Fate on “The Amazing Race” is always a fickle thing. Just ask Justin and Jennifer Young.
One week after reaching the Pit Stop in first in one part of Malawi (they were penalized for not paying a driver and ended up in second), the bickering siblings were the last team to get to host Phil Keoghan in a different part of Malawi and were sent packing (not every week can be a Non-Elimination Leg).
Make that “formerly bickering siblings.”
Justin and Jennifer spent the first couple “Amazing Race” episodes constantly mid-argument (with Jennifer as the regular instigator), but then they started getting along and making geeky pop culture references and having fun. That made it all the more disappointing when a forgotten Roadblock clue left Jennifer standing around an African village waiting for further instruction as one team after another passed them by.
Click through for Justin & Jennifer’s full “Amazing Race” exit interview…
HitFix: So how did you guys watch the episode?
Justin Young: I actually watched it here in New York. I was in town for the marathon. I ran with Ethan, Liz, Marie, Jeremy and Sandy. Cindy and Ernie and Jennifer were in town to watch, so we all ended up watching together yesterday at a bar in New York City. It was another riveting episode, for sure, but I think that the people who watched with us and our friends who watched with us were definitely sad to see us go.
HitFix: How was the experience, Jennifer?
Jennifer Young: I actually was at the same dinner place as everyone else, but I decided to go and catch the train before the episode came on. I knew it was gonna be a tough one to watch, so I went ahead and headed home. Then I watched it alone this morning and just kinda took it all in.
HitFix: I’m sorry to have to ask this, since I know you’ve been answering the same question all morning long, but could you go through what you remember from that Roadblock and how that compared to what we saw on TV?
Jennifer: They cut me a break, kinda, because they could have done the “One hour later” kinda thing, because I was standing out there going back and forth to the main road quite a few times, so it could have been worse. I feel terrible for wasting as much time as I did, because it was totally on me. I can almost guarantee that we wouldn’t have gotten eliminated if I had brought my clue or if I’d just turned around and came back as soon as I dropped off my fish. It was rough, because it was definitely on my shoulders that day and I let our team down, but Justin’s been really gracious about it and everybody’s been really sweet. I got my first street recognition today leaving the bagel shop. A lady honked her horn and she was like, “Oh no! Oh no! I was watching last night. I’m so sad!” So everyone was really supportive and I think we turned a corner with fans and they really felt our pain yesterday.
HitFix: It was really frustrating to watch. Is there any kind of clarification you can give, something that maybe we wouldn’t understand about how you were feeling in that moment?
Jennifer: No, I think it was written all over my face, that anxiety of “What do I do? Do I go back and waste time going back and then maybe having to come back to this village to drop off something to somebody else? What do I do?” It was just an anxiety-ridden afternoon where I just didn’t know where to go or when to go or if I should commit to one thing or another. My gut feeling was just to go back to the beginning, but I should have done it a lot sooner.
HitFix: Justin, in Sunday’s episode, Jennifer said that she lost track of time while this was all happening. I assume you had a better sense of time. How long do you think you were standing there?
Justin: We were standing there for quite a bit and after the other teams left, it almost seemed like Amani and Marcus, they finished up the Speed Bump and then Marcus sped back on the bike and was done with the Roadblock, so I think we were probably behind by like an hour.
HitFix: And then you also had to know there was the possibility of the U-Turn coming up. As you doing the canoe task, did you have any sense of what the other task was like? And having seen it done on TV last night, do you think you could have completed it?
Justin: I think we could have completed it, for sure, but it would have taken a lot of effort, especially after the canoes. For me, in the moment, I was really more concerned about whether we got U-Turned in the first place. Honestly, we were so far behind and I think everybody else got a sense of that, so there was no need to add insult to injury and U-Turn us as well.
HitFix: So you weren’t surprised by the lack of U-Turn? In a lot of seasons, there’s been a cutthroat aspect to the U-Turns, but this season it felt like maybe everybody liked everybody else and nobody wanted to be *that* team?
Justin: Yeah, this season we all seemed to get along really really well and they’re all good people, but we also kinda had discussions, like “What would you do? What would you do if you came up against a U-Turn” and for us, we all said that if it came down to it, we would use it on somebody who was immediately on our heels to try to make sure that we got to the Pit Stop, but otherwise, if there was no need to use it, nobody felt compelled to have to basically hurt anybody in that way.
HitFix: That seems so… warm and fuzzy… Does that sound right to you, Jennifer?
Jennifer: Yeah, we had a warm and fuzzy Race. This weekend was testament to that, because we reunited with some of our castmates while Justin ran the marathon. Justin ran, Liz and Marie ran, Jeremy and Sandy ran and Cindy and Ernie came out to support everybody and I came into town, too. So it was really amazing and this is a great group of people. Yeah, some people may have done things along the way that weren’t exactly the friendliest, but I really think that for the most part we ran this Race good-naturedly and it was pretty cool. So “warm and fuzzy” it was.
HitFix: For the first couple episodes, it looked as if you guys were constantly bickering and then suddenly it stopped for the last few episodes. Was that a fair representation of how your journey went?
Jennifer: Yeah, I think we started out and we didn’t communicate really well with each other about what we needed. If we’re going to the movies back home and I roll my eyes, that’s one thing, but if we’re in the middle of Taiwan and I roll my eyes, it means something completely different and it’s a lot more frustrating. So we just had to learn how to deal with one another and how to respond to each other and it was a quick turnaround for us. Justin’s a surgeon and he has to think on his feet all the time. I teach special ed and I have to make adjustments when I get a new student. We adjusted to each other and it worked out pretty well.
HitFix: What was that adjusting process like for you, Justin?
Justin: I think it was clear that we were both frustrated in the beginning, but I knew that we were a good, solid team. We were still doing well even when we ended up fighting, but I knew we could be that much better if we got that out of the way. So that was just an extra variable that was unnecessary. I think over the few episodes that we were there, we did get the chance to really shine and step up to the plate and I was just glad that we left on such a positive note and in a good way.
HitFix: Following up on that… We’ve dwelled on the negatives, but you guys had a couple really strong second-place legs down the stretch. Is there anything you’re particularly proud of in those performances?
Jennifer: I think just getting it together and not bickering and not fighting and just enjoying the moment was really what counted. And for me, I did enjoy that we got to see so many places and go so many places and just do it together, it was just a really special experience.
Justin: For me, what was really surprising and what was really rewarding is when you’re in those moments. You don’t really think of it at first, because you’re all so huddled and bunched together, but then when you get to that serendipitous moment where you realize that you’re actually really far ahead or about to finish in a good place, it really does highlight how awesome the experience is. It was great. It really was great to just work hard, work together and just be a good, solid team.
HitFix: For each of you, do you have a favorite Race moment that maybe we didn’t see on TV?
Jennifer: They do a good job of showing at least a small part of everything you did. For me, the best and most fun was what we did in Phuket with the coral and the being in the ocean. I am a water-child and I love being in the ocean. I could float in the ocean all day if you let me. So that was really awesome. I think it was written on our faces for that entire leg. We pretty much smiled the whole time. Maybe we had a few bumps in the kayak, but we were mostly smiling and it really was the best.
Justin: I think for me, Thailand was definitely a highlight, but I also enjoyed the moments a little bit behind-the-scenes that they didn’t put into the show where we got to bond together as teams and really get to know everybody. I know you said it was a touchy-feely or a warm-and-fuzzy season, but we really did have a good time and we made some solid friendships while we were out there.
HitFix: Was there anything notable about the overnight at Kumbali Village?
Jennifer: We carried our beds and slept on our beds. They always make sure that we’re well-fed and it was just a beautiful experience. Sometimes you do get so focused that by the time you get to that Pit Stop, that you just chill out and you’re quiet, but still… you’re in Africa and not only that, but the Warm Heart of Africa, and the people really were beautiful, amazing and wonderful. The women who were singing there when we checked in, it was touching and it was one of the best mat experiences along the way.
HitFix: A number of fans have been reacting to the number of Non-Elimination Legs at the front of the Race this season. Did that feel unusual to you guys as you were racing?
Justin: I think it seemed a little unusual, but at the same time I really wish we’d ended up with one of them. I was hoping that maybe they would extend that luck to us. But yeah, it’s one of those things. It is an incredible show, but at the same time, it’s a game show and so we’re at the mercy of the rules of that show. And yeah, will it make a huge difference? Hmmm… Probably not. But it means that there are some good episodes coming up and I think people just have to tune in and just faith that The Race will give them good episodes.
HitFix: And just as a last question, how did the Marathon go?
Justin: It was an incredible experience. I’m so glad I did it. We all were raising money for Ethan’s charity, Grassroots Soccer, and I started out strong and did a great half-marathon and then when I finally got to Mile 15, my legs started to cramp up, so it got a little hairy. But once I got to Central Park and ran to the finish, it was just such an incredible, beautiful experience and the moments I was really down, I ran into Cindy and Ernie and Jennifer and they ran with me a little bit and it was great. I’m glad everybody participated, finished and had a good time.
HitFix: How much pain are you in today?
Justin: Not as much as I thought I would be. I’m actually doing OK. Just a little bit of muscle aches and some unfortunate chafing, but other than that, I’m in good shape and in good spirits.
HitFix: And how is Ethan doing?
Justin: Ethan has been great. He’s been very positive. He was really committed to doing the marathon and finishing the marathon and he did an excellent job and had a great time. It’s just really inspiring to know that of all the good that he does and the things that are going on with him, he really is committed and focused on continuing the fight and living his life. It’s just beautiful to get the chance to catch up with him and to really see that first-hand. He’s doing well and in a good mind-set right now. We’re definitely supportive and I hope everything goes well for him.