Exclusive: Aja Benton and Ty White dish about 'The Amazing Race'
By John Bracchitta, 10/27/2008
"Long Distance Dating Couple" Aja Benton and Ty White thought that the worst was behind them after the flat tires and meetings with police that slowed them during The Amazing Race 13's fourth leg in New Zealand.
However, despite a strong showing in the fifth leg as they trekked through Cambodia, Aja and Ty were unable to make up the time they lost during their disastrous fourth leg and became the fifth team eliminated from the competition during last night's broadcast on CBS.
On Monday, Aja and Ty spoke to Reality TV World about why they didn't U-Turn [Kelly Crabb] and [Christy Cook], what they would have done differently to remain in the competition longer, and what odd reaction they saw in all of the contestants while in Bolivia's thin air.
Reality TV World: You guys left the New Zealand Pit Stop between two and seven hours behind the other five teams that hadn't gotten the Fast Forward in that leg and nine hours behind Ken and Tina, the team that had gotten the Fast Forward. What were you thinking going into that leg? Was it hard to remain optimistic about your chances?
Ty: Not really, because you never know what's in front of you and you never know what's in store for you. We had a terrible leg in New Zealand, so we were positive -- or at least we were trying to keep our spirits up -- that someone or a team would have a bad leg. It just so happened that they didn't.
And on top of that there is other things within the race and the game itself that hadn't come into play yet. There had been four legs before and we figured this could be a good opportunity [for them to] throw a non-elimination leg in. But it just so happened that wasn't so [either].
It wasn't really difficult to remain positive, we just [had to] keep moving and do the best we can, and then all of the sudden if another team does bad and we pass them then all of the sudden you're right back in the game.
Reality TV World: What were your initial reactions when you got to the New Zealand Pit Stop and realized how far ahead of you all the other teams had finished?
Ty: It was tough, but it wasn't really all that shocking to me at least because I realized what type of leg we had. And [when we saw that there was a Fast Forward] I was thinking "Well I know somebody took that." So that automatically puts you ahead of the other teams.
But it wasn't too hard to deal with, you just have to keep positive about it.
Aja: Yeah we just tried to stay as positive as possible. I felt like if we spent a lot of time thinking about how far behind we were [than] that would have affected us. So just having a positive attitude, that's what got us through New Zealand in the first place so i felt we had to take that same attitude into Cambodia.
We could have easily started by just... you know... performing poorly in New Zealand and thinking that we were last and giving up and just have a defeatist attitude. But we didn't and we kept pushing and literally we were about five minutes or seven minutes in front of [Marisa Axelrod] and [Brooke Jackson]. I think, had we had a negative attitude, that could have affected us.
That could have made us five minutes later if we had started moving slower or being negative. And we got through that leg so I felt we just had to react the same way in Cambodia.
Ty: I think it was more than five minutes though wasn't it?
Aja: (pauses) No 'cause remember they rushed us off the mat because Marisa and Brooke were coming up, but then they got lost.
Ty: It was more than five minutes because they got lost coming up. It was more like [15 minutes].
Aja: I don't think so. I don't know but it was pretty close. Maybe like 10 minutes. It was pretty close.
Reality TV World: Why did you guys arrive so far behind at that New Zealand leg? Was it due to the flat tire? Was it due to your struggles on the Detour options?
Aja: It was both. And it was the fact that we got pulled over by the police. It was a lot of things.
Ty: There's things that they don't show where you can never really tell how long a team is really doing one particular task. We had researched a Gordian knot, but we weren't exactly looking for it... I can't remember exactly how the clue read, but it was something like "Untie Gordian's knot and then 'look inside,' or 'go inside'" or something like that, so we were thinking maybe it could be a boat -- because there were boats all over the harbor -- to go inside to find the clue.
So we were there for a while, and then we got pulled over by the police, and then switching Detours... All of that combined, that's all of our errors. The only thing I regret is if we had gone straight and done the [blokarts] right away. I feel like we would have had a real good chance of making that other flight.
Reality TV World: What where you pulled over for?
Ty: Driving on the wrong side of the road, because they're reversed over there and it was three in the morning and I [was] kinda out of it after being on a plane for 18 hours and I was just on the wrong side of the road.
The cop was pretty cool though. I think they're big on The Amazing Race over there because [The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan] is from there so they knew exactly what it was when they pulled us over. They were pretty much like "You're fine, I'll let you off with a warning."
Reality TV World: In that last leg there were gaps of at least an hour or more between the Pit Stop arrival times of each of the other non-Fast Forward teams. Why do you think there were such unusually huge time gaps between the arrival times?
Ty: In terms of...
Reality TV World: In terms of the teams finishing in New Zealand.
Ty: It was such a long race, it was a really long way to...
Aja: (Interrupting) And there was a lot of long driving. That's something they never show on the show. To and from certain tasks it was like two-and-a-half to three-hour-drives. It was ridiculous, so it was easy to get lost, and detoured.
Ty: I think that's what happened to Marisa and Brooke. They got lost. I don't think anything else major happened to them, but I think they got turned around quite a bit.
[The show] makes it seem like everything is a hop, skip, and a jump away around. Just turn around the corner and go there. But it was a couple hour drives in between things so it gives people the opportunity to make errors.
Reality TV World: How did that flat tire happen? Was it just a blowout while you were driving along?
Ty: To this day I really don't even know. I might have hit the curb but I'm not 100% sure of that.
Reality TV World: About how much time did it actually take you to change the flat tire?
Ty: Maybe about a half hour? About a half hour until we got the tire repaired.
Reality TV World: About how much time did you spend on the kiwi mashing Detour task before deciding to switch to the blokart option?
Aja: Forty-five minutes to one hour. We really tried to muscle through it. We really tried! We didn't want to switch.
Ty: If you factor in those type of things, and we still finished better, or were right there with Dan and Andrew.
Reality TV World: What was so hard about that? I've never had to squash a kiwi before.
Ty: We asked questions after and it was some kind of filtration system. There were a couple other [teams] who switched too where I guess it gets clogged or something. We figured that it might be clogged, but it's difficult to find the opening [to clear it]. I think one team, maybe it was [Terence Gerchberg] and [Sarah Leshner], found the opening and unclogged it. They were able to keep on going, but everyone else was like "We gotta switch."
Reality TV World: When you switched to the blokarts, about how much time did that take?
Ty: Um. That was about an hour too. Is that what you think babe?
Aja: How long it took us to put together the blokarts?
Reality TV World: Yeah, and just to do that whole challenge.
Aja: Yeah, it was about an hour.
Ty: So if we had just gone straight to that one...
Aja: (continuing) ...We would still be in the race.
Reality TV World: On the fifth leg, how far behind that second flight that left Auckland were you? The show didn't really make it clear.
Ty: We were just two hours behind. It was a short leg so... [On] the previous leg even if you had done it pretty fast you still were out there for seven or eight hours. This one was a short leg -- it was only a two hour leg -- so right as we were getting the cab to go to the gas station, Dan and Andrew were finishing it up. So they were about two hours ahead of us.
Reality TV World: About how many hours behind all the other teams did you arrive in Cambodia?
Ty: We arrived about two hours later too.
Reality TV World: I know you guys tried to keep your morale up during the leg, but was there any point during the leg that you thought you could realistically jump back into the race?
Aja: Well, we knew that we were behind and we were pretty sure that we were the last, but we were just hoping that it was a non-elimination leg. For me that's where my optimism came from. I didn't at any point think that any team had made a mistake that was so grave that it had delayed them two hours.
But I was just hoping that it was a non-elimination race because we only had four legs left up until that point, so we were thinking if their were two non-elimination legs on the entire course this is about the place where one would be. So that was our little glimmer of hope.
Reality TV World: About how far behind Andrew and Dan do you think you arrived at the Cambodian Pit Stop?
Aja: It was two hours.
Ty: Yeah, about two hours. Everybody did the course in two hours, give or take a minute here and there. We finished two hours behind them, and it might've played out a little bit differently if we had gotten a fair shake at it.
Reality TV World: Ty, how difficult was it to navigate through the Angkor Wat temple?
Ty: Oh well... That was actually... It was kinda difficult. I realized that there were so many rooms in there... It was huge, absolutely huge in there. And I was really glad to be in there but I looked for someone to ask right away, I chickened out right away. I was like "I'm not gonna about to find this on my own." So I asked a couple of people and than I found someone -- maybe about the third or fourth person that I asked -- and they knew where it was. So they led me right to it, But the problem became once I got to it I had trouble getting out, so I had to try and figure out how I got to there and get back out. It was a maze.
Reality TV World: It looked like many teams either made mistakes or encountered bad luck on this leg of the race. How difficult was it watching the show now and learning some new things while knowing that you still weren't able to catch up to any of the teams?
Ty: I would say it's disappointing, just because you know how well you performed in this race. They actually said that our time was the best time on the leg and if we had got a fair shake than we would have probably been first.
But you know the thing is, if you start playing "If's" and "What's"... maybe if we all get off of the plane at the same time we get the boat that broke down on Terrence and Sarah instead of them getting it. So you never know what's gonna happen. You can play that "If" and "What" game, but it probably would have worked out for itself any way, it just would have worked out a different way.
I still think we would have been in the leg, but there's no guarantee that we would've been first.
Reality TV World: What did you think when [Nick Spangler] and [Starr Spangler] asked you to U-Turn Kelly and Christy? Did you consider doing it or immediately say no and decide to tell the girls about it?
Aja: I thought that they were some punks for that. (Laughs) I did. First of all, I was actually almost insulted that they were trying to get us to do their dirty work for them. To me that just said a lot about their character, and that was when I started to think "Well if you are going to do that to Christy and Kelly, you could do it to anybody."
And then to me it just didn't make sense that you would try and U-Turn someone, not because they are the most competitive, not because you feel like they are a real threat to you, but simply because you don't like someone! This is a high school popularity contest.
It just said a lot about them.
Reality TV World: Was your overall opinion on them that they were that kind of team who would do anything to win?
Ty: They were okay. They were just playing within the rules of the game so I don't think a U-Turn, or anything like that, is considered dirty. Anything that's written into the game as something that's okay to do I don't think is dirty.
Aja: I just thought that, in terms of strategy, U-Turning someone isn't dirty. But U-Turn somebody that it actually makes sense for you to U-Turn. You don't U-Turn somebody just because you don't like them. You U-Turn someone that, strategically, you feel like they could have been a threat to you winning.
Christy and Kelly were, most of the time, not even really close to them in terms of placement, I can tell you it would've made more sense for them to U-Turn someone who was actually more of a threat to them.
Reality TV World: What teams did you get along with the best and worst with on the show?
Ty: I would say Terrence and Sarah are probably the ones that we got along with the best. [Mark Yturralde] and [Bill Hahler] are cool too, we hang out every so often now because they live in San Diego. [Dallas Imbimbo] and [Toni Imbimbo] are pretty cool, we're pretty cool with all the teams.
I won't say that I dislike any of them particularly. I do have my favorites
Reality TV World: How'd you guys end up on the show? Whose idea was it?
Aja: We were actually found on Facebook. Somebody who was a casting associate also was a University of Michigan graduate and she found us on Facebook and contacted us about being on the show.
So this is something that came out of absolutely nowhere for us. It was really a blessing.
Reality TV World: Actually, going back to Nick and Starr for one moment. Had you seen or heard anything about their confrontations with Kelly and Christy?
Aja: Starr actually talked to me about it. [She] told me about the whole sports bra thing.
Reality TV World: Did she say she didn't do it?
Aja: Yeah, she said she didn't do it. We were actually... this was something else [the show] didn't show, but Nick was really sick. He had something going on with his stomach where he was throwing up, and Starr was actually crying and really emotional and I asked her what was wrong because I saw her crying -- and this was at the first Brazil stop... well it might have been the second one because she asked us to U-Turn them in Bolivia -- but I asked her what was wrong and she said "I'm just really upset. Nick is really sick, and Kelly and Christy are bothering me about this stupid sports bra thing and I don't even know what's going on."
She was really upset about it so I knew there was something going on between them.
Reality TV World: So, overall what were both of your favorite experiences on The Amazing Race?
(Aja and Ty discuss who should answer)
Aja: I think our favorite experience was when Phil said "Go!" That was the most fun because we'd spent months anticipating that moment. I think that was the best moment of the entire time: really, really starting the race and realizing that we were really on The Amazing Race. It was just an amazing time.
Reality TV World: Was there any least favorite experience?
Aja: I think the kiwis... in the kiwi vat. That was pretty bad (laughs). That was a low. I mean the flat tire was a low [as well], but the kiwi vat and actually having to give up and walk away was a difficult part [of the race].
Ty: I felt very defeated there. I really thought it was over after that. I was like "There is no possible way we're about to get through this [and] be alive in the competition." A couple of my buddies made jokes about my reaction when said we were still alive, I was like "Oh my God!" (laughs)
I think, more than anything, that's what shows me anything can happen and that's why we were so positive in Cambodia. We had such a bad leg and we still made it, so why would we be negative after that point? Why wouldn't you use that as a motivational tool like "Wow, we had the day from hell and we're still alive. Let somebody else have the day from hell then because we're passed it."
Aja: For me it was just how confusing everything was. When you watch it on TV it all just seems very practical, but it's so confusing! Like when you read clues, or you're trying to figure out where to go or what to do. It's just not as simple as it looks. From watching it on TV, we watch all of these episodes and we're like "Why don't they just do this!?" and "Why don't they just go there!?" and "It's right there!"
But when you're in the moment and your momentum is going and your adrenaline is rushing, sometimes you just makes ridiculous mistakes because you're so confused. Like, you're just like... I don't know, it's really crazy.
Reality TV World: Was there any particular team you began rooting to win once you got eliminated?
Aja: We wanted Sarah and Terrence to win. We thought they were a really good team.
I really like Christie and Kelly too. But we felt that Sarah and Terrence had a better chance of winning so we really, really rooted for them.
Ty: That was definitely my favorite team. After that Mark and Bill were always [favorites of mine as well]. I definitely wanted Terrence and Sarah to go ahead and [win it all]. And I hope they do.
Reality TV World: You guys didn't seem to have any problem with the gas station pumping -- any idea why [Andrew Lappitt] and [Dan Honig] had such a hard time with it?
Aja: Just not going fast enough.
Ty: You had to pump really fast. I think I started off pretty easy and then I started going really fast. You had to go really fast for it to start going, and once it started going you had to keep it up a little bit. But they were just doing it wimpy-like or something so I guess that's why they had problems with it.
Aja: Yeah, Dan was like "You have to do it like a mad man," and he was right.
Reality TV World: How did the thin air back in Bolivia affect the both of you?
Aja: Oh gosh...
Ty: There was absolutely no running in Bolivia (laughs)...
Aja: ...Unless you were Sarah and Terrence and you were superhuman.
Ty: They were flying all over the place. I think we were with them for a moment and they were in a hurried [pace] and I was like "Ok we're done."
It was just really hard to breathe up there. It's hard to put into words. I think until you're actually in that environment and you're trying to run you really won't understand how difficult it is to breathe and how quickly you get winded.
Aja: And everybody had a lot of boogers in their nose. (Ty laughs)
When we were meeting in Bolivia at the airport, everyone was like "Dude, do you have crazy boogers?" and I was like "Oh my God, I have crazy boogers!" Like, boogers the size of rocks. [It was] really ridiculous, everybody picking their noses.
Reality TV World: Ty, you said you were moving out to L.A. after your elimination. Has that happened yet?
Ty: Uh-huh. Yes, I already live in L.A. We actually live together. We've lived together since the end of the show.
Aja: And he's gone. He's in Detroit visiting people and I miss him and not being able to watch that episode together. He saw it three hours before I did because of the time difference and he was kinda sad. Then I saw it, and I called him and I was sad.
Reality TV World: Are their any plans for marriage?
Ty: It's in the stars. We'll see how it plays out. I stand firm to my belief and what I said on the show in that there is nobody else that i have in my mind that I want to spend my whole life with. I'm not gonna say that we have a timeframe on that but we're definitely working towards that goal.