Interview: Mark & Mallory talk ‘Amazing Race: All-Stars’

Doing “The Amazing Race” with somebody you know and love certainly doesn't mean you're going to get along. Duh. 

Facing the unique pressures of a televised race around the world, we've watched married couples, best friends, siblings and parents-and-children get lost in squabbles both petty and significant. Usually after the fighting is over, the partners profess to continued love and the relationships, either by blood or by choice, can be expected to continue as before. It's part of the charm of “The Amazing Race.”

This All-Stars season, though, “The Amazing Race” bucked formula. When Bopper had to bail on the season just hours before it began, Mark was allowed to race with Mallory, of Gary & Mallory fame, already a two-time contestant. They'd met previously, but she claimed not to know his last name. [It's Jackson.]

The Mark & Mallory experiment lasted for two Legs. In last Sunday's episode, the mismatched pair ran into a problem in China that could have befallen anybody — Mark's backpack was left behind as they moved from one task to the next — but the subsequent argument stemmed heavily from unfamiliarity. Mallory, holding both of their passports, wanted to keep running, especially since they were in first at the time. Mark, who borrowed the backpack from a friend, refused to abandon his stuff and demanded they go back. The fighting and disagreeing caused some delay and the subsequent discombobulation probably insured their eventual elimination.

Months later, Mark and Mallory still can't agree on how the backpack came to be left, nor the correct response to what became a catastrophe. In fact, while their both plenty respectful, there's little question that contentiousness remains. 

In this week's “Amazing Race” exit interview, Mallory discusses her short-notice decision to join the Race, Mark explains his initial hesitation to do the Race without Bopper and things get heated a couple times.

Click through for the full Q&A…

HitFix: I want to go back to the very beginning. Mallory, tell me about how you found out that you could be doing this, what you were doing, how much time you had to prepare, etc.

Mallory Ervin: I was actually working on a little commercial for my family business. I've been doing a lot, starting a new business. It was the final day of filming and I was getting ready to walk out… and they called me and they said, “How close are you to the nearest airport?” And I said, “Twenty minutes.” They said, “How fast can you pack? Is your backpack there?” I literally got on the plane within a few hours, probably. I had to use another backpack, because mine was at home in Kentucky, and I flew out there and within a day or so, I was on the starting line.

HitFix: So you had no preparation? What was your reaction when you heard what you were being asked to do?

Mallory: Pure joy. I didn't doubt it for a second. I love the Race so much. My dad loves the Race so much. And I can't imagine us getting on the starting line and hearing the news that we couldn't race and being able to give Mark that opportunity, Mark and Bopper, I didn't hesitate once. I didn't have a second thought, even on the flight there. Even by myself in the hotel room, I thought I was going on “Survivor.” I was like, “Is this 'The Biggest Loser' or 'Survivor'?” It was a really strange thing to go into it like that, but I was so excited to get to do it again. I was thrilled to get to prove it to everybody that I can do it without my dad, even I don't want to! And I didn't! But I love the Race and I'll do it 100 more times.

HitFix: And Mark, talk a bit about your reaction when the doctor told you that Bopper couldn't Run. Bopper told me that he had to convince you to stay in and do this without him.

Mark Jackson: Well I just could not believe it. When he told Bopper that he couldn't race, it was just like telling me I couldn't race. And when Phil was saying, “Mark, you're still…” it hurt. Bopper and me both needed the same thing. Me and Bopper know each other. I mean, we know the weaknesses, we know the strengths, we know everything about what each other can do and I just didn't want to leave him. That was the bottom line and he kept saying, “Come on, man! You've gotta do it for your family” and all that. I told him I just didn't and then finally it was the hardest decision I ever had to make. But I did it and it was a good time and I don't know. It was a rough time, too. I'll put it that way.

HitFix: Mark, what was your reaction when you saw that Mallory was your partner? What were you expecting and what did you think in the moment?

Mark: Well, I knew Mallory was, like I said, a little fireball. She was ready to go! But that was all I knew about her. That was it. I knew that she was ready. She'd run the Race twice before. I'm getting a good veteran at it. I mean, what else could you ask for? She's from Kentucky! You couldn't beat it with a stick, so what else do you do? We got ready and I had to do it for Bopper, because he asked me to do it, so I was ready to do it.

HitFix: You guys then had a very, very long flight to China, immediately. Presumably that was a chance to get to know each other a bit better before actually racing. How did you guys use that time?

Mallory: You know, I wish they would have had that on-camera, because that showed how clueless we were about so many things about each other and how much they mattered to do well on the Race. Mark and I had a great flight. I learned so much about Mark. When they kinda mentioned to me, of course it was a whirlwind, but I didn't doubt also because Mark and Bopper and me and my dad and Jennifer and Kisha did a commercial together in New York and I remember Mark, you'd just lost your job or something and you were telling my dad that story literally right before, and they gave us our per diem and we're walking down the street and he's handing his money to the homeless people on the street. So I was like, “This guy is a good guy. I will not, in a million years, let him him miss this opportunity.” I knew he was a great person, but I learned so much more about him on the plane, about all his kids and the so many crazy things that have happened in his life and that he's good person and he's a nice guy. It's not just Mark & Bopper. It was Mark that I was talking to and it was cool to get to know him. We bonded, I think, on the plane. And then me and Big Easy fell asleep watching a movie and him and Flight Time. But before that? Yeah.

Mark: Yeah, when you've got them long flights like that and all the rest you get is when you're on a flight, it's best for you to go to sleep. But we found out stuff about each other, but when you get pressure thrown on you and everything like that, reactions are different and you don't know how to take each other. Like her and her dad, she would listen. Like Mallory, I hate to say this, but I've got a child as old as Mallory and I didn't know how to speak to another gentleman's child. I couldn't say nothing wrong. I just went with the flow, because she's a real nice person. She's a good kid.

Mallory: Thanks.

Mark: But our personalities, like I said, it was a father-daughter, the way I looked at it. 

Mallory: Mmm-hmm.

Mark: But she was just a little stubborn child sometimes.

Mallory: I was not!

Mark: That's part of it. Where I couldn't control her, her dad could say, “Mallory, you get back and listen to me!” Know what I mean?

Mallory: Yeah and I would have been like, “Dad! You're going without your backpack!” I guess that's true, Mark. It was father-daughter, but it wasn't.

Mark: Like her dad could say, “Mallory…” and she would, “OK, dad. I understand.” But I could not do that and it just hurt us a little bit back and forth. It was a tough time, but I'd never disrespect another man's child, because I wouldn't want nobody to disrespect mine.

HitFix: Let's talk a bit more about the backpack incident. It's the sort of thing where because of the pressure and because of the unknowns of your relationship, it became heightened. As you guys have looked back at the thing with the backpack and the subsequent cab rides, how do you think you could have handled it differently both in terms of game strategy and in terms of interacting between the two of you?

Mark: Now that I sit and I keep thinking about, here's why I think Mallory left my backpack back there, it was because the taxi cab driver would not let us put the car in his cab and so I think Mallory just went on instinct that we had to get another taxi and we both started thinking it and I think that's when she left the backpack, was to run and go try to find another taxi. But I didn't know that she left it and she probably didn't really remember that she left it, because she had to go find another cab. I think that's exactly what happened, because she went down the street to find another taxi and when finally she couldn't find one, she come back and I had talked the taxi cab driver into letting us strap it on and I was strapping it on and I think that's where we ended up losing the backpack. She probably forgot about it because she was looking for a taxi and I thought she had it and I was strapping the car on and when we got in the vehicle, we left and I think that's where we ended up leaving the backpack.

Mallory: And I thought I didn't forget about it. I laid it by Mark's feet, but Mark was putting the car in the car, so I assumed that he had it and that's why I asked in the taxi, I was like, “Is your backpack back there?” because I didn't see him holding it, because he's always holding it. And he said, “No.” Then I was just like, “Wow.” But moving forward with the Race strategy, this is a prime example of how difficult it is when you don't know each other as partners when you're doing “The Amazing Race.” Me and my dad had already talked about that: Like, we will keep our passports together. I already had everything that we would have needed-needed. I would have left my backpack always. I'll always leave the backpack, not because I have any means to buy another one or have a lot. I don't. It's just because I wanted to race and I would have given that up, especially for Bopper or for Mark or for my dad, all the people I feel I was racing for. I just would have done it. But I didn't know. I didn't know Mark would have or wouldn't have. We hadn't talked about it yet. It's just that was the difference.

Mark: That was the thing about me and Bopper. We'd never, ever, that was something that never entered our… That was the thing, that you never let your backpack… You never. You get it before you get anything. That's the thing about communication. When Mallory said she had it, my backpack never entered my mind again. It never entered my mind. I knew Mallory had it, so it was no concern of mine, because she had it, so I was gonna just focus on getting the car. I didn't even know she laid it down beside me. Didn't even have a clue. I was focused on strapping that car in and that was it. That, I think, was what happened is that I should have been more focused on carrying the backpack, but it was just a hard decision. It was just a mistake that happened. Like I said, it was not my backpack. Yeah, we could have bought another one, but it was a friend of mine and it was a very, very… It was not mine. I borrowed it and I was gonna return it. It didn't matter. It could have costed me a million dollars, but it was the mistake that I made and that's something that I have to live with and that's part of.

Mallory: And you see… I was a team player. I was really upset and I knew we could race without it, but I went back with him, because I would never have been like, “No, Mark. We can't.” He's part of the team, too. He's making decisions. I'm making decisions. So I went back. But then, you know… It is what it is. It's alright.

HitFix: I was very touched to see all of the teams waiting for you two at the mat. I don't know if I've ever seen that before. How touched were you guys in that moment to see all of the other teams want to be there for you.

Mark: It took everything in my soul to keep from being a crybaby again, let me tell you! Like she said, me and her were not jibing real good and we were doing the best we could, and then when you run up there and you're having the day that you're having and then you see all of the support that you still have? It was just amazing! That just shows you that they just love people from Kentucky, that we're just down-to-Earth. We don't meet a stranger,  we're just friends with everybody. If you can't be friends with us? Me and Bopper's motto always was “If you ain't gonna talk to us, you've gotta listen to us, 'cuz we're gonna talk to you.” That's the bottom line!

Mallory: They didn't show it, but we actually ran the majority of the way to the mat and we were so tired and we just kept hoping that maybe it was  a “Keep racing…” Leg or a Non-Elimination and to see all those teams and the sadness on their face, too? I did not have anything holding my tears back, clearly. And I'm such a beautiful crier! Gosh. I'm sure they just needed that shot! Just kidding. But we were just so emotional. Those are some of my closest friends, truly. I talk to those Racers every week and to see them standing there getting ready to race on without me. Oh. Me and Mark, it just breaks your heart. But we didn't have our support there, me and Mark didn't, and we weren't supporting each other as well as we could have been then, so to see them standing there… I know it's a competition, but the Race brings out great things, too, and that was a great thing to see all of them.

Mark: It was just a great time. It was an unbelievable ending.

HitFix: As a last question: This was an “Amazing Race” first, obviously, the two of you working together. Do either of you have a piece of key advice for any future teams in this situation, for future teams that don't know each other as well?

Mallory: You think CBS for real's gonna do that again after this one?

Mark: It's basically gonna be impossible. The Race is so hard on you. It has to be with somebody that understands you or something. People wouldn't enjoy it. It would just be a fight and arguing. It is one of the toughest things to do when you've got somebody that you know, but when you've got somebody that you don't know and you have to… Just like she said. It was the day before. Bam! We're on the starting line taking off. It's unbelievable. I don't think that anybody, if they don't know the person that they're racing with, can do that. Nobody.

Mallory: See, I disagree. I respect what he says, but we're different people. I say that if you have the opportunity to do “The Amazing Race,” do “The Amazing Race.” Don't worry about anything else and try and get past the communication banter — “I don't know this about you and I don't know that” — and just race hard, because the Race… Oh my gosh! What an awesome thing to get to do. I just can't imagine ever turning it down and I would say to future teammates that don't know each other, try and put that aside. Try and make it simpler if you can and learn about each other as you're racing instead of worrying about it as much as we did and trying to fix it, because we weren't gonna fix it. I just wanted to keep on racing and I knew that we could do well, regardless of who did what. Just remember that and remember to love the other person.

Mark: It's a lot easier said than done, because I wanna tell you something: I am the most humblest guy in the world and I mean I don't meet a stranger, I speak to everybody, I don't look down on nobody, I'm not no better than nobody and if I can't run a race with a stranger, I don't think nobody in America can, because I'm telling you, I'm the humblest guy in the world. Like I said, I respect everybody. I respect Mallory, I respect her daddy. It is a hard thing to do, because one little mistake or something could agitate. It's a lot harder. I'd like to see it. Like I said, I could never run the Race again without Bopper. I would never do it again without Bopper. 

Mallory: And I look at it different, because I would love to run the Race again with my dad, I'd love to run the Race again. Mark, you are all those things and say it had been me that was sick on the starting line. You honestly would have refused to run it with my dad in my place? Put yourself in that position.

Mark: No, I would have! I'm just saying now. After the experience we had. I would be just like you, I would step up for anybody. Yes, I'm just like you. If I had to step up, especially for somebody from Kentucky. Yes, I would have did it in a heartbeat. Yes, if your dad was standing there and you got sick and they needed me? Yes, I would definitely step up and run it with your dad.

Mallory: And you forget, too, that we did run it. It wasn't impossible. We made it through two Legs. And hey, people get out on the second Leg. And maybe it could have been better, but we made it work. 

Mark: We did. Listen and we were still making it work. We just made… I…  We both made a little mistake with the backpack and I made a bigger mistake by going back and getting it, I guess. But listen, we was getting through that. I have to say: We was getting through there.

Other “Amazing Race: All Stars” exit interviews:
Natalie & Nadiya