It all started so well for Chris Hammons and Bret LaBelle on Wednesday’s episode of “The Amazing Race.” They were on the first flight to Split, Croatia, with Tyler Oakley and Korey Kuhl, and they were in first place when they arrived at the Detour. And then it all went downhill. After struggling with the snorkeling-for-coins Detour in the Adriatic Sea, they decided to switch to the memorize-a-poem-while-tubing one, but after one attempt there, they went back to the coins. After another endless futile go, they switched back to the poem, which took them 10 tries to complete. They ostensibly had a chance to catch up when Colin Guinn and Christie Woods forgot their gnome, but the couple retrieved it before Team Bromance could recite their poem.
Needless to say, the “Survivor” BFFs know they shouldn’t have switched so many times, but they think their biggest gaffe was something they didn’t do earlier. Find our exit interview below — plus, why they stand by their decision to U-Turn Rachel Reilly and Elissa Slater and how often Chris carried Bret’s backpack.
Gold Derby: How far behind were you ultimately because the ending of the episode was a bit rushed?
Chris: We really don’t know. The Afghanimals weren’t that far ahead of us, we don’t think. It was far enough.
Bret: I crushed [the Roadblock]. Like, we didn’t realize it. I thought, “Oh, this is easy.” But afterward, they were like, “How did you do that so fast?” And I was like, “What?” I didn’t know people had struggled. And I was like, “I dunno.” So we blew through the last one, which stinks because if we could’ve just gotten there [faster], we could’ve beaten the people who had to do it seven or eight times. … I think it was the third try [that I got it], but it was quick.
GD: Did you know Colin and Christie came back for their gnome?
Chris: I think we did know they came back. Bret, don’t you recall seeing them come back? Or maybe I heard somebody say that. But it wasn’t really a factor for us because we were really close with the Afghanimals. We were taking turns on that poem and that was what it came down to.
GD: How long were you at the coins both times? You told Colin and Christie two hours at one point.
Chris: Way longer than that. We beat everybody there. We were there a long time before Tyler and Korey got there.
Bret: We were shocked at how long it took Tyler and Korey to get there. We were like, “What the hell?” I think we found three coins right away and the chalice, and we were like, “We only need two coins.” What if all six teams decided to do that Detour? There had to have been enough coins for six teams to find.
Chris: We figured there had to be 40 or 50 coins in there, just to increase the chances of finding them. We just kept thinking, “Oh my god, just two more coins.” You just think, “If we leave, there’s just two more coins.” We just spun out of control.
GD: Do you think that task was just impossible or do you think you were doing something wrong?
Chris: I think it’s a combination. It’s a very difficult task, more difficult than we had anticipated. But also, I think we — and “The Amazing Race” will do this to you — we kind of got panicked and just started freaking out. We found a lot of metal objects, I can tell you that. [Laughs] We found batteries, pans, hooks, stuff like that.
Bret: I found a spark plug to a 1965 Mustang.
Chris: Yeah, so I think we just spun out of control. And the water was just freezing cold. By the time you’re in that water for two or three hours, I know for a fact it was affecting my judgment. I thought I was getting hypothermic or something.
Bret: We’re used to really cold water up here [in Boston]. I go into the ocean all the time, so I was doing a lot better. But Chris, I could tell he was not making sense. He was getting very hypothermic, so that was the first time we decided to do the other one.
GD: It’s bad enough to switch once, but you had to have known that switching three times is basically fatal.
Bret: Well, we smoked a lot of weed too before. No, we didn’t. [Laughs]
Chris: We decided the night before we were going to stick with Tyler and Korey. If they switched, we would switch because they’ve got more experience and I don’t know why we didn’t switch when they did. If we had went over with them to the poem, we would’ve known that we could [split the poem]. Bret and I thought that we each had to memorize the entire poem and they split it up half and half. Had we went over with them, we would’ve known that, we would’ve walked to third place or second place. It would’ve been easy. That was another mistake.
Bret: If we had come off and seen that other teams were splitting it up, we would’ve been like, “Oh, shoot, let’s split it up.” This was our first memorization task. Nicole [Franzel] and Victor [Arroyo] had the thing in Switzerland, but we hadn’t experienced it and we didn’t have anyone in front of us [reciting the poem], so we didn’t even think to cut it up until the second time we went there.
GD: In hindsight, you think you should’ve switched with Tyler and Korey and not stuck it out with the coins?
Chris: One hundred percent. When Tyler and Korey went, “This is impossible,” we should’ve gotten out, walked over with them. We would’ve asked them, “Tyler, Korey, how are you doing this?” And they would’ve been like, “Just do half of it.” They would’ve told us; we were friendly with them. It was a matter of time before you memorized half of it. We would’ve been outta there before [the last plane] even got there. It was a huge mistake. We were [at the the coins] for hours. Bret and I should’ve walked to first place.
Bret: In hindsight, I would’ve gotten more lucky if I just stayed with those five guys we delivered drinks to on the beach, those hot guys. I should’ve just laid on the beach with those guys. That would’ve been more fun than what we did. … In all seriousness, it just fell away. I don’t even know how. It just sucks. It sucks to watch it back.
GD: You guys didn’t seem like you’d be long for the “Race” on the first three legs, but you rallied after your non-elimination and you were the last “Survivor” team standing. What changed for you guys after that? Did you feel like you got a new lease on life?
Bret: The change for me was I think we both got woken up. There was a learning curve to the whole game, which we weren’t picking up on. I think when got the mat, we were like, “We’re at the end.” Phil [Keoghan] was keeping us for a while because we really thought we were out and once we got the break [with the non-elimination], we were like, “How are we not doing well here? Why are we screwing up and making bad choices?” And Chris and I both said, “I think we need to have some fun with this.” And the next leg, we woke up and we blew through the Speed Bump and started having a lot of laughs, and it really changed everything. We came in third, it was like, “Holy sh–! We can do this!” And it really changed our whole attitude.
Chris: Yeah, and we also decided to take it one leg at a time. I think early on, we were looking too far ahead … instead of saying, “Hey, let’s just get through this leg. It doesn’t matter if we’re last, third, first — doesn’t matter.” And I think we started applying that to the game. That’s when we started getting third, fourth, second. We really started excelling. But it kind of helped us too because I think it did cloak us with the other teams looking at us like we’re not a threat. So we stayed off a lot of radars because of those first three legs.
GD: Speaking of that, let’s talk about the U-Turn Vote last week. The edit on the show played up you voting for Rachel and Elissa because you’re not friends and it appeared very personal, but I also think it was a good strategic move because they had been struggling, so they were probably the easiest team for you to beat. How much of that was a factor?
Chris: It was both. It ended up being personal and strategic. They happened to mesh at once; sometimes that doesn’t happen and you have to make a decision one way or another, but in this particular case it did. They gave us the best chance [to advance]. If Bret and I screwed up and we totally blew the whole leg, if they are U-Turned, we were probably going to be fine. That gave us the best chance to get through that leg. But also, every “Race” team there could blow through a U-Turn like it wasn’t even there. If anybody thought that Colin and Christie weren’t going to do the U-Turn and finish in the top three, then they’re not paying attention.
GD: Which is what they did.
Chris: Exactly! And the Afghanimals are famous for it. Korey and Tyler already did it this season. Team Fun did it.
Bret: We witnessed it in Laos. We witnessed them getting U-Turned and beating us!
Chris: I think it would be a horrible move for us to throw a vote the racers’ way. And Colin and Christie already had the votes; they were going to be one of the two U-Turned teams. Now we’re going to throw a vote to another “Amazing Race” team and we’re going to have two “Amazing Race” teams kind of staring at us if we get through this leg for the next [U-Turn], like, “Hey, Team Bromance, you U-Turned us”? It just didn’t make sense.
Bret: Yeah, we couldn’t beat the “Race” teams. We needed to make sure to keep the bullseye off of us. I stand by that decision and I know Chris does too. I think it was the right decision at the time.
GD: It worked. They were eliminated.
Chris: Yeah. See, this is where “Survivor” does come in handy. What you say at Tribal Council sometimes isn’t true, but at the time, there weren’t a lot of teams there that were happy with the Reillys after what happened [on the train]. So we make a speech about how we didn’t have a relationship with them and we had these great relationships with these other teams and we played to that emotional side of things, which actually happened to be true because the Reillys hadn’t spoken a word to us until they chewed us out at the vote. It was perfect strategy for Bret and I. Yes, it was emotional, but it was emotional to get in favor with all these “Race” teams that were killing everybody. I think it worked out. I don’t know what else to say — it worked out exactly how we planned it.
Bret: You can say, “Sayonara!” [Laughs] Listen, I met them later and they’re wonderful people, but we just didn’t have that experience with them on the “Race.” Everyone else, we formed bonds with them. We sat and talked to people for hours in the airport. We really enjoyed a lot of these people. Chris is right — there was no way I could U-Turn Tyler and Korey, there was no way I could U-Turn Colin and Christie or Nic and Vic for that matter! These people were my friends now.
GD: Chris, how many times do you estimate you carried Bret’s backpack?
Bret: This interview’s over! Why do we keep going back to this?! [Laughs]
Chris: Let me make clear, the times that they showed Bret carrying his backpack were amazingly edited because I don’t know how they got those shots. It was like catching a shot of Bigfoot running through the forest — so rare. I carried his backpack from Tokyo through Croatia. It was like seeing Halley’s Comet, catching Bret with his backpack.
GD: Bret, defend yourself.
Bret: So, listen, this is completely ridiculous. It did come into play every now and then when I was huffing and puffing and dying. Chris is like a pack mule. And he also had a bad injury in college, so he’s a little lopsided. My backpack was helping him keep steady, you know what I’m saying?
GD: You were being a good friend.
Bret: Exactly. He really wanted my bag so he could run faster and farther. I was helping my friend, who had a horrible accident in college. [Laughs]
GD: Would you do “Big Brother”? You would not have to run up hills with backpacks.
Chris: “Big Brother” is such a long time. I don’t know if I could make it. I think my wife would divorce me over “Big Brother.” [Laughs] I never say never to anything. If it is ever presented, I would at least take a look at it, but “Race” and “Survivor” seem to be our thing and we would go back in a heartbeat. I think Bret would do “Big Brother” if the Boston PD says OK.
Bret: Yeah, I think I’d have to take a leave of absence. They’re very happy with “Race” and “Survivor” and how I handled myself. They’re very supportive and everyone loved it, from the commissioner down to the mayor. I would never say never. I actually never did have an interest, but I do now. I am going to be watching “Big Brother” and learning it. I’ll tell ya: The reason I’m interested is nobody has done all three. When I heard that, I was like, “Wait a minute, what?” I would totally do it. There’d be some hurdles to jump through, much like Chris. But I would definitely like to explore that. I didn’t think I was someone that they would seek out for that demographic of “Big Brother,” but people tell me that’s not the case, so I think I would like to do it. I think Chris and I would both go far.
GD: You both have the social game down.
Bret: Sign me up!