Jodi Walker
June 01, 2017 AT 11:02 PM EDT

Warning: Spoilers about The Amazing Race finale lie ahead.

When EW caught up with the 29th winners of The Amazing Race — and the first-ever winning team made up of complete strangers — they hadn’t even watched Thursday’s finale yet. But there was really no need: This victory is one Brooke and Scott have been envisioning for the last 16 years, since they first started watching The Amazing Race with their own individual families in their own individual lives, having no idea their paths would ever cross. When they stepped on that final mat in Chicago and won $1 million together, they had known each other for exactly 22 days.

As fans of the full CBS gameplay trifecta — Big Brother, Survivor, and The Amazing Race — Scott and Brooke came in wanting to mount a more strategic front. The two agreed that one of their greatest strengths as a duo was knowing how to “get out of each other’s way when it was time to play.” So when the seatbelt sign went off on a flight, Scott was up seeing who was willing to work with them; when there was some spare time while watching Shamir (allegedly) almost lose a testicle scaling a building, Brooke was drawing on her strong relationships with other players to make alliances on the ground.

Such a strategy isn’t always so evident in a game like The Amazing Race though. What is evident and always a juicy plot point: bickering. And Scott and Brooke had plenty of vocal sparring to score their race to victory, though they quickly learned how to turn that outward-facing negativity into an internal positive. Said Scott, “We might not hug it out on camera, but we knew how to power through that emotion and use that energy to complete tasks. And that’s what kept us going.”

Indeed, it kept them going all way to that final mat, right into Phil’s warm, cargo-clad embrace. EW caught up with Scott and Brooke to find out more about their passionate team dynamic, the inspirational words Matt shared with Scott that just about made him cry, and how that Will and Grace-style friendship Brooke touted in episode 1 finally came to fruition.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you two find yourselves on this innovative season of strangers? Did you go into the audition process assuming it was a more typical season of The Amazing Race?

SCOTT: I had applied for Big Brother and Survivor before this [The Amazing Race] because I knew I wanted to play a strategic reality game show by myself. I had always wanted to be on the Race but never had a partner to apply with because, quite frankly, they either weren’t interested or I didn’t trust anyone enough to go with me. So when it was announced that this was a possible solo season, I applied directly online. Jan. 2 of last year, I made my video like a normal person online and made it all the way through the casting process as a direct applicant.

BROOKE: I applied four times. I applied with my little brother, I applied with a sorority sister when we were in law school, I applied a couple of seasons back with a girlfriend of mine. …  I wanted to do this since day one, and I tell people to keep trying because there’s always a chance.

In the end, this stranger concept was a fun experiment in extremes. Some teams clicked immediately, and some teams… well, at what point did you realize maybe you didn’t have as much in common as you originally thought?

SCOTT: There was this energy about us when I first picked her and on our ride to LAX where I thought, “This is going to be great.” That was when she said “Team Will and Grace” in the first episode. But I think when we got lost in Panama, and the way we reacted to that pressure was different. That’s when I started noticing there was going to be a difference in personalities. But what was great was at the end of each leg, Brooke and I were like, “Look, this is what went wrong, we have got to reassess because we can’t win this if we spend all of our energy being negative with each other or fighting with each other.”

To me, you kind of seemed like two people who could be best friends but couldn’t necessarily be roommates.

BROOKE: [Laughs.] That’s about as accurate as you can be. We were out at karaoke [after completing the TAR] and Scott looked at me and goes, “We are the same person.” We are actually very similar Type-A, get things done at all costs people. And I think that you’ll notice as the race goes on, we both start to understand what the other one needs a little bit more and respect that.

It struck me during the season that you seemed to be playing a more Survivor-style game of strategy than is typical in Amazing Race. Was there more room for that with this season of strangers, and how did it help you win?

BROOKE: Scott’s laughing at me because I’m making the motion of a ladle with my hands. I think our alliances and our social game and the fact that we did come across a bit weaker were actually helpful to us, especially in a season where people were so willing to use those U-Turns on “the biggest threat.” So I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative to have come across as needing a little help or being a little slower or weaker because we knew when it came to the mental game and the social game, we were very, very prepared to play that way.

SCOTT: When I was going through casting and they were asking what my goal was, I said I want to break open this mold of The Amazing Race; to take advantage of the stranger twist because none of us came in with a support system. So, I knew everyone was vulnerable to a degree of wanting to try to work the game in a way that would benefit them.

Brooke, I want to ask you specifically about the physical aspect of the Race—what concept did you have going in of just how grueling this competition was going to be?

BROOKE: One thing that most of the cast agree upon: It’s way harder than it looks on TV. I just want to say, if you mute the television and watch an episode, I look pretty boss! Because I never stopped doing anything. But I also never realized how much I told myself I couldn’t do something as I was doing something, and that’s one of the things you reflect on when you’re seeing it on TV. The other thing was, we were on a season of extremely physically fit people. I wouldn’t normally consider myself one of the least physically fit people, but this season, that’s how it happened to be.

Looking back on the Race, what was the most surreal experience you had while traveling, and which leg would you never ever ever want to do again?

SCOTT: This is not mean to be cheesy, but the start and end line were the most substantial for me. The start because it was literally a dream come true, and the finish because… it was literally a dream come true. I don’t want to water down all the phenomenal countries we visited or the experiences we had, but that for me meant I achieved the goal I had set for myself.

BROOKE: You would think that my worst leg would be Africa because of making the ladle, but I found Africa lovely—making the desks for the children and seeing them in their classroom, I just found that fantastic. But the ladle is the task I would never want to do again.

Brooke, after your victorious finish, you said the money was a nice cherry on top, but more importantly, the Race made you “a better person, a stronger person.” How was this experience transformative for each of you?

BROOKE: I was always up for trying new things, but now I’m excited to try new things. I want to go to a hundred more countries and see a thousand more things because this experience really is the experience of a lifetime, and I’m so blessed and lucky that I got the chance to do it.

SCOTT: Throughout the race, I was good friends with [Matt and Redmond], but I would get frustrated with them for always being so great at everything. Just after he was eliminated, Matt said, “Scott you need to have faith in yourself because you’re doing so much more than you ever believed.” Oh my god, I’m about to cry about that because it was the moment when I believed, “you’re right.” I think a lot of people—you discount your own abilities even if you don’t say it. You just think, “Maybe I’m not good enough or maybe someone else is better than me.” And you know what, dang it? I was the best this time around! It was me, and it was Brooke. … We shared such a unique experience as strangers, and it’s something we can’t really explain to anyone else.

BROOKE: Scott’s like a brother to me now, and I can’t imagine that we wouldn’t be close for the rest of our lives. We’re actually traveling together to London, Amsterdam, and Belgium in July, not because we won anything, but because we really enjoy spending time together.

SCOTT: We’re calling it the Victory Lap.

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