Exclusive: Connor Diemand-Yauman, Jonathan Schwartz talk 'Race'
By Reality TV World staff, 10/18/2010
Connor Diemand-Yauman and Jonathan Schwartz seemed to be in good shape for the fourth leg of The Amazing Race's seventeenth edition when they left the Pit Stop in first place with a 1 to 3 hour lead on the competition's eight other remaining teams.
However a missed opportunity to nab an earlier connecting flight to the Race's next stop in Sweden and a Detour task that Jonathan couldn't quite get resulted in the "Ivy League A Cappella Singers" dropping from first place to last and becoming the third team eliminated from the competition during Sunday night's broadcast of The Amazing Race's fourth episode.
On Monday, Connor and Jonathan talked to Reality TV World about their The Amazing Race experience -- including why they waited so long to switch off the "Sleds" Detour task Jonathan struggled with, why they didn't get tickets on the earlier connecting flight, what they thought about Michael and Kevin's ridiculously easy Speed Bump task, whether their memorable Ghanan taxi race was really as scary as they suggested, and why some teams appeared to carry ice books to the Pit Stop during last night's episode.
Reality TV World: You guys were the first second flight team to arrive at the "Sleds" Detour task but the last one to decide to switch to the "Beds" task. What made you decide to wait so long before switching?
Connor Diemand-Yauman: It was tough. I think what prevented us from switching earlier was Jonathan's inconsistent performance on the challenge. "Inconsistent" sounds bad, but it was actually that Jonathan did really, really well and then he would do poorly.
When we first tried the sledding challenge, he missed it by 10 seconds. And then the next time he missed it by maybe a minute. The third try, he missed it by one second!
And then the pattern kind of continued for five different tries, so it was never clear or not on whether we should switch because we always thought Jonathan would make it on the next try.
Looking back, we kind of wish Jonathan or I would have started crying or throwing fits because then we would have known to switch earlier. (laughs)
But Jonathan kept on doing well and then not doing so well, so we never knew if we should do the other task.
Reality TV World: So about how long were you actually out there time-wise before you actually switched?
Jonathan Schwartz: We didn't actually have a sense of time. And also, in Sweden, the sun never went down...
Connor Diemand-Yauman: (laughs)
Jonathan Schwartz: So it was difficult to know how long we were there. But the course itself was -- depending on how slow I was -- about a two or three minute run every time. But then it took about five or six minutes just to get back on the ski lift to go back up and start it again.
So multiply that times five, and we were there for a chunk of time.
Reality TV World: It was a total of five times you ended up trying it?
Connor Diemand-Yauman: Yeah. And the third time was the closest, we were just one second too slow.
Reality TV World: So about how long after Katie and Rachel switched did you decide to do so as well? Was it pretty much immediate, or were you still thinking the "next one" was going to be the [good run] for Jonathan?
Jonathan Schwartz: They left well before we even switched over. They had a huge head start on the beds.
I mean we saw teams come and up [at the sled course] but we didn't know whether they had completed the challenge like Nick and Vicki did in one try or if they left immediately and cried like Chad and Stephanie.
I don't know exactly how long it was, but we did at least two or three tries after Katie and Rachel left.
Reality TV World: So you didn't even know necessarily that Chad and Stephanie had left without finishing?
Jonathan Schwartz: Right, we thought they could have gotten it. They just got to the bottom, we didn't know what was going on with them, and they left.
So we didn't know what the other teams were doing and that's why we were pretty surprised when we switched over to the "Beds" and still saw Chad and Stephanie and Katie and Rachel there.
Reality TV World: Did either of you get any serious injuries from those course crashes or was it basically just bumps and bruises?
Jonathan Schwartz: It wasn't serious, but I was very nervous that it was going to get serious. I was limping for about four days. I landed on my neck several times in the hard, icy snow.
It was not pretty, and I was definitely seriously nervous about either hurting myself on the snow or crashing into a rock, or falling off a small cliff. So it was not pleasant.
Connor Diemand-Yauman: Yeah, right after the Race Jonathan knew that he had to start a Broadway show. And if Jonathan breaks his leg or gets seriously injured, that effects his career.
There were a lot of different factors, so Jonathan getting thrown around and beat up out there, it was scary watching that happen.
Reality TV World: So do you guys have any idea about how far behind Katie and Rachel you two ended up arriving at the Pit Stop?
Jonathan Schwartz: Not really. I mean they beat us. We were just hoping that they had taken a wrong turn going to the Pit Stop. We knew that they had a decent enough lead that we were probably last, but we did our best to try and catch up and it didn't work out.
Reality TV World: Last night's episode showed Chad and Stephanie talking about how they were aware that Jill and Thomas weren't really in last place because they had the option to use their "Express Pass" but we didn't see you guys talking about that -- did you also assume that at the time or did you think they might still be out on the course somewhere?
Connor Diemand-Yauman: Like Chad and Stephanie, we assumed they were going to use the Express Pass. So we didn't even consider them when we were trying to calculate our position. That was on our mind the whole time.
Reality TV World: It seemed kind of strange that the Michael and Kevin (who were the last team to leave the Pit Stop) and Nat and Kat (who were the next-to-last team) were the only teams who seemed to immediately check for an earlier flight anywhere on the way to Sweden. You guys obviously had the time to do the same thing given you left the Pit Stop in first place with a 1-3 hour lead on everyone, so what happened in your case? Did the idea just not occur to you or was there some confusion over the [pre-purchased tickets] rules?
Connor Diemand-Yauman: It was funny, because all of the lower teams were the teams to realize that there was this second flight. It was just the way that things worked out.
When we got to the airport we were asking around for earlier flights and we thought we'd talked to a travel agent and no one unfortunately mentioned this earlier flight and we assumed that there was no other option. And by the time we realized that there was a second flight, it was entirely booked.
So it was difficult. But there was very little we could have done. And us, like the other [front-running] teams, we just didn't even know there was the option.
Reality TV World: So were you focused more on trying to get out of Ghana quicker and not necessarily thinking about the later connecting flight?
Connor Diemand-Yauman: No.
Jonathan Schwartz: We looked, we tried just as much as everyone else to get that flight. It's just we talked to the wrong people, we didn't get the right people. We talked to people and they didn't tell us about that flight.
It was just kind of the luck of who you talked to and who you get to help you.
Reality TV World: So you did look when you first got to the airport, but you're saying you just weren't fortunate enough to get the right people?
Jonathan Schwartz: Right.
Connor Diemand-Yauman: Exactly.
Reality TV World: When did you guys discover that Nat and Kat and Brook and Claire had also managed to get on the earlier flight, was that only when they disappeared after you all landed in Frankfurt?
Jonathan Schwartz: We knew that they probably got the flight back in Ghana, we had assumed they got it too. We knew who was going on the first flight.
Reality TV World: There were several different times in the episode where you mentioned that it was your Princeton graduation ceremony during that leg. Do you think that distracted you at all?
Jonathan Schwartz: I don't think it distracted us. We thought about it, we were excited that we had our graduation that day. But we were always focused on the Race and we were always trying our best and always supporting each other.
We were trying our best to get to the next leg of the Race, and unfortunately it didn't work out and we got some bad breaks and bad falls in the sledding.
But that didn't distract us, that was just kind of a cool thing that was going on that day.
Connor Diemand-Yauman: Right.
Jonathan Schwartz: We were definitely focused on the Race.
Connor Diemand-Yauman: It complimented that experience, if anything. It really didn't distract us or hurt us in any way.
Reality TV World: Like I noted earlier, you guys did begin the leg with 1-3 hour leads on everyone else but that got wiped out immediately when you had to wait for the flight at the airport. Had you anticipated that was probably coming given the third leg had already not had a bunching point and left you in Ghana for a second leg?
Jonathan Schwartz: It was not really a surprise because even if you're in first you can always get shuffled around. You never know what's going to happen on the Race. So just because we came in first, yeah, we felt good about that. But it can disappear in a second, just like the way we went from first to last.
So we knew that was a possibility, and it did happen. We were confident and we felt good that we were going to try our best and hopefully do well in the leg, but we knew that just because you're first does not guarantee by any means that you're going to able to benefit from that head start.
Connor Diemand-Yauman: Right.
Reality TV World: What did you think of Michael and Kevin's Speed Bump task? I know some of the Speed Bump tasks have been pretty easy before, but sitting on a block of ice for ten minutes seemed to be a new level of easy. (laughs)
Jonathan Schwartz: (laughs)
Connor Diemand-Yauman: Yeah, I think Jonathan and I would have welcomed that block of ice after the sledding challenge...
Jonathan Schwartz: Yes! (laughs)
I needed some ice.
Connor Diemand-Yauman: Definitely.
Jonathan Schwartz: It was disappointing just coming to see that was the Speed Bump. We had thought, "Oh, they're on the first flight [but] maybe they'll have a substantial Speed Bump." But because they had a two-hour flight lead it didn't matter.
Reality TV World: A couple of the teams seemed to carry their ice block clues around with them the rest of the Race after that. Was there some confusion about whether you needed to bring them to the Pit Stop or were they just having fun?
Connor Diemand-Yauman: Well when we got to the ice warehouse, some of the [second flight] group members were saying, "Oh, you have to have your [ice] clue, you have to have the clue when you check-in to the Pit Stop."
So then everyone was scrambling around taking these blocks of ice. (laughs)
And Jonny and I thought that we might as well not risk it so we just threw it in the back of our trunk and drove away. Luckily we didn't have any trouble carrying the thing.
But for whatever reason there was a rumor among the second [flight] group that Brook and Claire forgot their ice block and that if you forgot it you had to come back and drive all the way back to the ice warehouse and bring it.
So there was some confusion, but I don't think it ended up making any difference. I just made a funny [story] and a little bit of an obstacle to the other teams.
Reality TV World: You guys were the only team that managed to find the decoder key during the "Language Arts" Detour task in Ghana. Was that a big surprise to you when you found out afterwards?
Jonathan Schwartz: It was a bit of a surprise, but you know we understand why teams probably couldn't find it. Because you're so stressed out and you're really focused on the Race that you're not really able to look at the big picture -- which in this case, was a big wall on the side of the schoolhouse.
So I understand why it's difficult because you're really reading into the clues and you're trying to think so hard that you overthink a challenge.
And luckily, we were focused and we were calm about it and we were able to find the decoder.
Yeah, I'm not surprised a lot of the teams couldn't figure it out, because it is incredibly stressful and you don't always think at peak capacity when you're in the confines of the Race.
Reality TV World: You were also one of the teams that got into that white-knuckle taxi race to the Pit Stop. Were you guys really as worried as you seemed to be or were you just joking around?
Connor Diemand-Yauman: No, that taxi ride was actually very scary. (laughs)
That was the only time I think in the whole Race where I was a little bit worried for our safety.
They really can't capture how scary the ride was on film. The taxi driver was creating his own lane, he was weaving in and out of traffic. And he was driving so quickly and missing cars by literally inches.
Jonathan and I were in the back telling him to go as fast as he can and then really regretting saying that, because it was very, very scary. (laughs)
Jonathan Schwartz: Right. It was extremely scary but it was almost the same feeling you get when you're driving in like a New York City taxi.
Connor Diemand-Yauman: Yes.
Jonathan Schwartz: Like they're going crazy and you think you're going to die but somehow they're amazing at it so you don't.
Connor Diemand-Yauman: Right. (laughs)
Jonathan Schwartz: It was incredibly scary but you had a sense of "we're probably not going to die even though it seems like if anyone else was driving this we would be killed."
Connor Diemand-Yauman: Right.
Reality TV World: Before the Race, you mentioned you thought your a cappella singing was going to be an asset during the Race. Do you think it played out that way?
Jonathan Schwartz: Well I think it was fun for us, and I think it did help in several of the taxi rides. Like our relationship with Sampson, the guy who drove us on the leg we got in first place on. So in that way, yes, I think it did give us a slight advantage.
It also was an advantage for us to stay calm and stay sane and stay happy with each other, because singing makes us happy and keeps us kind of grounded and focused on the Race.
So it was for our own team morale as well as a little bit of an advantage for the taxi drivers and for fun.
Reality TV World: How did you end up on the show, how were you cast?
Connor Diemand-Yauman: The night before the audition tapes were due, Jonathan came up to me and said that he thought we'd be really good for the competition. At that I had never seen the show. I'd heard of it, but I was going totally on Jonathan's word.
So that night we wrote a script and we filmed the video. Jonathan edited it that night and we sent it in and they liked what they saw I guess and we made it through the subsequent rounds.