Interview: John & Jessica talk ‘The Amazing Race’

If you watched C-SPAN last week, you learned a lot about the important role of filibustering in American democracy.
And if you read my “Amazing Race” exit interview with John Erck and Jessica Hoel, you can learn a lot about the important role of filibustering in conversations with reporters.
John & Jessica had one of the most notorious Legs in “Amazing Race” history on Sunday, going home with the all-powerful Express Pass still in the pocket, having misread the competitive circumstances at both sides of a Detour and then at a Roadblock.
I had many questions about John & Jessica’s Race, which started with them winning the first Leg and ended in ignominy, but if you look at the transcript, you’ll see that two of their answers took up the majority of our interview time. Both of those epic answers are very illuminating into what their mindset was in that last Leg and why they made the decisions they made, but those two answers kept me from discussing things like the random stranger they started working with when they went to the wrong house at the start of the Detour, John’s repeated insistence that he has a strong eye for detail, what, if anything, the Leg told them about the way they relate as a couple or what they’d thought about Phil’s “Oy vey” response.
So it goes!
Check out the full Q&A below…
HitFix: So how have friends and loved ones reacted to Sunday’s episode?
Jessica Hoel: Friends and loved ones were so supportive. People were just so excited that excited that we were on the Race. We recent moved to California. We’re from Minnesota. My family was just overwhelmed with joy that we were on TV, that it was so fun to watch. Last night, I think people were disappointed, but everybody, of course, has been supportive of it and understand reaching out and hoping we’re doing OK. So I think the only thing is they’re just disappointed that they don’t get to see us ever Sunday.
John Erck: I had a very similar experience to Jess in that respect, just friends and loved ones being really supportive and telling us how much fun it has been to watch “The Amazing Race” this season since we were on the show.
HitFix: I assume Sunday’s episode would have been a hard one to watch for you guys. How did watching it on TV compare to the way you remembered things playing out?
Jessica: Personally, first of all, I think watching it on TV, there was a lot building up to it, because I mean, we’re not allowed to talk about to everyone, but there was a lot of, “It’s so exciting! You guys are doing so well! You’re going to win!” and then it was a definite shocker because we were doing so well. I think think this episode, it just wasn’t our day.
There were a lot of things that happened, a lot of things that were going through our minds that maybe we didn’t get to say on TV, so I think for the audience, maybe, there were some unanswered questions, but it’s always fun to watch it unfold on TV and see what parts they’re gonna pick and see what the other teams were doing. We were having a lot of fun. I know they didn’t show us laughing and they showed us stressed out a lot, but we were definitely laughing a whole lot during this episode and we just just really enjoyed Bali. 
HitFix: You mentioned things that were going through your mind that we didn’t know about, but what would you have liked audiences members to know that was going through your mind in those moments in that last Leg?
Jessica: I’m sure you’re kinda asking about the Express Pass… [She laughs.] At the fruit challenge, first of all, that challenge was very tedious and we had it checked multiple times and every time I think was there probably longer than they should have been. We had it checked multiple times and they kept denying it and saying, “No, no, no, no.” We thought we were gonna get a little closure last night, actually, on what we did wrong, what actually we had to do in order to complete it. You never never what we were missing. Was it like a little iteration, was it another piece of fruit, did it have to be wider? So with that, we didn’t have any idea of what we did wrong. So the reason we didn’t use the Express Pass there is we thought that potentially the Derby Girls or Dave & Connor were behind us still and then we also, in timing how long it took Meghan & Joey to complete theirs and get it approved, it was an hour-and-half. We were looking at the Hockey Players and Chuck & Wynona and their offerings kinda looked like ours and so we thought maybe they would have have to redo theirs too. So we decided to just go to the other Detour thinking that maybe we’ll have another chance to use our Express Pass if necessary at that Detour or the next Roadblock.
At the next Detour, we didn’t see the Derby Girls and we had no indication that they had even been there, so we’re like, “Maybe they’re still behind us.” That Detour only took us about 10 minutes to complete, so we thought, “Hey, given our timing and how long to do the fruit basket…” we thought we were still ahead. But again, you don’t have any indication of where you are, I guess, on the map in comparison or how long it took you to get there, how long it took you to get to the final Roadblock.
Then at the Roadblock, when we picked up that clue, there was actually another clue in the cluebox, which I know they do often, but that kinda just reconfirmed that, “Hey! There’s another clue in here. The Derby Girls or Dave & Connor, they could still be behind us,” so that just reconfirmed it. And we thought it was a surfing challenge, so we thought it was going to be one of those challenges where we could see where all the other teams were at and we had a good chance to use our Express Pass. And in a lot of the Roadblocks, usually it’s a Roadblock and then you take some form of transportation to Phil, but in this one, we were split up and then you had to deliver it right to the check-in mat to Phil. So when I got up there and I saw Wynona was there and she told me were the last team, I wasn’t able to leave that area and you have to be together in order to use the Express Pass, so there was no point for me to give John the information that, “Hey, we are last” and then John was still under the impression that there could have been another team behind us given all the assumptions that we throughout the day.
So those are are kinda just the little things, I guess, of what we were thinking in our head. I also was really, really sick. I had food poisoning. I almost wasn’t able to get on the plane because I couldn’t stop getting sick, so I think that kinda added to the tiredness and stress that I was having that day.
And then I guess another piece that I wish the audience had just seen more is just how much fun we were having. We were really enjoying ourselves there and we were working together a lot more than it showed and the decisions that we made were mutual, even if it kinda looked like it was one-sided, but we worked together on it.
HitFix: John, what was going through your mind in that Roadblock when you were out of communication and you didn’t know a lot of what Jessica just said and you were persisting and persisting?
John: Yeah, there were a number of unknowns throughout the entire Roadblock, in my mind. From my perspective, kinda like what Jess described, we showed up at the surfboard Roadblock and we went to pull our clue and when we went and looked in the box, we had pulled our clue and there was still one additional clue in there. So that kinda reaffirmed in our minds, “Hey the idea that the Derby Girls are behind us, that is probably true. It certainly appears that way, because there’s an additional clue in this box.” So that’s the state-of-mind that I entered that challenge from is, “OK. We’re not in last place.” So rather than using the Express Pass right away, we’re thinking, “Well, let’s just get started on this and if the Derby Girls show up, then we won’t even mess around. We’ll just use the Express Pass, zip by this and be off to the next Leg of the Race.”
It turns out though, hindsight being 20/20 and what’s obvious to everybody that’s watching it unfold on TV, is that the Derby Girls weren’t behind us and that at that point in time, we were last and that the addition clue in the box was basically a decoy. So all those sorts of things become clear with hindsight being 20/20 or if you’re just watching the television program unfold on TV. So I think that if somebody was to watch that, understanding that, it would probably make a lot more sense than it maybe seems at first glance.
Then when I did start doing the challenge, right at the very beginning when I first showed up at the actual surfboards, Chuck was still there and so, again, I thought that the Derby Girls were behind us and Chuck’s there, so we’re right in the mix of it again. But there came a point, though, where Chuck figured out what was the correct board and he grabbed it and he ran up there and I’m still searching. Well I had searched every single board that was presented to us and I couldn’t figure out and I wasn’t certain which sticker was the special one. So then I thought to myself, “Well, rather than just grabbing a random surfboard and running up there and just checking it, how about I stay lightweight right now and run up to the top of the hill where I saw Chuck run, but without a surfboard, go there and see what other people have been checking in, figure out what the sticker is and then come back down and get a surfboard and then check in before the Derby Girls.” That’s what I was thinking and so that’s why I ran up to the top without a surfboard initially. And that’s when Jessica brought me up to speed with the fact that, “Hey. We’re in last place.” And at that point, it was essentially news to me that we were last place and I didn’t, at that point, want to immediately give up and write off our chances to be able to pull this one out in some way, shape or form. 
So, if using the Express Pass at that point would have helped us, we would have, but using the Express Pass when we were already known to be in last place, that’s when it didn’t make sense for us to use it. I’m unsure of how people are interpreting it that have watched it on TV, but I think I remember them showing a clip of me saying, “Hey, I don’t understand why I would want to use the Express Pass” or something close to that, but that is me talking from the perspective of now finally understanding that, “Hey, we’re in last place, so it’s not relevant to use it now.” The hope was that we would finish the challenge with our heads held high, never giving up, which we did, and then get to the top and have something miraculous fall our direction. That was the hope, of course, hoping to the very bitter end that perhaps it was a Non-Elimination Leg or another team had a major penalty that allowed us to stay in the Race or something along those lines and we’d have still had the Express Pass for the next Leg of the Race or what have you.
I think all in all, that’s a pretty accurate recap of how it played out from our perspective given what we knew at the time and what I was thinking when I was running that particular challenge.
HitFix: And then when you said at the end that you didn’t need the million dollars, John, did you mean that philosophically or literally?
John: It was certainly philosophical and I intentionally used the word “need,” because it’s such a strong word. It’s 100 percent true that Jess and I both *wanted* the million dollars. We definitely *wanted* the million dollars. We’re super-competitive people. It would be super-fun to win “The Amazing Race” and win a million dollars and all that sorta thing. We did want to win the money. The reason I said that was that I thought it was important at that point to simply recognize the fact that everybody running “The Amazing Race” this season, ourselves included of course, don’t *need* one million dollars and that of all the people all over the world, it’s just important to note from time to time that or course we wanted the money, but it’s super-important to recognize that we don’t *need* this million dollars, that that would just be icing on the cake and it would be so cool and everything, but we don’t need it. It’s important to recognize that. That was my intent when I said that, specifically using the word “need.”
HitFix: Did you guys at least get to keep the actual Express Pass since you didn’t use it?
Jessica: I wish we did! I wish we could just have an Express Pass that we could use for life, you know? But we didn’t to keep it. It’d be kinda cool to have it framed on our wall, I guess.
Earlier exit interviews from this season of “The Amazing Race”: