'The Amazing Race 36's Angie and Danny Butler Reveal the Producers Nearly Saved Them from Elimination

Angie Butler (L) and Danny Butler (R)

Pack your bags, because The Amazing Race is back! Every week, Parade's Mike Bloom will bring you interviews with the team most recently eliminated from the race.

Angie and Danny Butler packed an absolute wallop as "Team Walla Walla." Danny came into The Amazing Race as perhaps the biggest fan the show has ever seen. And his knowledge came greatly into play as the two navigated their strengths and weaknesses in the early game. They knew that physical tasks and endurance were not their forte, as seen from the number of times Angie struggled in the heat. But they could make up for it with three things: Brains, navigation, and strategy. And indeed, they showed their prowess in mental tasks and were one of the only teams to rarely struggle with directions this season.

On top of that, they guaranteed their survival by aligning themselves with other teams. One particular highlight came during the "Megaleg," where they basically became one six-person team with Amber Craven and Vinny Cagungun and Rod and Leticia Gardner. Angie and Danny's particular set of skills got them to overcome their physical deficits, and they even found themselves in the front of the pack a few times. Unfortunately, the most "meta" team this season fell for one of the most meta reasons in the show's history. A particularly tricky turn had Angie and Danny losing contact with their assigned crew members in another van. The two were forced to wait at the Detour until they reunited with their crew, dropping them from second all the way to fifth. And though they were pleading with The Amazing Race gods "Please Don't Stop the Music" in Rihanna's home country of Barbados, their song had been controversially cut short.

Now, out of the race, Angie and Danny talk with Parade.com about everything around the crew separation (and how the producers nearly saved them from elimination), the alliances they made, and the fan reaction to their use of strategy on the race.

Related: Everything to Know About The Amazing Race 36

How are the two of you doing right now? Obviously we'll get into everything that happened with your elimination, and I imagine you were feeling a certain way all those months ago when you filmed it. Did rewatching it reopen old wounds, or help resolve your feelings?
Danny Butler:
 I think I feel resolved to watch the ending. It was a chapter closing. Just to have your dream come true, get to watch it and be so blessed to have--I would say--a decent edit, except for the alliance episode.
Angie Butler: [Laughs.] Or mom on the floor.
Danny: We went out and know that we couldn't control it at all. There are people that are like, "Oh, that's the worst ever." It wasn't something I have to live with regrets about, being like, "Oh, no, I failed that challenge." And mom doesn't have to feel bad because she slayed the pickleball challenge. She absolutely killed. And so to go out in the way that we went out, I actually have a lot more peace about it than making a silly mistake.
Angie: Absolutely. It was completely out of our control. I mean, as you saw, as a matter of fact, I think Daniel mentioned it, but we never did see our crew. They ended up having the same crew that got us right when we got there and said, "Get out. We'll film you because nobody else is here yet. "And then they pushed us back in the car. That same crew's the crew that then ended up filming us at the end.
Danny: So they had us say a line that's like, "Hey, our crew has arrived." Out crew hadn't arrived.
Angie: They were lost in Barbados! [Laughs.]

Okay, we need to break down what happened here. Saying this is unprecedented would be putting it mildly. Because, from our perspective, it looks like your crew makes a wrong turn and takes a long time to arrive at the Detour (or apparently not at all) which cost you the race. But I know people online have also clocked that it looks like you're veering into traffic at that roundabout and maybe making some illegal turns. So walk me through what ended up happening.
 This is my perspective. But while you're racing, I can acknowledge that my perspective could be wrong. But we're in the roundabout. And I was like, "Alright, we're just gonna keep going in the roundabout one more round," because I didn't know which turn it was.
Angie: And that was a rule too. If you don't know, keep going around. Because there's nothing illegal about that. You can keep going around and change lanes in a roundabout.
Danny: And so I'm like, "Alright, that's the turn." And so we ended up switching lanes to the left. And when we switched lanes to the left to take the next turn, I turn around and see the crew literally turn in. So I'm like, "Alright, let's pull over real quick. We can wait for like 30 seconds a minute." But there wasn't really an area. We had been debriefed by security that morning. And they said, "If you ever feel unsafe, or you lose your crew, make your way to the next location, and wait for your crew to get there." And so I was like, "Okay, that's the next smartest thing. I know where we're going. Navigator right here. I know how to get us to the location. And let's just wait." But we get there. And we get there second. So we're about five to ten minutes behind the boys. And we just wait. And wait, and wait. I'm sitting there going, "What's the rule? Give us a penalty on the mat. This is something that's never happened before on The Amazing Race."
Angie: And they were having a meeting as we got there. They're trying to figure it out, too. You can see these little huddles of meanings and franticness. They came to our car; they went away from our car. They came to our car; they went away from our car. So, to their defense, I think it was new for them too. I don't think anybody really knew what to do with us. So that was hard.
Danny: Ulimately, what ended up happening was I heard over the microphone, "Juan and Shane are coming up."
Angie: This was after an hour, or 45 minutes.
Danny: And I think they did love us. How do you not love mom? Mom was the star of the season. The producers loved her and camera people loved her. And so I remember the camera person coming over to her car going like, "Hey, y'all have waited long enough. Y'all have had a penalty long enough. We're just going to grab a crew."
Angie: And I was like, "Penalty?! What penalty? Why do we have a penalty? " So I did say that to the producers, like, "What was the penalty?" And he's like, "Oh, it's ok, just go." [Laughs.] There was a lot of "uhhh" that day. 
Danny: We end up getting to the mat. And literally on the mat, Phil is talking to us. And we see over in the corner all of the producers meeting, and they're talking. And Phil does not say, "You're eliminated." He's talking to us for like five minutes. So I'm sitting there going, "What's happening? Are they going to reverse the rule that make this a non-elimination leg or give us a time credit?" But ultimately, we went out. And to have it end that way? I'm like, "Yes! Something that's never happened in Amazing Race before!"
Angie: [Laughs.] Danny always turns it into a "This is The Amazing Race!" moment.

Well you talk about Angie being a star. Let's talk about what got you two in front of us in the first place. Danny, I know you've spoken previously about applying to the show with different partners. How did you end up getting onto The Amazing Race?
 Yeah, how did you get stuck with mom, Danny? [Laughs.]
Danny: Don't even. How dare you? So I applied once when I was 20 with my sister who had just turned 18. She had gotten on The Price is Right. And then I was on The Price is Right. And I was like, "This is great. Amazing Race, the two Price is Right siblings." Obviously didn't work out, didn't get a call. But I had been sending since I was a little kid. There are interviews when I'm like 12, being like, "I want to be on The Amazing Race with my mom someday." And so mom and I were hiking. And I looked at mom and I was like, "Mom, this is a great spot to film an audition video right here. "And then we submitted the application. And then the next morning, I'm just sitting on the beach. And mom calls to me, and she goes, "This isn't funny. This isn't a funny prank. I don't like this." And I'm like, "What?" I'm panicking. I'm like, "Mom, what happened? Are you okay?" 
Angie: I was mad. I was like, "Don't trick me like this." And I'm like, "This is CBS casting." And he goes, "Mom, I didn't send that." So it all began.

You were a team that was probably the most aware of your strengths and weaknesses. I want to start with the weaknesses. Because you knew you would struggle in the more physical tasks. And we saw a couple of scary situations, Angie, where you nearly passed out in the heat. Talk to me about that.
Angie: I love that you're giving me the starlight for a minute. So that very first of all, I have to say I think you guys can all see this switch. I started figuring out the race right toward the last few legs. And the heat was a factor. I love heat; I grew up in Phoenix. But the humidity was unbelievable. So when my son picks--and this is the only time I'll throw him under the bus--when he picks the physical "carry those horses" [task], I'm like, "Okay, I can do this." We did it. And then they keep racing that same day. That kind of began a mental thing for me. I'm not going to kid you. I was like, "Oh my gosh, I don't know if I can do this." Because after the horses, I was done. And then when we kept racing, I was sick and so dirty. Had we started with memorization, we're both really good at memorizing. I think the anxiety for me would have been totally different. I wouldn't have issues about doing Roadblocks. I wouldn't have been so tired. I wouldn't have been sick. It wouldn't have been so much drama. Not very good TV, either. [Laughs.]
Danny: It was great TV!
Angie: But I mean, if we'd done the memorizing, I think my whole mind frame might have kicked in a little earlier. But we hit it hard. I hit it hard, that physical. I mean, I can run three or four miles a day. I like to climb up high. I'm a pretty active 56-year-old. But yeah, that kicked my butt that day.

Something that helped pull you through those moments was that you had a little help with your friends. Danny, as a fan of the race, you know how much alliances can both help and hurt a team. Were you coming in intending to make alliances? And what made you want to focus on Amber and Vinny as your "number ones"?
 Oh 100. I am a Survivor and Traitors superfan. I grew up in reality television. I am the fan on Twitter that is commenting on everything. And so when I came on to The Amazing Race, I was like, "I'm gonna have an alliance. I want an alliance just to say I had an alliance." And I immediately day one see Vinny and Amber were the only other team with one backpack. And I went, "They are smart racers. They are people who are going to be threats. They're paying attention to things going on."

And so I positioned myself on that first plane ride. I waited for other people to sit down to make sure I sat right next to Vinny on the plane ride to the first country. And we could talk and get to know people, but you couldn't talk any strategy at all. But it was a great opportunity to start to build some rapport with the team. And so you see we're just kind of helping at first, but they ended up being just like really strong allies. The care that Amber has, Amber is just an incredible person who just has the biggest heart. She was like, "I am not leaving Angie." Strategically though. I was using an alliance to set ourselves up for success. Because I knew that there might be points in the race where we might need a little extra help to get ahead. What you don't see on the show is there kind of were two three-person alliances, which you don't see but I have to give you the tea.

Danny: So Ricky and César and Melissa and Yvonne were working together/helping each other a little bit. Because there was a trio of Juan and Shane, Rod and Leticia, and Vinny and Amber. And we were over there with César and Ricky and Melissa and Yvonne, which they didn't show. So us and Amber and Vinny had this cross-alliance. So knew what all six teams were doing at all times. But the six who made the final six were alliances from early in the game together.

So talk to me about the butcher Detour during the Megaleg, when you took advantage of the limited stations to box out Yvonne and Melissa and Sunny and Bizzy. What's your reaction to the consternation fans have had about that moment and the concept of alliances on the race.
 Mom, what did I tell you the night before in our hotel room?
Angie: He said, "Mom, we've got we've got an alliance with these folks." And he told me who we had the alliance with. So I'm not in the reality TV world. I did come in clueless. So I'm learning this a bit. And I'm like, "No, because that makes me responsible for all of them!" Because the mom in me can't let that go. That's who I am. And so now I'm responsible for all of these teams to make sure they all get to the mat with us, are we with them, or whatnot.

So at the butcher thing, when Danny is going over to help Mel and Yvo when we're done, Vinny and Amber weren't done yet. And I had already told them, "I'm not getting on that mat until you do." So Danny walks over to help Mel and Yvo, who we do not have an alliance with. And I'm thinking, "Okay, Mel and Yvo are gonna get there before we do. Vinny and Amber aren't done. I have to wait to step on that mat until Benny and Amber are there. What if Mel and Yvo on the map before Vinny and Amber? I just got into a car and went around in a lot of circles and experienced a lot of misery. I am not about to not step on that mat today. Danny, what are you doing?" I mean, the boy's head is working all the time. And I can't keep up.
Danny: You got to play the social game. But I will say to the fans, that night in the hotel, I went, "The fans are going to hate this episode." I know what I did, the "Mine Five" repeat flashbacks. And so, the next day, I'm like, "We're running our own race." But I will say, I do think the rule should be in The Amazing Race, once you get your clue and once you finish your puzzle, you leave. I think that should be a rule. I think that that is something. You can work together all the way up until you get your clue. But the second you get handed that clue, I would advocate for Amazing Race to change it. Even though it benefited us, I do recognize as a fan, that that is something that could create some more consistency in the race. 

I would imagine it must have been such a change going from a parent/child dynamic, where the former is dominant, to a partner dynamic where you're more on equal footing. And Danny, you spoke a couple of times about how hard it is to watch a parent struggle. So I'm intrigued, what did you learn most about the other person racing around the world together?
 It was so amazing to watch my kid love others. The love of the game and the love that he poured into it. Even though he was playing the game, his sincerity for others was just beautiful to watch. As a mom, I want to raise my kids to serve others and love others. And to watch him do that outside of the game was beautiful. The cameraman, the sound man, any producer around us. And so just to watch my son be this man at 28 years old that would put himself last and put others first, as often we saw. But, see, that's his heart. I mean, even though he's this huge game player, he's also this huge person that just pours into to everybody. I was so proud of that. 
Danny: I think for me it just reinforced to watch [that] mom never gives up. There were points along the way, like where she was like, "I'm exhausted, I'm tired. I don't know if I can do this." But she got back in the car. She got up off the ground once she got her face painted. She just embodied what it meant to love me. This was my dream. But by the end of it, you saw it in Leg Six. Mom was like, "We can win this. We can do this. We're in this together." And just to see my mom experience going outside the country for the first time just was incredible. Hopefully someday with my kids, I'm able to be like, "Oh, that's your grandma. Your grandma ran around the world with me."
Angie: We had a lot of joy and fun together. We never argued. Wwe prayed at nights together. We prayed for our folks. We worshiped in the mornings. It was a beautiful, beautiful time. You put your mom in a hotel room with you for four days, and things could go very upside down. [Laughs.]

Next, check out our interview with Sunny Pulver and Bizzy Smith, who were eliminated in The Amazing Race 3 Episode 7.