Exclusive: Ron Zeitz and Bill Smith talk about 'The Amazing Race'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 10/04/2011
Ron Zeitz and Bill Smith were uncontrollably thrown into last place towards the beginning of the second leg of The Amazing Race's nineteenth season and could never recover and catch up to the other teams.
Their bad luck landed them two taxi drivers who slowed them down and got them stuck in the back of the pack, while the remainder of the leg allowed them little opportunity to gain ground on the other Racers -- resulting in Ron and Bill's eleventh and last place finish and their elimination from the competition. But due to The Amazing Race franchise's first-ever double-elimination leg, tenth-place finishers Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca were also ousted during Sunday night's broadcast of the show's second episode.
On Monday, Ron and Bill talked to Reality TV World about their The Amazing Race experience -- including why they fell into last place and never gained momentum, whether they knew they were doomed to be eliminated while racing or still had hope to surpass at least two other teams, how far behind Ethan and Jenna they believe they had finished, and whether they felt the orphanage sign featuring additional instructions which were not on their original clue should be considered fair gameplay.
Reality TV World: It looked like you guys were in last place pretty much from the moment your plane had landed in Indonesia. What happened there? Why were you guys in last place arriving to the cave? And it looked like you guys were never able to move up after that and catch up to the other teams so was there any particular reason why?
Bill Smith: Arriving in Indonesia, we actually did really well. When we left the airport, we were first to arrive at the train station -- where we took the all night train -- Thing got off to a great start. We were excited and we're not making excuses and we said it to everyone, but we've been watching the Race for 10 years and taxis have truly determined the Race for some people.
They've even lost a million dollars for some teams. From the time we left the station -- From the time we got to Yogyakarta, two bad taxis put us in eleventh and we could never recover. They got so lost in the middle of the night and there was no way to change taxis, so from the second we got off the train in Yogyakarta, we chose the wrong cab and never recovered from there.
Reality TV World: When I talked to Ethan and Jenna a little while ago, they said there was some other task that wasn't shown in last night's episode that ended up grouping the teams into two groups of teams and they ended up in the later group of teams and that was why they were behind the rest of the way. Was that also the case with you, and do you agree that was one of the causes of your poor finish?
Bill Smith: It just goes back to the cabs. We had to get in our cabs from the train station and our cab got lost at one in the morning. We couldn't jump out of it. Because of that, we were put into a later group and then that cab at that point, it was a different driver.
He had a moment where there was so much pandemonium going on with teams leaving at the same time that he wouldn't back up. We kept saying, "Please back up. Back up." And he wouldn't back up and go. So we became the caboose in a six taxi caravan to the cave.
Ron Zeitz: And what happened at that point was when we got to the cave, because it wasn't a rappel where you could try to get ahead of the teams and there was physical gear to put on, there's procedures and instruction. So by being at the end of the taxi line, because we were all in a line going to the cave -- truly lined up like a train -- at that point, there was no way to jump ahead of the other teams.
So our hope was that in the next task, we would be able to overcome some teams either through our ability to perform a task faster or a team having a hard time. But truly, two separate taxi rides from the time we landed in Yogyakarta and got off the train, we had two separate cab rides that truly put us in the back without any control of our own. It was devastating. We were literally sick inside the whole time.
Reality TV World: You needed to have at least two teams behind you throughout the second leg of the Race in order to finish in ninth and be able to continue on competing. So while you were racing, could you sense you were in last place and did you feel like there was little hope to recover, or were you optimistic that you still had a chance to avoid elimination for any reason?
Ron Zeitz: Yeah, we knew we were in last up to the point that we left the cave.
Bill Smith: Oh, we knew! (Laughs)
Ron Zeitz: So in the cab ride, we kind of were addressing that. We knew a fear of that happening, but we were both feeling that perhaps this was an opportunity -- doing the dance task -- that we could complete it quickly, raise some money quickly and move on. That was our chance to strike out and we weren't reliant on a cab at that point.
Once we finished the dance task, which we seemed to do, in my mind, went very very quickly. I thought maybe we gained some ground. We were of course hoping that another team was faltering somewhere along the line and we could overtake at least two of the teams and like you said, jump into ninth place.
When we went to the orphanage and turned in our money, I was feeling really confident like maybe we were successful at doing that, because we had no idea at the orphanage where we were in the scheme of things. We did actually see another team...
Bill Smith: That had been way ahead so we thought we were now on the heels of everybody. We didn't realize they were coming back.
Ron Zeitz: Because they had been told that they need to turn in all their money. So I thought, "Well, this is the first we've seen them," so perhaps we were very successful in doing that. So the excitement was building and I was like, "Wow, we've been able to accomplish one of those 'come from behind situations,'" only to find out that it wasn't actually the case.
Reality TV World: How far behind Ethan and Jenna do you think you finally arrived at the Pit Stop after you came back from giving all your money to the orphanage?
Bill Smith: I'd say five minutes. Would you agree, baby?
Ron Zeitz: Yes, I'd say five minutes.
Bill Smith: They were on the mat when we arrived.
Reality TV World: Amani Pollard and Marcus Pollard ended up being the ninth place team that you would actually have had to have finished ahead of to have continued in the Race, so do you have any idea how far behind them you were?
Bill Smith: We do because when we were all going back and forth to the orphanage, we were all passing each other. And of course, the whole time I'm like, "Hey guys! Good luck! Keep up the good work!" We don't know that they already know the secret of going back to bring all their money, and of course, nobody's telling anyone that.
So, truly as we were running to the Pit Stop, they had just left the Pit Stop to go back to the orphanage. So I would say they probably checked in maybe 20 minutes at the most ahead of us. Would you guess that, baby?
Ron Zeitz: Yeah. Maybe, I don't know.
Bill Smith: We were passing each other during the second round, so we saw like five teams doing that return to the orphanage. So we were all much closer than we thought at the time.
Ron Zeitz: I think, I don't want to say I was grasping at straws, but I had hoped that once we had found out we had to go back, it was an extremely hot day that day. I was just hoping somewhere, because of that long run back to the orphanage and back to the check-in point, that someone would falter there and that we could take advantage of that.
Bill Smith: Not literally fall to the ground, but we were hoping for fal-tering. (Laughs)
Ron Zeitz: (Laughs)
Reality TV World: How did you guys decide to have Ron do the Confucius Roadblock task and Bill perform the spelunking one in the cave? Was that decided before the Roadblocks or did you make those decisions spur of the moment?
Ron Zeitz: We actually did that kind of spur of the moment. When I saw what it was, I was like, "Let's do it." I'm going to do it. When it came to spelunking, I had thought, "Well I want him to experience that." I'm like, "Go do it. Do it, do it." It was a spur of the moment kind of a thing.
Bill Smith: And what happened too, when we got to the spelunking, I didn't know what it was. I was like, "What is spelunking?" And he told me. So, he said to me, "I want you to do it." And at the same moment, literally I said, "Baby, I want you to have this experience, because when are you going to rappel? Like seriously, that's like a gift -- this task."
And so I said, "I want you to be able to experience it." So both of us at that moment are like," I want you to have this memory and moment." And finally he said, "No, this is yours. I want you to have this to enjoy." So it was one of those things where we were both trying to give it to each other, not because we didn't want to do it, but because we both wanted each other to have that memory during the Race.
And he won, he said, "Nope, you're going to do it. I want you to have this." So that's how we chose me, and it's funny because I think some people thought, "Well maybe Ron should have done it because he's maybe a little leaner and stuff," but I spelunked and I climbed up the wall!
Ron Zeitz: I knew that, yeah. That was the first impression that everybody got and everything, but he did great with it. I mean, he went down and up pretty quickly.
Reality TV World: You guys had said you expected your flight attending experience to give you an advantage during the Race -- do you think that ended up happening? Because from the two episodes we saw, it didn't look like you had a chance to use that experience, so did you get a chance after all or no, and if so, was there footage that wasn't shown?
Bill Smith: You hit it on the head. From those first episodes, there was an opportunity and our goal was to use it towards the end to get a better position on the flight and maybe quicker off the plane for the final destination city.
So, it really didn't come into play and we purposely weren't going to make it a big issue in the beginning because we didn't want to create a target, because there was a sense that if you're a flight attendant, they would give you an advantage.
And that actually came up with some of the other teams who figured out that we were, because we had talked about it, so no. Our plan was never to use it early on and save it later into the thing.
Ron Zeitz: When it could count.
Bill Smith: Yeah! When we could make our big grand finale entrance.
Reality TV World: There's been a lot of discussion about the sign at the orphanage amongst viewers this morning about how the clue didn't mention giving all your money to the children and that information was just on the sign at the collection table. Did you think that was fair or do you think that information should have been in the clue as well?
Ron Zeitz: I think it was a great opportunity for the show to keep the show going and to keep it fresh with new twists and turns. In the past, the clue was just handed to you or it's very visible what the clue tells -- you complete the task and they hand you the clue. I think it really forced everybody to really think going onward to make sure you pay attention to all these little things that crop up like that.
Bill Smith: I think, I don't know who thinks what about whether it's fair or not, do we think it was not fair? No. I think it was absolutely fair. I think it was The Amazing Race doing what it does. Every year, they mix it up. They change it, because we could even go to that little emblem they gave us after we gave them our money. That was the clue. It's about being able to figure it out.
We had to take that little emblem, figure out what to do with it, and that was our clue. So there is no guarantee that the clue is going to say, "Do this, this and this." You just know to go here. Now, did we know to look for that thing on the table? No. We were so caught up in the moment that we didn't even think about it. But do we think that it was unfair to put it there? No.
It was absolutely fair, because I mean, it was one of those things that it added a new exciting twist. That's why people love to watch the Race, and viewers may be questioning it today, but I bet most viewers are saying -- much as I maybe think it was kind of a weird twist -- it sure was an exciting twist. That's really what they're doing. So, I think it was very smart of the Race to do it and unfortunately, we missed it.
Reality TV World: Did you ever get an explanation about why the producers decided to have the teams go back to the orphanage instead of, like they've done with some legs on earlier seasons, just giving time penalties to the teams that did the task wrong?
Ron Zeitz: I think that it was important that the -- let me give you just a quick background -- is that the whole time we were in Indonesia, we had seen some pretty rough living conditions and I think they really wanted this orphanage to get the money.
I think it was really important that they give all the money each team had. And when you add up the 11 teams, that's a substantial amount of money. And sure it's a lot of money, but what it's going to be able to accomplish for that orphanage is really incredible.
Bill Smith: Had they just given us a penalty, we would have sat there and sat out for what, thirty minutes? And we probably still would have all finished in the same order, but the orphanage never would have gotten the money. By sending it back, I think it was great for the show as far as exciting to watch.
But I also think that had we not gone back, that money never would have gotten back there. So, our extra trip -- I mean, it'd be the follow-up -- and we were all exhausted. But based on how much they gave us to start that Race, there was -- and it was on the show.
We had $300 to start that Race and we'd all spent some money, but that was a lot of money that was returned back. So I'm glad they sent us back instead of just giving us penalties, because I think the orphanage probably picked up an extra $100 from each team, so that was probably over $1,000 they got by those returns that we took back. That was very cool.
Reality TV World: Some viewers have expressed skepticism over the way Kaylani Paliotta and Lisa Tilley's passport incident from last week unfolded, and Jenna even tweeted something last week that suggested she was one of the skeptics. So, what were both of your thoughts on how that all played out?
Ron Zeitz: I can recall back when they came up to us -- Well, we were still at LAX -- and they came up to us and told us that they had lost their passport and their short participation in the Race was coming to an end.
I felt badly because the adrenaline had been going, you're excited, and I felt badly. But at the same time, as they walked away, I said, "Well, it teaches you how important these documents are and that this is a pivotal -- this is an important element of the Race -- is keeping track of these documents."
Bill Smith: But I think what she's asking is was there scandal.
Ron Zeitz: Oh, no. I was just coming from the angle that yeah.
Bill Smith: I think that in this world of technology, I think there's a lot of things possible. Communication plays into it. I think it's a miracle they got it. It truly is a miracle they got it and I think they should be thankful beyond all thankfulness. But I think it does show the power of communication.
Ron Zeitz: In a digital age.
Bill Smith: But do I think there was meddling? No. I do think the guy at the gas station got on TV and he became a part ofThe Amazing Race! (Laughs) If I saw that happen, I probably would have done that.