Our Interview with Don and Mary Jean
The other day, I had the opportunity to interview Don and Mary Jean, the latest team to be eliminated from The Amazing Race. Here's what they had to say:
You fell behind looking for the clue around the church. Was it due to misreading the clue?
Mary Jean: We read the clue, and there was an additional sentence that told exactly where the clue was located. And we stuck that part in our pockets at the wall and forgot that we had done that. We had been about 30 hours at that point without sleep. We went around that church for 2 hours, not knowing that a half a block away was the statue we were supposed to be looking for.
Don: We thought we'd run a very good race, because although we had difficulty finding a cab that would take us, we finally got someone we thought was going to be really great. He took us to the train station, and came in with us, but rather than taking us to a ticket booth, he took us into an office where time was consumed. When we got to the Berlin Wall, we thought we were competitive, but when we got to the clue box and found we were in last place, that was unbelievably demoralizing. And I think contributed to the fact that we were attitudinally really at a low when we got to the church.
Mary Jean: We don't have any excuse for not remembering that we had that additional information. We just plain forgot that, and if we hadn't, we might still be in the race. And no one is more upset with us that we are. We're still hostile about it.
How much money were you able to get from the other teams?
Don: By the time we left the island, from the other teams I'd say we got about $40 to $50. We got $20 from Johnathan. It's hard to tell exactly how much we had, because some of it was Senegalese, and someone actually gave it to us in Swiss Francs. But we had enough to get on the boat and do what we needed.
The non-elimination legs are planned in advance, and production knows that whoever is last will lose all their money. It seems like since the rule was implemented, the NEL's are some very difficult places to beg from.
Don: I could have thought of some better places to beg for money than one of the poorest countries in the world, where we were being begged by the people.
Mary Jean: We never went up to the natives. It would have been the most bizarre thing in the world, it never entered our minds. It also never entered our minds that we wouldn't get enough money to continue with the race. It added a really positive dimension to the race to have to do that. We took away lots of life lessons from the begging.
During the Ikea detour, how long did you try counting before you switched to putting the furniture together?
Don: A minimum of 2 hours. Unfortunately I'm forever preserved on film with my head against that bin, saying it was the longest day of my life.
Mary Jean: And he deserved it, because he refused to build the desk, and he builds desks and furniture at home all the time. I was ready to kill him. But it was worth it, because we took that horrible experience into our lives, and our life together is much, much better for having gone through that.
Don: It's incredible that counting bears at Ikea has been a changing force in our relationship. All for the better.
The detours this season seem to have been a choice between something that ends up simple, and something that ends up complicated. Do you think you just chose the complicated detours?
Don: One thing you may be thinking about is the fishing in Senegal. But we heard from a number of sources that it was an average of 113 fish per hour, and we had to catch 5.
Mary Jean: And from what we knew then, we believed that everyone but 2 teams were going to go fishing, and it wasn't until everyone saw us and Gus & Hera in the water and how rough it was that everyone changed their minds and went back. So we thought our odds, having fished our entire lives, were very good.
Don: I think when they saw us going out, and how rough the water was, they said "no way" and went back and stacked fish.
Mary Jean: We never would have knowingly been the only ones out fishing.
You've both travelled all over the world - do you think that gives you an edge over teams that may not have done as much traveling?
Mary Jean: It should have. (laughs)
Don: No, I think it did. Because one of the highlights was Senegal. I was candidly disturbed by some of the other racers' comments and remarks about the squalor. And they couldn't take that for what it was worth, one of the most intriguing places they'll ever be, and not to partake of that situation was kind of sad.
Mary Jean, you'd hoped to visit a third world country, and you got your wish. What did you take away from that experience?
Mary Jean: That was the highlight of our race, and we only wish we'd have visited more third-world countries. We had experiences and did things in Senegal that we would never have been able to do had the race not gone there. Areas that we just couldn't have gone. And from that standpoint it was wonderful. And we'd do it again in a second.
As the eldest team on the race, what did you do pre-race to prepare for not being as physically strong as other teams?
Mary Jean: We knew we were the eldest, we were told that.
Don: We hired a personal trainer, and we spent a lot of time in the gym, getting in shape.
Mary Jean: Prior to that, in January, we had both been on Dr. Phil's "diet" program, and we started working out back then, and we both lost an incredible amount of weight. By the time the race came around, we were already in much better shape than we normally would have been. And then we just about killed ourselves up until the day of the race, because we knew that we would be less fit, physically, than the other teams.
Whose idea was applying for the race, and why did you want to participate?
Don: It was Mary Jean's idea, thank goodness. And because we're doers in life, not watchers. We are always up for a challenge, and we're big fans of the show. We always said "we could do that", and by God, we did it.
Mary Jean: I think our age had a big part in it, too, because if we were 20 or 40 years younger, we'd have thought "we'll do that someday", but at our age, we thought "hey, if we don't do that right now, we'll never have another opportunity", so we went for it.
If you could have done one thing different, what would it have been?
Mary Jean: We would have read the entire clue in Berlin.
Don: That single thing. It's hard to think that with all the preparation and work, that it comes down to one line on one piece of paper that we didn't look at, but that's what cost us.
Thanks to Don and Mary Jean for taking the time, and to CBS for the opportunity. I apologize to all of our readers for the delay in getting this transcribed as well.