Monty Brinton/CBS

Inside the most radical reality show transformation ever: The redemption of Colin and Christie

June 19, 2019 at 08:00 AM EDT

When Colin Guinn and Christie Woods played season 5 of The Amazing Race back in 2004, the couple was known for being intense competitors — too intense. While they dominated the season, taking first place on six different legs and finishing in second overall, they were known even more for their explosive arguments and antics.

Colin cemented his place as one of reality television’s major early villains. There was the time he relentlessly cursed out an ox. There was the other time he almost got arrested because he refused to pay a $100 taxi fare. Viewers saw him arguing with other teams and berating his girlfriend. It was a bad all-around look. And Christie had her moments as well, at one point blocking an airport door so that little person Charla Baklayan Faddoul could not pass, and another time imploring a driver to run people over so they could get to their destination faster.

The couple (who had only been dating for a year when they appeared on the show) just gave off a very negative toxic energy — arguing constantly with each other and their fellow teams — and many viewers assumed the pair would break up shortly after filming.

Fast forward 15 years and the story could not be more surprising. Not only are 38-year-old Colin and 40-year-old Christie actually still together as life partners, but they have two sons (12-year-old Achilles and 7-year-old-Cruz). And the most surprising thing of all has been their return appearance on the current season of The Amazing Race (Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS). Gone are the angry outbursts. Arguments are nowhere to be seen. Whether they are in first or last place during a leg, the scowls of season 5 have been replaced by smiles in season 31. Win or lose, they actually seem to be…gulp!…enjoying themselves. And enjoying the teams they are competing against. And enjoying the locals they encounter along the way. Ladies and gentlemen, as impossible as it may seem, Colin and Christie actually seem to be enjoying life!

Put bluntly, the couple is completely unrecognizable. I mean, who IN A MILLION YEARS would have thought Colin would be the one trying to diffuse tension between two other teams by saying, “I have a suggestion: I think we should all hold hands and literally just feel the love in the universe and, like, you’ll feel it come into this group,” as he did during a leg in Switzerland? In the least Colin 1.0 move ever, he then actually got them to do it!

What is behind this radical transformation? How does one of reality television’s seemingly most dysfunctional couples get to the point where they are now offering a free relationship advice video series? We spoke to Colin and Christie to get their perspective on what they learned from their last volatile appearance, how they have changed as both people and players, and what it’s like to become the most unlikely of fan favorites. It is one of the most honest and raw self-examinations you will ever find, and from subjects you never would have expected.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start by going back to season 5. On one hand, you all were dominating the game, coming in first on six different legs. On the other hand, all that relationship dysfunction was airing on national television for everyone to see on a weekly basis. Tell me about the experience of watching that all play back on TV.

COLIN GUINN: I think, overall, I was naturally a very positive person, and I think most people would describe me that way. But obviously, when you go into the race, it tests all of your resilience, and so whatever’s there is going to come out, and you’re going to get triggered, and however you respond when you get triggered is going to be evident.

In some of the times when I lose my cool, and kind of fly off the handle, I remember feeling like, “Oh, man. I’m totally justified right now, and this is like a ‘poor me’ situation, and it’s going to be so obvious that I’m just defending myself, or Christie’s coming down on me too hard,” whatever it was. I remember feeling that in the moment, and then, six months later when you’re viewing a window into yourself, and into how you’re relating, and how you are handling your emotions, or whatever — from that place of watching it, I wasn’t in that triggered state, and it was so clear and so obvious to just how little awareness I had of my own emotional state, and my own poor me, defensiveness, victim mentality. It was a very eye-opening experience like, “Oh, wow, bro. No, you don’t look like you are right at all.”

What an amazing gift to be able to see that, pretty early in our relationship, like, okay, I at least know that I got a lot of work to do because that was really surprising to see that.

CHRISTIE WOODS: You’re sleep-deprived, you’re hungry, you’re tired, and you’re in The Hunger Games. There are traumas living in the body, and certain things can trigger that, and if you don’t have the tools or the resources to be able to handle those mental, emotional, physical triggers, then in the moment you’re going to lose it. This happens in relationships all the time. We kind of get into this blame game where we still feel justified in the moment, and the reality is we just are unable to really see our part in the play.

So, the biggest difference was getting a window into that, and then that really set us on a trajectory of really looking at ourselves, and set us on a healing path. What are the traumas in our body that we can start to learn how to regulate so that, even in your everyday life — when you’re sitting in traffic, or something happens at work that’s out of your control, or your kids do something — how do I learn to manage that in a way that I can actually flow through life with more ease and grace versus every time something difficult pops up in my purview, I lose it? Now, it’s actually becoming dysfunctional in my relationship.

Colin, we saw you cursing out an ox, we saw you cursing at Christie, we saw you sniping at other teams, we saw you arguing over cabs, we saw you almost get arrested over refusing to pay a taxi fare. What was the hardest thing for you to see?

COLIN GUINN: The taxi incident for sure. The ox is just funny because I was getting pulled around by that thing, I think they said for 56 minutes or something like that. They make it seem like we were there for 10 or 15 minutes, but that ox just whipped my butt. That, to me, I think is just funny to see me having a temper tantrum.

CHRISTIE WOODS: To be fair though, when we first watched it back, at least for me anyway, it was very difficult. It was very difficult to watch back all of those incidents, including unpacking it. All of that was very difficult to watch, and, in fact, we did not watch our season of The Amazing Race for 15 years. We watched Race for the first time in 15 years a year ago with our kids. We were looking at family shows, what could we watch as a family. Amazing Race came up and we realized, “Oh, they’ve never seen our season.” So, we decided to watch it. We knew things had really shifted because we were able to watch all of it and really laugh and enjoy and go, “Oh, wow. Those are different people.” I didn’t realize how much had shifted. But that one incident that was still difficult to watch.

COLIN GUINN: Oh, but also to see what an amazing experience that was.

CHRISTIE WOODS: Yeah, it was.

COLIN GUINN: Which was hard for us the first time because we were so overcome with shame around how we looked or rage at the other, whatever. The taxi incident where I was being a whiny, ego baby — I do think I had a point. Look, why are you driving so much slower than all these other cars? We need to get there in second place if we are paying you $100 because we left in second place. Then, to discover he is actually on a donut.

So, yes, did I have a reason to be like, “Hey, man. That was irresponsible. Whatever.” But, then, what happened from there is my ego just fully takes over and is like, “No freaking way. I’m only going to pay you $50!” I’m just totally lost in ego and so attached to just being right and winning. I’m so attached to that instead of just realizing even if I were to save the $50, it would probably hinder our legs so much because of this pent-up, negative energy that I have now brought into our existence versus just parting with the $50 and staying in a good, positive place. It would have been way more beneficial than just having an extra $50.

I was so attached to getting my way and proving my point. My ego just couldn’t stand that. When I tossed the $100 in the air, I knew right when I did that: “No, bro, that was too far.” That is so bad. Even watching that now, I can have forgiveness for myself and see I was a different person back then. I had a lot less perspective and awareness. It’s still like, “Oh man, that’s bad.”

CHRISTIE WOODS: We’re humans here and this guy is a cab driver in Africa. He wants to be a part of this whole experience. He may or may not be able to afford to have an actual tire on his car, much less a spare tire. This $50 is really going to go a long way for him. In the broader perspective of it, we’re really privileged that we get to be on a show like this traveling around the world. At the end of the day, we got on the last flight, but it’s not a make or break type of situation. We just didn’t have that level of awareness at that time like we do now.

There was one moment where one of the other competitors, Kim, said “Colin is so abusive and belligerent towards Christie. She is constantly living in stress.” I want to know from both of you, and Christie, I’ll start with you: What did it feel like to hear that and other comments I’m sure you heard from other people?

CHRISTIE WOODS: The most difficult part for me wasn’t necessarily on the race, because overall our relationship was not like that. Colin could get easily triggered and would go into this space of feeling so right and justified expressing himself in that way — it was definitely highlighted on the show, but that was a small part of the actual race itself. The hardest part was when we got home and watching it back. I was in pharmaceutical sales. I would have my doctors call me back and talk to me about being in an abusive relationship. “You’ve got to get out of it.” I realized the more I would try and explain, “Hey, this is one-dimensional perspective of the overall relationship,” the more I sounded like I was in an abusive relationship. [Laughs] Then, I just stopped saying anything but, “Oh, thanks for worrying about me. I appreciate the sentiment.”

Colin did sleep on the couch the entire show because it brought back the anger because I had done television before and I knew. By about the fourth episode in, I looked at Colin and said while we were filming, “You know you’re the villain of the show?” He was blown away, couldn’t even imagine it. On the Egypt leg, for example, this is a leg where we got 12 hours ahead of the next team and did some of the most brilliant racing in Amazing Race history and during that three-day leg there was a 10-minute argument that we got into.

And, of course, they are going to use that.

CHRISTIE WOODS: That was the only thing that was really being asked from the storytellers. I was trying to show him. I said, “Look, this is the storyline. This is where it is going. This is what’s getting highlighted. They’re filming everything, but there’s only so much they can show on television. So, be aware of that.” We were very generous in the way that we collaborated this time around. We did that in season 5 as well. I said, “That’s not our story. That’s not what they’re going to show. Please be aware.” The angry part of it was the lack of trust he had in my ability to see that. It was anger at this ridiculousness. We weren’t living the 45-minutes of the show when we were doing season 5, we were living the full 24/7, which for the most part was the most brilliant experience and adventure we had ever been on.

It turned into this very dark, ugly experience as it was being played. Everything that was shown did happen and I now have my client who thinks I’m in an abusive relationship. It was just more of an anger of, “Can you see your part in the play? Can you understand how you’re contributing to this chaos?” That was really the frustration at my level from me. It took a couple of years for both of us to start to wake up and actually we’re both part of this.

So when did that happen?

CHRISTIE WOODS: It was probably about seven years ago where we started deep diving into a lot of self-healing practices and started getting those “Ah-ha” moments of, “Oh wow,” in the moment, not just after the fact when I’m watching myself on television, but in the moment I’m not able to take inventory of this argument or this difference and realize how I’m contributing to this chaos. But yeah, at the time, it was very hurtful because I know Colin could be a very loving individual, and I knew that he had no idea how hurtful what he was saying and doing was to myself or the people around him.

Colin, I want to get your reaction to that too. It’s one thing to say, “Oh this guy’s kind of being a jerk and yelling at people.” But when people are then worrying that you’re being abusive to your girlfriend, that is something else entirely. What that was like to hear those things?

COLIN GUINN: I think there was a part of me, especially at that time, that really wanted to lean on, “Oh, well, it’s the editing and they’re making it look so much worse than it was.” Which, yes, they definitely heightened it and exemplified the ammunition I gave them. But I think it was years later watching at this perspective. At that perspective, I couldn’t even bring myself to fully see how I was really being abusive to Christie, at least verbally and energetically. I had such a self-righteous rightness. “You have wronged me by not supporting me and not wanting to pay this guy his money.” I was blasting so much emotional poison at her.

At that time, when we were watching the race, I couldn’t even let myself fully recognize that. My ego had to try to blame the editing as much as possible. From this place, I can look at it and go, “Yeah, I was really lost in my ego and I was very unaware. I was spewing emotional poison all over the person I love the most in this world.” It was really tough to have that realization. That was maybe years after the show to have that realization. When you get that visibility into how the dark side of yourself shows up into the world and the shadow aspects of yourself, it’s a really painful experience that feels like death. I remember just weeping with the realization that, “Oh, s— I really show up like that often.”

That’s not how I want to see myself, but that is what I’m doing when I get completely lost and lose my temper. It was really difficult to see. But then, once you see it and you have the difficult moment, that’s where I was able to, eventually, forgive myself for those things realizing that it was not done it vain. It was just done in unconsciousness. That’s where I started having a whole new perspective in my day-to-day life as well.

That’s really interesting to hear you guys say that in terms of the change that it was not right after the show aired and that it was actually a few years afterwards that you really started to take a harder look at this and the excuses started to drop off. What was the impetus for this change that you guys started undertaking a few years ago? Was there anything specific that occurred or is just more maturity, growth, and evolution?

CHRISTIE WOODS: I think the relationship hit a peak low point. Our house had flooded. We had to move out and stay in a hotel while all kinds of construction happened. Colin was traveling a lot all over in Europe. I’m in this hotel with the boys by myself. They’re bouncing off the wall. For me, I need my home. I need that. That’s the grounded, rootedness of me. Not having that took the tension in the relationship where I was no longer resilient enough.

Keep in mind, our everyday life is not the triggered Colin that you see on The Amazing Race. And at the same time, there was still very much a sort of level one — if you want to take a Tony Robbins-esque perspective — relationship where it’s always tit for tat. What have you done for me lately? The blame game. I’m right, you’re wrong. A score keeping, level of relationship where the vast majority of relationships end up just before they get a divorce.

So then what happened?

CHRISTIE WOODS: I got to this place, I call it my dark night of the soul where I just said, “You know what? I’m done. I’m absolutely just done.” It’s sort of like if you’re in a relationship you’re all tensed up in the body and nervous system. When you finally have that resolve that it’s over, you just relax. It was like I was breathing for the first time in years. In the process of that breath, there was a flood of consciousness and higher awareness that was able to come into my body where it set me on a trajectory of synchronicities.

When I had said, “I’m done,” this new level of awareness entered. I almost instantly had a clarity of also being able to see my part in the play. I could also get lost in my own ego, get triggered, get really pent up. I could see that. Within a day, I wanted to get certified in life coaching. I started deep diving into the practices that go along with that. We were actually in couple’s therapy at the time and it wasn’t helping. We would be in a great space. We would go to couple’s therapy and we would leave fighting because we drudged up all the negative things that had happened over the week. I started bringing in those practices to myself individually, which also included practicing meditation. That was also a big part of this shift for me.

I started including those practices with Colin inside of our relationship. I could see myself transforming. Even the way I would respond to him and he began to see that as well. Colin could experience the shift in me and the shift in me was inspiring a shift in him. We also, outside of that, had the opportunity to go to Peru and drink Ayahuasca plant medicine, which can open you up and have the healing capacity that’s used in the spirituality of that culture. That really shifted a lot, too. At this point, where we’re at cuts to now deep practices, tantra, quantum visualization, and what we would call sex magic and working with energy, really understanding the world, ourselves, our relationship to the world at a higher level than just three dimensional space and time in which we live every day. Anytime something is happening, you have this ability to see from higher perspective.

Monty Brinton/CBS

I’m curious then about the decision to come back and do The Amazing Race again and what that decision was like for you all. Were you like, “Okay, let’s have some talks about how to cope better with the stress of the race and make sure we stay composed while television cameras are on us.” Were you worried after doing all this work that going on The Amazing Race could bring back those old demons? Or, did you want to conquer those demons by doing this?

COLIN GUINN: You know what, I love it. You’re hitting all the nails on the head of what our experience has been like. That’s really what it was. We watched the race for the first time in 14 years with our kids. We had this different level of perspective around it. We realized what a beautiful experience it was and started dreaming into, “Man, what would it be like if we went and did it again from this new place of awareness and perspective? This new feeling of love, collaboration and quantum visualization.” What would happen? What a great way to put all this stuff to the test. It would be an amazing experiment.

We did a bunch of visualization, meditation, and all this stuff. We ended up sending a text. We’re thinking, “Maybe we’ll get back on the show five years from now.” Turns out, three weeks later, our casting director that we texted was like, “Actually, we’re casting for an all-stars right now. Are you guys really interested because we leave in three or four weeks?”

We both looked at each other and were like, “Oh my god. That was fast.” There was a lot of fear in me that I would feel creep up. It would be like, “What if I haven’t really transformed and I just built this beautiful, easy life for myself.” There were these doubts I would have in myself like, “Have I really done the work and transformed? Or, is my life just easier and more comfortable now? What am I going to be like when I’m not controlling my own reality anymore and I’m not going to have everything set the way I want it to be set in my life? I don’t get to wake up and do my exercises, meditation, and have a great job. I’m going to be waking up in their reality, sleep deprived, jet lagged, fighting for my survival in this game racing for a million dollars with other teams out to get us.” That’s a situation where I don’t have total control.

So those fears popped up. I used to question myself through this process going, “Did you really change who you were and your external reality changed around you to reflect that? Or, did you get lucky in business and your external reality got much more comfortable, changed around you and then you wanted to latch onto this higher consciousness message?” I would think, “Man, if that was the case, then what’s going to happen if I’m in this reality and I start losing, demons come up.” Those channels are always there if we tune to them. Just because you work through them once doesn’t mean they’re gone forever.

Am I going to be able to put those tools that we picked up along the way to use to keep me in a place of perspective, love and awareness of the situation from a higher level than what my ego wants in this given moment, which is to win. So, yeah I did worry.

Also, the thought of, if we go back on this thing and we’re talking about this sense of love, gratitude, appreciation and collaboration over competition. I was like, “What if we go, have that message, then get eliminated in the second or third leg because we’re all lovey-dovey meditator, Team Zen like “Oh well. We lost, it’s all good.” And people are like, ‘Well, last time, you won six legs and you almost won the whole thing. This time you got eliminated in the third leg so I’m not so sure I want all that zen in my life.” I was just kind of like, there’s a great chance to put it all to the test and let’s see what happens.

CHRISTIE WOODS: I just want to say, also, that the race is really f—ing fun. We wanted to do it again because at this point when you start to get out of the trudge of being in that right or wrong level of consciousness, you start realizing just how fun life is in general, right? So, when you think about the opportunity to race around the world, whether you win the million dollars or not, that’s really fun. So, we want to do that again if we have the opportunity to do it. Then, at the same time, it’s an opportunity to show us how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go.

CBS

Were there any moments while filming this current season where either of you came close to losing your temper?

CHRISTIE WOODS: Yeah, there were little arguments here and there. It’s interesting because on season 5, every argument was highlighted. That was our storyline. This particular season we’ve had little arguments and I’ve thought, “For sure. They’re going to be shown.” And then they weren’t part of our story. So, in this case, there’s editing on both sides. That’s reality television. There’s a story that’s being told. Were we thrown out of alignment at times? The first time I think it happened, and they did show the extra scene, was in Uganda when we were doing the challenge where we had to stack the sticks.

Right, I remember that one.

CHRISTIE WOODS: We were doing the bikes back and forth. So, that was a situation where Colin was grating on my nerves excessively: “Push it straight. Push it straight.” I’m like, “Lord have mercy if you yell that to me again.” I’m breathing. I’m doing the best I can, but I am about to lose it. When you’re doing that, there’s an ability to stay aware in the moment. Like, for me, okay, I can’t address this right now because I’m in the middle of a challenge. But, afterwards, in the cab, I mentioned, “Hey, tone it down. That’s not going to work. It’s counterproductive.”

I thought it was beautiful moment. Colin had the ability to really take that in, see it, understand my perspective and go, “Yeah, you’re right.” And then, it’s beautiful because there are other times when it starts to get really stressful, but you realize that if I’m going to be at you, whether that’s me to him or him to me, that it’s not really in service to us doing the best we can in this given moment so let’s not do that and have faith that the other person is doing the best they can and trust that.

I think the scene from this season that jumps out the most is the one where there was a lot of drama on the train after Rachel told Nicole and Victor about people wanting to U-Turn them. So everyone is all tense, and Colin, you then had everyone hold hands to “feel the love in the universe.” What do you think Colin from season 5 would have thought of that?

COLIN GUINN: I would’ve been like, “Yeah, bro, you just keep bringing the love and universe in and I’m going to be whupping your ass over here. Keep closing your eyes and meditating, I’m over here looking at my map so I can beat you the next chance I get.” Yeah, for sure.

There was even a big part of me through this journey of gaining awareness where I felt like, “Oh no, if I become all conscious, does that mean I’m going to lose my competitive edge and not ‘win’ in life anymore because I love winning and doing my best?” That was always an underlying fear in how deep do I want to go down this path?

CHRISTIE WOODS: For us, we know the best way to get out of the vortex of being caught up in that type of drama is to just go inward, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. It doesn’t even have to be like feel the love of the universe, it’s just take a few deep breaths. At that point, the other teams had started looking at us and trusting that, “You know, whatever they’re doing, I want a little piece of that, so if this is what they would do if they were caught up in this drama, I’m willing to go there and give it a little try.”

What is it like having people watch you on TV and actually be rooting for you this time?

COLIN GUINN: It’s super refreshing. It’s definitely a new and different experience. It feels good when people are blasting positivity and love energy your way. It feels a lot better than when people are blasting negativity and you’re the reflection of all the parts of themselves they don’t like. They’re blasting that at you. But when you can be the reflection of all the stuff they love about themselves and they’re blasting positivity at you, it feels awesome. So, yeah, it feels great.

Okay, final question: Have you ever checked your luggage again since flight 848 on the season 5 finale?

COLIN GUINN: That’s funny. I generally don’t check luggage. It’s funny that you say that. Christie has a major fear every time she checks her bag that they’re going to lose her bag and that there’s going to be some issue. I wonder if some of it stems from that. They make it seem like the checked luggage had something to do with us not being able to get on the other flight. Ultimately, that wasn’t the thing. The flat tire on the way to the finish line where we sat on the freeway for 25 minutes was significantly worse, which just was not shown.

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Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.
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