INTERVIEW: John Vito and Jill talk about their 'Amazing' adventure
By Christopher Rocchio, 02/20/2007
Needless to say, John Vito Pietanza and his partner Jill Aquilino don't relish the fact they were the first pair eliminated during CBS' The Amazing Race: All-Stars premiere on Sunday night -- especially since they finished fifth during the reality competition series' third season.
On Tuesday, John Vito, a a 32-year-old trader from New York, NY, and Jill, a 29-year-old product controller from New York, NY, talked to Reality TV World about their relationship and all things All-Stars -- including just how exactly how they went from first to worst during the first leg of The Amazing Race's eleventh edition.
Reality TV World:Jill, after you and John Vito were eliminated, you said, "this [experience] will put us on a new path that's definitely more than just friends." What did you mean by that and has it happened since filming concluded?
Jill: That's the No. 1 question coming from everyone. I only simply met that we had never gotten involved romantically during a portion of the race, nor since. I just meant we started our relationship as friends many years ago and it eventually became romantic... but we just wanted to go back to having a very strong, solid friendship that is more than just friends but not in a romantic way. We meant a lot to each other for a very long time and there's a lot of history, so that's all that I had meant by that. We're not just pals buddying around. John Vito: When we broke-up, we remained friends, but we would just talk once and a while during holidays and stuff. I think what we meant was now, the race brought us closer together -- not in a romantic way -- just closer friends.
Reality TV World:How did you guys end up being part of the All-Stars? Had you already expressed interest in returning or did the producers just call you out of the blue?
Jill: [The producers] contacted us sometime in the beginning of August to see if we had any interest in returning [and] what our status was relationship-wise with other people. From there, we kept in touch with them for a while until they finally made a decision in early fall.
Reality TV World:What was it that motivated you to join All-Stars?
John Vito:The Amazing Race 3 was an unbelievable experience for us. Just the opportunity to travel around the world and share these great places, for me, to do it with Jill was a great experience. For them to ask me to do it again, I would never do it with anybody else besides Jill. So to have the opportunity to do it again with Jill even though we weren't dating anymore, it felt like it would be foolish to say no. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we had a second chance to do it. And also an opportunity to redeem ourselves. We thought we had a really good chance of winning The Amazing Race 3, so we thought we'd pick-up the intensity and really have a good shot at winning the second time around.
Reality TV World:Jill, would you ever consider racing with anyone other than John Vito? Jill: No way.
Reality TV World:You guys had one of the earliest departure times leaving Pim's Restaurant and still came in last. What happened? How did you end up at the south entrance instead of the north? Were the maps that the show provided hard to read?
Jill: You're at the mercy of the people you're asking help from and unfortunately we got bad directions. But we also learned after the race that all tourists and most people enter [Cotopaxi National Park] through the south entrance. The north entrance is not a well-known entrance. So, as we were asking people for directions, there was definitely a language barrier. It was very hard for us to find anyone that spoke English and we don't really speak much Spanish. We kept getting sent to the south entrance, and even getting to the south entrance took forever to get to. Even though we were in the front for the most of that leg, at the very end we got bad directions and it took us out of the way and put us from first to last. John Vito: [The show] gave us a map just to get out of the main city and it was a 65 mile drive [to Cotopaxi], so we had a ways to go from where we were to the Detour. So we had a map for just the main city, and the rest we had to try and navigate on our own."
Reality TV World: How far behind Kevin and Drew were you when you go to the Detour?
Jill: We didn't see them, but we showed up 15 minutes apart. It was pretty quick.
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Reality TV World: Did you guys have a particular strategy going into All-Stars? What was it?
John Vito: For me, I wanted to train more for endurance. For The Amazing Race 3, I really concentrated on strength training, and for this one I really wanted to try and build-up my endurance. We also studied past seasons to be familiar with different tasks, what teams finished first and last, just in case they asked us questions about events that happened in previous seasons. Like at the end of Race 9, they had to pick flags according to all the countries they visited... I [also] thought they may ask what teams won each season. So we just tried to study-up on that stuff and come in with more intensity and be a little more aggressive if that's even possible.
Reality TV World: Did you consider yourselves "all-stars" from your first appearance on the series? Was there anyone you were surprised didn't make the cast?
Jill: I think we always would have loved the opportunity to come back and do it again. First of all, we never really knew if they'd ever do anything like [All-Stars]. If they did, there are so many teams worthy of being on [All-Stars]. We were lucky that they chose us. Did we deserve it? Well, yeah, of course, but I'm sure that every other team felt they deserved it too. [The producers] had to narrow it down to the 11 they picked, but I can think of 30 teams they could have put on this season. John Vito: We definitely think that every team that made [All-Stars] deserves to be here. Only one team [are previous winners], but that's what makes The Amazing Race so interesting. [Host Phil Keoghan] even said it before the race started: 'Anybody could win.' Of course some teams have a physical advantage over others, but it doesn't matter. Your physical advantage only helps you in certain circumstances... luck really does play a large factor. We felt we were a little unlucky in Race 3 and very unlucky in All-Stars. But I know I'm very happy with the way we ran the first half of the leg, and I'm sure Jill is too. Maybe if we would have asked someone else for directions we wouldn't of wound-up being eliminated first... but that's just the way the race goes.
Reality TV World: Did you have any previous relationships with the teams you competed against on All-Stars?
Jill: We had some relationships from before. Teri and Ian were from our season so we knew them and had kept in touch with them here and there. Kevin and Drew are pretty much from Staten Island... [well] Kevin is not, but they know New Jersey and they went to college on Staten Island. We're pretty friendly with them. We're friends with Ozzy and Danny. So a lot of the teams we had had relationships with from prior. Of course you build relationships going through the whole process -- that's the really nice thing -- making all these wonderful relationships.
Reality TV World: When did you find out who you'd be racing against?
Jill: We didn't know until we walked into the [pre-race] conference room.
Reality TV World: Who did you consider your biggest competition?
John Vito: I think from running Race 3, we kind of knew what to expect. It doesn't matter who you're running the race against, it matters if you yourself always stay on-top of the ball, always try to think once step ahead, and also it's the luck factor. It really doesn't matter who you're running against.
Reality TV World: Who would you like to see win this season? Is there anyone you really wouldn't like to see win?
John Vito: The only team I really wanted to see win was [ours]. I think all the other teams are deserving of winning. It's going to be interesting to watch. Jill: I know when we first got eliminated, I was hoping Kevin and Drew or Ozzy and Danny would do well just because they were the ones I probably had the strongest relationship with outside the race. John Vito: But at the same time, we wanted them to hang out with while we were being sequestered. Jill: Right... we're friends with them [laughing].
Reality TV World: Did you identify any strengths within yourself or with your partner during All-Stars?
Jill: I think we're both a lot alike, which is why we work well as a team. We're both really physically strong and fit and also mentally very strong and tough. We were just going to take it task by task. If things required brute strength, that would probably be a John Vito thing. But really I think we were equally qualified to do anything during the race. John Vito: I think for me it was a bigger test on my character was being eliminated first and having to be sequestered and deal with not really expecting going out first. We really expected to go to the end and it was just devastating for both of us... just trying to deal with that and put it aside and try to make the best of it.
Reality TV World: Was being the first team eliminated tough for you too Jill?
Jill: It was very difficult. I think I cried for three days straight. I was so depressed and so down on myself. I felt I just disappointed myself, John Vito, my family, my friends... of course I didn't. But that's the way you feel at first and it's very hard to shake those feelings -- especially when you have such high expectations and it totally went the complete wrong way then how we thought it was going to go. John Vito: Watching the show the other night, the intensity we brought to All-Stars really came through. I thought we were very aggressive out of the gate and we did really well when the circumstances were in our hand. But then when it came time to rely on someone else like the locals... that's what you have to deal with in The Amazing Race and we lost. I think we just have to be happy we did the best we could when it was in our hands.
Reality TV World: Did being sequestered together change your feelings for each other or for any of the other teams?
John Vito: Eventually there were five teams there, so it wasn't just like one-on-one time. We spent a lot of time with the group hanging out together. I think we got to know people more and I think that everybody we were with are good people and I enjoyed spending the time with them to get to know them... although none of us wanted to be there.
Reality TV World: So your All-Stars appearance definitely closed the book on the romantic aspect of your relationship?
Jill: I think it was closed already it was just something we wanted to do together because we thought it would be a wonderful experience and we would never turn down an opportunity like that. I don't think either of us ever thought going into it that there would be anything romantic at all. John Vito: Especially not in the race. We were there for one reason -- it was to win the $1 million. Our relationship evolved as all do.