HitFix Interview: Ron & Bill talk ‘The Amazing Race’

A lot happened over the first two legs of “The Amazing Race.” 
There were four or five challenges, several travel equalizers, several more opportunities for taxi cab disasters, plus several penalties for slower teams.
In the end, last Sunday’s double-elimination largely came down to that most popular of “Amazing Race” pitfalls: Read the clues or suffer the consequences.
Eight of 11 teams failed to notice a posted clue telling them to give all of their currency — not just currency earned at a preceding challenge — to an Indonesian orphanage. Failure to read that clue wasn’t entirely what knocked “Survivor” winners Ethan & Jenna and flight attendants Ron & Bill out of the Race, but had they successfully noticed the clue, both teams would have been able to avoid elimination.
You’ve already read my exit interview with Ethan & Jenna, but click through to see what Ron & Bill had to say about their Race demise…
HitFix: So, first, I already asked Jenna & Ethan this. I’m sure before the game you went through all sorts of hypotheticals regarding what might get you eliminated from the Race. Did you ever imagine your downfall would just be reading?
Bill Smith: I’ll be honest, I never thought a clue would be our demise, because we’ve watched the show for so many years and we’re so attuned to the clues. Our biggest fear was that taxis would send us out of the Race and although the clue ultimately did us in, taxis were what got us to 11th place. We’re not making excuses. We’re just putting out there what happened, but couldn’t be shown for time constraints. But we never would have suspected it would be a clue, in our wildest dreams.
HitFix: What do you think was the challenge to that particular clue, that eight of the 11 teams didn’t read it properly or notice it?
Bill: It wasn’t in a pretty yellow envelope. 
Ron Zeitz: When we came to the orphanage, there was a very festive atmosphere with the students and the girls who lived there and the teachers and we were excited because we were able to complete the task pretty quickly and we were thrilled to be able to collect that money and give it to them, so it was a pretty fun environment. Not only that, but our adrenaline was rushing, because I thought we’d been able to make up some time we’d lost with some really crappy cab experiences and so we were feeling really excited, so we never even saw the sign at all.
Bill: Going into the orphanage, we knew what our task was, it was to collect the money and turn it in, so it was a no-brainer: Just turn the money in. So we were just taking in the moment, the giving of the money. We weren’t even thinking “There’s another clue…” or “Would there be another clue?” It was just about it being a simple task and enjoying the moment, which we did. So there was so much going on, we didn’t think to ourselves, “Well let’s look around the room” or “Let’s look around the table,” because we were really taking in the moment of what the orphanage represented and the gift. Had it been “Take the money to the local teller at the bank,” had we walked into an environment like that, we would have seen the sign in a heartbeat, because there’d be no other situations that were distracting us, but we were so caught up in the excitement of that task and what it meant that we could have stood there for 10 minutes and we never would have seen that sign, because we just weren’t looking for an additional clue. We thought we pretty much had the task in hand to deliver the money and celebrate the moment.
HitFix: And then you guys were walking to the Pit Stop after that and you had several teams pass you going the other direction, back in the direction of the orphanage. What did you think they were all going to do?
Ron: What we were thinking was that the next stop was not going to be a Pit Stop and that the Race was going to be continuing, so we had no idea that they were all heading back to the orphanage to turn in all their money. We thought, “OK. The Race is going to be continuing.”
Bill: And the reason we thought that is that if you saw the clue we got, it wasn’t in an “Amazing Race” envelope. It was an emblem. So nowhere on it did it say, “Make your way to the Pit Stop.” It was just an emblem, so you had to figure out from that emblem where to go. So for us, it was just another Route Info, but in a very different type of a form. So we were like, “Wow. They’re really mixing it up giving us this.” So we had to figure out “What does this mean?” But nothing said to us that we were going to the Pit Stop, so when we saw those other teams coming back, it made absolutely sense for us, in that moment, to think “OK. They went to the next clue box, they got their clue and now they’re going on to the next thing.” So we were like, “OK. We’ve got time to catch up, because the Race is still going.” That was our thought the whole time we saw them, until we got to see Phil and we realized why they went back.
HitFix: Knowing how everything went down, what was it like actually watching that episode on TV and reliving?
Ron: I was having a hard time watching it, I have to admit. It wasn’t a mystery, what was going to happen to us, but I was just having a hard time watching it, reliving it. That was a pretty hard day. It was hot, the adrenaline was pumping, the peaks and valleys of stress were going on. I was having a hard time watching it.
Bill: For me, It wasn’t hard to watch it. It was exciting to watch it. It was just thinking to yourself, “Of all of the things that came our way that we couldn’t control…” — like the taxis, again, not to make any excuses — “…had we just caught that one framed picture, how it would have changed our destiny in the Race.” And it would have changed things for other teams too, because Marcus & Amani would have been eliminated. We had so much going against us that we couldn’t control, but this could have been one of those “Amazing Race” comeback stories that the Race is so famous for, so knowing that we didn’t do that and thinking that we could… But watching the other teams miss it also and also get caught up in that moment, it made me realize… Had we been the only team that missed it, I would have been like, “We are just idiots.” But there definitely was a sense that nobody was anticipating looking for a clue, so while it’s frustrating that we couldn’t have used that to have this amazing save, it was hard to watch, but it was also exciting. But for me, the ultimate was seeing how we left. I wanted so much for people, through the Race, to get to know us, more than  just winning the million dollars, just to get to know us as a team. I know that watching the Race, I love getting to know the teams and our time was definitely cut short, but I felt like CBS and “The Amazing Race” did such a great job of portraying who we are. We did it by being ourselves, but the way they put it out there was truly who we are and I think that in a short time, people got a chance to see…
Ron: How we work together…
Bill: Yeah, and our relationship. And that, to me, meant more than anything watching the episode.
HitFix: We’ve talked a lot about negative things, but give me a favorite Race moment from what you experienced that maybe we didn’t get to see on TV.
Ron: One thing was just how supportive we were of one another at every turn, even when we were in cabs realizing that it was turning out to be a terrible ride, just talking ourselves through it and maintaining a really great positive attitude and just taking it all in, whatever it was that going on, even when we were just cruising along, even if we were lost, just being able to take that in and not getting overwhelmed with this sense of dread that this cab ride could jeopardize our participation in the race.
Bill: Early on, there are so many teams that it’s hard to cover so much of what happened, so just our interaction and how we interact, that’s the only thing that I missed seeing on there, though in the end there was great interaction. But as far as the events that we got to take part in, that was all covered really well. The second leg especially, the rappel was amazing and we got to watch that. The dancing was just a wonderful, fun, crazy experience. So there’s nothing that we did on the Race that was left out that we wish you could have seen, except just for people to see a little more interaction. But again, for the first couple legs of the Race, it’s hard to see that in the teams, because really in the early days, the only teams that get coverage are if there’s a lot of drama or big issues, like the passports. We’re not a big drama couple, so we knew in the early episodes we wouldn’t get a ton of coverage, because we just don’t create a ton of scandal. Except for getting kicked out. Then you get the coverage. But I feel like we got a lot of great coverage, considering how early it was.
HitFix: Well, you say you’re a no-drama couple, but couples always end up fighting over SOMETHING on “The Amazing Race.” What do you guys think you *would* have fought over if you’d continued on.
Bill: I should have said “low drama.” 
Ron: That’s a big expectation. I think, if anything, knowing how I am when mounting stress and fatigue set in, I’m sure there would have been some moments where I started, I don’t want to say “losing it” because that sounds so extreme, but where you are beginning to doubt yourself and it’s starting to show in your irritability. Knowing myself, that’s how I would answer that question.
Bill: I’ll give you an example, Dan, that happened and it wasn’t caught on film: At one point, after we’d had what was the third of what would be four disastrous cab rides — Again, I keep repeating this, we’re not making excuses, we’re just telling the story — at the end of that cab ride, Ron was so, not “overwhelmed,” but so completely over what we were experiencing.
Ron: With the cabs.
Bill: We went in knowing that there were going to be challenges with the cabs, but we didn’t know every cab was going to be a challenge. So it’s two in the morning and we’ve just ended up in 11th place, through no mistake of our own — we weren’t at the front of the pack, but we hadn’t made a mistake until the orphanage — and we’re going in and we did what we had to do and he’s like, “I need to talk to you right now” and I’m like, “I need water right now” and he’s like “I need to talk to you right now.” That’s an example of our drama. He was so frustrated with what we couldn’t control and what we couldn’t fix that at that moment, he just needed to vent. A lot of times he’ll tell me, “I don’t need you to give me a solution. I just need you to listen.” That’s a perfect example of the kind of drama we’d have, where he’s like, “You know know what? You just need to hear me. Let me vent. Let me say what I need to say. I don’t need you to fix it. Just let me talk.” At that moment, it was definitely there at two in the morning. It was just like, “How do we fix this? How do we make this work?” and it was definitely a moment where we were like, “This isn’t going the way we want.” That’s a real-life story.
HitFix: There were no particular phobias you figured you were going to have to face at some point that would produce stress?
Bill: Oh yeah. I’m claustrophobic, so I was worried about small place situations. When the caves happened, I had chosen to do that. We both wanted to have that experience, but Ron ultimately said, “I want you to have this experience.” So I didn’t know, going in there, how big the cave would be. So I thought, “Well what if it’s one of those tiny little caves where you have to crawl through on your hands and knees?” So when we got down there, although it was dark and it certainly wasn’t inviting, I was thankful, at least, that it was large and open, because I have severe claustrophobia. And Ron’s biggest fear was that at some point they’d throw us on a roller coaster. That’s his major phobia.
Ron: I don’t know why, but it is.
Bill: And he probably didn’t want me to share that, but he hates roller coasters. 
HitFix: You guys are both flight attendants. Were there any travel-based skills that y’all were hoping you’d eventually get to bring into play as an advantage?
Ron: What we really thought we could utilize the further we went in the Race, especially when it came to airplanes, was identifying ourselves as fellow crew members to airplane crew members and maybe finagling seats closer to the exit door. That’s what’d we’d planned to do as the Race progressed.
HitFix: Were these locations you were at least generally familiar with? Had you traveled around Asia previously? 
Ron: No, it was our first time.
HitFix: Will you take the chance, do you think, to go back to re-experience them?
Bill: We always have said that when we go somewhere, we always want to take it in for what it is, but we never try to repeat that experience, because you can never make it what it was the first time. So there’s tons of Asia that we’ve never been to and we want to go back to, but we probably wouldn’t go back to where we were, because that’s kinda a special memory that we never really would want to replace with anything else. So there’s a lot of places in Asia that we want to visit, but we probably won’t go back there… Even though that’s where we were eliminated, both Taiwan and Jakarta and Yogyakarta will always have a very special memory for us. When else do you run “The Amazing Race” in your life?
Previous “Amazing Race” exit interviews…