‘The Amazing Race’s’ Akbar and Sheri on choosing the wrong Detour: ‘We didn’t have the cushion that we needed’

Akbar and Sheri Cook had a lot to smile about after crushing the Say Cheese Detour on Wednesday’s “The Amazing Race 33,” but that was short-lived as the canyoning Roadblock turned out to be a grand disaster. Akbar struggled to get through the 1.5-mile river course as team after team passed them. By the time the married educators arrived at the Pit Stop, they knew they were doomed.

Check out our interview below to see why they feel they picked the wrong Detour, what they think about their “bickering couple” edit and more.

Gold Derby: What was it like watching the episode?
Sheri: Bittersweet. We knew it was coming and we were preparing ourselves to watch the episode. It was a little bittersweet. I think the sting was a little bit more for Akbar.

Akbar: For me, even when we came home, my mother said this to me, “I’m glad it wasn’t a Sheri leg that got y’all out.” [Laughs] I gotta wear that. I knew that we got out because I didn’t do well on the leg and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wouldn’t want her to think that way. When you watch it back, you always wonder how you’re gonna be portrayed. People are questioning like, “Oh, he talks to her that way,” you know what I mean? We’d already established I gotta work on my tone, but the message was there. I wouldn’t change no message I said the entire race. The message was there, but the tone was not appropriate for some of those times. Some of them — others I was like, “Girl, you better come home.” [Laughs] I definitely gotta watch my tone. I definitely wondered what my kids — biological and non-biological — and what both our families are gonna say, but other than that, we know we love each other. We’re married, we did this for fun and we had a great time.

Gold Derby: Sheri, what was your take on the edit?
Sheri: You know what? I was fine with the editing. [Laughs] I thought they did a wonderful job! I really do. We were honestly at each other’s throats a whole lot. Akbar sort of came off as the villain because he was actually shown more saying things than I was. But we were at each other’s throats, back and forth. Some of the situations were stressful. It’s enjoyable and stressful at the same time. When you’re under stress like that and you’re trying to things really quickly, sometimes things happen. We weren’t sugarcoating anything. How it came out sometimes wasn’t pretty, but it came out. There was no love lost; we’re still in love, we’re still married. Everything was good. … I went into it knowing I wasn’t gonna read any comments or anything like that, whether good or bad. I don’t want to read the comments because I don’t want anything to taint the experience. It was an experience of a lifetime. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I absolutely loved being a part of “The Amazing Race.” I actually told Akbar to stop reading comments as well. He would sit there and read comments and sometimes go back and forth with people. I’m like, “Why are you doing that? It’s not even worth it.”

SEE ‘The Amazing Race’ episode 6 recap

Gold Derby: How far behind were you?
Akbar: We were aware [we were last]. We watch the race all the time, Sheri more so than me, but we still managed to pick the doggone wrong Detour. [Laughs] Our strategy was always do the physical. We’re gonna do the physical activity because there’s less subjectivity. Also, our strategy was doing whatever we could to get Sheri through this so she wouldn’t have to get in the water. We always knew my weight — I was 6’7,” 265 [pounds] — I was never going to be able to bungee jump while dangling off someone, so we knew that going in. When it was my turn [at the Roadblock], Sheri was like, “We should’ve done the mule” because Kim and Penn, and Raquel and Cayla rocked it out. We were like, “Wow, we know we can cook, but we chose the wrong one.” We didn’t have the cushion that we needed for me to spelunk down that mountain. I knew I was letting the team down. I thought I could push through to a whole other level, but it just ain’t worked out that way. My height, crawling through crevices, the wetsuit — it was like, “Wow!” But I dish it out the same way I can take it. We knew we were last. We were hoping somebody’s boat just went somewhere else and they lost their oar or something. We were looking for a miracle, but that wasn’t the case.

Gold Derby: How heavy was that wetsuit? It had to have been more than 300 pounds dripping wet by then.
Akbar: It definitely was. What made it even worse was I had on spandex. I picked the worst day to have on spandex, so the spandex is wet, the wetsuit is wet, the boots — I wear 16 — are wet. They were full of water. I’m not even gonna mention the asthma because I don’t want no one to think I’m making excuses, but I was like, “Now my asthma too?!” But I kept moving. I told Sheri, when I stop that means I think my heart is gonna explode. I kept going. You don’t want to let anybody down or anyone to think you gave up, including her. Like I said, I took the L. Ain’t nobody gotta tell me. I missed that layup.

Gold Derby: Sheri, what were you thinking, sitting there waiting while other teams passed you?
Sheri: Oh, my goodness. To be honest, I just felt like it was slipping away. When Arun came out, I was like, “Arun passed him, but he’s gonna come out next.” But Ryan came out next and I was like, “Oh, my goodness. Maybe he’s after Ryan.” But about 10-to-15 minutes passed and I heard other teams talk about what they had to do to get to the Pit Stop, so I knew there was something else that was physical, so I knew that was going to work against us as well. I really honestly felt like it was slipping away. You never want to feel that way because it’s not over until it’s over, but realistically, in my mind, I was like, “We’re behind. We’re probably not going to catch up. We’re gonna do everything we can to catch up but it’s probably not feasible.”

Gold Derby: Is it a little bit of a consolation that you passed Ryan and Dusty at the cheese Detour?
Sheri: [Laughs] Yeah, I was ecstatic about that. “We’re in front of them?!” We’re never in front of anybody, let alone Ryan and Dusty. I was so happy to be in front of them, but like I said, if they’re behind you, you’re worried about that too.

SEE ‘The Amazing Race’s’ Michael and Moe on being eliminated first again: ‘Either way, we made history’

Gold Derby: Do you know what they were doing wrong with their cheese?
Akbar: They kept turning it off and on. The instructions never said to do that. It said to get it to 85 and they thought once you got to 85 that you gotta turn it off. They didn’t even turn it down, it was off. None of them cook, you know what I mean? [Laughs] Sheri makes macaroni and cheese. I make my baked ziti. We know, like, we’re not cutting this off while we’re cooking it. We had an advantage, but even Sheri said at that point, “We should’ve done the donkeys.” We needed luck. We know we couldn’t beat nobody in a footrace, not the girls, not nobody. We had to better. We did well on that, but we needed more. We needed a plus-one, so we should’ve done the mule. We weren’t thinking. I think if you watch the episode, Kim and Penn automatically knew, “Yup, go to the mule.” That’s how smart Penn is! And Sheri said it in the car too.

Sheri: Yeah, but you also don’t want to chance it with animals because it can be easy sometimes, but other times you can’t get them to move. That’s what we were thinking.

Gold Derby: These mules seemed very obedient with everyone.
Sheri: Yes, they did! [Laughs]

Gold Derby: What were you guys thinking during the COVID hiatus? Did you know the show would start up again? Did you think you would be able to return?
Akbar: We knew it was coming back. The hardest thing with all of all our lives — shout-out to all the educators and all essential workers — is we never got to shut down. Our work before more inclusive and it was harder. There was more training. When other people could do other things, we couldn’t. We were literally drained being on a laptop the entire day. We knew [the show] was looming in the back and we knew we had to get in shape, but we couldn’t do what we needed to do. When we got the OK, it was two to three weeks out, and that’s no real time to do some CrossFit or training. We even do work in the summer, so we never really had a chance [to prepare]. Again, by no means is this an excuse. I’m just telling you our reality. Our reality was working the hardest job on the planet other than being a doctor and in healthcare during COVID. Educators were doing the hardest job at the time.

Sheri: When we came back from the race, we sort of fell back right into our regular routine. Before we started the race initially, we were preparing more, we knew exactly when we were going, so we had the timeframe. But like he said, things got harder with COVID. Sometimes you have to talk people off the ledge, sometimes they have to talk you off the ledge. Even the mental aspect of it, it was harder, wondering if you’re doing enough to help your students and if they’re going to be OK. But it’s no excuse. I definitely wish I was in better shape because that was at the center of most of our bickering anyway.

Gold Derby: Who were you rooting for after you were eliminated?
Sheri: I always said Kim and Penn. From the very beginning, that dynamic, I always told Akbar, “I really think Kim and Penn are gonna pull this off.” Even though Dusty and Ryan — and at the beginning Anthony and Spence – are there, I was rooting for Kim and Penn. I really felt they could pull it off. Well, I was rooting for us, but that didn’t work! [Laughs]

Akbar: I think it’s like girl power this season. I’m still rooting for my Jersey girls Lulu and Lala, and Raquel and Cayla — they are some powerhouses. I think we love the dynamic of the husband and wife, but I think this maybe the season for girl power as well.

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