Leo and Jamal
After scoring an earlier flight to Tokyo on The Amazing Race 23, Leo and Jamal overcame a Speed Bump, but were undone by an alliance... and buttons on a robot. "Those damn buttons! I did not see them at all," Leo tells TVGuide.com. "It sucked because we were feeling so good. We got the earlier flight. We did the Japanese game show Detour, killed the Speed Bump and we could taste [the final three spot]." Instead, the cousins/Afghanimals came up short, as Amy helped their Race nemeses Travis and Nicole again. Get their thoughts on that alliance, the infamous angklung Roadblock, and why they didn't mind being ganged up on.
You guys started the leg so well. Does it sting more because you made such a great comeback?
Jamal: Yeah, it was tough. It was tough watching it. It was right there. Seeing it on TV, it was like, "Ugh! So close!" If Amy and Nicole hadn't helped each other, we would've been a guaranteed top three team. Those pieces were big and heavy, and I can't imagine them doing it by themselves, so they sort of "cheated" us a spot in the final three. Maybe Amy was the smart one helping a weak team so they wouldn't have to go up against a male-male team. It was probably strategy, but it was like that the last three legs, where [Travis and Nicole] just got assisted and helped and babied through the Roadblocks and Detours. It was kind of hard as a fan to watch. I've never seen anything like that.
How long did it take before you realized it was the buttons?
Jamal: I think Leo attempted it seven times before he figured it out.
Leo: Yeah, I don't know. It was a while. ... I was cranking it out. I found a way to level the whole robot and lifted it up with another leg, and Amy and Nicole copied me. That's something we never did. We never copied like that. I never even thought about the buttons. It was like tunnel vision. All the adrenaline and dehydration and not eating, with my eyes and mixing notes — it was just a bad combo. I knew I had a little cushion because I knew Amy and Nicole's mistake, but when I saw that they figured it out, I was like, "Aw, crap." But we still kept it together.
Jamal: Right when Travis and Nicole got theirs, he figured it out. We were like 10 minutes behind. We kept going strong. We didn't give up in case something happened.
Do you resent Amy for helping Nicole?
Jamal: [Laughs] No. We're good sports. The way a team is going to race just shows their character. Since the first leg, we played one way and that was to compete at a high level and have fun, respect the people and the countries we visited. ... The fact that they did what they had to do to get us out, it worked as their strategy, but we know if we had been in the final, things would've been very different based on how much pressure we put on them. We were the only male-male team and they were on their toes going crazy wondering where we were after we got the earlier flight. That's the pressure we wanted to put on them to distract them. It worked for us.
Leo: We didn't really think about it in the moment, but now that I've seen the episodes, if she hadn't helped Nicole, the Race would've changed quite a bit. Ally and Ashley would've probably still been there. That would've helped us with the makeup Detour. ... It was smart on their part to string them along, but it wasn't our cup of tea for someone to do the tasks for someone else. Ally and Ashley asked us for help, but we never did the whole task for them, and we wouldn't. There's a line you have to draw, I think.
I don't think people have a problem with teams helping each other, but it's that she literally did the challenges for her.
Leo: Yeah, totally. She did the angklung and the robot. It just showed how the team dynamics changed at the end. They saw us as manipulative, but they were doing it behind people's backs. They would say one thing and do something else. Us saying, "Our wife is pregnant" — that's funny. It was clearly a joke. You have to understand our humor. They didn't and tagged us as manipulative and sneaky. But everyone else was doing the same thing. Nicole comes up with this whole pact, "Let's band together and get the Afghanimals out." Then what happens when Marie comes around at the robots? They ignored her. That's something we would never do. When people asked us for help, we wouldn't not help someone. But people always thought that we were being sneaky.
Let's talk about the angklung Roadblock.
Leo: Oh, my God! That was the definition of hypocrisy when [Nicole] chased me! They were saying they were running the Race in an honest fashion and they don't cheat and don't lie. That was the definition of cheating. They were hypocrites. We never stooped to that. They had just U-Turned us and were on our case for lying about the U-Turn, and for them to try to cheat? That's really ironic. It's kind of sad. Be up-front with it. Don't lie and then come in the area when it said clearly, "Do not come in the judging area." They aired me saying, "You're not supposed to be here." That's why I said it.
Jamal: Yeah, the rules clearly said, "When a team's being judged, no other team is allowed in the judging area." All of the sudden I just see her running like a velociraptor chasing Leo. I was like, "Leo, destroy it!" They didn't show it, but Travis said to me, "You're cheating. You can't tell him that." I was like, "No, your wife is cheating running over there when it clearly says you can't." It was those things, being hypocritical and having a one-way street for them, but everyone has a two-way street.
Why didn't they get penalized then?
Leo: That's a good question. I don't know. Maybe because she couldn't see it and copy it. Who knows? We didn't let it get to us though. We had fun with the kids. Our main goal was to have fun no matter what.
Were you surprised how upset Travis and Nicole were about you lying about using your U-Turn?
Jamal: I didn't know you can't lie as part of gameplay on The Amazing Race. That they distinguished us as liars, I think it went a little far and I think they're feeling the backlash now. ... It was very frustrating to see on TV how much they see us as liars, as if we lied just to lie and to be mean. We didn't spread rumors about teams or anything. The U-Turn thing was about strategy. We're not the first team to withhold information as part of strategy, and it worked. Amy was worried that we would U-Turn her later even though we couldn't.
It didn't seem to bother you at all that they ganged up on you.
Leo: Nope. In a way, it makes you feel good that everyone has their eye on you and feels threatened. But to say that we're being manipulative and sneaky, and then they do it themselves? Travis and Nicole were sneaky about getting the Express Pass. We were outside and we saw the whole thing go down. But everyone decided that Leo and Jamal was the sneaky team. We were on that boat ride from Norway. It was like a 36-hour boat ride with 15-minute stops. Jamal and I got off to get ice cream and oh, my God — the whole ship was just chaos. They were all like, "Oh, my God! What are they doing? They left!" It's like, "Can a brother get some ice cream in Norway?" [Laughs]
Do you think they were thrown off by your personalities? Not just how loud and boisterous you were, but you always appeared very confident and self-assured.
Leo: I definitely think that has something to do with it. I think that's in our blood. Our parents immigrated here with nothing. We learned a lot from our parents. Being so fortunate by being born in America and having so many opportunities, that builds your confidence. Jamal and I both have our own businesses. We're running our own Race every day. You have to have your confidence up. And you sort of needed that confidence with everyone ganging up on you. We always had an outlet, which was our humor and our fun. We always felt like we had a relative in the country we were in. We always knew our taxi driver's name, we were singing with them. We made a point to learn phrases of the languages of the countries we went to. We knew key words. It all added to us being confident.
What are you up to now?
Jamal: Back at work. We have our own businesses here in California. Leo has a restaurant and bar. I have my own investment group and brokerage firm and a used car dealership. We have a lot of things on our hands. Winning the Race would only help us venture out even more and expand. We hate losing, but we didn't think about the money when we were on it. It was just a blast. ... But everything happens for a reason. We were blessed to go on the Race and make an impact. The amount of support we have from our fans is crazy. I get stopped all the time! I didn't think this would happen, but people recognize me. It's pretty surreal.
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