A couple of weeks ago, The Amazing Race kicked off its 26th season and introduced a new ‘blind dating’ twist where half the teams were comprised of singles who had never met before. They were interspersed with pre-existing couples.
The first episode saw Jeff Magee, (a 57-year old airline pilot) and his girlfriend Lyda Grawn (a 49-year old flight attendant) struggle with a detour task that involved learning a synchronized Japanese dance. In total, it took the couple three hours and 42 minutes to complete the routine and (coupled with a blind U-Turn from Mike & Rochelle), the pair became the first team to be eliminated from this season’s edition of the show.
I caught up with Jeff and Lyda to discuss what happened and I asked them what they thought about this season’s twist.
Murtz Jaffer: Hey guys. Thanks for joining me and sorry to see you go on The Amazing Race. Lyda, I’d like to start with you. What did you think when Phil announced the blind date twist and did you think it offered you and Jeff an advantage (as a pre-existing couple?)
Lyda Grawn: I thought it was a fun twist for sure!!! And yes, I did think that it would provide us with a slight edge. Just being comfortable with each other and knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, I thought would make it a little easier for us!
MJ: Jeff, were you surprised that Mike and Rochelle were the ones who U-Turned you?
Jeff Magee: At the time we got to the clue box and saw that we had been U-Turned, we were guessing that Matt and Ashley had put our photo on the board. This was because while we were still at the infamous synchronized steps challenge, Greg had been telling various teams that “some team had already been U-Turned”. We thought that they may have been using gamesmanship, and that when they got to the U-turn board they then put our photo up. It wasn’t until much later that we found out that Mike and Rochelle had U-Turned us. This actually made a lot sense because we were the only team left when they left the stepping challenge. We would have done the same thing if we had been in their shoes and we do not resent them doing it.
MJ: Lyda, on the first episode it almost seemed like the teams weren’t racing and seemed to all be on one big group date by taking selfies etc. Was it more of a stressful experience than we saw?
LG: It probably seemed that way because it’s the first time teams were given cameras on the show and encouraged to take selfies. And also, the first episode is the first chance any of us had the chance to speak to one another and get to know each other. It was a great group of people that just happened to all get along… kinda funny!
MJ: You guys seemed to have an easy time with the ‘Samurai Sake’ task but struggled with learning the dance. Was it simply just a case of the Sake task being easy and the dancing being difficult? Did you ever consider switching detours?
JM: The sake challenge looked much more difficult on the clue than it turned out to be. The televised cut of the leg may have panned the clue briefly but the details of that challenge were not really shown much. The clue said that teams would need to memorize 10 sake bottle Japanese symbols and take orders. We thought that we would have to take orders from many different samurais. It turned out that the order taking contestant only had to take one order! If the order was filled with the wrong bottle of sake being delivered then the team would then have to take a 30 minute ‘time out’ and a shot of sake each (Up to 4 each!). Also, the transit across Tokyo was daunting. We wanted to finish the synchronized stepping and head to the clue box. As it turned out, we had to do all of the above due to being U-Turned. Hindsight is crystal! But my ‘dancing’ was horrible!
MJ: Do you feel like the blind date couples have any sort of a physical advantage over the preexisting ones? Aside from the Olympians, it seems like the blind date couples are all pretty athletic.
LG: Well, the Olympians were in a class all to themselves. Their physical strength was probably way above all of us! I don’t feel like anyone (blind date couples or otherwise), was really at an advantage physically. Jeff and I are very fit and felt like we could keep up in all the physical challenges. It’s the dancing that posed the obvious problem! [Laughs]
JM: Lyda and are both very athletic and energetic. We thought that our existing relationship would actually be an asset because we are good at encouraging and helping each other. I’ve watched many seasons of The Amazing Race and am certain that a minimum level of athletic ability is required but it’s not the fittest teams that usually win. A lot of it is mental and the overriding factor in many cases is luck.
MJ: Jeff, how do you feel about twists on the show in general? Do you think that there is a place for things like the blind U-Turn and the Express Pass or do you think that it should just be a straight race to the finish line?
JM: Lyda and I enjoy the show as it is. I don’t think it would be as interesting if there no “twists.” I think the viewing public also enjoys it because that’s how life really is! Life has many “twists.” After having the pleasure of being a contestant, I can honestly say that the producers and production people go out of their way to make sure that the Race is fair and that nothing is manipulated to enhance popular teams nor dis-enhance unpopular teams chances fro being or not being eliminated. Specifically, non-elimination legs are decided before the Race is started and are not changed during the race. U-Turns and express passes are equally available to all teams at the beginning of the Race.
MJ: At the starting line, which team looked like it would pose the biggest threat and did your impression change during the first leg?
LG: The Olympians were probably our biggest threat (just because they are young, intelligent, and athletic), but Matt and Ashley really seemed “into it” and we felt like they would be tough competition too! After beginning the first leg and having some time with all the teams, we realized that Kurt and Bergen were gonna be strong in the challenges as well. They were so smart and “on it!”
JM: Actually Matt And Ashley! They both are in great shape and had very determined attitudes about them. This impression continued throughout the first leg. That’s why we thought they were the ones who U-Turned us!
MJ: Are there any dancing lessons for you guys in the future?
JM: Lyda has a great idea for The Amazing Race All-Stars! Make all the teams come from first eliminated teams from previous seasons! If that were to ever happen (or for any reason if we should ever get a “do over”) I would most definitely practice dancing before hand! I actually can do pretty well with the Western Swing! I’m kind of a gorilla about it, but Lyda’s a tough cookie so she can handle it!
MJ: What’s next for you?
LG: I don’t know….maybe a “redemption race?!” [Laughs]. We were so bummed to be out in the first leg and we’re looking forward to all the fun challenges! We may have been the oldest couple by age but we are very young at heart and always ready for an adventure!
JM: I’m heading on a boys trip to Christmas Island for fly fishing! Lyda and I and lots of friends do white water river rafting in the summer in Idaho.
MJ: Many thanks for joining me and have a great day!
Tags: murtz, Murtz Jaffer, The Amazing Race