The most heavily promoted team on this season of “The Amazing Race” didn’t enjoy a particularly long run.
Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca, both winners of CBS’ “Survivor,” intended to use their previous reality experiences in this Emmy-winning race around the world, but instead they fell victim to a series of missteps in Indonesia.
On last week’s episode, it appeared that a misplaced clue and then a failure to properly read another clue doomed Jenna & Ethan in the show’s first-ever Double Elimination episode.
But was that actually the way things went down? What really caused Jenna & Ethan to be the co-first team sent home on “The Amazing Race”? And what do they think of equalizers and Non-Elimination Legs and Twitter saves?
Click through for my full “Amazing Race” exit interview with the ever-candid Jenna and Ethan…
HitFix: I’m sure you guys had time to go over in your mind what might potentially be your “Amazing Race” undoing. Did you ever guess it was going to be “reading”?
Ethan Zohn: [Laughter.]
Jenna Morasca: Actually, it wasn’t. The reading wasn’t so much the problem. Almost everybody got that wrong, everybody except for three teams.
EZ: Eight out of 11 teams.
JM: What we did, we actually turned in all of our converted money, because on our Race rules, which we get and are our Gods of the Rules, it said “Turn in,” it said “rupiah.” So we actually thought that we were being smart by turning in all of our rupiah at the orphanage, we actually turned all of our converted money in, because it was a sign. It wasn’t underlined like you guys saw. It wasn’t marked with Race flags. So I figured on “The Amazing Race,” you don’t get clues unless you do something right, so I figured we had done something right. If we had walked past a billboard on the street on the way to the orphanage that said, “Give me all your money,” were we supposed to give them all our money too?
HitFix: But in that situation, I assume you guys have watched the show before, how do you avoid reading every available clue in that moment?
JM: We did read it! We just thought “additional money” meant our additional converted money. We didn’t think that meant the $20 extra we had in US money, because on our additional rules, it didn’t say anything about US money, it just said “rupiah,” so we thought that’s what it meant. And we thought that if we did it wrong, they wouldn’t give us a clue.
HitFix: So leaving aside the reading, coming into the game, what did you think would be your biggest collective weaknesses or potential pitfalls?
JM: Well, our biggest worry was that we would get a bad taxi driver and we would be lost and that’s exactly what happened. That’s how we went from fourth to eighth or ninth.
EZ: A lot of the show is so much left up to the chances and things that are outside of your control. We got a bad taxi driver and unfortunately, when you’re out there rappelling in this pit in the middle of nowhere, you stick with the same taxi driver. You can’t replace him with a new one who knows where they’re going. Our guy just had no clue. He was lost from the start.
JM: We had all the same type of taxi drivers from the minute we landed until it was over.
HitFix: And that, of course, was not featured in the episode at all.
JM: Yeah, and we actually came into the mat for the first time before the Vegas girls.
HitFix: What we did see a lot of was the lost clue SNAFU. Was that really just a couple seconds?
JM: It was about a minute. It was literally across the street. We had written down the name of the orphanage on the piece of paper just in case something happened with the clue and we had put it in our backpack, so when I left the clue over there, I figured we didn’t need it because we had the orphanage name written down, but we just didn’t want to waste time digging through our bag and it was quicker to just run across the street, so we just went over and got it. So it was annoying, but it was just such a blip on the radar. For us, at least.
HitFix: So you didn’t feel like that had any real relationship to what got you eliminated?
JM: Oh no. It was literally less than two minutes.
HitFix: You guys have done a lot of reality TV before. Are you past the point of being able to be surprised by editing and how things actually look when they appear on TV?
JM: No. I’ve found out you can’t get past that.
EZ: We all know that there are some great reality shows out there and some that are not as good as others, but when we were approached to do the Race by CBS, we were really excited, because it’s an Emmy award-winning show and you just expect the best from the best, so it was a little bit disappointing that they focused on that part of it. But we loved the experience and we love CBS, so…
HitFix: Give me a favorite experience from these two legs you got to do that we didn’t see on TV…
JM: My favorite thing was when we spent the night at the China Airlines counter and it was actually so fun, because we all stayed up all night — the Snowboarders and the Bobbsey Twins, as I call them, and the Vegas Girls and Marcus & Amani — we all stayed up all night laughing and the Snowboarders had races on the luggage carts and it was actually really fun.
HitFix: So you actually were sociable with the other teams?
JM: Oh yeah. We definitely were friendly.
EZ: From the time we were there, people were getting along.
JM: But we got competitive.
EZ: Once you’re actually out there racing and you’re on the challenges it’s competitive, but when you’re hanging out at the China Airlines counter for 12 hours before the flight opens, those are the fun parts. The Race aspects of it goes away and you’re hanging out with each other and learning about each other’s lives. It’s fun.
JM: What sucks is that essentially we could have literally walked from the start of the Race to where we got to the Gambir Train Station [in Jakarta] because everybody got on the same flights and the same trains. We could have just strolled.
HitFix: What was your reaction when you found out that all of that equalizing was going to be happening? It seemed like there was a big gap between the teams…
JM: It was annoying. It was annoying, because you bust your ass. It’s the beginning of the show and you bust your ass to do a good job and come fourth, like we did, so you have an advantage and then for it not to matter so early in the show is extremely annoying.
EZ: Yeah, it’s kinda frustrating. Bill & Cathi were seven-and-a-half hours behind everybody else.
JM: Yeah. Come on.
HitFix: And how about Non-Elimination Legs? I assume you guys probably aren’t a huge fan of those at this point?
JM: I think they’re fine, but just to have one on the first Leg? It’s almost as though there’s no punishment for messing up just when you start. I figure when you start, you should be ready to go. We’ve all been waiting for this moment.
EZ: Non-Elimination is like a reward. It should be on the fifth or six leg of the Race and you’re busting your butt…
JM: Yeah. When they deserve maybe a little bit more of second chance.
HitFix: You guys expressed an initial desire to keep your “Survivor” backgrounds a secret, but it didn’t look like that worked very long. What were the reactions from the other teams like?
EZ: We thought it would be a bigger deal than it actually was. We didn’t want to go in there and brag about it and say, “Oh, we were on ‘Survivor’ and we’re reality TV pros.” We just wanted to keep it quiet and we were waiting for somebody else to bring it up to us, which they did. We were completely open and honest about it and then it just kinda went away and it didn’t really matter, which was good.
JM: Yeah. I mean, obviously they were talking about us behind our backs, but to our face, they were fine.
HitFix: Is there any advantage to those experiences you guys had previously, in terms of knowing how to react with the camera around you, in terms of being natural, that sort of thing?
JM: You’d think it would make a difference, but the shows are completely different and the only thing that I think helped us in the short time we were there is that we had traveled so much, that being in different countries or third world countries, we weren’t gonna be thrown off by that or shocked by that.
EZ: The fact that we’ve been on a show like “Survivor” and we know what it’s like to go without food and sleep and showers and be uncomfortable, I think that helped us a little bit. The cameras, I think everyone got used to them and it really didn’t impact us that much.
HitFix: In a lot of the pre-show video, we saw Ethan talking about how he was going to be a nice guy and Jenna talking about being cutthroat, but I guess I wonder if you think there’s actually a strategy that can be utilized on “The Amazing Race.”
JM: I think that for us, our strategy was that if people found out about “Survivor” that we downplayed it and were like “Oh, it was so long ago and we’re older now and we’re not as fit,” which was a lie. We’re actually probably in better shape now. But we just wanted to make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal. That was pretty much all you can do and then just race as hard as you can. We ran every second that we were there. We ran to the finish line. We ran to the Pit Stop. We were just going to finish strong.
EZ: You know, I think there is strategy. The only Leg of the Race you need to come in first is the last Leg of the Race. You can kinda go at a medium pace the whole time and still maybe be OK because of the fact that you can rely on other people making mistakes, so you’ve just gotta take your time and just hover in the middle. But I think most people try their hardest in each Leg.
HitFix: And Jenna, it seemed like maybe you had a bit of an opinion about last week’s magical Twitter save for the Vegas Girls?
JM: You know, I just think some people have a lot of luck on their side. They live in Vegas, so maybe she should play the craps table or the slots. What did you think of it?
HitFix: Oh yes. Very lucky indeed.
JM: I know. I want to get her to give me the lottery numbers.
HitFix: And Ethan, how’s your health?
EZ: My health is great. That’s a big reason why we did the Race. As I’ve said before, it’s about where we were before and now we have this opportunity to travel around the world together and have fun and just not worry about my health and just embrace life and every second of it and other people and other cultures was a gift and that’s why going on the Race was so much fun and so exciting.
HitFix: I have to assume that people turn to you guys to do other reality shows all the time. What are your thoughts going forward on whether you’d want to do something like this again?
JM: I would play “Survivor” again, but Ethan says he’s done with competition shows unless it’s “Dancing with the Stars.” But we have our own show now on ABC called “Everyday Health” and it’s on every Saturday or Sunday, you have to check your local listings. We’re still filming that. We’re doing 22 episodes of that, so we’re really excited to have that show airing also. Things are going good. We’re working on a book, too, and then our own separate reality show, so when one door closes, another door opens.
HitFix: Is there a condition, Jenna, under which you’d want to go back on “Survivor”? Is there a type of season you’d want to be there for?
EZ: Oooh. Good question.
JM: Ummm… Hmmm… Nope. I think I’m ready to beat anybody.
EZ: And then I’d come for the family visit, so that would be good.
JM: I wouldn’t pick you.
EZ: Oh, come ON!
Check back all season for “Amazing Race” exit interviews…