Exclusive: Mel White talks 'The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business'
By Reality TV World staff, 03/07/2011
Mel White and Mike White became the second returning team eliminated from The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business during Sunday night's broadcast of the third episode of the CBS reality competition's all-stars edition.
On Monday, Mel talked to Reality TV World about his The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business experience -- including what happened at the "Frog of Luck" Detour task that led to the elimination of his "Father and Son" team, whether he and his son ever finished the task, and what he thought about "Father and Daughter" Ron Hsu and Christina Hsu's complaint that resulted in "Harlem Globetrotters" Herbert "Flight Time" Lang and Nathaniel "The Big Easy" Lofton receiving a time penalty.
Reality TV World: So last night's episode didn't actually show you guys going back into the mud pit and finishing the "Frog of Luck" Detour task after you saw Jaime Edmondson and Cara Rosenthal complete it. Did you guys actually finish it before you went to the Pit Stop?
Mel White: There's a story behind it. I was in there almost an hour and had no idea what it was doing to my body. It was so cold and I started shaking uncontrollably, but I would not get out. Michael got out and said, 'You gotta get him out of there! This is too much!'
So, after that 55 or 56 minutes, Michael finally got them to get me out and what they found was that we both had hypothermia and had to be treated for it. So, we couldn't go back into the pond no matter how much we wanted to. Therefore, we had lost by simply being medically discharged in a way, so we couldn't go back into the pond to get the frog. That was my intention.
Reality TV World: So, when you say "them," you mean the show's producers?
Mel White: Yeah, the producers. They -- well you're sick -- you have hypothermia. Why would you get back into the freezing water?
Reality TV World: I understand that. I'm just saying, when you said Michael was talking to people, I just wanted to clarify that you mean the production folks.
Mel White: What I meant to say is that that's what I would say to the producers. I wanted to get back in but they wouldn't let me and it made me really unhappy. When they finally treated us for the hypothermia and they wrapped us in these electric blankets and all this stuff, I realized it was stupid for me to try to get back in. So I felt sad about losing but frankly, I was a little relieved.
Reality TV World: So when you were heading to the Pit Stop, you already knew that you had been "medically disqualified?" Because I thought normally you would technically just get a time penalty or something like that [for not completing the task].
Mel White: No, they said I couldn't go back in, and the interesting thing about was when we got out -- when we got treated, and then we got clothed, and then they took us by SUV to the Pit Stop -- it was pretty late. It was raining, and we were just about to get out of the SUV to go up to see [Phil Keoghan] when Cara and Jaime arrived.
So, if we'd found that frog within 30 minutes or 40 minutes, because they had such a hard time finding the Pit Stop, we could have beat them! So, there's a little bit of sadness there, like, 'We could have done it! We could have been in there!'
Reality TV World: Wow, so even after you guys saw them leave the Detour spot...
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Reality TV World: So they seemed to have gotten lost on the way there or something?
Mel White: Yeah, they did. They did. In these Japanese towns, you ask people and so many don't speak English and then you can't see any signs or understand them. Then at night, and they've just gone through two wrecks, you know? -- two incidents in their car -- So, they were really confused about getting back to the Pit Stop.
Reality TV World: When Jaime and Cara got to the Pit Stop, it seemed like they had no idea you guys hadn't already gotten there. Is that what the confusion was then? Had they not seen you guys still at the Detour because you out of sight in the van? Do you have any idea why they thought you guys were still ahead of them?
Mel White: It's one of the mysteries of the Race that they -- how they keep us from knowing what the other teams are doing -- it's just amazing. If we're just a little behind or a little ahead, we never know, and they just didn't know. And so much time passed while they were lost, they thought for sure we had passed them. But they had no idea we hadn't found the frog or that we were being treated medically. No idea for that.
Reality TV World: Once you got to the "Frog of Luck" Detour task [and struggled], did you guys ever consider switching to the "Prayer of Purity" task and if not, why not?
Mel White: Not sure, you know, it was a bad decision on our part. When you get that muddy and you're that carried -- you're that deep into something -- to imagine getting out and getting cleaned up and finding that other place, it just didn't seem -- we thought for sure we'd find the damn frog -- and we never did. So, we could have made that decision, but we didn't.
Reality TV World: What made you guys decide to do "Frog of Luck" instead of "Prayer of Purity" to begin with? Even though it involved standing under a waterfall for a minute, it looked like you actually probably would have stayed warmer if you'd done the other task.
Mel White: Well first of all, we didn't have any idea that this "Buddhist cleansing experience" just included a few routines and a falling waterfall for a minute. You don't have any idea what you're choosing between, and to find the frog in the pond seemed on the surface, not so hard.
So, if we had known exactly what was going on, that was the easy one -- the one with the "Buddhist cleansing experience" -- that's the one we should have taken. But we didn't!
Reality TV World: So it sounds like you're pretty confident that if you had done the Buddhist one instead, you guys would have finished ahead of Jaime and Cara?
Mel White: Without a doubt -- in front of a lot of the teams.
Reality TV World: Can you talk a little about how bad the conditions were in the mud pit? You mentioned you had hypothermia. Was it just really really cold mud or rain too or what was the situation?
Mel White: It's evening now and the temperature's dropping rapidly and it's raining and they put us in a tent, took all of our clothes off, and put us into these diaper-like things. Then we had to run about a half-a-mile following these yellow signs to this great big mud pit.
Then you have about 25 young people yelling at you and throwing mud at you and laughing at you. If I tried to turn my back, which I did a couple times, they would just pounce on you and then when you're in the mud, you're down so that -- you're covered with mud -- they threw it at you, but you're almost submerged in mud.
And when you were reaching down into the mud to find these things, you go down into the mud up to your elbows. So, you're stuck in this icy mud and you're moving into it deeper and deeper and it's getting worse and worse.
I tell you, I came back thinking, 'Waterboarding wouldn't be so bad.' I thought it was the most miserable time of my life, physically. So, I don't know how to say more better than that, but you're naked and you're frozen. You're being ridiculed and the mud even had stones in it!
When they were gathering mud -- picking it up to throw at you -- they would pick up pebbles. So, I was bleeding from the forehead, from the shoulders. They were hitting me with these things. God! I just -- Michael said something to me afterwards -- he said, 'Dad, they said that's a Japanese tradition. We have a tradition for lynching.'
Reality TV World: It look like you really caught two bad breaks on that leg and the other one would obviously be the flight to Japan. It looked like you definitely wouldn't have been the team to finish in last place if you hadn't gotten that delay on the way to Japan. Do you feel that way as well?
Mel White: Yeah. bad luck. Luck figures in so much and so often in these races that Michael wanted to choose that saved 15 minutes and risk the delay, and I didn't want to. But we kind of have a pact, Michael and I, that once one person wants something, we do it. And if it's long, we don't blame, you know?
That's not -- our rules are that we don't blame each other for anything -- and so, we picked the wrong flight. He did it and we just didn't know. He could have been right. We could have been ahead of everybody. Just like we won the first flight from the U.S. and then it turns around and lands 90 minutes after the later flight.
Reality TV World: So you're saying that was something where Michael had been pushing pretty big for the 15 minutes one and you kind of deferred to him in that case?
Mel White: The way we race is the way we do it in life. When one has a strong opinion and the other doesn't have that strong of an opinion, he says, 'Okay, let's do it.' So, if I had as strong of an opinion as he had, we could have argued for awhile about the reasonableness of it.
If you noticed, both [Luke Adams] and Mike, the youngers, wanted to do that and both [Margie Adams] and I didn't. So, it was funny that that one time, the old age wisdom would have won.
Reality TV World: Not that you have pointed that out to him, I'm sure. (laughs)
Reality TV World: You said during the Detour task in the mud that you would "rather die in that pit with your son rather than home in bed." Those are some powerful words, so could you elaborate on what you meant by that -- was that just an off-the-cuff remark?
Mel White: Well, if I actually said that, and I think people have been telling me that I did, that "I'd rather die here in the mud with Mike than back home in bed," let's count it up to hysteria or hypothermia.
What I was really trying to say was that I'd rather be miserable with Mike doing something like this, than I would if we were just back at home taking care of ourselves. Putting yourself on the edge like that and doing it with your son, it's worth any real pain or inconvenience. It's worth too much.
Reality TV World: During the second leg of the Race, you also seemed to have some physical struggles and I'm not sure if it was yourself or Mike that said this time around seemed to be more difficult than the last time you guys had been on the Race. Why was that? Do you think it was just the fact it's been a couple more years or do you think that this edition was physically more demanding?
Mel White: Well after the first leg, we flew all night and then ran all day at least four and a half or five miles with our packs and then we were told after running down this huge beach that we had to keep going. It was at the end of that run and then running to the ferry when I fell over and what people didn't realize, was that all of that had gone before it.
And during that next leg, when we were altogether talking, everyone agreed that so far physically, this has been tremendously different and I think the Race, at least for our legs, they knew that we were all Racers and that we done it before. So, they wanted to disqualify us in different ways, and one was to try the physical thing. The physical challenge, I just wasn't up for.
Reality TV World: Had you had any concerns before the Race started and had the two of you guys discussed them or considered declining the offer to do the Race again because it might be a situation where you felt it was too dangerous?
Mel White: That would have been intelligent. We never go that low.
No, we were so excited about doing it together again and having the fun of it, that we didn't realize they would make a different kind of race for us. The other race wasn't physically challenging like that at all.
Reality TV World: So, looking back at it now, do you have any regrets about doing it again or are you still happy with your experience?
Mel White: Yeah, I was just thinking the other day about that. The whole idea of having a terrible experience and then surviving it and then looking back on it with laughter, like the whole family did last night, that made it worthwhile.
I certainly would not change anything. I would do it again. I would hope that I would be smarter and that I would be less unlucky, but no, when you survive a bad experience and can look back on it, it becomes a good experience. So, right now, we count up that whole thing as a good experience.
Reality TV World: Last night's episode also showed Jaime getting a little upset that the driver of the car she hit made her stick around until the police showed up instead of just taking some money from her. What are your own thoughts about that -- do you think it was reasonable for her to expect that and what would you have expected if you guys had been in that same situation?
Mel White: Well I hadn't seen her have the wreck. We only heard about it because we weren't together much after that. But I watched her last night, and you know, she had been so volatile about other things that I thought she was playing it pretty cool because she couldn't understand anything that was going on and he was calling the police.
You have no help out there. You don't know if it's the insurance from the Race people or you insurance or what's going on. So, I thought she was pretty cool given the fact that she had become irate in the last season we were together on when someone just didn't speak English!
Reality TV World: Yeah. (laughs)
Mel White: I was actually proud of her by comparison to what she was in the first season.
Reality TV World: The other thing that last night's episode showed was the producers deciding that Herbert "Flight Time" Lang and Nathaniel "The Big Easy" Lofton should get that time penalty over Christina Hsu's fanny pack. It didn't seem clear that their action was intentional, but what's your own opinion about that? Do you think that was the right decision?
Mel White: Well, we both really learned to love [Ron Hsu] and Christina. They did some silly things on the Race, but they're very lovable people and amusing and fun to be with, and when I saw them at the end, you know, throwing things at the bus that was going in the wrong direction and complaining about the fanny pack, I thought, 'Come on guys! You don't want to picture yourself to millions of people looking like this.'
And when she did it on the Pit Stop, I thought, 'Again, that's blaming people.' Big Easy -- they were doing what they could do also -- So I thought that complaining about it after they had survived the leg -- survive and be happy -- they could have smiled and said, 'They could have picked it up accidentally. We're sorry they did that.' But, no, I felt like the whole thing was overblown by Christina and Ron.
Reality TV World: Almost half of this season's cast are fourteenth-season teams that you had prior experience with. Did that surprise you when you got there and were you surprised that anyone wasn't there that you were expecting to be there?
Mel White: We were astounded actually, because they were our friends and it was like a family reunion. So, it was a very nice thing to learn.