Exclusive: 'The Amazing Race' couple Jeff Magee and Lyda Grawn talk (Part 1)
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 02/26/2015
The Amazing Race's 26th season eliminated Jeff Magee and Lyda Grawn during Wednesday night's premiere episode, which introduced the brand new "dating couples" theme, on CBS.
Jeff, a 57-year-old airline pilot from McCall, ID, and his girlfriend Lyda, a 49-year-old flight attendant from Scottsdale, AZ, were ousted from the race around the world after they arrived at the first Pit Stop in last place. The couple started dating four years ago although they've known each other for 20 years.
Jeff had trouble in the dancing Detour task and it put them way behind most of the pack. It was then a U-Turn that did them in completely.
In an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Thursday, Jeff and Lyda talked about their short-lived The Amazing Race experience. Below is the first half. Check back with us soon for the concluding portion.
Reality TV World: I think the first obvious question is, can you believe you were the first team to get eliminated and how did you feel walking away from that experience?
Jeff Magee: Oh, you know, when we first got selected to be on it and became finalists to actually do it, we always said the worst thing is if we got eliminated in the first round. And then when we did, it was so deflating!
Lyda Grawn: Yeah, it was pretty disappointing for sure, but what are you going to do? You can't unring that bell. We just laid in bed for weeks after that going, "We should have chosen [the other Detour] 'Sake!' We should have chosen 'Sake!'"
Reality TV World: The editing made it look like you two were very close to C.J. Harris and his girlfriend Lebya Simpson at the end when you were searching for the Pit Stop. How accurate was that? How far behind that team did you finally arrive at the Pit Stop?
Jeff Magee: You know, we were never told exactly and we didn't see them, so it wasn't like we were right behind them. But we don't know for sure.
Lyda Grawn: We think it was within 30 minutes to an hour. So, it was fairly close considering how big Tokyo is, you know, I think it was pretty darn close.
Jeff Magee: Yeah, I think had that U-Turn not have happened, we probably would've beaten them. But you know, that's the way it goes and we have no hard feelings about the U-Turn.
Reality TV World: What made you want to pick the "Syncing Steps" task to begin with instead of the "Samurai Sake." Because obviously, Jeff, dancing isn't your strong suit. (Laughs)
Jeff Magee: (Laughs) Well, you know, I told Lyda before we knew we were going to go, I said, "I don't want to do anything that involves dancing." And some, you don't have a choice. And she was like, "Yeah, I don't want to do anything that involved bungee jumping." And I said, "Okay, well if given a choice, we won't dance and we won't do bungee jumping for her."
So it turns out we had to do this one and we had just kind of teamed up with [Bergen Olson and his blind date Kurt Jordan Belcher]. We were on the train together [into town] and I didn't put my foot down and say, "No, I don't want to dance!"
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Because they were all excited about dancing and I didn't want to be the wet blanket and already split off from those other guys. And it turns out, I should have. And then later, again, during the dancing -- when I realized how poorly I was doing -- I should've said, "No, let's go do 'Sake.'"
Lyda Grawn: Well, you get caught up in the moment and we chose poorly. I think the "Sake" was intimidating to us because we had been traveling, and at that point, we had been up for 30-something hours.
And so we were a little intimidated by it, and you know, the clue, you don't understand everything just from the little blurb they give you on the clue. And it made it sound like we had to memorize 10 Sakes, when really, you only had to hopefully pick one of the 10. So, it made it sound a lot more difficult when, actually, it was the easiest.
Reality TV World: Is that why you chose to stick with the dancing task instead of switching after a while?
Jeff Magee: Yes. That and the transit time, because we had traveled so far and we took taxis. It turns out the faster way was their little above-ground subway system. It took so long and the traffic was so horrible, we were worried about the transit time to "Sake" and then back to the cluebox. And so, we were thinking, "Well, we've already..." We felt somewhat committed already.
Reality TV World: In terms of directions and how you both navigated that leg, did you have any problems like a lot of the other teams or did things pretty much run smoothly besides that dancing task and U-Turn?
Jeff Magee: It was pretty smooth really navigation-wise, yeah.
Lyda Grawn: Because we were lucky with our taxi cabs pretty much. We were able to find some folks that spoke some English who could translate to our taxi cab driver. So we actually got pretty lucky in that department. I mean, the transit time between each place was about 30 minutes. It was, you know, across town. But our taxis never got lost. They took us straight to where we needed to go.
Jeff Magee: Actually, we did have to go and ask for directions from a third party after the dancing, and that took a little while. But we found someone who spoke both languages and wrote it down in Japanese so that our taxi driver could take us to the... park. The park was kind of obscure, where that second cluebox was, and so that was -- I don't know, that probably took an extra 20 minutes just getting the directions.
Reality TV World: Lyda, you started crying during the dancing task. Obviously you guys ended up doing it over 20 times. Do you think those tears were coming from a place of frustration, disappointment or just plain exhaustion?
Lyda Grawn: You know, quite honestly, a little bit of everything. My dad died two days before we left for The Race, and so, I didn't get to go to his service and my sister died of cancer when I got back. But she and I had talked and she promised me she'd be waiting for me when I got there.
And that's the one thing that she and I always said, was, "You never give up hope. You always keep going. Never give up hope." So those tears were not only coming from frustration and being tired, but I was also a very emotional person during our whole leg of the Race.
Reality TV World: Oh wow, I'm very sorry to hear all of that, Lyda.
Lyda Grawn: So, nobody knows that really, and it didn't really come across. But that was just my journey and my life and what was happening for me during that time.
Reality TV World: Jeff, you seemed to stay pretty calm and collected during the "Syncing Steps" task. After what Lyda just told me, is that why? Because you felt the need to be strong for her?
Jeff Magee: Well, you know, I think it was a complicated -- it was more of a march than a dance. But I think, just from my life experience as a pilot and things, I just knew that getting flustered wasn't going to help. I just had to keep trying and plug it out.
Given that, I didn't have the mental strength to say, "No, I'm too slow at this. Let's go do 'Sake.'" So, I can't compliment myself on my composure too much because I should've made a different decision.
Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion of Jeff and Lyda's exclusive interview.