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Interview: Leo & Jamal talk 'The Amazing Race'
The Afghanimals discuss energy, Race ethics and more
This week's string of "Amazing Race" exit interviews begins with my chat with the freshly completed run's most polarizing team, Leo & Jamal.
The self-described Afghanimals were the season's most reliably energetic and enthusiastic team and they made the season's most consistent alliance, working alongside Ice Queens Ally & Ashley from the very first Leg.
Of course, while some fans loved that Afghanimal energy, certain rival teams criticized Leo & Jamal for excessive gamesmanship and occasional white lies. Travis & Nicole took particular exception to Leo & Jamal's ethics and it's obvious that months after filming wrapped, the Afghanimals are still irked by certain things that Nicole in particular did in those last few Legs.
It's also obvious that Leo is frustrated by the way their "Amazing Race" run ended, specifically the inverted torso on a robot puzzle in Tokyo, a task he was doing himself while Nicole and Amy teamed up, a task that cost them a place in the final Leg and left them in fourth place.
In their exit interview, Leo & Jamal talk about why they were viewed by other teams as a threat, how they kept their energy up and their version of "Amazing Race" ethics.
Click through for the full Q&A and stay tuned for the three finalists over the next few nights.
HitFix: That was a roller-coaster last Leg for the two of you. Talk me through the highs and lows.
Leo Temory: The highs were all over the place. I guess the highs were probably all the emotions, because we had just had a Non-Elimination Leg the day before, we had just gotten an early flight, the adrenaline's pumping, we were just on the Japanese game show, which was one of our dreams from watching the past seasons, and the people of Japan were just so friendly and so much fun. It just put a great smile on our face knowing that we're still in it, we did all these great moves, we took a big gamble and it worked and we're on our way to being in the Final 3!
And then the lows came when, after the Speed-Bump, everything was sorta crashing down. The robot's torso flipped around when I was putting in the arms and I didn't even catch it. Tunnel vision sinks in and I keep seeing the same tubes over and over again. I don't even see the dots. And then Marie leaves, it was just a stab in the heart. And then I see Amy and Nicole working together again and I'm like, "Oh, here comes the poison." That was just the worst. But we stayed positive and Jamal kept cheering me on and we thought we still had a chance because the Roaming Vending Machine vended every 15 minutes, so we're like, "Oh, maybe it had vended before" and we were just 10 minutes behind behind Nicole and Travis. I think that was probably the high and the low and I think it ended on a big low, but the whole experience was definitely one of the highs of our lives and we wouldn't change it for the world.
HitFix: Jamal, what was it like watching that last Roadblock from the sidelines? You were particularly critical of Amy and Nicole working together once again.
Jamal Zadran: For me, it was really tough to take in. It's a Roadblock. You want to show to your fans, friends and family that you're capable, that you got cast onto "The Amazing Race" because you're probably amazing people and you can do something by yourself. To see Nicole be babysitted and be assisted? The last three Legs she should have been eliminated and the fact that Jason & Amy were just assisting them? We all knew what the gameplay was behind that. It was because Travis & Nicole were a weak team and Amy & Jason felt like they could beat Travis & Nicole easier than two Alpha Males on the final Leg. So I see where their strategy comes from, but for me it was kinda tough to see Leo have everything right and then have the torso switch when he was putting it up. As just a competitor, my hat still goes off to Leo, because he did something by himself. We all know that if Amy and Nicole would have done it by themselves, there's no way they would have gotten it done in the amount of time that they did.
HitFix: You guys generally maintained an impressive amount of energy out there. Was it challenging to remain that amped up that consistently?
Leo: I guess off into the world with your cousin, doing pretty much everything together, it's not as hard as people think. We know each other in and out. We both are entrepreneurs now and it's not that easy for us to let loose and when we were on the Race, it sorta brought us back to our childhood and all of the adventures we were having and it just clicked. It was one of our main goals to have fun on the Race. It's not just about winning the million dollars. It's about the experience. You're interacting with different cultures and you have to understand that and you have to appreciate that you're infiltrating these different cultures and you're sorta performing these Roadblocks and Detours which, in a way, are their daily lives. Every Detour and Roadblock, it has a purpose. It's what goes on daily in the different cultures you visit. We didn't want to make it seem like a Roadblock or make it seem like a task, per se. We wanted to make sure that we were having fun with the locals and that the energy was all natural. It came out when we were dropped into those situations. That's how we run our lives. It's a lot of fun. We're really outgoing, really humorous and it just made time go by easier, it made everyone else have fun, it made us more memorable with the locals and it's something we really pride ourselves on, I think. I think it showed.
HitFix: Jamal, was there a crash that we didn't see? Was there a Leg where you felt like you had less energy, where it was harder to remain pumped up?
Jamal: The closest thing for Leo and I to a crash was probably the second Leg, when I sorta lost it because we didn't pay the taxi the right amount of money and that cost us from being first that Leg. That sorta made me realize early in the game that this is not a sprint. It's not how many first place finishes you get. It's more of a marathon and that last Leg is the Leg you want to finish first. For Leo and I, the adrenaline that we get is not from coffee drinks or energy drinks. It's from the Race, when you find out you're going to a new country, when you find out you're doing a certain Detour that you've loved your whole life and you've wanted to try, or a certain Roadblock, you take that in and it sorta just pumps in our blood and you just go crazy. That's kinda the personalities that we have. We're crazy young guys who like to have fun, but at the same time, when it comes down to being serious, we can be serious as well.
HitFix: Were you guys surprised by both how quickly you bonded with Ally & Ashley, but also that that was an alliance that stuck with you for the entire Race?
Leo: Yeah, it wasn't strategic. Like, "Oh, let's find an alliance from Day One." We were sitting in LAX getting on our flight to go to Chile and they were there and we started talking. We saw their Kings jerseys and we're like, "Oh, we're from LA" and everything just clicked. It was all automatic. They're great. They're great, loving girls. They're humorous. They're really caring. It was sorta meant to be. We had similar traits and it sucks that they went out. If they would have stuck with their taxi, I'm pretty sure they would have been with us in the Final 4 and who knows how that would have played out. We wouldn't have done Shears [the Detour] and they probably would have helped us with the makeup. It was surprising that we connected that well and now we have friends for life and we're in contact with them daily.
HitFix: What would you guys say that you gained from that alliance?
Leo: I would say that from the alliance we learned a lot. They kept yelling to us every day, because we had a habit of just running off and they kept saying, "Read your clue! Read your clue!" So we learned a lot. They sorta honed us down a lot, because we were really wild and crazy. With all of the adrenaline and all of the excitement of being on the show, they were our anchors. They made it a lot of fun. They brought a different perspective to the Race and that added to the joys of the Race. It was just an extra benefit having two more people just like you racing for the same goals and with the same perceptions. It was great.
HitFix: On the other side, you had... I don't want to say "conflicts," but you had other teams who were willing to work together to work against you. What did you think of the teams who weren't your biggest fans, particularly Travis & Nicole's various reactions to you?
Jamal: For Travis & Nicole to see Leo and I as liars or "They cheat," it's just hard to see now, because to lie or to say someone's a liar and then yet you lie yourself or you start cheating off of somebody else, you're being assisted the whole Road by a team that's just basically carrying you through all the Legs? That's kinda hard to see. Where the other teams started to dislike is probably because Leo and I are very competitive. When we're not with the usual gang or the usual group of teams, they'd see us as, "Oh, they're planning something. They're manipulating. Oh, they're being sneaky." But for us, from Day 1, it was "Do your own Race. Race by yourself. If you need to help a team that you're good with along the way, go ahead and do it. Teams that don't like you, don't help them. Who cares?" I feel like they saw us as the biggest threat and multiple teams did. We were the last male-male team standing and they knew that they had probably no chance in the Final 3. Looking at that Final 3 episode last night, that's a Leg that Leo and I would have just crushed. Everything that was on there was just meant for us to win it. Their strategy sorta worked. Get the last male-male team out and from that point, everyone was pretty much equal.
Leo: It was so ironic when they would call us liars and then Nicole was the one to initiate a six-person finale and then when poor Marie comes around asking for where the display is, they go "Ignore her! Don't answer. Don't answer." That's something that if we gave our word to in an alliance, we would never do. That's like a real lie. The lies we were doing were like straight-forward, in-the-face. You sorta understood that we had to lie or it was joke. Everyone was upset when we said our wife was pregnant. I mean. come on.
Jamal: I know. It was just a sense of humor. We're running through an airport...
Leo: It's just something that was funny. Everyone was dying of laughter. It helped in Poland to do the U-Turn. We got 50 bucks for saying that. You had to understand it. For some teams to tag us as being sneaky and manipulative when they were doing the exact same thing behind people's backs? I think that was a lot worse and it showed in the episode and I think people understand.
HitFix: Could you feel that antagonism against you when you were out there? Did it impact you in any way?
Jamal: When Leo and I, when we get picked on, when we felt like, "OK, other teams are strategizing and trying to get us out," it only made us compete even at a higher level. That only made us more determined to succeed.
Leo: More motivated.
Jamal: Just knowing that other teams see us as a threat and they want to gang up and get us out, that just made us more determined just to kick butt and come in first and just rub it in their face. What's better than to get a first place finish? That's better than bragging or anything, so a first place finish would have gone a long way.
Leo: If anything, we were honored that people were talking about us the whole time. It just showed us that we were running a great race, that we were competitive, that everyone had their eyes on us. It wasn't like we were falling in the cracks and people were forgetting about us. We were running a solid race and it pretty much showed. Like, for instance, when we said we didn't U-Turn Brandon & Adam. There's two ways that we looked at it. One, if we told them, they wouldn't have believed us, because everyone was antagonizing us. And two, it was strategic, because we only had one U-Turn to play per season, so if we told them that we played it in the future Leg when the U-Turn comes up, they wouldn't fear us and having a U-Turn, which you saw Amy in the second leg in Abu Dhabi saying, "I hope they don't U-Turn us," so that played to our advantage.
HitFix: And my normal last question: Each of you give me a favorite moment from this experience that we did not get to see on TV.
Leo: Probably when we were on an airline and each seat had a game console, so you could text other seats and that was probably one of the most memorable times. I pretended I was Amy and logged my name in as "Amy." You had to make up your name. It was like a chatting session. Tim was on there, Marie was on there, Ally & Ashley were on there. All us six sorta became really close and pretending I was Amy, they were kinda shocked that I was in a chatting session and we had a lot of fun with that. Then once I told them that it was me, we all had a good laugh.
Jamal: Yeah, each Leg of the Race, you're given a certain amount of money that you can Race with. Sometimes the money can hurt you if you don't have enough, but the type of characteristics and traits that Leo and I have, there were certain countries that we went to that were so unfortunate that we felt bad and there were people that we ended up donating our money to them. Like there were kids and we'd get our local currency and then we'd just give it to them, just as a good gesture, just so that they could see that not all Americans are just focused on the million dollars. And other teams saw this, too. Travis & Nicole were clearly sitting there and saw this. But when it comes down to it, you're racing in someone else's country, respect them. I know I did it in Indonesia and I also did it in Chile. When you're given so much by God and you're so fortunate, sometimes it's good to give back a little. And what if that was our Leg money that might have cost us something? We didn't even think about it twice.