Exclusive: Hayley Keel and Blair Townsend talk 'The Amazing Race' and finishing third
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/22/2015
The Amazing Race's blind-dating couple Hayley Keel and Blair Townsend finished the 26th season in third place during the finale on CBS.
Hayley, a 28-year-old registered nurse from St. Petersburg, FL, and Blair, a 31-year-old Navy physician from Jacksonville, FL, crossed the finish line after runners-up Jenny Wu and Jelani Roy and winners Laura Pierson and Tyler Adams. All three couples met on the show for the wildest blind date of their lives.
Laura and Tyler won the $1 million grand prize on the twelfth and final leg after conquering five continents, eight countries and more than 35,000 miles. Hayley and Blair said they didn't find love on the show, but there seems to be potential for change.
In an exclusive interview with Reality TV World this week, Hayley and Blair talked about their experience on The Amazing Race. Below is what they had to say.
Reality TV World: The Race is known for twists, turns and that anything could happen. Did you have any hope of finishing the Race in a higher spot than third on your way to the finish line, or were you convinced third was your fate?
Hayley Keel: You know, honestly, it's like Blair said in the last leg, "It's not over until Phil says it's over." But you just honestly never know. You never know if someone could've gotten a flat tire. You never know if someone got lost. You just never know. So you always have to have hope on the Race.
Blair and I have been big fans of the Race for many, many seasons, and that's one thing. We never gave up hope and we never gave up thinking that it was just over because you never know, not until you get to the finish line do you know.
Reality TV World: Were you guys happy or a little annoyed that Laura and Tyler won? Because you were shown calling them "shady" during the last leg when they were trying to follow your cab and some of the other teams seemed to have an issue with them.
Hayley Keel: No, I did feel like Laura and Tyler -- I didn't have an issue with them. I think when it comes down to it, it's whoever gets to the finish line first. It's not that we had an issue with it. It's just seeing how much they talk about us and talk about us and talk about other teams, you know, it almost, like, I don't really know.
That's not how we obviously played the game. We would never speak poorly about other teams, and we didn't until the very last episode, when we were verbal about how we thought about them -- about them being shady and kind of sneaky and kind of like snakes.
But that's one thing Blair and I do pride ourselves in, that we played a very clean game and we were never intentionally talking poorly about another team or criticizing another team. We didn't have to do anything like cut in line or be sneaky in any way to get as far as we did, which is something that, you know, we have integrity, which is one of the characteristics both of us brought to the Race.
Reality TV World: What's your relationship like now? When I talked to Harley Rodriguez and his partner Jonathan Knight earlier this season, they told me you guys had been hanging out a lot. Could you talk to me about that? (Laughs) Did any romantic connection spark after the show ended or maybe you're just better friends than you were on the Race?
Hayley Keel: (Laughs)
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Blair Townsend: So the Race is exhausting. It is a grind. I had no idea how much of a grind it was going to be. And that's just, like, the Roadblocks, the challenges and the traveling. And the honest truth is, I think we probably devoted a big more energy than any of the other teams in arguments and working on our interpersonal relationship.
So, I think at the end of the Race, we might have appreciated our space a little bit for a few days. But it didn't take us too long to kind of rekindle our friendship and get in touch, but we text quite frequently. We kind of established this weekly pre-episode Facetime session.
Hayley Keel: Mhmm. (Giggles)
Blair Townsend: But I think we're definitely turning over a new leaf and kind of realizing that the people we are on the show might not be exactly who we are in real life when we're not faced with the likely the most stressful scenario that we've ever experienced in our lives on national TV.
Hayley Keel: We can go in and save lives any day. I mean, I can go into a pediatric cardiac arrest any day and Blair can go into a life or death surgery, and that's fine. We know that like the back of our hand. But going into the Race, it's just something completely different and stressful.
We both kind of had different views to get to the same goal. It took a while to get our views in line with each other, and if anything, I think our story or evolution throughout the Race together was by far the best one this season.
Reality TV World: So it sounds like there might be a little potential there for love! (Laughs)
Hayley Keel: We're not romantically involved at all, but Blair is one of my very best friends. And, you know, I always look forward to our weekly chats together and we text each other funny things throughout the week and just catch up with each other and we get opinions on each other's lives frequently.
Blair knows everything there is to know about me, and I feel like I know pretty much everything about him. So, we're the best of friends.
Reality TV World: How accurate do you think your edit was this season? Hayley, you were shown yelling at Blair an awful lot to the point of other teams telling me Blair had the patience of a saint. Did they just focus on those scenes?
Hayley Keel: You know, I feel like granted that did happen a lot while we were racing, but for the most part, I think Blair and I had probably the best experience out of anyone. Because, like I said, we've been fans of the show forever, so we were living [our] dream together.
So it was really nice to get matched with a complete stranger who wanted the same goals and dreams as you do and you get to live that together. I feel like we were two people on a show that truly appreciated the places we went more than anyone. We loved being immersed in the culture, we loved finding out things about where we were going -- just all of those little things put together.
We really bonded over things like that. And when you're with somebody 24/7 for the entire course of the Race, you really have more good times than bad. So it was highlighted a lot, but I fully admit that, yes, I did nag him a lot. But you know what?
We're in this situation and we're both very competitive and like I said, we had different views of how things should get done. It wasn't until we could merge those views and come to a common agreement to get to our goal that things weren't rough. They were absolutely rough. Overall, we did get along more often than not.
Reality TV World: Hayley, you feared that missing the clue while you rappelled down that building might haunt you for the rest of your life. Has it been haunting you since the show wrapped filming? And Blair, does it make you feel better or worse the situation that held you guys back was not your doing? Do you feel more relief or more frustration because of that.
Hayley Keel: Obviously I felt terrible about that because I felt like we could have won if I hadn't missed the clue. And I think anyone in that position would feel absolutely awful. And so, I had nightmares about it for a while. I mean, I had post-Race dreams and nightmares (laughs) after the Race.
So it was something I felt terrible about, but you know, when I look at the big picture, we started off at the very bottom. We went into it not knowing each other.
We had everything working against us, including ourselves -- especially me -- and then when we ended up getting to the Final 3, I had to look back and say, "That's more than we could've asked for," especially because of some of the teams we beat out. It's incredible that we beat those teams out. So, to make it as far as we did is just really a huge accomplishment for both of us.
Blair Townsend: Yeah, I mean, and this is the honest truth. The whole race is a team effort, and I mean, I kind of view it as, yeah, I'm a human being and I'm going to be disappointed that we were very close to winning and that we didn't.
But I have to kind of echo what Hayley is saying. I just remember when the final leg started, me kind of letting my guard down and being like, "We made it this far. Let's have some fun and see what happens." And I really thought we were the best team at that point.
We had the most momentum going and we were the team to beat. I still think we were as deserving as winners as Tyler and Laura are, I think. Most people admit that we were the team to beat at that point. So, I mean, it was Hayley's Roadblock to do, but we rise as a team and we fall as a team.
And success or failures, we kind of both have to step up to and take some credit for. But I think Hayley did so much to get us to where we got, so she should kind of be proud of the things that she did and not really dwell on the final Roadblock that didn't work in our favor.
Reality TV World: How difficult was that final memory task? We didn't see much of you guys doing it. How long did it take you to complete?
Hayley Keel: (Laughs) That one was rough for us. The whole selfie thing is a great idea, but Blair and I, we would always forget about our selfies because we would be so caught up in the moment and just enjoying the scenery.
For example, and I'll never forget it, one of my favorite moments was driving in the desert in Namibia to get to our Pit Stop at the Matterhorn. And you don't even think about taking a picture then. You're just taking it all in. And when you're at places... it wasn't usually like, "Oh, I want to take a picture, let me take out the selfie cam."
It was more like, "Wow, let me just soak in this moment. Let's look at this. Let's enjoy this." And I think Blair felt the same. We just truly appreciate the experience. We truly appreciated the places we went and, I mean, I'll never forget riding on the side of the mountains in Peru. Blair and I were just staring out of the window in disbelief of how beautiful it all was. So our selfies were more difficult.
Blair Townsend: I kind of, I agree with Hayley. Well, first off, I'm not really the type of person to take selfies.
Hayley Keel: (Laughs)
Blair Townsend: I don't think I ever have before. So the whole selfie thing was just awkward for me, but aside from that, any time there is Race scenery or we were speaking to locals and natives, it was more important to take it all in and not, you know, snap a picture of ourselves doing it.
So I think that made the final task a little more challenging, just because we had a lot of selfies on a plane or selfies in an airport when we kind of weren't doing anything and had the time to take selfies. And I guess when we were there, the wind really started blowing.
It was hard to get the pin-up pictures to stick to the wall. But the idea was cool. And again, having this blind-date twist this season and then this whole selfie thing, I guess, I think it spiced the show up and made it a little more fresh and exciting. So I think it was a good job on the part of the show.
Reality TV World: Would you like to race again in an all-stars season or something?
Hayley Keel: We would love to! We have unfinished business, that's for sure.
Check our The Amazing Race page for more interviews with the season's Final 4 teams.