Exclusive: Jeremy Cline and Sandy Draghi talk 'The Amazing Race'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/13/2011
Jeremy Cline and Sandy Draghi finished The Amazing Race as the runner-up team, losing to "Engaged Couple" Ernie Halvorsen and Cindy Chiang but beating out the third-place finishers Amani Pollard and Marcus Pollard during Sunday night's broadcast of the CBS reality competition's nineteenth-season finale.
The "Dating Couple" started off the final leg in great shape, as they departed the eleventh Pit Stop in first place and completed the first flight simulator task in one attempt unlike both of the other teams.
However, their Race took a fatal turn when they had tried to research which "dump" location was their next destination and guessed wrong, leading them off track by about an hour and allowing Ernie and Cindy to gain a commanding lead on them. As a result, Jeremy and Sandy crossed the Finish Line in second place and just fell short of claiming the victory they had anticipated along with the $1 million grand prize.
On Monday, Jeremy and Sandy talked to Reality TV World about their The Amazing Race experience.
To read our exclusive interview with this season's champions, Ernie and Cindy, click here.
Reality TV World: How does it feel to have finished the Race in second place? Are you guys disappointed because you came so close to winning the million or are you satisfied with how you ran all the legs and proud of how far you made it?
Jeremy Cline: Pretty satisfied for "C" students who finished in second place, actually. (Laughs)
Sandy Draghi: Yeah, it's bittersweet. We're thrilled that we were able to complete all of 12 legs and never did get eliminated, but also getting that close and making that one-million dollar mistake, it's pretty hard to swallow.
Jeremy Cline: Us getting passed -- coming out and nailing that first challenge and then making that mistake and getting passed -- no matter where you're at in that Race, getting passed was really, really a hard thing to kind of endure for every team.
Reality TV World: Jeremy, referring to the little "C" student comment you just made, obviously I think you guys know that Cindy was shown saying during Sunday night's episode that losing The Amazing Race would be like losing to "C" students when they were the "A+" students. What are your reactions to that statement? Did you take that a little offensively or just laugh it off?
Sandy Draghi: Yeah, we did take offense to it. We ran the Race and never were unkind to any other teams. It's not necessary to kind of take those shots at other teams. You have to laugh it off. It is a show and Jeremy and I both know that we're not "C" students, so whatever they want to think about us, they can. We just wish they were a little more humble with the win.
Jeremy Cline: Yeah, it's just for me, I mean, it just kind of shows some true colors about their attitude towards it -- just a little surprising, but I don't know. It was a little bit shocking for me to hear that statement. I was kind of glad it made the edit.
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Reality TV World: When I talked to Ernie and Cindy, they said they thought you got to the Finish Line about an hour-and-a-half after them. Do you think that's accurate, and about how far ahead of Amani and Marcus do you think you arrived?
Sandy Draghi: (Laughs) We don't know...
Jeremy Cline: We don't know how far we were behind. They obviously know. They were there, so yeah. We weren't sure on that one. We were guessing 45 minutes, but I thought Cindy would have said three hours.
Sandy Draghi: Yeah.
Jeremy Cline: But no. I mean, Marcus and Amani were probably an hour behind us.
Sandy Draghi: Yeah.
Reality TV World: When you finally arrived at the Finish Line, before you saw Ernie and Cindy waiting there for you, were you convinced you had finished in second place or did you think you had a real shot at winning?
Sandy Draghi: No, we knew.
Jeremy Cline: We knew we were in second.
Sandy Draghi: We knew we were in second before. We knew that mistake that we made -- we had driven an hour out of our way, so that killed us.
And then also, after I finished the typewriter challenge, we stopped at the exact same hotel that Ernie and Cindy had stopped at and they told us that two contestants had just passed through here, and they said they were about an hour ahead of us. So we knew at that point there was no making up an hour in leg 12 of The Amazing Race. So, we knew we were out.
Reality TV World: You guys left the flight simulator task in first place but went to the wrong dump location and obviously lost a lot of time there as you had just discussed. So once you realized you had gone to the wrong dump, did you have any hope that you might still be in first place or did you feel like too much time had elapsed for you to still maintain the lead?
Jeremy Cline: Yeah, we did! We actually thought -- I mean, it seemed so obvious that this place was called "The Dump," and the first person that we asked was so adamant. After reading our clue and looking at it, they said, "This place was an old warehouse. It used to be called 'The Dump.'" They thought, "It's gotta be it. Go there. You'll be set."
So we sat in traffic in front of everybody behind us in traffic, and when we realized it was a mistake, we kind of thought, "Well, truly maybe both teams will make the same mistake. It's pretty obvious. It took me a lot of digging to find that online." So we had a little bit of hope. It wasn't until we really found out that we were behind. Yeah.
Reality TV World: Did you guys believe the other two teams would land their aircraft as quickly and easily as you guys did or did you think they would struggle? Did it end up surprising you that Marcus struggled as much as he did with that task?
Jeremy Cline: It surprised me a lot that he struggled with it, but at the same time, you had to have that thing just right and it was a really -- you had to work together as a team and you had to land that thing just perfectly to get the pass.
So, we were shocked that we did it the first time and we knew we nailed it, so we were happy. We got out of there first and we thought we had a good lead. So, we were pretty proud of ourselves at that point. We didn't think though -- learning that it took Marcus all that time -- yeah, we were surprised that it took him that much.
Reality TV World: During last night's finale, you guys were shown saying you thought Amani and Marcus and Ernie and Cindy had a huge advantage in the final leg because they both had experience in Atlanta, GA, and Amani and Marcus currently live there. How much of an advantage do you think they actually got from that, if any, and do you think it played a big role in Ernie and Cindy's victory?
Sandy Draghi: We said it was only -- not that Ernie and Cindy had an advantage -- just Marcus and Amani because that's where they are from. So ultimately, it didn't play out because of that first task. But last night, we were talking to Marcus and Amani and they knew exactly that furniture store -- where it was -- and how it wouldn't have been right.
Just with that, if we were Racing in San Francisco and we got a clue like that, we would have known that the dump isn't truly the place that we went to. So, they had a little bit of an advantage, but Cindy and Ernie had no advantage. They aren't from Atlanta.
Jeremy Cline: But they knew their way around. We had no idea how far Buckhead was from where we were. When Marcus said, "Oh I knew that place was in Buckhead and it would be there," that's probably a little bit of an advantage. But it didn't really end up playing a part in the final leg.
Reality TV World: Sandy, it looked like you breezed right through the typewriting task. Is that accurate? How long do you think it took you to complete it?
Sandy Draghi: Not long, maybe six minutes.
Jeremy Cline: You breezed through it, I thought.
Sandy Draghi: Yeah, it was pretty quick -- pretty easy.
Jeremy Cline: All the other tasks, we killed, and it was just that one major mistake. I thought we ran -- taking out the mistake with the dump, we killed all those tasks.
Sandy Draghi: Yeah, we did really well.
Reality TV World: So based on what you're saying then, it sounds like heading to the wrong dump location was pretty much responsible for your second-place finish and you didn't really encounter any difficulties after that, right?
Jeremy Cline: Right.
Sandy Draghi: Correct. Not at all. The map was a breeze for us, the typewriting challenge was a breeze for me and yeah. It was just getting those wrong directions was the one mistake that we made and it cost us an hour of time.
Reality TV World: In pastThe Amazing Race seasons, most teams normally prepared for a task in the finale that would test their knowledge and memory of the prior legs. How much studying had you two done before that final leg or throughout the Race in general? Because, like you said, the map challenge seemed to come very easily to you guys.
Jeremy Cline: I had an extensive notebook of notes throughout -- detailed with every bit of piece of information down to what type of footwear each person that was sitting on the mat with [The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan] was wearing.
It was very extensive, so we were planning on using all of those details, and that's what kind of led us to the dump. We thought we were going to have to recall every person or detail of some part of the Race in this warehouse. It's actually what we kind of imagined or pictured, and it threw us off.
Sandy Draghi: And we did. We studied. As soon as we got to that last leg and the flight from Panama to Atlanta, we stayed up and we studied our book and memorized countries and people and different Roadblocks and Detours that we had to do throughout it. We were ready for a task to test us on our previous 11 legs.
Reality TV World: The clues during this final leg seemed to be very obscure. The dump clue and the Hank Aaron clue were both very vague and it seemed like they could have been easily misinterpreted or researched incorrectly. What are your thoughts about that and would you say that the clues were a little unfair because they could have technically had more than one answer? I mean, you guys experienced that first hand obviously.
Jeremy Cline: Yeah, and when we were doing it, we were like, "Oh, man. This is kind of unfair." But in the end...
Sandy Draghi: It's the same for all of us.
Jeremy Cline: It's the same for everybody, so how could it be unfair? It's just we didn't memorize the phone number for the visitor's bureau like Cindy did. So I guess we just made a mistake and we promised that we're not going to put the responsibility on anybody else. It was our mistake.
Reality TV World: During last night's episode, Ernie was shown saying that losing to the "Snowboarders" team would be one thing but it would be different to lose to Amani and Marcus or you guys. Based on that, they clearly considered Andy Finch and Tommy Czeschin to be the biggest threat. What's your response to that and do you think things would have turned out differently had Andy and Tommy competed against all of you in the finale?
Sandy Draghi: You know, our thoughts are yes. Andy and Tommy were probably -- were definitely the strongest team this season and they did belong in the Final Three. They absolutely did. They ran a really clean, fair, honest Race, and yeah. Things could have went differently.
I'm sure they would have done really well at that flight simulator and they could have stopped and gotten the correct directions. Anybody could have beaten any of us in that last leg if you didn't make a mistake.
So, it's unfair that they kind of looked down on Marcus and Amani and Jeremy and I, because we ran a really good, clean and fair Race as well. And we beat Cindy in Ernie in a few of the other legs in this Race, but yes, Andy and Tommy were that one team to beat.
Reality TV World: Cindy said competing on the Race was the "ultimate premarital counseling" for herself and Ernie. Would you guys say the Race served a similar benefit to your relationship in that it was like dating counseling? Do you think competing with each other strengthened your relationship?
Jeremy Cline: Yeah, for us, it wasn't the Race. It was watching the other teams, like [Bill Alden] and [Cathi Alden]. What we took from them was our kind of counseling and just talking with them was our counseling. Seeing their example, their great example of their marriage and their joy of just being with each other and kind of patience with each other, was huge.
And then you also -- you looked at Andy and Tommy and their patience with the Race and they're just focused on having fun. If we could go back and do it again, we would run it completely different and focus more on having fun and be more patient and trusting of one another.
So, that's what we looked at -- the other relationships in the Race that had become so valuable to us, even still to this day. We're going to continue to value those relationships we built that have helped us and ultimately kind of helped us grow into a better and new relationship.
Reality TV World: You guys were shown bickering and arguing a few times throughout the season. Was it tough for you guys to watch the show back and do you think how well you worked with each other kept getting better with each passing leg? What had to be done to stop the disagreements?
Sandy Draghi: Yeah, it was hard to be -- it was more me doing the bickering than Jeremy. I was just frustrated and probably took it out on him during those beginning legs, but we kind of caught our stride towards the end of the Race and ultimately what we did was, we looked...
Both of us are very independent in our careers and we're both -- he's an alpha male and I'm an alpha female. It's difficult to, I guess, trust and let someone else take your lead and we did. Towards the end, we gained trust with one another and we started to have fun.
We let our walls down and at the end, we caught our stride. I think that if the Race was 20 legs, we would be unstoppable. It really did take us towards the end to figure out how to work with one another, but we did. We gained a huge prize with that and our relationship has definitely been strengthened from that.
Reality TV World: What is the current status of your relationship now -- I'm assuming you're still together, so, any engagement plans?
Jeremy Cline: We're together and we've taken the next step in our lives and moved in together. We said that when we came back from the Race, we grew a lot, so we moved in together. We also had a garage sale (laughs) and sold a bunch -- half of all our stuff. We wanted to simplify and move our relationship forward and yeah. So we're happy.
Sandy Draghi: (Laughs) We're happy.
Reality TV World: Congratulations on that! How did your families react when they discovered you guys had finished second on The Amazing Race?
Sandy Draghi: It was hard. Both of our families flew out to be here with us in New York City to watch the finale with everyone last night and you know, both of our families think the world of us, and I think they think we can do anything in life.
So, I'm pretty sure that if they had to bet on it, both of our families would have thought we would have won. So, it was a little bit sad to sit next to my dad last night and hear him say, "I'm proud of you regardless of how it turns out."
But not that they're ever going to be disappointed, they're so proud of us. But they're just as let down as we are. It's hard. Second place, it's something to be so, so proud of. But it's also bittersweet.
Jeremy Cline: Yeah, my parents were very proud and very happy with -- I think they were actually very surprised that we did that well in it. They were just really proud people.
Our parents were glad to see us grow throughout this process and see us learn and what we've said about the other teams and how the other teams thought about us and how they felt about us as their friends. They saw how we interact with the other teams and they were just, I think, proud of us in that respect.
Reality TV World: If you two had won the Race, what do you think you would have done with the money? What do you think about Ernie and Cindy's initiative to create an organization to help people in need? Do you think you would have done anything like that?
Sandy Draghi: You know, certainly. I think what they're doing is powerful and I take my hat off to them. I think that's great. We haven't really thought of I guess what we would do with a million dollars. The journey around the world was priceless for us. I went to school until I was 28-years-old.
I have a Masters degree, so I definitely have a quarter of a million dollars in debt to my name just from student loans. So relieving that burden of all the hard work that I've put in during my life with my education would be great to be able to pay that off.
But we have. Since we've been home, we've been trying -- you know, going through Indonesia and Africa, we've seen a lot of poverty in this world and Jeremy and I definitely are giving back. We've been volunteering. We raised money for charity. We ran a marathon for charity.
I tried to do medical missions with my profession and I'm very, very fortunate with my career and what I do. And having the ability to give back, with my knowledge, medically -- I definitely want to take the time out of my busy schedule to do that. So, we're definitely trying to pay it forward even though we don't have the million dollars.
Jeremy Cline: Their initiative there is very generous of them. However much they're going to donate to start that is great. I was -- personally, one of my little things was that I wanted to donate some money to that orphanage that we visited.
That touched us when we saw that orphanage in Yogyakarta when we donated our money. I kind of wanted to go back there and hug all those children. They were adorable, and seeing the poverty and everything that country is stricken with, it's a life-changing experience to kind of witness that face to face, eye to eye.
But other than that, we would have -- we're continuing to want to go on and help out organizations and give back to children in need.
Reality TV World: How were you guys cast on The Amazing Race -- how did you end up on the show?
Sandy Draghi: We just sent in a video like the rest of America and tried to highlight our newly dating relationship -- that was the kind of status that we had, and we were just being ourselves and casting I guess fell in love with us somehow.
We're not really sure, because we certainly were cast with a lot of very, very, very inspiring and remarkable individuals. So Jeremy and I feel very proud to be able to run the Race with those folks.
Jeremy Cline: Oh yeah. We're not really sure after seeing the cast that was on this season, we didn't really have much of anything special to offer but some kind of unresolved issues with our relationship.
We wanted to move it forward, but we just weren't sure how and we were very timid to move any relationship forward after our past and both being divorced. So, we kind of brought this new dynamic to that in that respect.