After two cruel fourth-place finishes on Seasons 20 and 24, the Afghanimals, Leo Temory and Jamal Zadran, finally ended their Leg 11 curse on Wednesday’s finale of “The Amazing Race 31” by not only making the final three but winning Leg 11. But then the good times quickly stopped. Upon landing in Detroit, they got an early lead, but then Leo got stumped on the Roadblock — not exactly unlike how he struggled with the Leg 11 Roadblock in Season 23. Having never used a combination lock before, he spent so long at the bank vault that Colin Guinn and Tyler Oakley both passed him on what looked like their first attempts. From then on, it was a two-team battle between Colin and Christie Woods, who won, and Tyler and Korey Kuhl. So you can say they were locked out of first place (#sorrynotsorry).
So what exactly was Leo doing with the lock (or not doing)? How far behind were they? Find out below.
Gold Derby: What was it like watching those episodes? You had the triumph of Leg 11, but the finale did not go well.
Jamal: It was definitely bittersweet. This season had a lot of redemption going on, and conquering England and coming in first with such a lead with such a magnitude of an episode — all the stuff we’d done in England was so majestic. And it felt great. And just like that, it went downhill unfortunately.
GD: Do you know how far behind you were ultimately?
Leo: I had heard that we got to the drums maybe 10 minutes after Tyler and Korey had left. … So they were all there for a while.
GD: What’s going through your mind when you know you’re in last and you probably don’t have a whole lot of chances of catching up to two teams?
Leo: The worst feelings start settling in, especially when I was trying to open a safe. Colin left and Tyler left and I was like, “Oh, great.” Especially the last episode, it’s how you start the leg is pretty much how you end the leg. Once it started slipping away, it started settling in and you know. It definitely wasn’t one of our brightest episodes!
GD: What were you doing with that lock? We just saw you spinning it, but you weren’t landing on the number.
Leo: I still don’t know! [Laughs] I found on the last one that I would always do one extra rotation apparently.
GD: We saw you reread the clue a bunch of times. Was it just not registering with you?
Leo: It’s like after a certain point on the “Race” and in a challenge, your mind is in a blindfold setting. Now you’re over-guessing and overanalyzing. Now I’m like doing it all kinds of ways. I probably did like a thousand different rotations and different combinations. Had I stopped on the number one rotation before on the first try, then it would’ve been fine. But when I did the rotations, it wasn’t from the previous rotation; it was a completely new rotation. So that’s what I messed up on. I’ve never dealt with these kinds of safes. I wish my cousin would’ve done it because he had a safe growing up. I’ve never had a safe or any sort of combination lock for that matter.
GD: Did you talk to Tyler and Colin at all when they came in or at that point were you not helping each other?
Leo: I don’t remember. I don’t think so because everything happened so quick.
GD: Did you have flashbacks to the buttons on the robot in Season 23?
Leo: Yeah, we had some flashbacks. “Oh, here we go, all over again.” [Laughs]
GD: You just can’t be left alone.
Leo: Yeah, especially on the last episode. But in retrospect, the leg before — Dunkirk — I got it done in like five minutes. Even the production was like, “Wait, you’re done?” They were in shock how fast I did that.
GD: Jamal, what were you thinking besides you should’ve done it?
Jamal: My thoughts were, “Is he OK? Maybe he’s injured. Maybe something happened.” I had no idea it was opening a safe. I was asking production the whole time, “Hey, is he all right?” They were like, “Oh, yeah, he’s fine.” My curiosity is like, “Why is it taking him so long?” The other teams got it done so quickly. It’s just unfortunate because [the clue] says, “Who’s good with numbers?” First thought is Leo, but when it comes down to a safe, four digits — growing up, my father was a jeweler so he had multiple safes. He taught me how to open up these safes at a young age. It’s instilled in my brain. I know how to open it, so I was like, “Damn, had I known, I probably would’ve gotten it on the first try. Pretty simple.” But that’s what “The Amazing Race” does. It just throws you curveballs. The clues could be deceiving.
GD: You did beat your Leg 11 demons and you broke some records, including the most legs run at 34, among others. Is that much of a consolation?
Jamal: If you look back, three seasons, any other team would hope and die for to get a chance to race three times around the world and the amount of the countries we went to — 20, 22 countries. We probably wouldn’t have the chance to visit that many in our lifetime. For us to do that, as cliché as it sounds, it’s worth more than a million. What people don’t see is that a million split by two after taxes, you’re not going to retire off that money. It’s a nice little savings boost for what you wanna do, but it’s not retirement money. You didn’t win the lottery. The main thing for us is the competition. We’re so competitive. Winning it on the competitive side would’ve meant more than the money. The money’s just a cherry on top.
GD: Speaking of your competitiveness, a lot of people think you’re conniving and sneaky, but I don’t think you were that different from the first two times you raced. What do you make of this perception of you?
Leo: I think all three times we’ve been exactly the same. A lot of it is what you see and don’t see. There were scenarios where you ask a team for help and they say no, but when we say no, that gets aired and the other team doesn’t get aired. It’s all in the editing. Colin and Christie haven’t helped teams. Tyler and Korey haven’t helped teams. Team Fun haven’t helped teams. … I wouldn’t call it conniving. We want to stay in the “Race.” If Chris [Hammons] and Bret [LaBelle] told Tyler and Korey [when they were] finding the coins in Croatia that they were only there for five minutes versus telling them they were there for two hours, that would’ve come off as conniving, but they would’ve still been in the “Race.” Do you want keep being honest and helping every team or do you want go to the end? As Jamal said, we’re very competitive, so you gotta do what you gotta do. You’re not going to keep giving teams alley-oops. It’s all subjective.
GD: What was your deal with Corinne [Kaplan] and Eliza [Orlins]? They really delighted in annoying the hell out of you, and Eliza rolled her eyes at you guys at the finish.
Jamal: [Laughs] Apparently Corinne and Eliza, through the first four episodes they were on, thought we were going to be more helpful and that we weren’t as fun as what they saw on TV. But you’re racing for a million dollars. You can’t help every team get through the legs. It’s unfortunate. Eliza was here at the after party. We have no hard feelings against them. When it’s on the “Race,” it’s on the “Race.” Once we’re out, I couldn’t care less what happened on there, what people said, who U-Turned who. But on the “Race,” I think they probably saw us as the biggest threat. Maybe they felt we weren’t talking to them as much as the other teams were. Maybe we didn’t have as many things in common. But at the end of the day, you can’t please all your competition.
Leo: Everyone has different goals on the “Race.” For instance, in Laos, everyone wanted to do different things. Me and Jamal wanted to explore the country. So us not being with everyone at the airport, people think we’re being sneaky and doing stuff. That’s been us since our first time on the show. We’re enjoying the country, the culture! We’re having a good time. Eliza is cutthroat. She’s a lawyer in New York. Of course she’s gonna know her competition if she’s in the courtroom. She’s not going to be nice to the opposing counsel.
GD: How serious were you guys when you made that pact with Team Fun and the Reillys?
Jamal: Anyone who watched the season would’ve known the strongest team from start to finish was Colin and Christie. As competitors, Leo and I wanted the strongest team out to give us a better chance of winning. Clearly the best team won. Had they gone out, who knows what would’ve happened. Our main goal was, there are two teams to U-Turn, so you’re going to U-Turn the most consistent teams up until that point, which were Colin and Christie and Nicole [Franzel] and Victor [Arroyo]. For us, we didn’t put Nicole and Victor ahead of Colin and Christie. As far as how it all got twisted, who said what, who manipulated who, I had no idea what was going on behind the scenes!
GD: No one did.
Jamal: Yeah! I was like, “Oh, man, what?” If it’s a secret, you’re not supposed to go and give a heads-up to other people! I think the Reilly sisters were probably playing it like “Big Brother” and trying to save themselves with the “Big Brother” alliance that they built a couple legs before. But ultimately it came back to bite them because when you’re racing among 11 teams, you’re always on edge as far as, “Why is this team giving me this information? Are they going to use it against me?” You’re not going to take advice as, “OK, maybe they’re trying to help me.”
Leo: It depends on your personal life, your real life, how you operate day to day. Jamal and I — we’re competitive in nature and we’re both successful in what we do. So on the “Race,” we bring that same mentality: We want to be successful and we want to be competitive. Other teams don’t have that mentality or mindset, and they don’t look at the big picture; they look at the small picture of not getting to the end but to the next episode. Operate as you may in the “Big Brother” house or as you may on the island, but this “The Amazing Race” and it’s the whole world, so it’s completely different. Don’t bring in any mind games like you would to the others. Just operate as you would daily, what you’re comfortable with, and bring that to the show. Once you start acting and start playing these mind games, it’s going to bite you in the ass. Everyone on the show is successful, everyone has a personality, everyone is top-notch, so they will see right through it if you’re lying.
GD: Leo, how many cats did you see?
Leo: Very good question. [Laughs] Not as many as I would’ve liked to have seen. We saw quite a few. The one in the Netherlands looked like my cat, Pablo, so it made me feel good.
GD: How is Pablo doing? Is he proud of you?
Leo: I think he is proud of me, but I haven’t seen him since the finale, so we’ll see if he gives me a warm welcome or if he scratches arm.
GD: Just don’t show him the last episode.
Leo: Yeah, I know. I hope the power went out in my house before the last episode.
GD: Would you do “Big Brother” or “Survivor”?
Jamal: I’m open to doing “Survivor.” I was wanting to do “Blood vs. Water” after Season 24, but we know what happened. We had the twinnies [Natalie and Nadiya Anderson] on [“San Juan del Sur”] and [Natalie] won. I don’t know if I can take 99 days off for “Big Brother.”
Leo: I would probably do “Big Brother.” I like being outdoors, but a 99-day vacation might be good if the timing’s right.