'The Amazing Race 36's Derek and Shelisa Williams Say "Having Fun" Led to Their Elimination

Derek Williams (L) and Shelisa Williams (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.

"Shelisa is the strongest individual I know," Derek Williams said in a confessional about his wife and race partner.

"Another word is stubborn," Shelisa Williams replied in her trademark witty, dry tone.

This exchange is emblematic of the married couples' run throughout The Amazing Race. Having been together for 34 years (something they note is longer than the lives of many of their competitors) had given them a sense and rapport, a confidence that, though they can insult and push each other's buttons, it's ultimately done out of love and encouragement. As the oldest cumulative team in the race, they proved quickly that age is just a number, as their calm demeanor from careers in law enforcement and their dedication to a life of fitness netted them three third-place finishes in a row. During the final of those placements, Shelisa told Phil Keoghan that their prowess would make the other teams realize what they're capable of, and step up with their own strengths.

Whether that was the case, or Derek and Shelisa happened to experience their own struggles at the same time, that comment ended up being the high water mark for their race. Their struggles on both the dance Detour and orientation Roadblock in Medelin put them in the back of the pack for the first time. And it's there they continued to stay. A grueling "Megaleg" gave double the Detours, double the Roadblocks, and double the chances for error. And for Derek and Shelisa, they did double up on errors in the first half. They switched their first Detour option, sending them to last place. And when Derek struggled putting together a puzzle in the Roadblock, they were eating the other teams' dust. The former police officers got pulled over and out of the race at the Pit Stop, eliminating them.

Now, out of the race, Derek and Shelisa talk with Parade.com about how far behind they fell in the Megaleg, what contributed to them falling out of the front of the pack, and how the race gave them new perspective on a 34-year relationship.

Everything to Know About The Amazing Race 36

I want to start before the race even began. What made you decide to apply for The Amazing Race? Were you fans of the show previously?
Derek Williams: This is going to be funny, and I feel bad saying it. We knew about the show, but didn't really watch it. We were busy with shiftwork, family. So we always knew the show was out, but never watched it and said, "Oh yeah, that'd be pretty cool." So I retire, her niece comes out. We're driving to a Dodger game. We were on the freeway just driving around, messing around. And our niece is a superfan. And she goes, "You guys should go on The Amazing Race. And I'm like, "What do you mean?"
Shelisa Williams: I said, "Well, I've seen maybe one episode." And it's not because it's not a great show.
Derek: We're busy. So it kind of piqued my curiosity. So I got home the next day from the game, and I got on the computer. And I said, "How to apply for The Amazing Race." It said, "Fill out the application and do a video." And it's funny, we're sitting right here. I said, "Shelisa, come over here. We're going to do this little three minute video that they asked." And then you see how she is. And we got selected!
Shelisa: Well, Derek starts out the video by saying, "We've been super fans!"
Derek: I didn't say superfans. I said, "We've been fans for a while."
Shelisa: "We've been watching the show forever!" And I just said, "He's lying!" I said, "You know what? We're going to be honest. And although we haven't watched it, if we're selected, then we'll become superfans too." Because of course, we heard so much about the show. And if it's been on that long, then clearly it's it's a great production. 

So let's fast forward to the way you went out. It seemed from our perspective that when put you in last to begin with was switching Detours. And you did say that riding the bike was in your wheelhouse. So why did you pick the bolas initially, and what caused you to switch?
 I don't want to cut her off. But I get I have to say this. So The Amazing Race was about being fun. We read that thing and it says, "Ride a bike, or do the Bolero." And I'm like, "You know what? Listen, let's have some fun. We are exercising through this. We ride bikes. There's a bike in our bedroom."
Shelisa: There's a Peleton in our bedroom that we ride just about every morning.
Derek: I said, "Let's try something different." And this woman, there's a time and place she should have spoke up. But we went there. We had fun. So we get there. And I see Yvonne and Melissa there. I thought we were behind. And I'm like, "Shoot, they're there."
Shelisa: "We can catch up now!"
Derek: So they say practice. So Shelisa does it. I practice one time. I'm like, "Let's just go." I'm an athlete. I think I can just do this.
Shelisa: An old athlete. [Laughs.]
Derek: She does it, boom! 
Shelisa: And I'm like, "Yes, Derek's gonna get it right away!"
Derek: Nope, nope, nope. I was like, "What is going on?" And we always said we'd never change. So I have confidence in myself. I'm gonna get it. But again, since I messed up in choosing that, and she said, "Let's go," we had to go. I think I went through three rounds. You had to wait for that bull to come all the way back until you can hit him.
Shelisa: Yeah, so we had 10 each. So we may have done it four rounds. And of course, when you're on the race, time is is something that you don't realize. So I don't know how long we were actually on that Detour. But it was it was long enough to know that Derek was going to take a while to get it.
Derek: Ok, see there you go bashing me. Stop bashing, we're off the show! Just leave it at that. It's in the past. Just let it go.
Shelisa: [Laughs.] So then we decided, "Okay, let's just go to what we know, which is the bike."

Derek's saying, "Let it go." But if he had let go better, you wouldn't be talking with me today!
Derek: [Laughs.] That was a good one! [Imitates rimshot.]

[Laughs.] Thank you! When it comes to the rest of the Megaleg, I'm intrigued how far behind you were. Did you ever do the second Detour?
Derek: No. After I got my butt whooped on the soccer thing, we went in.

So what was your thinking over the course of that day. I could imagine as much hope as you might have other teams screw up, things were probably looking dire, especially when Derek struggled on that first Roadblock.
Shelisa: Yeah. You know what, it's terrible when you get there and you see there's only one clue left. And you go, "Oh, we better get this in one or we're done." And reality sets in and it's like, "You know what? We have fun. It's something that we never thought we would do in our lives." And I was very happy to have experienced this. Not everybody does. So we feel like we're part of the elite group now.

You two start the race off very strong with three third-place finishes. But then after that you slide to the back of the pack. Was there a particular reason why you fell and couldn't catch back up to where you were?
 think what really what really got us was when we fell to this third group. We thought we're going to be the second group, but that really just, boom, sent us. And the language barrier. It's hard to understand Spanish. If they say, "Go to this block, and then right after that, make the circle," it's hard to decipher that in Spanish. We don't speak it. So we struggled. I mean, we both read maps all the time. But that was our difficult. If they say, "Look for Cincuenta Street," in my mind, I'm looking for an S Street, when actually it's a C. So those were our really difficult things. And we depended upon ourselves. We didn't align ourselves with everyone else. If we did that, we'd still be rolling.
Shelisa: Yeah, but I think because we're so independent people. We just felt, "Okay, we got this." And we did kind of deviate from our original plan. We said we're going to stick to things that we know, and they're going to be physical. Because we're a little older, so maybe our brains don't work as well as it used to. We may not be able to do a puzzle as well, or figure out certain things. So our game plan was to stick to what we know. So when it came to the Bolero, if we just stuck to the bike, I think that that we could have made up time and caught up, because that's familiar to us. So I think deviating from our game plan kind of hurt us. And we also said we would never switch Detours, because we know what happens when people do, for the most part. And then we had to do that too. So I think just deviating from our game plan cost us.

It's interesting you say you didn't work with anyone. Because when I spoke with Kishori and Karishma, they said that they were in an alliance with you two. Talk to me about that.
Shelisa: Yes, our race daughters! We love them. Absolutely. So yeah, we tried to align ourselves actually with the statues. Karishma and I worked together. And although that wasn't, you know, shown, but we did work together. But then it became difficult because my board was on one side and hers was swapped. So then it became apparent that we were just confusing each other. But we always supported them, you know, especially with the cooking and skateboard. So we definitely wanted to see them continue with us as well.

You two obviously had a familiarity with each other, and a specific style of communicating that worked well for your relationship. Did the pressure cooker of The Amazing Race put a strain on that at all?
Derek: I told Shelisa--you see how she talks--I said, "Shelisa, don't show off for the millions of people out there in TV land. I'm your husband. Tone it down a little bit behind, tone it down a little bit. [Laughs.]
Shelisa: [Laughs.] I mean, I am who I am! I always feel like I have an opinion that needs to be heard.

And we wouldn't have it any other way! Lastly, you have been together for 34 years. Is there anything you learned about the other person racing around the world together?
 You know, Shelisa and I leisurely travel. We love doing that. And I don't want to give her too much credit. But she did everything. I mean, she can do everything. If she wouldn't boast about it so much, it would be great. But not really. I'm proud of the fact that we got selected. We went through the selection process. We didn't get eliminated first. We did very very well and people respect us. She looks good. She had people laughing. So I'm just proud of her. She made her parents proud on the show.
Shelisa: So Derek doesn't have the best patientce in the world. But it definitely improved on the race. I was most proud that Derek was able to be calm in situations which I can sometimes agitate. But he was able to be calm and think through things and just not give up. Well, besides Bolero, I made him give up on that one. [Laughs.]
Derek: I didn't want to! I said, "I got this." I did not want to.
Shelisa: I forced him to give up on that. But basically him just sticking with it.
Derek: Aren't you proud I only got bleeped out twice? I'm a potty mouth. I'm gonna get briefed up twice. You only frustrated me that much while driving in the car with the directions.
Shelisa: But I think just us having patience with each other improved. It may not have translated on television. But we know that that that that area improved with being on the show.

Next, check out our interview with Kishori Turner and Karishma Cordero, who were eliminated in The Amazing Race 3 Episode 5.