'The Amazing Race 36's Sunny Pulver and Bizzy Smith Felt "Hurt and Outsmarted" By the Three-Team Alliance

Sunny Pulver (L) and Bizzy Smith (R)

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A mistake on The Amazing Race is a fire. If it builds too quickly and detrimentally, it can become an inferno, sending your chances of winning a million dollars up in flames. But if there's one team that knows how to control a fire, it's Sunny Pulver and Bizzy Smith. The two had become best friends during their time together as firefighters, and were hoping to reconnect after some time apart while racing around the world. Unfortunately, their time on the show had them constantly hanging off the back of the proverbial truck, clinging on for dear life. 

After a chaotic couple of legs, Sunny and Bizzy's race fell into a familiar, impressive pattern. The first half, the two would fall woefully behind. Sometimes, it would be due to a task, most memorably their 30+ unsuccessful attempts to solve a rebus puzzle. But the vast majority of the time, it was constant navigation issues that put them in the line of fire. Every time, though, they would prevail in the second half, excelling in the rest of the tasks. Sunny and Bizzy hoped they'd catch fire in Uruguay and finally jump to the front of the pack. Unfortunately, old demons reared their ugly heads. Bizzy's experience with welding and percussion had them performing well in the tasks, as per usual. But once again, it was getting to them that proved to be their undoing. Their directional issues built to a climax, as they frantically searched every plaza in Montevideo for their next clue. Unfortunately this time, their mistakes were costly enough to extinguish their game.

Now, out of the race, Sunny and Bizzy talk with Parade.com about their plaza struggles, how their relationship differed from other teams, and their iconic rebus puzzle mistake.

Everything to Know About The Amazing Race 36

So you two had worked together in a very different professional capacity. What made you decide to do The Amazing Race?
Bizzy Smith: A friend of mine was reached out to, who just happens to be a Wisconsin influencer. And it wasn't the right time of life for her. And she told me about them reaching out to her. And I said, "Oh my God, I would die to be on the show. My husband and I had watched the show while we were dating, just to get ideas of where we wanted to go on our honeymoon and stuff." And  I could never run the race with him, he'd that would be absolutely terrible. But you really have to find someone that has a different set of skills than you. And Sunny does. I have followed her. She's been a hero of mine personally. And to be able to have the opportunity to have her as a partner was a badass situation. It was just meant to be.
Sunny Pulver: We may look a lot alike. But we are very different in personality and skill. So it worked. It really did work out great.

You spoke at one point about how you used to work together every day, and were trying to find the best way to communicate. What was it like trying to find that while racing?
Sunny: We got along great. It was the best. We were together for about a month. And so we really just got along great. We solidified our relationship, it was awesome. We were both moms and of new young kids. So we had a lot to talk about. Even on race day, we complemented each other well. We really balanced each other out and kind of said like, "Okay, you're taking the lead on this one. Sometimes [I'm] gonna be good, sometimes you're gonna be good." The challenge was for us that we don't work together all the time. A lot of couples have navigation skills that they know like, "Hey, I know what you're thinking. Maybe we should do this instead." We don't have that kind of working relationship together. So that really is, I think, where we struggled.
Bizzy: The analogy for me in explaining the difficulties we had was, as a couple, you guys go to the grocery store. And you are making hundreds of little tiny decisions together. Whether or not to fill that cart up. "We're gonna spend $3 on this?" "What are we gonna make for dinner that night?" And we recognized that that was going to be a pitfall for us, because we don't live together. We don't go grocery shopping together.
Sunny: We don't make driving directions together.
Bizzy: [Laughs.] We don't make decisions like, "Oh, can I turn here? Are you gonna get pissed at me if it's the wrong way?" We don't make those type of decisions together. And so we recognized very early on that was going to be our problem. Which is why we'd like to come back for an all-star season and prove that our navigation skills can be taught and that we can win The Amazing Race!

Let's manifest it! Well let's talk about those navigation skills. Approximately how many plazas do you think you visited before finding Ciudad Vieja? And were you thinking in the moment that your race was sunk, considering how many times you came from behind before?
 I knew from the moment we hit our half hour mark looking for that plaza, we were done. [Laughs.] I just knew it in my heart that no team was gonna make those poor decisions or take that long at one station and be able to recover. But, in our defense, I have never seen a plaza that's like a food court. And so I was not looking for a tiny little bistro in the middle of a street. That's not a plaza to me. And so I was like, "Oh, you mean this food court? I don't understand this at all." We passed it probably 30 or 40 times. We're right in the area. And we just didn't see the clue box. It was hidden. So I don't know. I only think that our definition of a plaza was misinterpreted.
Bizzy: Yeah, our only hope was that Juan suffered dehydration at that point from food poisoning. And then he passed out and Shane had to drag his body to the mat. And hopefully we could catch up then.
Sunny: Or somehow those alliances got into an argument, and all three made really bad decisions. [Laughs.]

Talk to me about that. What was your reaction when you saw that three-team alliance box you out of the Detour during the Megaleg?
 I mean, it hurt.
Sunny: [Laughs.] It did hurt! 
Bizzy: It felt like high school, getting pushed off from the cool kids. It is a race for a million dollars. I would have thrown their bodies under the bus as well. [Laughs.] So I can't blame them. But it hurt. It hurt like high school.
Sunny: I felt outsmarted. And not by two of the teams, but just by Danny. And that hurts. Danny is smarter as far as the race goes. I just thought "first come, first serve" was just a proper way of saying welcome. It actually meant "you can stay until you finish."

Going to your constant navigational issues, was there one recurring problem you had? Or was it different errors in different legs?
Bizzy: It was that neither of us spoke Spanish.
Sunny: Yeah, the Spanish thing and the streets definitely had a big portion of play in there, I would say. But also, not to throw Bizzy under the bus. But she knew she couldn't drive a stick, and so she was automatically the navigator. And then she only practice driving a stick and not navigating. [Laughs.]
Bizzy: In hindsight, I will take navigation seriously. For the all-star season, I'll be taking navigation more seriously.
Sunny: Or vice versa!  I'll navigate next time and Bizzy can learn to drive stick.

Of course, not all of your issues were with navigation. I have to talk about one of my favorite wrong answers of all time during the mural Detour in Colombia, when you guessed, "Mama rat took baby rat double H hockey sticks around the world and then they did yoga." Talk to me about everything that was going on with your 30+ attempts on that challenge.
Sunny: [Laughs.] Let me just say out of all the seasons that we've watched, I will rate that episode as probably the top two. That was the best. And looking at it from an outside point of view, I was like, "What in the heck are those girls thinking?" [Laughs.]
Bizzy: Okay, so I don't know what that type of puzzle is. Danny knew like exactly what type of puzzle that was. So, my imagination was that we had to remember these pictures in a certain order.
Sunny: We both were.
Bizzy: So I thought we were going somewhere else and arranging these pictures in the order that we saw them in. So that's where that whole thing came from. I was just trying to create something absurd to memorize it all.
Sunny: We thought it was a memory challenge.
Bizzy: I wish we could have written down what we checked in. Because we could have both sworn that we had said "you" instead of "we."
Sunny: I mean, when you get into the 20s and 30s, you're like, "Man, I swear I said all of that stuff!"
Bizzy: And another, this came up during the flag challenge. We had taken the correct line down. It was how it was taken down and put up that was the problem. It wasn't the flag itself. So people are like, "Oh, I don't understand what you guys did wrong there." It's because we didn't do anything wrong. We cut, tie, cut, tie and you were supposed to cut, cut, tie, tie. So it was hard, those little minute details were also a killer for us. And, once you interpret it one way, it's hard to go back. We dominated other things, but whatever.

Lastly, after going from working together every day to spending time apart to now relying on each other as partners, what's the biggest thing you learned about each other racing around the world?
 I mean, her work ethic is incredible. And it's one of those things I haven't always seen in myself. So just watching Sunny and being able to be able to keep up with Sunny has made me impressed with myself and finding my own identity working with her. And having me compared to her is a compliment. And just learning more about how she became who she was. And she's got things she's worked through her whole life. I've got things I've worked through in very different circumstances, very different ways. And I'm proud of her, and I'm proud of us. We're better because we raced this race together.
Sunny: So to add a little background to what Bizzy is talking about. I was raised very blue collar and Bizzy was raised very white collar. Her dad's the mayor of our town. They just had a lot more money than what I grew up with. And so I worked out as a struggle my whole life to try to make something of myself. So that's the work ethic I think she's talking about. But what I was gonna say is my favorite thing about Bizzy is how she can work so hard. She is very determined and very capable. And she does it so flawlessly and has fun doing it, which is incredible. You just don't find that, especially in me. I don't have that humor and lightheartedness. And I love working with Bizzy because she makes me laugh every moment of the way.
Bizzy: There's one point where Sunny and I pull up out to the mat. I think it's in Mexico, episode two. And [Phil] goes, "Oh, you guys are in ninth place." And I'm like, "Yeah, we survived a leg!" And Sunny's face is like, [Puts on a disappointed reaction.] "Ninth place?!" 
Sunny: [Laughs.] I knew we weren't first. But I didn't know we were that far behind.
Bizzy: I knew it wasn't good enough for her. But that was good enough for me.

Next, check out our interview with Derek and Shelisa Williams, who were eliminated in The Amazing Race 3 Episode 6.