losing your lead essentially because you all got bunched at the train station [but] then you actually ended up benefited [from another bunching] on this week's episode where your last place finish ended up being wiped out when you all ended up flying on the same flight into India. Do you think that's kind of like karmic payback and it all evened out in the end?
Jodi: You know, the logistics choice honestly on the train, because if all the teams don't make that train it could be another 24 hour difference, so I think that was a logistics choice to get you further into Russia, that's what they had to do for the show.
But the very, very first episode we come in first and it's not a Pit Stop, it's just an overnight. Then the very next morning, and we were ahead, we all leave within 15 minutes of each other. So it's definitely gone both ways when it's like "Well why couldn't this be a Pit Stop" and then we're all bunched together, or you're behind and you all get bunched back together.
It's just kinda the way it is, pretty much, on the show. they bunch people. The only time that we really woulda loved to have been bunched back together was after the first leg [and] going into the second one. It was a one day event, so there wasn't any time to make up there. It was really hard, we really had to fight just to get into the last place again.
Reality TV World: Did your flight attendant backgrounds end up being as much as an advantage as you had hoped they would be before the race? It didn't seem like there ended up being a lot of examples of that in the episodes.
Christie: Right, we were wishing they would show a little more of it, because we made a lot of good decisions when it came to flights, they didn't really air those. But that as well as the communication skills we have, being able to walk up and approach anyone and feel comfortable talking to them was definitely an asset.
Reality TV World: Could you go into a little bit more detail? Do you mean as far as getting on flights or [do you mean smaller things like] where you end up sitting on the plane [and] being able to get off quicker?
Christie: Just for an example, on this flight, and there were a couple different places where this really, really helped us in Moscow, and only three teams made their connection. The reason we made the connection is because we really researched the flights and we found a flight that gave up enough time to get through. There were several teams that gave themselves an hour-and-a-half, and you can't get through customs in an hour-and-a-half in Moscow. So that was a big deal there, that was huge for us.
In this last leg, which you don't see is that when we get to the airport, we were the last ones to leave, and there were no seats available in economy. And we got the counter [to] actually call corporate and they reclassified some [of the seats] from business to economy so that we could purchase them.
Reality TV World: So that experience, was that what you felt was unique with what you brought [to the Race] or did you bring anything else? I know in the past we've seen people deciding to bring whistles and actual physical items to help them out.
Christie: Our roller bags were definitely an asset. Again, they didn't show a lot of the airport scenes and so they didn't show us literally flying by people with our roller bags while they were struggling, the girls especially with their backpacks. Some of the girls were like "Wow I wish I would've thought of that."
Reality TV World: So you do think the roller bags were an asset? Because there's been a lot of discussion about [how practical] those [were]
Jodi: I know. It's so funny because people talk and they have no idea what they're talking about because they didn't have to carry them or hold them. But they are fully convertible, they can convert into a backpack.
There were a couple of times we would carry them, but I don't have a very good back, so carrying around a backpack for a month would've been difficult for me. It [would've] thrown my back out. So for me it was invaluable. And also, like Christie said, we could just fly by people, and we could pick them up on stairs if we needed to. We can change them into backpacks.
Reality TV World: A lot of people really seemed surprised that [Margie and Luke Adams] ended up using the U-Turn on [Amanda Blackledge] and [Kris Kilcka]. Can you talk about your own reactions, and whether it changed your opinions of them at all?
Christie: We were surprised.
Jodi: Yeah, we thought that it was it was a team fighting for their life at the bottom that would use [the U-Turn].
Christie: Jodi and I, we decided before we left that we wanted to play a fair and honest game and to just have our integrity intact and, in the event that we did win, we could be proud of how we achieved it. We had talked about the U-Turn and we were not gonna use it unless it was do-or-die and we were at the bottom and struggling we weren't gonna U-Turn a team just to get them out of the race. We wanted to win it fair and square. We were a bit shocked.
Jodi: It is part of the game, and it was a strategic choice and I don't fault them for doing that. It was just surprising at that time, everybody was getting along really well, you didn't necessarily want to put a target on your back. They didn't need to use it at that point and you only get to use one through the entire race, so we felt like it would be somebody at the bottom. Using it to save yourself is sort of acceptable, you're doing it to stay in the game. It was just a little bit surprising when they used it when they did.
Reality TV World: So do you think it did make them a target?
Jodi: It made everybody go "Wow, they're in to win." When it comes down to it you're not going to trust that they're not going to do whatever they need to do to win for sure, which is true... I don't know.
Christie: (Unintelligible) [Cara Rosenthal] and [Jaime Edmondson] from Day 1 latched onto them. When they came in third in that first leg, they were basically going to their side. I don't think Luke and Margie could shake Jaime and Cara if they wanted to. (Laughs) So it depends on the team, probably [Victor Jih] and Tammy didn't trust them at that point, I know we were a little leery at that point. But just depending on the team and the dynamics and depending on the camaraderie that you have. (unintelligible)
Jodi: And after doing that wood stacking, that was long and hard and tedious, and so to make somebody do that and then make them turn around and do the [other challenge] you knew you were going to be personally responsible for kicking somebody out of The Race.
Reality TV World: You both talked about your own specific reasons for deciding to come onto the show [after you were eliminated] -- but whose idea was it? Was this the first time you have applied for [the show] or had you done it before?
Jodi: I had wanted to do it from the very first show that I'd ever seen. I actually applied with my ex-husband I think about nine years ago. We went to the finals, [but] they didn't think we had enough drama between the two of us. So it was the matter of finding the right partner again and reading what they were looking for the show as well.
Christie: And as far as I'm concerned, I wanted to apply with my husband. He and I were really excited about it, but he's not a U.S. citizen so he wasn't able to apply. So it was, like Jodi said, just kinda waiting on the right person to come along.