Exclusive: Justin Young and Jennifer Young talk 'The Amazing Race'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 11/07/2011
Justin Young and Jennifer Young got off to a strong start during The Amazing Race's seventh leg when they left the course's sixth Pit Stop in second place during the seventh episode of the franchise's nineteenth season.
However, their Race took a drastic turn for the worst when all of the remaining seven teams ended up on the same morning bus to Salima, Malawi, and then Jennifer took off on her bicycle taxi for the leg's Roadblock task -- leaving her clue behind with Justin at the bus station. Jennifer didn't remember all of the clue's instructions and decided to wait for another team to arrive to learn what she needed to do next -- although no one ended up showing up -- rather than heading back to the start right away to re-read the clue, forcing the "Siblings" team into last place and resulting in their elimination from the competition.
On Monday, Justin and Jennifer talked to Reality TV World about their The Amazing Race experience.
Reality TV World: How far behind [Jeremy Cline] and [Sandy Draghi] do you think you finally arrived at the Pit Stop?
Justin Young: I don't really remember the time. I know when we got there, we saw them leaving and it wasn't like right there. We saw them going up the road while we were going down the road in the cab to get to the lakefront.
Reality TV World: Jennifer, how long do you think you waited to make any moves during the Roadblock task before you decided to head back to the bus station where you originally got the bicycle taxi to meet Justin? It seemed like you were there awhile.
Jennifer Young: Yeah, I think that deciding between going back to the main road, back into the village, back to the main road, back to the village and then finally deciding, I think it took me like an hour after dropping off the fish to finally deciding to take my silly self back to the start of the Roadblock.
Reality TV World: Jennifer, you obviously thought there were other teams behind you if you had hoped to see another Racer arrive at your location during the Roadblock task. Which teams did you think were behind you and why? Did you think [Amani Pollard] and [Marcus Pollard] were, simply because they had to finish the Speed Bump task?
Jennifer Young: I definitely thought that Marcus and Amani were behind me because they were still working on whatever they had to do. I thought that [Laurence Sunderland] was behind me, because I had gone a different way and thought I had made up really good time and I thought I was still ahead, but I knew that time was ticking away and that I was losing whatever kind of advantage I had in finding my place.
Reality TV World: Jennifer, so just to clarify, each team only had to bicycle to one of three different locations during that Roadblock and it was unclear how close those locations were. So when you first finished the Roadblock, do you think there were actually teams behind you and they were just biking to another village, or were all three locations in the same village were you could have seen the other teams but you were already in last place at that point?
Jennifer Young: I had no idea where the other teams were -- if they were close -- I had absolutely no idea what was going on. So, I thought initially that they all delivered to the same place and it could have been that -- because I think that I was either the first or second person to deliver to my spot, because I did see somebody else standing with their fish or whatever.
But I think that maybe when I went out to the main road to figure something out and come back, [Cathi Alden] might have come in from a different way, because I think she delivered to the same place. She might have come into the village from a different way and gone on about her business.
So, I don't know, maybe standing still was the best decision -- maybe just jumping on that bike and going back to the beginning was the best decision. In hindsight, it's like, "Ughh, why did I stand there? Why did I wait so long to commit to any one thing?" So, I regret waiting.
Reality TV World: Jennifer, the show made it seem like you didn't want to head back to the bus station to begin with because you were worried about heading in the wrong direction and possibly getting lost. Was that accurate or did you think it would just be faster to wait for another team to show up like you have talked about? Why did actually you wait so long before deciding you should just find Justin where you got your bike and re-read the clue, and what made you finally decide to leave?
Jennifer Young: I think for me, I was definitely under the impression that, "I need to make a good decision and not go even more wrong." So I was like, "Well, what if the bike master that I'm supposed to go back to is not at the bus stop? What if he is..." and you see this random people and I was like, "Do you want my money? Do I give my money to you?"
So, I was confused and there's just no excuse to not having my clue on me, you know? I just didn't want to make any more mistakes and really, the biggest mistake was not following my intuition and going with what I knew.
Reality TV World: Justin, what was going through your mind while Jennifer was gone for so long? Did you think of possibilities of what could have happened in your head and how long did you feel like she was gone for? At what point did you start worrying she might have been hurt?
Justin Young: Well, it was obviously different for me because I kind of was keeping track of when everybody left. So, I'm at the side of the road at the start of the Roadblock, so I saw that Jennifer was off on her bike second and then everybody else kind of went after her.
And then slowly but surely, everybody else started to come back. So I wasn't really thinking about worrying about what was going on. I was more worried about finally having her come back and then moving on.
So I thought it would have been something that surely would have been easy and not a problem and then after Amani and Marcus finished the Speed Bump and then were on their way, and then Marcus came back, that was when I started to say, "Okay. What's really gone on? She either got really lost. Hopefully she's not hurt. Hopefully she didn't get hit by a bus or mauled by an elephant or a pack of hyenas."
I had no idea what was going on. So I just kept waiting and trying to be patient, because I knew that we just had to be the most efficient as possible once she did finally show up, you know? So, I watched the watch, looked at the time and knew that time was ticking away. And then eventually, she showed up.
Reality TV World: Justin, you and Jennifer were shown bickering a lot towards the beginning of the Race but things seemed to smooth out between you two over time. But it seemed like Jennifer's mistake during the Roadblock might have been a time when you two would get into an argument or you'd be upset with her for the decisions she made in the heat of the moment. However, you were completely calm afterwards and didn't seem affected by it. What was your mindset there?
Justin Young: Well, I knew that we had to be as productive as possible and there was nothing I could do. There's no way that I could waste any energy in trying to argue about it or whatever. Really, the task at hand was getting to the Pit Stop as fast as possible.
I knew we were behind and I knew we were way behind, and in order to make up that time, it was really important for me to focus and just do whatever I could to just make sure that she was okay and then make sure that we did what we needed to do to get to the finish as fast as possible.
So arguing didn't fit into the equation and honestly, arguing for me was never a part of the plan. It just happened to play up in the first episodes when we're trying to figure things out and eventually, we did become a really strong team because we communicated more and fought less.
And so, this was definitely one of those moments where it was crucial to just say, "Look, we need to go." And so as soon as she showed up -- and you can kind of see in the episode -- as soon as she showed up, I was like calmly, "We're way behind. We've got to make up some time. Let's move."
Reality TV World: At the beginning of last night's episode, you both left the Race's sixth Pit Stop in second place, but then you all got on the same 7:00AM bus to Salima which allowed all the teams to start the first task on an equal playing field. Do you think if you didn't have a type of transportation that allowed people to catch up to you that maybe the time wasted during the Roadblock wouldn't have determined your elimination?
Jennifer Young: I think we definitely were on that bus hoping that, "Well it's packed, maybe somebody's not going to get on." I know that some of us on that leg, as soon as we heard Marcus say, "My man, my man!" We knew he was on the bus.
We knew that no matter how crowded it was going to be, Marcus has that way of getting people to help him out. And so, you want that extra length of time in between, but you can't get mad if it doesn't happen. Because sometimes, you're that one that needs to be that last person on the bus.
Reality TV World: What made you decide to complete the "Dugout" Detour task instead of the "Lugout" one? Did you find it as difficult as the other teams did and how long do you think it took you to get to the canoe race's finish?
Justin Young: After talking to everybody about it and after watching it on the episode, we actually fared the canoe pretty well. They weren't your typical canoe -- a lot of time was spent circling and spinning around -- so it was definitely difficult, but the other task "Lugout" seemed like it was very physically demanding.
And so, I don't know. It was kind of a toss-up and it was kind of one of those interesting moments in the Race where you never know. You think the canoe is going to be super easy and all you have to do is jump in the boat and make a move, but in actuality, it's a lot more complicated than you thought.
Reality TV World: How did you both decide who would do which Roadblock task? Did you just keep switching off or did you have a strategy for that?
Justin Young: Strategically, we tried to respond in the moment. So if it seemed like it was going to be a more physically demanding task, I would definitely have tried to jump up and step up.
If we had enough of a lead like we did when we were in Thailand on the speed boats with the climbing task, in my mind, it felt like, "Okay well, we have no idea what kind of Roadblock will come ahead. If it's going to be something where we feel our strengths are going to be best suited for it, then we can do it."
But at the same time, I just didn't want to get trapped with Jennifer having to do the tobacco bale task at the tobacco warehouse when we first got to Malawi. That honestly, would have been really difficult for just about anybody and I think a lot of the guys had a hard time. It was just a lot of hard work, and so we tried to be strategic about that and then also playing up to each other's strengths.
Reality TV World: Why do you think Laurence and [Zac Sunderland] chose to U-Turn Amani and Marcus? Do you think Laurence and Zac thought that they were the only team behind them and that you two were actually ahead of them or were you aware of any bad blood between the two teams?
Jennifer Young: I definitely think that they thought that they were right there behind them. I don't think -- because they saw them run in the opposite direction -- Okay, well maybe they're lost like we were, who knows, so they chose to slow them down.
Marcus is a big guy and he's competitive, so you kind of don't want him on your heels. But I feel like they knew that -- they had to know that Sandy and Jeremy were still on the water, but Sandy also helped him find the village to drop off his fish.
So, there might have been some loyalty felt there. You never know why people choose to do the things they do on the Race, but I do know that for Justin and I and some other teams, I think that we tried to play as clean as we could and as positive as we could.
Reality TV World: Okay so going off of what you just said, when you arrived at the Jamaican Shop and saw the Double U-Turn sign, were you surprised another team chose not to U-Turn you guys and that only one team was selected to be U-Turned at all?
Justin Young: I wasn't surprised by it at all. I think we all kind of agreed while we were out there, and trying to feel everybody out, that we basically felt everybody was so positive and really in good spirits. Nobody really wanted to use the U-Turn if they didn't have to and I think that's why we didn't end up getting U-Turned, because for the most part, it was pretty obvious that we were so far behind.
So there was really no need to U-Turn us. At that point, we were unfortunately a nonfactor. So of course Laurence and Zac were thinking about Jeremy and Sandy and Marcus and Amani, because they were the ones that were right behind them. But for us, I don't think anybody really had a reason or a need to add insult to injury and U-Turn us as well. (Laughs)
Reality TV World: Once you two arrived at the Pit Stop, you seemed to know that you were in last place and that you were going to be eliminated. Were you positive approaching the Pit Stop mat that no other team was behind you or did you still think you had a shot to remain in the Race?
Jennifer Young: I think we kind of knew -- we're always excited to accept a blessing if somebody goes, "You're not eliminated," but I kind of think we knew that it was possible that that's what he was going to say. I don't know. I just feel like that feeling walking up was, "If this is it, we did a pretty darn good job."
And we really turned around our act and started to get along better. I was thinking about all the good things that came out of the Race rather than thinking, "Aw man, this is the end."
Reality TV World: During last week's episode, you guys actually finished the leg in first place but then The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan told you that you had to return to your truck and pay your driver. Did you just forget to pay the driver or did you think that because they weren't taxi drivers maybe they didn't need to be paid? What was the situation there and how frustrating was it that a small mistake like that cost you first place?
Justin Young: So (laughs) actually, I guess what ended up happening was miscommunication of sorts, but I distinctly asked the driver when we hopped off the truck if in fact we had to pay him. And it wasn't one of those things where it was in passing.
It was one of those things where I stood there -- I was a little shocked when he said, "No." I was like, "Really? How much should this cost?" And he was like, "No, no." And I was like, "Wait, so we don't have to pay you?" And he was like, "Mm, no, no." And so we were like, "Okay," and then we moved on.
So then when we got to the mat and we were there celebrating in first place just kind of chatting about it, but then for them to tell us that we had to go back -- obviously we weren't by ourselves. We were there in first place, so all eyes were on us.
So it was just a little frustrating to have to still go back, because it wasn't like we were trying to stiff the guy or not pay. We definitely asked and talked to him about it and actually took a couple minutes to clarify and make sure as much as possible.
So, that was a little bittersweet, to be completely honest. It was so awesome to be in Africa and then to finally get first place, it was just amazing. And then to have it snatched away, it was a little sad.
Reality TV World: You were one of the teams that overlooked the sign on the collection table at the children's orphanage and didn't hand over all their money to the children. Did you realize there was a sign on the table at all and since the information about giving the orphanage all your money was not described in the clue but just on that sign, did you think that was fair?
Jennifer Young: Yeah, actually we read the sign and handed over money. That was another mistake on my part. I had separated our money into Indonesian and Taiwan money, because I had like 100 dollars in Taiwanese money left.
Well that 100 dollars in my side pocket kicked me in the butt, because when we checked in and I found it, I was honest and said, "Here, this was still in my pocket." And they made us run back and give it to the orphanage. So Justin being the surgeon and very meticulous, we saw the sign, read it, handed over everything -- except for that one pocket I didn't check.
Reality TV World: Based on how they've done in the legs so far, [Andy Finch] and [Tommy Czeschin] seem like the favorites to win this season. Was that your opinion while you were out there, or was there another team you felt was the biggest threat?
Justin Young: I think that obviously by the way it was playing out, Andy and Tommy, they are doing a fantastic job. They're great guys, they're always in good spirits and they've worked so well together. So they're awesome.
I know it gets a little frustrating to see them win time, and time and time again, but they're good guys. You can't really be mad at that. The other team that was really a force to be reckoned with was [Cindy Chiang] and [Ernie Halvorsen]. They're fantastic people.
Cindy is a powerhouse and is very meticulous, and I know a lot of times people will say that she's a little obsessive compulsive, but paying attention to those details and training and planning really goes a long way and Ernie is just an athlete through and through. So, they make a great team.
But the other team that obviously you have to watch out for are [Bill Alden] and Cathi, because seemingly out of nowhere, they managed to stay in it. So really, there's moments for everybody to really shine and show that they -- more or less aren't necessarily frontrunners -- really take opportunities to stand out.
So really, it was truly anybody's game, you know? There were moments where certain mistakes and slip-ups cost you the game.
Reality TV World: How big an advantage do you think Andy and Tommy had given they were the only team with two younger guys on it? Because that's been one of the criticisms The Amazing Race had over the years -- that given how physical some of the tasks are, younger guy teams just tend to have a natural advantage over all the other teams.
Jennifer Young: Well, it's not like you can say, "Hey you guys are two young, fit men. You are out of the competition." It's not like that, and like Justin just said, simple mistakes can take the best athlete and put him at the bottom. I don't think that they can be faulted for allowing people who are physically fit to join the competition.
They make it so that you have to pay attention and you have to give your best no matter how fit that you are, and I think that that's kind of the equalizer. Hell, I don't care how fit you are -- a taxi is a taxi and if that sucker breaks down, (laughs) you're out. So, it balances itself out in other ways.
Reality TV World: How were you cast on The Amazing Race? How did you end up on the show?
Justin Young: We applied like a ton of other people did. We sent in the lengthy application and a two-minute video and next thing you know, they're calling us back saying, "I think we might have something here." And after some interviews, the rest was history.