By People Staff
Updated December 01, 2020 06:47 PM
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Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Ericka Dunlap, 27, and Brian Kleinschmidt, 27, only placed third in The Amazing Race 15, but this Nashville couple (a.k.a. Mr. and Miss America) were consistently fun to watch thanks to her dramatic meltdowns and their witty repartee. The aspiring country singer and her marketing tour manager husband spoke with PEOPLE about keeping it real on The Race. –Carrie Bell

It must have been frustrating to gain the lead and then lose it because you can’t bungee bounce.Brian: It was a tough challenge and it was a blow to our spirits to lose the lead but it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. They made it look like we were there for an hour when in actuality we were probably only there for an extra 10 or 15 minutes. The thing that really killed us was that our dealer in the poker room miscounted some chips. Ericka: It sucked to lose the lead. We were in first place for the first time ever and it seemed like destiny to achieve that when it really counted. We arrived at Love about 13 minutes ahead of Meghan and Cheyne but couldn’t get the damn flowers. When they got there and she got it, I started to get very anxious and frustrated. The more frustrated I got, the worse I performed. Brian: It felt like we lost a million dollars by about four inches. Ericka is much shorter than Sam and Meghan. She came so close and grabbed a handful of petals almost every time. But that’s life.

That was probably your biggest meltdown, but you had several memorable tantrums on the Race. Ericka: The truth of the matter is if you put a group of pastors out there on the Race, they’d get frustrated and yell sometimes too. I know I’m a sweet, good person who loves my husband. I had my meltdowns and my moments. I was frustrated and hungry and we were in the heat of competition and we were there to win a million. If you’re passive and just there for the experience, you would probably be much calmer. But we wanted that money!

Now that you’ve seen the episodes and had time to reflect, how do you feel about your behavior?Ericka: We had some spats. Everyone did. It was freeing for me in a way. I‘m not some passive perfect pageant girl. It was freeing Brian: We’re a real couple with real problems. We conquered all those and got stronger as the Race went on. Ericka is competitive and passionate. That’s what I love about her. Our positive moments still outweighed the negative moments. Ericka: I think more relate to us than dislike us. Women see me at Walmart and write me on Facebook and tell me their husband has started calling them Ericka because they act like me.

How did it affect your marriage?Ericka: It exposed us to a lot of different sides of each other that we were not aware of and we’re surely prepared for a lot of new challenges. It made me love him more. Brian: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We’ve only been married for 3 years and have experienced more than most will in the first 50.

Did it change your family’s opinion of Brian?Ericka: Yes. My mom is so proud of how far we got and things have been much better between them. They realized he’s here to stay and that he loves me. Brian: That’s worth more than the prize.

What were your favorite and least favorite moments?Brian: Our favorite city was Prague even though transporting the beer for a mile and a half from moonlight to sunlight was the worst task for me. It was so heavy, it took three trips and we had to deal with those rowdy drunks. Ericka: I loved the candelabra task with the medieval dungeon men because it was really easy to complete that one. My worst? There were so many. How to choose? The bells were probably the worst. Monty Brinton/CBS