Exclusive: Rachel Rosales, TK Erwin dish on 'The Amazing Race' win
By Christopher Rocchio, 01/21/2008
Rachel Rosales and TK Erwin remained cool and calm when presented with a challenge, a strategy that paid-off to the tune of $1 million as the dating couple from Huntington Beach, CA was revealed to be The Amazing Race's twelfth-season winners during last night's finale broadcast of the CBS reality series.
Rachel, a 23-year-old florist and business owner, and TK, a 22-year-old substitute teacher, were the first team to reach the race's Finish Line in Anchorage, AK, beating "Father/Daughter" team Ronald and Christina Hsu, who finished second, and"Grandfather/Grandson" team Donald Jerousek and Nicolas Fulks, who finished third.
On Monday, TK and Rachel talked to Reality TV World about why they don't plan on getting hitched in the immediate future but would if they strictly went on pure emotions; how their forgetfulness with a clue could have cost them the race; what allowed them to remain calm in stressful situations; and why overcoming a Speed Bump penalty and catching up to their competition gave them the adrenaline rush they needed for the final push.
TK: It felt... Rachel: Gratifying! TK: ... Unbelievable. It didn't feel real by any means. It still doesn't. It's one of those situations where you just can't believe you're in that situation and you're actually there and that it actually happened.
Reality TV World: TK, following your win, you commented how running the race with Rachel helped your relationship grow. Can you explain how you think The Amazing Race helped strengthen your relationship?
TK: We were a fairly fresh [couple] when we tried out for the race, and at the time I had already had all these feelings about Rachel but we had only been together for a short time. So having gone through the race and traveled so far for so long with her and getting into situations where we're tired and hungry and having to do these tedious things -- and her still holding it together and us being successful in that way -- I feel it kind of legitimized the way I felt before the race.
Reality TV World: How about you Rachel? Do you think the race helped strengthened your relationship with TK?
Rachel: Yeah, definitely. Very similar to what TK said, the fact that we accomplished our goal together and that we accomplished the goal of being nice to each other the whole time really... TK gained even more respect for me.
Reality TV World: So based on what we saw on The Early Show this morning, you two are still together and "completely committed to each other" but we shouldn't expect to see an engagement announcement anytime soon, right?
TK: I think that's right... I think that if we went just straight -- pure on emotions -- a marriage might be something that would be coming up. But we're both young and traveling and it's just not something that's going to be happening right away. But I see it at some point.
Reality TV World: How about something simpler like a haircut and a shave? There seemed to be quite a bit of talk about your appearance during the race.
Rachel: He got a haircut (laughing)! TK: Hey, hey! I cut 12-inches of dreadlocks off my head this week. I'm trying to bring it down a little bit (laughing)...
Reality TV World: During the final Roadblock task, Rachel you approached it with calmness and were able to complete it before either of the other two teams. You two did your best to stay mellow and calm throughout the race. Was that part of your strategy heading in? Was it difficult to do at times?
Rachel: It was a strategy, but it also is who we are. So we knew that just reminding each other that's what we're trying to do was going to help us anytime that there was a difficulty. Of course, we're humans and we are dating. It's such stressful conditions with the "not eating" and the "not sleeping." There were definitely a couple times where we had to put in a little bit more energy to remain calm.
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Reality TV World: Would you say that Roadblock task was pretty much the deciding factor on who won the race?
TK: Definitely. Ron and Chris were out in-front the whole leg, and then me, Don and Ron were sitting there for over an hour while that Roadblock was going on, and it really was anyone's game at that point. All three of them -- Rachel, Nick and Chris -- had said that they were done with it... Rachel: A bunch of times. TK: ... A bunch of times. So we were all standing there and one of them would go, "I'm done!" We'd all sit there and wait a minute... anticipation, anticipation... and then they'd go, "No!" We'd be like, "Oh no!" (laughing) It was cool.
Reality TV World: At the "Grab the Crab" Detour task, it sounded like you two had changed your mind and were going to switch tasks right before TK found the correct crab. Is that what happened or was it just editing?
Rachel: What we had done a bunch of times, I had my watch, and we would tell ourselves, "Okay, let's give ourselves... We've been doing this for however many minutes, let's give ourselves 10 more minutes, if we don't find it, we need to change." So I kept checking my watch, checking my watch, and it was literally down to the last minute where we made the decision that we're going to change. We're using up our last minute, and he found it. It was amazing!
Reality TV World: Do you think you still would have won had you switched tasks?
TK: We were happy that they didn't use it on us, of course. We were running up, and saw that [Shana and Jennifer] were running towards the U-Turn, so we actually slowed down so they didn't see us and didn't know. We basically did opposite Detours, so they had no idea that we were behind them at that point. Yeah, you know, they did what they had to do.
I think it came across on the [episode] that I was like somehow morally opposed to using the U-Turn, but that couldn't be further from the truth. I actually just... In that position, I didn't want to use it just because Jason and Lorena were so far behind, I just wanted to save mine for later for a better situation. That's all it was. So that's what I said, and it basically came across like I had some sort of moral opposition to that part of race, which isn't the case. I was just thinking more or less, "Why waste it here when we already have such a huge lead?"
Reality TV World: So given you guys may have finished that leg last had Shana and Jennifer used the U-Turn on you, do you think you owe a little bit of that $1 million to them?
TK: Well it came across that way on the show, but it's hard to speculate. Jason and Lorena were pretty far behind and I'm not sure even if they hadn't been U-Turned... That's something, who knows what would have happened?
Reality TV World: When you were in Ancona, how did you forget your clue on the table at that restaurant?
TK: The most unbelievable ever... Rachel: We should have rested on the cruise is what we should have done, but we didn't [instead we went swimming], so by the time it was challenge time, we were already tired. That's actually something about mer -- it's like a joke in my family -- like I lose things and stuff like that. So it was just unbelievable that I did that.
Reality TV World: Did you think it would impact your race more than it did?
Rachel: Yeah, we got so lucky. We could have very easily been done at that point. TK: Yeah, we would have been done. Period. We got so unbelievably lucky. We had been driving for like 30 or 40 minutes before we realized that the clue was gone. We had to go alllllll the way back, and then the lady that had the clue wasn't at the table there, and then we just spotted her. Like, "Hey! We left this clue!" And she kind of messed with us, saying she didn't really know what we were talking about and all this other nonsense. Then she reached into her purse and pulled it out. Oh... My gosh. I can't even explain it. She ran up and gave us both a big hug and kiss and then we were on our way. But yeah, we would have been screwed completely.
Reality TV World: TK, why did you have such a hard time seeing "Vinci" from the air during the subsequent Roadblock task?
TK: (laughing) Good question! I didn't have a hard time seeing "Vinci" from the air -- I didn't think that was what we were looking for. The clue said, "Take a ride in the glider and search for a clue of your next destination." Absolutely no excuses, but I was in a state of mind where I hadn't slept in over 30 hours or eaten anything, and I'm up in this plane looking for big orange and yellow flags or something. You drive through Southern California -- drive through the desert -- and there's white rocks up on every road writing all different things, it was just something that seemed perfectly normal to me. Rachel: He didn't think it was out of the ordinary. TK: It didn't seem out of the ordinary. I'm like, "Oh, we're in Florence. Some dude wrote Vinci on the ground." (laughing) It just didn't click, and that's all I guess.
Reality TV World: You two went to the same high school in Fountain Valley, CA as fellow twelfth-season racers Nathan Hagstrom and Staella Gianakakos. Did you all know each other in high school?
Rachel: We didn't like know each other real personally at all, but I actually went to elementary school also with Staella. We knew of each other, that kind of thing. We'd see each other around definitely -- recognize each other -- but never had a friendship or anything like that.
Reality TV World: When did the other teams learn about it? Who revealed the information?
Rachel: I think it was towards the beginning... the introductions. TK: The first day in LAX, Staella came up to us and was like... Rachel: "Hey!" TK: ... "Hey! This is weird!" (laughing) Rachel: We weren't allowed to talk or anything whatsoever until the race started, but of course we recognized each other when we were in the same room and preparing.
Reality TV World: At any point during the race do you think the pre-existing relationship with them either helped or hindered your team?
TK: No... Rachel: I don't think it had an impact. TK: Not at all. I had never talked to Nate before in my whole life.
Reality TV World: So even though you two went to the same high school, you two only really got to know each other about a year ago, via your mothers?
TK and Rachel: Yeah...
Reality TV World: And although show had billed you two as the "newly dating couple," that's about how long you'd already been dating -- about a year -- right?
TK: Yeah... Like 10 or 11 months. Rachel: When the race ended, it was about a year. TK: When it was casting we had been dating for four months, but by the time the race actually started it had been like 10 months.
TK: We felt like we were out in front and we didn't know who was behind or how far they were behind us at that point. But we didn't put a name up -- I guess -- because we didn't know which one to [put up] and we didn't feel like we needed to. We didn't need to do it. We got first on that leg and it felt like we were running good on that leg, so it was a situation where it's like, "Alright, we're gonna get first. Why piss anybody off?"
Reality TV World: Since they didn't show any of it during the episode, what delayed your flight from India to Osaka, Japan?
Rachel: (laughing) We just chose... We did a bad job at buying the tickets basically. TK: We got bad information. We went to a travel agent and did everything we could... Rachel: Asked him 100 times, "Are you sure? Can you double check? Triple check?" It just wasn't right. TK: It was just one of those times where I think we did everything right and just got bad information. Because we left first -- we started the leg first -- we were off on our own and then got on a plane and took off and the other teams, we never saw any of the other teams.
Reality TV World: Did you assume that would be the end of your race or were you confident that it would be a non-elimination leg?
TK: I think once we got into Japan, we got a feeling like, "Alright, we're pretty far behind." We definitely got that foreboding feeling, but we tried to stay positive, it was one of those things. We were like, "Well, we got so far behind. It could happen to someone else too." Rachel: You never know what happens. TK: There were so many, so many times where we thought we were out of it and we'd show up [at the Pit Stop] and be in like second. So I think we just kind of tried to take it one step at a time -- and we knew that if we were last -- there was a good chance it was going to be a non-elimination. Rachel: Yeah...
Reality TV World: Okay, so could you explain what happened?
TK: The "floating gardens" building [in Osaka] didn't open until 10AM and... Rachel: We started our leg around 10AM... 10:15AM. We got to the "floating gardens" around 15 minutes after it opened... TK: No. Maybe... I don't know, basically a big chunk of [our three-hour deficit] got eaten up because they had wait outside the "floating gardens" for it to open. Then from Japan to Taipei, there's a flight out like every half hour. So Ron and Chris got on the 1PM flight, then Nick and Don and Jen and Nate got on the 1:15PM flight, and then we got on the 1:35PM flight. But Nate and Jen and Nick and Don's flight got delayed about 20 minutes, so we got there about 10 minutes earlier. There was a huge line there at immigration in Taiwan (laughing)... We walked up and everyone was there. It was a really cool moment.
Reality TV World: At that point, were you confident you'd be able to complete the Speed Bump penalty and finish the leg before one of the other three teams?
TK: I think we were just fired up. Rachel: Yeah, we knew it was possible. We knew it was going to be important for us to hustle every second because we had to make up as much time to compensate for our Speed Bump. So we put all our effort into making sure that we got to the Roadblock and could finish that before at least another team so we would have that time... TK: I think that even though we had another task [the Speed Bump] that no one else had to do, at that point -- when we were leaving the Taiwan airport -- I think as far as morale is concerned, we were on an all-time high because we didn't expect to catch-up to them that quickly. So we did catch up to them, (laughing) and they were all really disappointed that we caught up and we were all fired up that we did. So I think that definitely helped.
Reality TV World: About how long did the Speed Bump task take you to complete?
TK: Right around a half hour.
Reality TV World: How were you cast for The Amazing Race 12? Was it your first time applying for the show?
Rachel: Yeah it was our first time and I had watched a bunch of the seasons, but never thought of any person in my life that I could go one with. Then I'd been with TK for a few months and the commercial came on TV and it just kind of seemed right. He was willing to go along and do it with me, and we actually went to an open casting and stood in line with everyone else and did our two-minute on-camera interview and then it just kept going from there.
Reality TV World: Rachel you just mentioned you had watched a bunch of seasons, what about you TK? Were you as big a fan as Rachel?
TK: I was a fan of it, but hadn't watched very much of it at all. At the time, I wasn't watching very much TV in general, but I knew what it was, just hadn't seen it recently.
Reality TV World: How did you prepare yourselves both physically and mentally for the competition?
TK: I think we both live active lifestyles -- so as far as the physical part -- [so] we were pretty confident going into it. I guess mentally, we watched a lot. We basically saturated ourselves with past episodes and tried to figure out what teams were successful when and for what reason and how we could apply that to our game.
Reality TV World: Had either of you previously done a lot of international traveling? Do you know any foreign languages?
Rachel: I really had not done that much international traveling, really just Mexico and the Midwest and things like that. I just kind of speak a little bit of conversational Spanish... just enough to get me around. But TK had done a little bit more traveling than I had. TK: I was fortunate to... I did a lot of traveling actually. I spent some time in Central America. I spent a month in New Zealand and Fiji. I've kind of been a little bit all over the place. I had never been to Europe though. That was great.
Reality TV World: Did you form alliances with any of the other teams? Were there any teams that you didn't get along with?
Rachel: I think as far as the word "alliance," nothing was ever specifically said. It was just really... I think we made genuine friendships with a bunch of the people so we just kind of helped people and they helped us. It was give and take, that kind of thing. TK: Yeah, I don't think we specifically aligned ourselves with any one team, but if we were in the front of the pack, then we were helping out the other teams in the front. If we were in the back of the pack, we were just helping out each other than. It was kind of a power of numbers type thing. When you're in a foreign country and you don't speak the language and you have to get somewhere, there were a lot of time when there were other teams -- like [Kynt Cothron and Vyxsin Fiala] or early on in the race Jason and Lorena -- where we kind of collaborated to make sure we got there.
Reality TV World: What was the toughest part about competing on The Amazing Race? What was your favorite part?
Rachel: My toughest part was the going without eating. That was pretty hard on me because it just affects your mind so much. So that was really hard for me. TK: I feel like the biggest strain of the race is just the lack of sleep and lack of food, because that just makes even the littlest things really intense. (laughing) There's just a lot of situations where people are blowing up and going crazy or were having difficulty with it or whatever and it's just probably because of a lack of food or sleep.
Reality TV World: So what was your favorite part of the race?
TK: In Croatia, we got to spend the day swimming in the Adriatic Sea with Nate and Jen. It was just a really good experience because our ferry didn't leave until the evening, and we basically just had a whole day of just hanging out on a Croatian beach. It was really, really cool. Rachel: Also we liked just doing the challenges and competing. The whole excitement of all of that was enjoyable.
Reality TV World: Assuming you guys couldn't have won, would you have rather seen Nick and Don or Ron and Christina win? Why?
TK: Well, we became really good friends with Nick and Don toward the end of the race. I really love both of them, they're absolutely hilarious. Don proved a lot of people wrong. For a 68-year-old guy to be doing that, it blew everybody away. I think we kind of had the consensus -- nothing against Ron and Chris -- but had I been watching it at home, I would have been rooting for Nick and Don.
Reality TV World: So what's next for you two? What are your plans for the $1 million prize?
Rachel: Well what's next is basically I'm not going to be working, but it truthfully doesn't have anything to do with winning, it just kind of coincided with the same time. But now that I do have money, I'm going to be able to take some time off, give myself a break, do some traveling with TK that I've been putting off because I never leave work. Just maybe some repairs on my house, maybe some new outfits. The rest will be for the future. TK: Rachel's always been a bit of a workaholic, so I'm excited to have a good reason for her not to have to go to work for a little bit. Hopefully get some good traveling done. I don't think either one of us wants to blow through this money really quick, so I think we're going to try to put it away for the future and hopefully get some good traveling done in the meantime.
Check back with Reality TV World on Tuesday and Wednesday for interviews with The Amazing Race 12 runner-ups Ronald and Christina and third-place finisherd Donald and Nicolas.