Exclusive: Laurence and Zac Sunderland talk 'The Amazing Race'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 11/14/2011
Laurence Sunderland and Zac Sunderland strategically got themselves on the earliest available flight from Africa to Copenhagen, Denmark, arriving at their first task advantageously four hours ahead of all the other teams during the nineteenth season of The Amazing Race's eighth leg.
However, a fatal combination of bad luck and unfortunate circumstances consisting of an equalizer in the course, Zac struggling with a dance performance during the Roadblock task, a U-Turn by their fellow Racers, and finally getting lost and stuck in traffic for two hours before arriving at the Pit Stop forced the "Father/Son Adventurers" into last place -- resulting in their inability to recover and elimination from the competition.
On Monday, Laurence and Zac talked to Reality TV World about their The Amazing Race experience.
Reality TV World: Upon arriving at the Pit Stop, Zac, you said you both got lost for a couple hours. Just to clarify, when did that happen? Did you get lost between leaving the last Detour task and the Pit Stop at the Havet ship?
Zac Sunderland: Yeah, the place where we were churning butter and racing rabbits, we got lost from there to the place we had to go to [for the Pit Stop] in Copenhagen. We didn't know where it was and we were asking directions from a bunch of people. The city flooded the week before, so the traffic was crazy and we ended up getting turned around a couple times and went to a couple different places.
Reality TV World: The show's editing suggested you two really hadn't gotten lost for that long until Zac toldThe Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan it was for two hours. So, could you elaborate on what actually happened there a little bit more? Last night's episode said the ride to the Pit Stop was only seven miles, so how did you get lost for that much time? Traffic must have been a big factor, right?
Zac Sunderland: I think we definitely traveled more than seven miles, but yeah I mean, we definitely got on a road that was getting shut down. I was told by somebody that the Pit Stop was in a different area than what it is, so we ended up going all over Copenhagen to the downtown area, which was just clogged up with traffic.
Yeah, it was the language barrier and then we probably asked like 20 or 30 people, I don't even know. We asked tons of people where this place was -- even people right across the street from the Pit Stop, when we finally got there, didn't know where it was. It was kind of an obscure place to get to.
Reality TV World: You two secured the earliest flight from Africa to London, which then brought you to Copenhagen. Could you talk about how you got that earlier flight compared to what the other teams had booked? Because the show didn't really address how you discovered it.
Zac Sunderland: My Dad was actually the one that booked that, so you want to take that?
Laurence Sunderland: Yes, well we've been to London and we've traveled a lot ourselves, so knowing that London is a pretty big hub, we just felt if we could get there, there would be more flights to Copenhagen than there probably would be from Amsterdam that is not that big a hub.
So we kind of -- with that in mind, we talked to somebody at, I think, the Virgin Atlantic counter and they said, "Yeah, this flight gets in a little earlier to London, and there is a connecting flight that will get you into Copenhagen earlier." We just wanted to keep it a little quiet because we felt that there was an advantage there, and we pursued it.
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Reality TV World: You withheld that flight information from [Ernie Halvorsen] and [Cindy Chiang] specifically when they asked you were your plans were. So it sounds like that was just for competitive reasons, right? Were you worried that Ernie and Cindy could have hopped on that same flight had you shared that information with them?
Laurence Sunderland: Oh yeah! They were so competitive. Yeah, they would have jumped right on and taken the tickets right out of our hands. I'm just kidding. (Laughs) They're very competitive, yes, but you know, everyone's trying to their very best. So, yes, we wanted to try to get a little bit of an advantage.
Unfortunately it was unlucky though, because the next challenge was not open until 7:30AM the following morning when everybody else had caught up with us through the other flights.
Zac Sunderland: Yeah, the other teams were arriving through the night. We were the first people there by three or four hours, I guess. [Andy Finch] and [Tommy Czeschin] were the next team to come in, but it didn't really help any of us out. It was just good that we were in front of [Marcus Pollard] and [Amani Pollard], but other than that, we were all racing to the top by the stairs there.
Reality TV World: So although you got lost towards the end of the leg, it sounds like you think the outcome of the Race would have been different if you didn't have to wait for the doors of the bell tower to open at 7:30AM, right? You would have had a tremendous lead at that point if the other teams didn't have a chance to catch up to you.
Zac Sunderland: Yeah, definitely. I mean, four hours is huge in Race time, but you never know. There are always a couple equalizers throughout the different legs and you're all waiting for the same flight or all waiting for a bus, but it turns out that we had to wait for this thing to open. So, it was good we got there as fast as we could and we got to look around before everyone else did and kind of get a good feel for the place.
Reality TV World: When you watched the show last night and chose to keep the information about your flight to Copenhagen a secret, did it surprise you that Cindy had called you guys "super shady?" What was your reaction to that?
Zac Sunderland: I guess it could be super shady. It's all good.
Laurence Sunderland: (Laughs) You know, keep in mind we've just flown from Malawi. The amount of fatigue that you [feel] through this Race, you do not see people at their best always. It wasn't taken personally. It was just super competitive.
Zac Sunderland: Also in the Race, you did have alliances with certain teams where you would loosely try to help each other out and Cindy and Ernie weren't one of the teams that we really worked on tasks with before or they hadn't helped us find different things.
So you don't really just give out stuff, because again, you're just trying to get first place because there are some pretty crazy prizes at the end of each leg. So everyone's racing their best against the other teams. So at the airport, it was all about getting to the next destination the fastest with the least amount of people there at the same time.
Reality TV World: How far do you think you finally arrived at the Pit Stop behind Jeremy Cline and Sandy Draghi?
Zac Sunderland: I really don't know because they kind of keep that -- everyone was gone far apart from Phil and the greeter at the mat when we got there. So, yeah at the mat, we didn't really know.
Reality TV World: Would you both ultimately blame your elimination on the time it took Zac to complete the dancing Roadblock, the Double U-Turn in which you had to complete an additional Detour task, getting lost on your way to the Pit Stop, or a combination of all three? What do you think was the key issue?
Zac Sunderland: I think it was a combination of all three. Right up until the very end, we had a team behind us right up until the last Detour, I guess where we got U-Turned.
So if we had gone straight to the Pit Stop, we would have still been in the Race, but getting lost was kind of the final straw. But traveling to a couple places and then the dancing routine definitely didn't help us at all, but getting lost definitely finished us off in that whole situation there.
Reality TV World: Zac, how long did it actually take you to finish the dancing Roadblock task and what was the hardest part of that for you? Was it memorizing the steps, executing them accurately, or did you just get flustered and lose your ability to concentrate knowing other teams were finishing it before you and passing you.
Zac Sunderland: I don't know, like the first dance routine had just some steps and the other one had over 20. It just kind of fell from there and I had never really learned any dance stuff before, so yeah, it was kind of a new thing for me.
I was just kind of going at it, but in the adrenaline of the moment, you're racing at the same time but trying to memorize all that. It was pretty hard, but yeah, I really don't know how long it took me. Any time in tights with ponytails was too long.
Reality TV World: Laurence, you said you could have probably done the dancing Roadblock task a little quicker or found it easier because you had been a frontman in a rock and roll band. Could you talk about the connection there and how that experience would have helped you? Because normally when one thinks of a rock and roll band they wouldn't associate that with dancing, especially with the more classical ballroom-type of dance that Zac had to perform.
Laurence Sunderland: Well my sister was actually a ballroom dancer and she, years ago when I was a young boy growing up, grabbed me and used me as a partner much to my dislike and disgust. I also read a lot of music and the beat is the same as the beat on the guitar and everything else. It's the art of something that comes pretty easily to me, that's all.
Reality TV World: Laurence, you seemed angry when Zac and yourself realized you had been U-Turned by Bill Alden and Cathi Alden. Was it really a surprise to you in that you were expecting no one would be U-Turned or at least not you guys? Because in last week's episode, you both U-Turned Amani and Marcus and felt it was vital to playing the game and surviving, so did it really upset you or did you understand that's kind of what just happens in the game?
Laurence Sunderland: At the end of the day, it is a game with great rewards, but the reality is, everybody wishes that they won't be U-Turned. It's going to be somebody, it fell on us and we were disappointed.
I mean, after being three-and-a-half or four hours ahead and having an equalizer where the next challenge was not going to be opened until the following morning and Zac having difficulties with the dance and then getting into the churning task and everything, we had fallen behind.
And then to have the luck of being U-Turned, it was getting a little old by then. That's where you see the third thing working against us and then obviously the fourth thing that was against us was getting lost going to the final Pit Stop -- total bad luck.
Zac Sunderland: At the beginning of the leg, we were pretty confident, you know? When we arrived, we thought we were going to be in first place because we were so far ahead of the other teams, and then going through that next 24 hours where we were slipping lower and lower was pretty bad. It was getting competitive and it was kind of disappointing too.
Reality TV World: Did you guys blame Cathi and Bill for the Double U-Turn and your elimination or would you blame Cindy and Ernie in theory because they U-Turned Bill and Cathi, which put the "Grandparents" team in the situation where they felt they had to U-Turn another team to maintain their lead and position in the Race since they had to complete another Detour task?
Zac Sunderland: Yeah I mean, we were not happy that we got U-Turned, but you can't over think it at the end of the day. They did what they had to do, and if we were in that position, we probably would have U-Turned them. It's a game and you have different alliances with different people that can help get things done faster.
Laurence Sunderland: You can be disappointed that somebody chose to U-Turn you when they did, but you can't really have bad feelings toward them. Bill and Cathi are great. They really are great and they did incredibly well with a lot of the challenges in the Race with one thing and another.
But in the heat of the moment, sure you get a little like, "Ah, damn those people," but the reality is that in the long-term, it is a game and that's not a deep vendetta that you'd have against them. It something where, yeah you're disappointed and you're heated, but you get over it pretty quickly and deal with the reality of the challenge at hand.
Reality TV World: When you arrived at the Double U-Turn board, were you shocked that you two, along with Bill and Cathi, were the teams U-Turned when Andy and Tommy have won most of the legs so far and seem to be posing the biggest threat in the Race?
Laurence Sunderland: Yup, I think that if people were thinking logically and were all rested and everything, that they would have realistically looked at everything and probably would have U-Turned Andy and Tommy.
But I think at that stage, Cindy and Ernie just really wanted to get another win under their belt. So they weren't looking at the long-term. They were looking at the short-term. They just decided to U-Turn the people who were hot on their tails.
Reality TV World: You both helped Andy and Tommy during an earlier Roadblock task this season in which you had to identify Buddha statues and memorize their hands positions. Did you have some type of alliance or bond with the "Snowboarders," and if so, did that change after they consecutively kept winning legs?
Zac Sunderland: Yeah, we definitely kind of took up the challenges with Andy and Tommy right from the very start. We were looking in the square together trying to decipher a clue and then ended up all going together, but as they started winning for things, I guess the Race tends to get more serious.
People start getting kicked off and it gets harder and you have to be a lot more on your game. So, yeah, we worked together on different tasks, but it was very much a leg by leg thing. It wasn't like if they were right behind us, we would U-Turn them or the other way around. It was just kind of that we helped each other out the best we could and played the game the right way.
Reality TV World: Since you had to complete both sides of the Detour task, do you think it took you more time to complete the bunny or the butter task? It seemed like the bunny one was fairly easy for you guys, so had you not been U-Turned, do you think you made the right decision to choose the butter task first?
Zac Sunderland: Well, the rabbit actually gave us a little bit of trouble. By the time we got there, we were one of the last teams doing it and they all seemed to be really tired, so we had to go through like four rabbits before one of them could actually make it across the jumps.
Reality TV World: Why do you think Amani and Marcus were so set on the fact that all the teams would be on the same morning flight to Copenhagen? Did you find it strange that they didn't look a little harder to find an earlier flight? Do you think their mistake was an easy one to make or did you think it was obvious that there were earlier flights available to book?
Zac Sunderland: The flight situation was kind of weird at that airport. We asked a bunch of people about different flights and kept getting different answers and yeah, we managed to find one that no one else found. So luck was on our side that day.
Laurence Sunderland: We were told that in Amsterdam, that people behind the counter weren't very helpful to all the Racers for whatever reason. I don't know what that was, but they said they weren't really helpful and we were there to verify that because that's what we were told after the fact.
Reality TV World: Going back to last week's episode, why did you guys choose to U-Turn Amani and Marcus? Did you have no idea that they were already ahead of you and were you not aware that Jeremy and Sandy and Justin Young and Jennifer Young were the teams that were behind you at that point?
Zac Sunderland: I think that we thought Jeremy and Sandy and Marcus and Amani were behind us. We didn't know it was Justin and Jennifer at that time, but yeah, we made the call between Marcus and Amani and Sandy and Jeremy. Marcus and Amani, we thought, we actually right on our tails.
Reality TV World: Could you guys talk a little bit about the miscommunication between you two at the Spirit House Roadblock earlier this season? It looked like Zac wanted to take notes on what the house looked like before disassembling it, but Laurence felt it wasn't necessary and decided against it. Zac then struggled to re-assemble it and Laurence, you seemed frustrated because you thought you could have easily gotten it done without notes.
Laurence Sunderland: Well at the time of disassembling the Spirit House, we were not aware -- I was not aware -- that Zac would have to do that task. So you disassembled it and then you grabbed the -- I can't remember what the deal was. But anyway, whoever was going to do the task, they should make the call on whether they needed notes or not.
I believe at the time I wasn't aware that Zac was going to have to reassemble it. So for me, I probably wouldn't have taken notes and for that type of thing, my memory serves quite well. For Zac, he needed to take notes and that's what he needed to do and yeah, sure. He should have taken notes.
Reality TV World: You two successfully read the sign at the orphanage table and handed over all of your money to the children? Was it Laurence or Zac that read the sign and were you surprised that many of the other teams had missed it entirely? Do you think it was an obvious mistake they made or do you think you had to pay super attention to detail in order to catch something like that?
Zac Sunderland: That was definitely my Dad that found that and yeah, it's one of those things where -- like assembling the Spirit House -- we rushed through that and had to go back. So my Dad thought we should maybe take the extra minute we need in the Race because it definitely pays off in the end because you end up finding something like that. We got bumped up a lot of places that day.
Reality TV World: How were you cast on The Amazing Race? How did you end up on the show?
Laurence Sunderland: We were approached by CBS and it's kind of funny, because I didn't know what this Race was when we were approached, so we declined it. We don't actually watch television at our house very often. We don't have good TV reception so we watch Netflix and DVDs and things.
But we were approached for another [earlier] season and declined, and then they asked us why we declined and I said, "Not to be rude, but we're very busy and we honestly don't know what this show is." And then I believe they sent us the stuff for Season 15 and Zac really wanted to do it.
I felt a little indifferent because obviously I'd have to get time away from my wife and all the children and work and one thing and another. So when I got the greenlight from my wife, it seemed like a go and we climbed onboard.