Murtz On The Scene: Exclusive Interview With The Amazing Race 25’s Keith Tollefson & Whitney Duncan


There is no question that I was rooting for Team Nashville this season. Engaged during The Amazing Race and while recent newlyweds Keith Tollefson and Whitney Duncan had an impressive run on the CBS reality series, they were stopped short of winning the $1 million prize when a run-in with Shelley and Nici Porter resulted in the mother and daughter U-Turning them. The result was Keith and Whitney finishing in last place and being eliminated. I have known Keith and Whitney for a very long time and the former Survivor players and I have hung out on quite a few occasions. I certainly consider them to be friends and as a result, I was heartbroken to see them leave. I couldn’t wait to find out what really happened.

Murtz Jaffer: Keith, when did you guys decide you wanted to do the Amazing Race?

Keith Tollefson: Pretty much immediately after Survivor we became huge fans. I mean we already were but we wanted to do the Race. That’s kind of when we started campaigning. Especially to do something together was going to be the goal. Instead of competing against each other we could become a team.

MJ: Whitney, you know how much I loved your “you disgust me” line from Survivor and this time, you and Keith really managed to keep your cool right until the leg that eliminated you. Was trying to keep your emotions in check an active strategy you had going in?

Whitney Duncan: Yeah, I have an easier time with my emotions that Keith does but you just have to keep your mouth shut if you don’t want to make any enemies. I did pretty good at holding my tongue. I should have used my ‘you disgust me line, shouldn’t I have?’

MJ: Yeah, I was waiting for it the whole season and you didn’t drop it. I was thinking you were going to get it in the last episode.

WD: I should have! It’s how I felt! [Laughs].

MJ: Keith, can you explain exactly what went down with Shelley and Nici and do you think it was a bad move for them to U-Turn you out of spite instead of strategically going after Misti & Jim so that their Save could be eliminated?

KT: First off, it was definitely a bad decision by me to lose my cool and let my emotions get the better of me like that. We kind of created an enemy out of them at that point so any dislike that they had for Misti and Jim (Misti had knocked into Shelley at one point and so Shelley was already kind of upset with her), I basically threw that out the window by yelling at her mom and putting a huge target on our back.

I definitely think for strategy, we wanted to U-Turn Misti and Jim. I couldn’t believe that no one else had done it up to the point of us getting to the U-Turn.  I thought for sure people would have been more strategic in thinking about U-Turning them because they had the Save and we all knew it.  We needed to get it out of play.  You don’t want to just give them a free pass each week.  I had talked to the other teams and told them that over and over again…

MJ: They weren’t just going for it?

KT: Everyone was just kind of like ‘yeah, that sounds like a good plan, I mean yeah we should probably do that’ but no one wants to meddle.  Everyone was kind of aloof.  They didn’t really want to create an enemy or their argument was ‘well if you U-Turn them and they have the save they are going to stay in the game and then they are just going to be gunning for you.’  Our argument back to the other teams was “you can just tell Misti and Jim that you knew that they were not going to get eliminated and so that’s why you U-Turned them.  You can hopefully talk them back off the ledge of wanting to get you out the next leg using that argument.

WD: The thing is that once everybody got to the U-Turn, they were so excited to see that they weren’t U-Turned that they just didn’t care.  Like all strategy went out the window.  It was crazy!

MJ: Whitney, what is your relationship with Shelley and Nici now?

WD: I don’t really have a relationship with them.  I mean after that all went down I let it go.  I just totally let it go and then seeing it all again (on TV) kind of brought back those feelings of frustration.  That day (before all this happened) we were already frustrated with them.  They had tried to tell people in the customs line to not let us through and just other stuff like that.  We just thought ‘why are you playing this way, like you don’t have to do this’ and so that kind of all led up to the mat.  I wasn’t at the mat when Keith got there.  I never said I was there.  They weren’t ready to give us our clues and that gave me like one to two seconds to get there but they blocked me from standing next to Keith.  That was why I was like ‘Shelley I’m right here’ and she is trying to say that I was cheating.  Really though, we should have just let them go in front of us honestly.  There was no advantage.  We were not cheating or playing dirty or any of that stupid stuff as they tried to make it seem.  We should have just let them have the one second lead because there was no lead at all.

MJ: Keith, can you talk about your detour decisions?  Watching the show, it almost seemed like you guys were picking the tougher ones on purpose?

KT: Well, I mean that wasn’t a conscious choice but that was an unfortunate choice.

[Whitney laughs]

KT: A lot of times we chose the harder detour by accident.  I was thinking in the Shetland Islands, any time that you had a challenge with animals typically the animals are very difficult to deal with so that’s why we went to the Viking challenge.  Well, that was almost impossible because the stands for the Viking torch were extremely high.  We did the cake challenge because we are getting married, so we are like ‘yeah, let’s do the cake challenge!’  That turned out to be pretty miserable and we immediately switched which was a great decision.  We were so fast with the tea challenge and if we had done that first we could have definitely been near the front of the pack a little bit more and even second because the girls pretty much had an hour lead on all of us at that point.

WD: Yeah and picking the tea time is what should have happened in the last episode instead of the twirling challenge.  If I would have known what the head twirling challenge was, I never would have agreed to it because I know I have no rhythm in my head.  We should have switched sooner than we did really.

MJ: Whitney, I know you guys live in Nashville and last season’s runner-up team Jen and Caroline are from there.  Did they give you and Keith any advice?

WD: Not really… I think Caroline, (I’m closer to Caroline) said just to be super nice and to make good alliances.  That may have really worked for them but none of the people on our season really wanted to create alliances.  They were kind of all for themselves so we really didn’t get that opportunity like they did. Their advice could only go so far.

MJ: Keith, was there an understated pressure on you and Whitney to do well on the Race because you didn’t win Survivor or did that not have any effect on you?

KT: This was just more about our competitive nature and us wanting to do well for ourselves.  Obviously losing a million dollars for the second time in our lives is not a high point but we wanted to do well and be competitive just because that is who we are.  We wanted to run the Race and be in the front of the pack as much as possible because we wanted to prove to everyone that we were supposed to be there.  That we were not just people that were chosen because we were on a previous show. We deserved to be there.

MJ: Whitney, in the extra scene on, it showed that you used your U-Turn on Amy and Maya. Why did you choose to use it on them?

WD: Well, we knew that it was not going to do anything.  There was a small chance, a very small chance that they would have been behind us because we knew they were struggling with the head twirling challenge as well.  But really we just threw it up there and we knew that we were in last place at that point so it didn’t matter.  We just threw it up there to do it, there was no real strategy behind that.

MJ: I feel like this season of the Amazing Race is too nice.  You have the Surfers, the Cyclists, Tim & Te Jay… and then there’s Misti and Jim.  How did you guys feel about them, were they that competitive or is their villain status just editing?

KT: I definitely think everyone was too nice. I kept preaching to everyone how we needed to really gun for Misty and Jim because they have the Save and then Adam and Bethany because they had the Fast Forward. No one really was listening to that because they all kind of wanted to stay away from the pack and didn’t want to create enemies. Misty and Jim were pretty nice in person and Jim is very, very intense and sure of himself when he is on camera. He comes off as a little arrogant because obviously he keeps quoting himself as wanting to win the most legs and run the perfect race but that obviously didn’t happen. They faltered and they got last but luckily for them it was a non-elimination leg. Adam and Bethany are probably the nicest people on Earth and that is the way they come off because it’s true.

MJ: What’s next for you?

WD: Well, we went for our honeymoon (we had to pay for it ourselves since we didn’t win) and that’s okay.  We got a dog, we are just kind of settling in and Keith has a great job.  I’ve been in the city a lot. I got a new single out.  I’ve got a music video coming out this week.  It has kind of been crazy but we are happy to be in one place for this amount of time and who knows will happen in the future.

MJ: Well, I don’t know if I’m going to keep watching the show because everybody knows you are my favorite team and I’m like heartbroken.  I think I am actually taking it harder than you are!

KT: Thank you.

WD: Well thanks Murtz, we appreciate that.

MJ: Amazing, I’ll talk to you guys soon, thanks a lot.

WD: Okay, thanks Murtz, bye.

The Amazing Race airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on CTV and CBS.

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