As collectively the oldest team, writer and activist Mel White, 70, and screenwriter Mike White, 40, didn’t really have much of a chance at The Amazing Race‘s $1 million prize. But that didn’t keep folks from rooting for the father-and-son duo who finished sixth in season 14 thanks to their diehard attitude and close relationship. While Mike was busy working on a new HBO show, the elder White fielded PEOPLE’s questions.
Why play again?
Michael’s such a fan of this program. He has watched from day one and was so thrilled to play. We were bummed to get evicted because of a bad taxi. He called and said, “Dad we have a second chance at once in a lifetime. Only 22 get to play each season. Why would you miss that?” So I agreed to go.
Obviously you have a strong bond already. As you didn’t win, what do you get out of racing?
We sat down before The Race and established the rule that we were doing this for fun. To fight, argue or complain would stop the fun and ruin our only purpose for being here. We would have loved to win the million, but it was more important to have a good time together.
Did your strategy change after the first time?
Yes, we learned several things. If you get in a bad taxi, don’t stay with it. Second, you never stop racing. The couple who won season 14 would be up at the front on the plane bargaining with people to take their seats and doing research when the rest of us were just happy to sit down. Third, when you get a chance to rest, die in the spot. Don’t chatter away the night at the pit stop like we did our first time. Mike also made us pack lighter. His suitcase was filled with food bars because he’s vegan and he almost starved last time.
Was it tougher?
The second time was not a charm. It proved to be harder. I think, with all of these great competitive teams coming back, the producers added a lot of stamina games. Against bull riders and Globetrotters, we just weren’t up for the physical side. Even Michael was older than all but three racers. Together we were 110. We felt sad, but understand why they upped the ante. The first day it took 28 hours to get to Sydney and then I ran at least four or five miles with a pack. When Phil said we were still racing, I thought, “This will not do.”
Everyone looked like they wanted to punch Phil in the face.
We were all absolutely exhausted. I have to brag. Big Easy said when we were slouched over a drinking fountain, “I hope when I’m 50 I can do what you’re doing at 70.”
How cold was the frog pond?
It had gotten very cold and the mud below the water was even colder. Then it started raining. And we were in those unflattering diapers. I was in there just two minutes short of an hour. After 45 minutes, Michael started begging me to get out. He thought I was just being stubborn but in it, you don’t realize how it’s affecting you. A producer came to get me. We were really in bad shape. The medical team treated us for hypothermia.
Your line about preferring death by pond over at home in bed was powerful.
I meant it. I really didn’t want to give up or go out so soon. I was afraid people would think I was a big quitter. I wanted to find that frog so badly. I hate frogs now.
You joked you’d be there in a walker next time. Would you do The Race again?
They should have a senior citizens’ Race. It would be amusing with all our dementia. No one would remember where we went or where we were going. Maybe not even who our partner was. With so many old people in this country, I think people would get a kick out of it. But I won by being there at 70 and representing.
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