Ashton, a 25-year-old residential realtor from Fort Worth, TX, and Vanck, a 28-year-old Wall Street analyst from New York, NY, became the fifth team ousted from the around-the-world competition after they arrived at the season's sixth Pit Stop along the shoreline in the town of Tremezzo, Milan, Italy, in last place out of the seven remaining couples.
Vanck had asked Ashton to be his partner when they met on Day 1 of the Race and were total strangers. Ashton referred to Vanck and herself as an "odd ball, polar opposite combination" on the show.
In a recent exclusive interview via email with Reality TV World, Ashton talked about her The Amazing Race experience, her entertaining partnership with Vanck, and the double U-Turn that sealed her team's fate. Below is what she had to say.
Reality TV World: How far behind London Kaye and Logan Bauer did you two finally arrive at the Pit Stop? What was the time gap?
Reality TV World: Although you had to complete both sides of the Detour task, you guys appeared to breeze through them. Is that accurate? How long did each task take to complete?
Ashton Theiss: I would say that the actual Detours took less than 30 minutes each. Finding the clue box and getting to each point was what was so time consuming.
Reality TV World: The teams' reasoning for banding together to U-Turn Vanck and yourself was that you didn't mesh socially with them and you were rubbing them the wrong way. How were you rubbing teams the wrong way? Because viewers didn't see much of that, other than your frustration with Matt Ladley and Redmond Ramos.
Ashton Theiss: Honestly, at that point we were on good terms with Matt and Red. The only person that I really didn't jive with was [Brooke Camhi]. I know that everyone was pretty annoyed when we took the car instead of carrying the firecrackers by foot in Alesund and when I got us moved to the front of the plane on the way to Norway.
I was told those were some of the ways we "rubbed them the wrong way." [Michael Rado and Liz Espey] had a conversation with Vanck and I after the fact stating that they really liked me and that the U-Turn had nothing to do with me personally, but they just didn't enjoy being around Vanck.
Reality TV World: At the Pit Stop, Brooke pointed out that your team would be "B-List invitees" to a hypothetical dinner with the cast, and then Michael took a shot at Vanck by saying he would not be invited at all. The teams seemed to just have an issue with Vanck. Do you think Vanck had a specific issue with Michael in particular?
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Ashton Theiss: As mentioned earlier, Brooke was the only person I didn't really get along with. I felt like I had really strong relationships and friendships with everyone else, especially [Scott Flanary], [Tara Carr], [Joey Covino], London and Logan.
Vanck is quieter and less social, so he didn't have very strong relationships with everyone. We joked that I was the "chief people officer" even. I think there were a lot of people that just didn't care for Vanck and his personality. It's not for me to say that they only had an issue with him, but I was certainly blindsided by the U-Turn and still don't fully understand it.
Reality TV World: Do you think it's unfair everyone targeted Vanck and yourself and made sure to prevent the possibility of another team being U-Turned along with you guys? The move sealed your fate and there was seemingly nothing you could do about it.
Ashton Theiss: I think that is unfair and a bad move strategy wise. Why not double your chances of getting a team out? Like I said, we were not far behind LoLo.
We could have caught up potentially, and then their U-Turn would have been pointless. At that point, people were saying we got U-Turned for social reasons, not strategy. That, I believe, was a poor decision that could cost people later on.
Reality TV World: From a viewer's perspective, it was a poor strategic choice not to U-Turn, say, Tara and Joey -- who keep finishing in first place -- or Matt and Redmond, whom everyone agrees are basically superhuman. What are your thoughts on that? Because even Matt and Redmond were surprised there was no target on their back despite being friends with everyone.
Ashton Theiss: I think it was a decision made on social and emotional perspectives, not strategy. Yes, Vanck and I were doing well consistently, but we fought like cats and dogs. Why not U-Turn a strong team that had a strong bond? Tara and Joey and Matt and Red would have been the better move strategically. Vanck and I posed less of a threat because we had a hard time getting along.
Reality TV World: If you had arrived at the Double U-Turn board in first place, which team would you have U-Turned and why? I'm assuming Matt and Redmond?
Ashton Theiss: At that point, the Top 3 strongest teams left were Mom and Dad, The Boys and Team Fun. Since we had a close relationship with Mom and Dad, I wouldn't have U-Turned them. It would have been a real toss up between Team Fun and The Boys. I don't know that we would have risked U-Turning The Boys again because they could have caught up.
Reality TV World: Vanck and yourself were shown bickering a few times because of your opposite personalities, but on the other side of the coin, you two did well on the Race and your strengths and weaknesses seemed to complement each other. Looking back, do you feel you actually made a great team? When you weren't fighting, everything seemed to go smoothly.
Ashton Theiss: I think we made the best of the combination. Do I think we did great considering our dynamics? Absolutely. Do I think that we are a great team? Not entirely. You have to be able to communicate well with your partner.
I just don't know that we were ever going to have great communication. It was a constant struggle to overcome the dynamics, and that's something a well matched team doesn't have to overcome that challenge in addition
Reality TV World: You were particularly angry at Matt and Redmond for failing to uphold a deal towards the beginning of the season when you had to sign up for helicopter rides. Did you ever move past that? Looking back, do you wish you had reacted differently as to make sure you're not putting a target on your back?
Ashton Theiss: Yeah, we had made up and were friends again during the Race. I don't think that is the reason we had a target on our backs, to be honest.
Reality TV World: Sara Fowler and Logan are obviously dating now, and Sara told me that they're actually in love. Did you see that coming while you were on the Race? What were their interactions like?
Reality TV World: Did you make any mistakes or did anything happen that viewers didn't see during the leg in which you got eliminated? And do you have any regrets looking back on the Race as a whole?
Ashton Theiss: My #1 regret during the Race was not putting my compass on my fanny pack. I'd left it attached to my pack, which I clearly didn't have at the start line. Then I followed [Jessica "Jessie" Shields] and [Francesca Piccoli] that couldn't read their compasses and that's ultimately why I came in so late.
If I'd had my own compass or followed someone else, I would have been more likely to pick a partner. During the leg in Italy, it took us forever to find the clue box because it was behind us when we were running. Had we found it quickly like the other teams, we could have probably beat LoLo.
Reality TV World: What's the status of your relationship with Vanck now? Are you friends, do you talk regularly?
Ashton Theiss: Vanck and I do not talk super often, but we are on good terms. The cast will be all staying together for finale in California, so I will see him then!
Reality TV World: How were you cast on The Amazing Race? Was this your first time applying, and are you a big fan of the show?
Ashton Theiss: I have been friends with Josh Ahern of "Team Texas" from Season 27. He and I were chatting about how amazing his experience was, and I decided I had to go for it. I applied originally with one of my lifetime best friends, and casting asked if I would be interested in proceeding through casting by myself.
I told them, not yes, but HELL yes, I would love to try solo! I am a huge fan of the show. I love the premise, the competitive nature of the show, the opportunity to win a life-changing sum of money and the chance to see parts of the world I have never seen before!
Check back with Reality TV World soon for our exclusive interview with Ashton's partner Vanck Zhu.