HitFix Interview: Jamie & Nary talk ‘The Amazing Race’

There are two very different approaches to touting your credentials as a federal agent on a reality TV show.
There’s The Phillip Sheppard Method: The “Survivor” contestant announced his credentials as a former federal agent so early and so often and with such outspoken enthusiasm that his fellow contestants either doubted his background or doubted his sanity. He made it to the end of the season in part because Boston Rob knew he couldn’t possibly win and carried him along.
Then there’s The Jamie & Nary Method: The “Amazing Race” team decided they were going to tell their competition that they actually worked as teachers, rather than as federal agents. This strange plan sprung a leak when another team, border agents, began to suspect them of being in law enforcement. This led to fighting and variably passive aggressive hostilities, but not much else.
Jamie Graetz & Nary Ebeid were able to weather their difficulties with Art & JJ, but the federal agents were unable to overcome a multi-hour deficit and a Speed-Bump on last Sunday’s (April 15) Leg of “The Amazing Race.”
It was still a solid run for Jamie & Nary, who made it through more than half of the Race without internal bickering and definitely came out of FederalAgentGate looking saner than Art & JJ.
In their exit interview, Jamie and Nary discuss the strategy behind their professional obfuscation as well as the difficulties of the tent-building challenge that ultimately proved to be their undoing.
Click through for the full interview…
HitFix: You guys came into this last Leg with a major time deficit. Did you know exactly how far behind you were?
Jamie Graetz: Yeah. When we started the last Leg of the Race, we knew we were hours behind. Everybody did that crater, which took about an hour, and that was great, because we could enjoy it and take our heads out of the game for a minute, but then we knew as soon as that was over that we had to hit the ground running and make up some serious time.
HitFix: What does it do for your mindset going into a Leg with that sort of deficit, knowing that you have no margin-for-error, but also that you’ve got a bigger deficit coming because of the Speed-Bump?
Nary Ebeid: I think Jamie and I always had a good attitude about everything we did. So knowing we were still behind, we always knew that there was room for error from the other teams. We also knew that there was a U-Turn and we pretty much had a feeling that two teams were going to be U-Turned. so we knew that there was still potential for us to catch up. We never put it in our heads that, “We’re done and we’re going to do this slow and we don’t care and we’re going to walk to the Pit Stop. We don’t care. We’re gonna take our time.” We never had that in our head. We ran all the way through. We raced the entire way, no matter what, because something can happen along the way. You never know. And that’s how we were racing all the way through to the end.
HitFix: And was it easy to set the Race aside to actually enjoy that hour ride through the crater?
Jamie: I think that for us, it was pretty easy to. We kinda were already in a certain place and we were like, “OK. Today’s gonna be a tough day, but we’re OK with however it ends, as long as we’re safe and we have a good time.” So we were taking it all in and it was probably pretty hard not to. You can’t really explain with words the scenery and the animals. It was really an amazing, unbelievable experience. We really appreciate that the show did that for us. You come and go from these countries so quickly and sometimes it’s only at night and you don’t really get to see much, so I was super-appreciative that the show gave us that time to appreciate where we were. It was very likely that none of us will ever get back there again.
Nary: The Ngorongoro Crater is just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it’s just an absolutely breathtaking thing to see. The wildlife is just right next to your vehicle and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I got to check it off of my bucket list that I went on an African safari. It was just an amazing, amazing experience. Just being able to take your head out of the game and enjoy what you were doing was just an unbelievable experience.
HitFix: What went through your heads when you spotted the other teams in Karatu and you realized that at least you were going to see them and maybe even have a chance to catch up?
Jamie: We did run into Brendon and Rachel and they had confirmed, after we chose to do Air Supply, the bike challenge, they did confirm that that was the easier one to do, but besides seeing them, which was a great feeling, the big thing was when we were doing the Speed-Bump and we saw Ralph and Vanessa. That was like a huge eye-opener. We were like “Wow. The only thing that separates us right now is the Speed-Bump.” That probably took us maybe 15 or 20 minutes to do. If you watched the previous episode, you saw that we beat the Mississippi Girls because they got lost, so I had in my mind, “Well shoot. What if the tax cab doesn’t know where to go? Or what if it breaks down?” So the 15 or 20 minutes that were separating us, i.e. the Speed-Bump, that was pretty impressive. We made up hours worth of time. So that was a little spark under our butts.
HitFix: And then was there a moment when you saw what the Roadblock actually was and you saw that the bees and honey harvesting weren’t going to be challenging? Was there a moment of disappointment when you saw it wasn’t going to be more time-consuming than that?
Nary: It was a fast challenge. It actually went faster than I thought. Then, of course, we were the only ones there and it was like, “OK. Maybe they did come through and they’re already at the Pit Stop” or “Maybe they didn’t find this place.” Because we completed that task so fast, we thought, “Wow. We did this quick. Maybe somebody else took a longer time.” So seeing that challenge didn’t stop us in any way or mess with our heads in any way. It was just, “We have a task. We need to finish it. And we need to keep moving.” So that’s just how we had it in our heads the whole time.
HitFix: What are your thoughts now reflecting back on the tent-building task? That’s pretty much what did you guys in, right?
Jamie: Yeah, that was a doozy. It was tough. It set us back. We both feel like it was hard for many reasons. We’re not very big people. It was hard for us to get the structure set. It was also tough because, you kinda tell, but they’re just canvas bags full of poles. There’s no instructions on how to put it up. You’re just looking at a ton of poles and they’re rusty and they don’t fit in together well and there’s no oil. Everything was not easy, I guess you can say. Every part of that was hard. Everything was heavy. Not to complain, because we got it done, but when you look at it, it just wasn’t an easy task and it did slow us down. Then, unfortunately for us the next day, we didn’t end up meeting at an airport and waiting for a flight or anything, which ultimately gives teams time to catch up. In a lot of circumstances they do. Mark & Bopper were living to see another day because they caught up at a train station. We just never got that opportunity. It unfortunately went to another Pit Stop and, for us, there was just not enough time in the day to catch up.
HitFix: You mentioned that you guys are not the biggest team. Did you feel like there was, I don’t want to say “gender bias,” but did you guys feel like you guys were at a disadvantage that there was nothing you could do about?
Nary: I wouldn’t necessarily say that there was “bias,” but then on the flip side, if there were other female teams, they probably would have had just as hard a time as we did. This thing was super-tall. The pieces were heavy. Ralph just threw the thing over his shoulder and walked away. Jamie and I had to carry them together, because they were heavy. And reaching up for the pieces, we were stepping up on a wobbly table to try to reach. Putting some of these pieces together, like Jamie said, they’re rusty. They’re hard. It’s tough. Some of the stuff, I felt like I was using all of might and I was like, “OK. If I can’t get these pieces together, I don’t know what we’re going to do,” because they were tough to get together. Getting that base, in and of itself… And then it’s so high and you’re trying to throw the tarp over it. There was a lot that came into play and if you had somebody taller and maybe somebody stronger, yeah, that would have helped. But I don’t know if I would necessarily say “gender bias,” because what if you had a woman who was really tall or really big and strong?
HitFix: OK. Talk me through the decision to not tell the other teams about your actual jobs?
Jamie: It was just our strategy. We came up with the strategy prior to the beginning of the Race. In our experience — I’ve been on over eight years and Nary’s been on over six years — you come across people who don’t know anything about you, but when they find out that you work for the government or in law enforcement, they already have stereotypes and a lot of those are bad, or skewed. So we thought that to get on a more even playing field and people can get to know us for who we are and based off of our actions and what we say, they’ll be like, “Oh, Nary and Jamie are like this, because this is what we’ve seen.” That’s all we really wanted. It wasn’t that we thought we were better than anybody. That was just our strategy. We didn’t know U-Turns were going to come into the game pretty late, towards the end. We also didn’t know and it turned out that there were several people in law enforcement and the military. That can be seen as A) “Oh, we can all work together” or it can also be B) The opposite, where you can be like, “Oh, well they too are federal agents and if we get beaten by two female federal agents, we’re never going to live this down at work.” I think that’s probably why Art and JJ wanted us out towards the end. They were conspiring with Bopper to try to get rid of us and Bopper wasn’t having it. They probably were like, “Man, if we get beaten by two women, we’re never gonna hear the end of it.” If nothing else, I thought it was funny. I think it’s funny when we were stacking watermelons and Art & JJ were like, “Go teachers!” That made me laugh. I thought it was funny. We I had to do it again, I’d do it again. I thought it was funny.
HitFix: It seemed like you guys might have been perfectly happy to admit what you did, but you objected to the way Art & JJ sorta tried to out you. What did you guys think about their approach in that circumstance?
Nary: Jamie and I said if from beforehand: If they approached us in a professional manner and they were like, “Hey. This was said. That was said. We came up with this conclusion. Is it true?” in a more cordial manner, we probably would have said, “Yes we are. It was a strategy and that’s why we lied and said we were teachers.” But the way it was approached… Vanessa and Rachel were fighting and it’s embarrassing, in the airport, and we were extremely embarrassed for them, so we were like, “We’re gonna stay far back away from this nonsense.” And then it was really literally minutes after that argument that he comes and tries to stir another pot and we’re like, “Come on. This is what you’re doing? This is child-like behavior. You’re trying to stir more of a pot here.” So that’s why we didn’t tell them off-hand at that moment. We were like, “You know what? Let their brains go crazy. Let them think, ‘Oh. Are they local cops? Are they federal agents? I don’t know.'” We were like, “Let them go crazy trying to figure it out.” So that’s why we kept it that way. It was because of their approach. It just wasn’t a nice approach.
HitFix: Were there skills from your professional skill-set that you hoped maybe would be more of an asset on the Race and that maybe didn’t come into play as much as you hoped?
Jamie: Maybe. I think overall who we are and why we do what we do, it takes kinda a certain individual who’s willing to kinda be willing to potentially be shot at and carry a gun and it’s not normal and I get that, but I think overall, it really did do us justice. You didn’t ever hear us fighting and bickering and berating each other. When you give us a mission, we’re gonna get it done. It might take us a little bit longer. or we might even be quick, but whatever the case, we’re gonna get it done and we’re gonna figure it out and we’re gonna see it to the end and that, overall, I think is very much what we do. We do function a lot on little sleep and on maybe not very much food sometimes and that you might not see so much on camera, it might not be so apparent, but as soon as people started getting tired and hungry, it was weird. You’d see people start to fight and you’d see weird things happen because they’re not used to it. On TV, you don’t really know that we haven’t slept and we haven’t eaten, so you wouldn’t maybe attribute that to being sleep-deprived, but certain things like that. I think our skill-set really did carry us through. When I jumped over and rappelled down that parking garage, should I have gotten it on the first try? Absolutely, but I couldn’t reach the rope. So in certain regards like that? Yeah. I kick myself in the ass every time I think about out, but I think overall it did us justice and it really helped us through the game.
Nary: Like Jamie, doing what we do for a living brings a lot of skill-sets, mental and physical. We’re in pretty good physical shape, so that helped us. Mentally, there are times where we don’t sleep for days, so that helped us out, even though we don’t sleep for days for almost a month at a time, we get to rest it off, it catches up to you. Stuff like that. And just being mentally strong. In certain things we have to do, we have to be mentally strong, because we don’t know what’s on the other side of something. So for us, it’s like you have to try to stay as calm as possible, because the more angry you get and the more you’re gonna fight, the worse the situation is gonna be. That’s why Jamie and I work well and work the way we did and just supported each other, because yelling at each other wasn’t going to get us anywhere and that’s the same with our profession as well.
This season’s “Amazing Race” exit interviews: