Interview: Leo & Jamal talk ‘Amazing Race: All-Stars’

Once again, it was so close and yet so far for Leo & Jamal.

For the second straight season, the Afghanimals made the “Amazing Race” Top 4 and, for the second straight season, they fell just short of the finale.

Other than the consecutive fourth place finishes, though, this was a very different season for Leo & Jamal.

Last season, they were consistently marked men, targeted by other teams for their seemingly pointless little lies and manipulations, accusations that were probably overblown, but still detracted from the Afghanimal's consistent joy and enthusiasm at every turn.

This season, Leo & Jamal announced immediately that they didn't want to be viewed the same way and, indeed, they were more earnest and helpful throughout and, perhaps as a result, not only did their rivals not target them, but they were welcomed into alliances.

After going out last season following a frustrating Roadblock for Leo, this season's elimination was much simpler: They just got lost. They struggled going between the Leg's Roadblock and its Detour and they were unable to get back with the pack.

In their “Amazing Race” exit interview, Leo & Jamal discuss the very different ways that they finished fourth, including the misfortunes that sent them home, their tenuous ties to the Accidental Alliance and the advantages of racing two seasons in a row.

[Note: After the second question, Leo had to catch a plane and I completed the rest of the phone conversation just with Jamal. Leo answered a few questions via email and I've woven them into the transcript.]

Click through for the full Q&A…

HitFix: So I guess my first question is could you talk me through what happened last night on the trip between the Roadblock and the Detour and did that really seem to be the answer for what did you guys in out there?

Jamal: Basically we're driving from our Roadblock for our Detour and we asked every local, it was just our luck that every person that we asked they had no idea where the estate was. And each direction that we got pointed us at the wrong direction and it kept leaving us 10/15 minutes behind going the wrong direction and heading back the right direction. So we were just going around in a circle until we got the actual directions from somebody.

Leo: We stopped at gas stations, hotels, UPS and finally when someone had a little hint of where to go we would follow his direction and then like every so often we'd double check and people were saying, “Yeah, keep going that way.” And by the time someone finally realized, “Oh, we're going the wrong way,” we were already really far out.

HitFix: So, when you look back on it was that it? Was that what did you in?

Jamal: Definitely. If we would've just waited at the Roadblock and followed the team that was behind us, which was Dave & Connor, I mean they left last and they got there almost first to the Detour. And I felt like when you're in a situation like that the Top 4 teams, it's always better to keep in sight of another team than to just go on by yourself. But we were so confident in our sense of navigating and driving directions for the past five, seven Legs we're driving getting everywhere by ourselves. People were actually following us. We weren't asking for directions, we just had this sense of GPS in our brains, but when we really needed it, it bit us in the butt.

HitFix: Well, when you look back at sort of the two different ways that you went out in this, you know, at this same stage in the race, which one is sort of more annoying? Is it more annoying to go out on a task that was really frustrating and hard or to go out on directions?

Jamal: So I think more frustrating probably for Leo. He would probably say that building the task just because there was two buttons and the fact that it was right there in front of him. But for me I would say probably this fourth place finish is probably a little bit tougher because we didn't have trouble at the Detour. We finished the roadblock just at the same time as the other teams. And we were in a good position but the one thing that was hard was just navigating and getting to one place to another. And sometimes teams take that for granted, but for us I think this is much harder to swallow than the first time around. I know for Leo it would probably be the opposite.

Leo: I would say that it hurts the same. Last season it hurt soo much because you could see it slipping away when we had the lead. This time around it hurt a lot as well, because it was out of our hands with the overwhelming amount of bad directions. But hey at least we never got eliminated by a U-Turn, Haha. Hopefully we get called back for a third season and finish first! Third times a charm, but until then I'm working on some exciting new projects and might be running for Mayor!

HitFix: How aware were you guys? It looked like you were on the Detour at roughly the same time as Rachel & Brendon right?

Jamal: We thought we saw them at the Detour but unfortunately we didn't see any of the white Ford Focuses. So we saw people out doing the crossing of the lake, so we said that might be them from a distance, but I don't think it was them. We were just by ourselves.

HitFix: Now, we didn't see any of it at the beginning of last night's episode. Was there any annoyance directed at you guys that U-turning the Cowboys instead of Brendon & Rachel?

Jamal: No, absolutely not. I mean the accidental alliance that we made was for us, Dave & Connor and Caroline & Jen to make it to the final three. The Cowboys were never part of the final three discussion and the whole time Leo and I knew that it was going to be U-Turning the Brenchels or the Cowboys. And at that time once I messed up my knee it just made sense to U-Turn the biggest threat in the race. And that was the Cowboys. And the fact that we did U-Turn the Cowboys and it did get them out, it was our strategy at that point in time. Because look, if we wouldn't of gotten lost and we would've made it to the Detour, Brendon and Rachel messed up a major Detour that could've cost them that leg and not gone to the final three. So sometimes things work out the way the way it's supposed to. But if we would've just been there we would've got our Detour done really quick and Brendon & Rachel would've been out. So our U-Turn worked out, just unfortunately we couldn't get there in time with the bad directions.

HitFix: Well, how were you guys feeling about the accidental alliance you were in at that time? You guys seem sort of more amused by how annoyed other teams seemed to be at Brendon and Rachel then actually annoyed at them yourself. Does that sound right?

Jamal: That's about right. Last season people were annoyed at us so we didn't want to be the odd ones out looking in. So we wanted to be on the other side and just sort of, you know, we wanted our Final 3 with Caroline &  Jen and Dave & Connor just because we felt like that would be the easiest two teams for us to beat. We knew that Brendon & Rachel was a threat and also the Cowboys. So we weren't egging on anything. We just were sort of agreeing to what they were saying and just sort of taking a step back and being part of the three teams that sort of took us out last season. Now we're on the other side. Because it's much easier to race when you don't have an extra chip on your shoulder and trying to prove other people wrong.

Leo: The Accidental Alliance was an accident and it was great. It happened right after Dave and Connor got uturned and we don't regret it. It was a three team alliance and we promised we would try our best to get each other to the final three spots. Brendon and Rachel are friends of ours and I talk to them quite often till this day.

HitFix: You guys came back this time with a very different attitude, which he saw almost immediately. We saw it with whatever was happening on the river when you guys were helpful rather then lying and you guys seemed like he wanted to sort of be different and it seemed like you were the whole time. What was the impetus in your mind for the different attitude you guys had out there this time?

Jamal: I think this time there's just a more mutual sense of respect that all teams had for each other just because they're all All-Atars that they came back for two or three times. And everyone knew what it took to do the Race and everyone knew that everyone was a loser and never won the Race. So everybody knew that, “OK he's failed, he's failed, they got close, they got close,” but it wasn't everyone that was new and brand-new to the race where no one knows what to expect and everyone's more cutthroat and “Oh, I'm going to get you” and “You're lying.” It's like high school little drama, “Oh they lied, they said this,” which it was never really the case even in our first season. We're the same people but people rubbed us the wrong way just because they saw us as the biggest threat. But this time around everyone was pretty much equal and the level of competition was pretty strong. So it was just a more mutual like, “We will help you guys if it doesn't make a difference to us, no problem.”

Leo: I think the people who were around us had a big part of it, the teams attitude and how the race was respected and played made a huge impact on our racing attitude. Although we didn't change our racing strategy that much, more of us racing was showed this time around. Last season featured more of teams disliking us and it took away from us being ourselves.

HitFix: Well, does that mean that if you had the chance to do that first season again would you play it the same way you did the first time? So it wasn't like you sort of change because you wanted to change how you played it, you changed because of the competition is what you're saying?

Jamal: Yeah. We changed because of the competition. The first season, if we knew how competitive and strong that Tim & Marie were in the first six episodes of the first season we probably would've aligned ourselves more well with them. Because we ended up getting along very well, until this day we're still really good friends with them. So I think that's probably the biggest change from that first season. Competitive people tend to have some type of mutual respect for each other and that's just in our blood. I mean competing whether it's sports or on the race, when it's racing time you're competitive, it's cutthroat, but then when you're not racing you have that sense of respect that their competitors and they compete at a high level.

HitFix: Well, how did it change? I mean obviously you guys really seemed like you were enjoying this the entire time on both season, but how did it change your enjoyment of the experience to not have other teams sort of gunning for you and talking about you and sort of going against you as it were?

Jamal: It was much easier for both Leo and I to race this time around. Without the fact of other teams trying to gang up and trying to manipulate other teams into swaying to U-Turn us and just creating drama so that we have an extra chip on her shoulder. This time around everyone was more focused on themselves, other than the fact that the Accidental Alliance when Brendon & Rachel, they brought that extra chip on their shoulder after they U-Turned David & Connor. And Leo and I are just looking at each other like déjà vu. This is all happening again, but it's not us. So we're just like, “OK yeah, we're just agreeing to both sides.” And we're cool with Brendon and Rachel too. We're always talking with them. But we weren't completing other peoples vengeance or vendettas based off their half. We did what was best for us and our interests in the Race.

Leo: The experience the first time around was much more tense since it was our first time running the Race and so many people were out for us. This time around it was great, we got to enjoy the Race more, be ourselves and make a lot of friends along the way, without having to worry about who is out to get us for no reason.

HitFix: And the only time it seemed like you guys really did sort of lose that enthusiasm was in the Seville Leg when you hurt your knee. I mean how bad was it? How long did it take for you to get right with that?

Jamal: Well, let's put it this way I'm still going to physical therapy twice a week for my knee. It was a minor meniscus tear and it was a lot of swelling. So even till this day right now I can't squat down or bend my knee all the way back. I got tackled in two different directions and the scene didn't show it, I guess they didn't catch it, but I got tackled from two different directions and my knee went sideways. So I had to wear a brace; I'm not wearing a brace anymore because it hurts more. But I think that was unortunate because that really took a lot of the energy out of us just to have that knee injury and Leo was already hurting too with his knee injury. And that sort of depleted us a little bit.

HitFix: Was that the kind of thing where you gave any consideration in not being able to continue, or would nothing of stopped you at that point from getting to the next level?

Jamal: Oh yeah, the fact that we're that close again, we weren't going to let a knee injury – as long as I was able to walk, even if it's one leg, I know both Leo and I still compete and still finished the Race. We weren't going to give up that late in the Race.

HitFix: And you guys did a really, a fairly quick turnaround between your two seasons. I mean there were a couple months but still it was in the same year. How did that impact sort of doing it again that quickly whereas some of these teams it had been several years since they had raced?

Jamal: I think for Leo and I that's a big advantage for us to come so fresh off last season and to get so far that we did on the first season. We were in 11 of the 12 Legs and then to be called back again and everything was still fresh. We had the mindset, we still had the physical endurance and we were prepared as far as to go out and compete. But this time around it was with the best of the best so we were ready. I think that played a big role in us finishing again fourth place, 11 out of 12 Legs, and we were pretty consistent, but I think it's a big advantage compared to some teams that had the weight, you know, five, six, seven seasons to come back.

Leo: I think that we definitely had a slight advantage over the other teams because the race was still so fresh in our heads and we could remember exactly what mistakes we made and to be sure they were corrected this time around. But at the same time, other teams had more time to rest so it”s a tossup. But I'm glad we got to go back to back, I think that we were the only team to ever do that.

HitFix: And just as a last question, give me a favorite moment from this season that we didn't get to see on TV.

Jamal: A favorite moment that we didn't see on TV? There's probably like two or three incidents. Any time that Leo and I would have a chance – let's say for instance we're on a race and the flight is at 10:00 at night, and for instance in Malaysia we were going to Sri Lanka. So we went back to the hotel and there's like an eight-hour wait and we just went swimming. We went swimming. We just relaxed. Even know we were still racing everyone else is competing at the airport, looking for Internet and what to do next; we were just swimming. And then in Sri Lanka when we were getting ready to go to Italy, same thing. It was a 10-hour wait. We went back to the beach and we started swimming in the beaches of Sri Lanka. So I think that sort of relaxed us and took the stress off of our shoulders of Leo and I. And those are the things that what we do best is take advantage of the moment, be happy, race with a good attitude. When you're waiting ten hours don't go to the whole stress, “Ten hours of what am I going to do? What is the other team doing?” We just went and relaxed and we just went to swim it up.

Leo: My favorite moment was during the last leg when Jamal and I were low on cash on the flight to London. Jen and Caroline made sure that we ate and bought us lunch and it meant a lot to us. I”ll never forget how generous they were and continue to be. 

ALSO: Phil Keoghan previews the “Amazing Race: All-Stars” finale

This season”s “Amazing Race: All-Stars” exit interviews:
Jet & Cord
Flight Time & Big Easy
John & Jessica
Margie & Luke
Joey & Meghan
Mark & Mallory
Natalie & Nadiya