Amazing Race's Joe and Heidi: Morse Code Challenge Was "an Impossible Task"
A Morse code task spelled doom for Joe and Heidi Wang on The Amazing Race after the pair was U-Turned by detectives Louie and Michael, forcing them to the code-deciphering challenge in the World War I-inspired Detour. "No other team did it, so that was the end of us because we had to do two," Joe, 42, tells TVGuide.com. "That was an impossible task for us — not to say that no one can do it. I'm sure military-trained individuals would be able to do it." Find out how long Joe and Heidi, 37, toiled with the recording's endless beeps, what may have affected their guesses and more.
TVGuide.com: What went through your head when you saw you were U-Turned? Did you think anyone would U-Turn you?
Heidi: It was definitely unexpected, but at the time, we were in the lead, in the top 3, and my mission was to just go tackle it, finish it and move on and maintain that lead. Unfortunately, that task was something you couldn't mentally prepare for, couldn't physically prepare for. It was just a surprise that came out of nowhere.
TVGuide.com: How much time did you spend doing the Morse code?
Joe: It was between, I would say, five to six hours. ... Mentally, you're breaking down. The crawl itself [in the first Detour] was a physical endurance thing. My knee hurt, but I sucked it up. Just hitting the U-Turn, all we could say was, "Let's just deal with it."
Heidi: Doing it, you just put yourself into that position of people who actually fought in World War I, knowing that that was their only means of communication. If you didn't know how to transmit or decipher at that point, your fate was determined. It was very emotional to watch it on TV and to relive that time in history.
TVGuide.com: How difficult was it trying to decipher it with bombs exploding next to you?
Heidi: With the bombs exploding and the planes overheard, you just lost your focus so many times. It was a combination of dots and dashes and spaces. It was on this recording that would just keep on going. It was so fast, like, literally the dots, the dashes and the spaces all sounded the same. We listened to that recording a couple hundred of times. I could probably listen to it another thousand times and I wouldn't get it. And we couldn't even tell when the recording started or when it ended because it kept repeating.
TVGuide.com: You did the crawling Detour and the message there was "The war is over. Vive le liberte." Did knowing the answer to that affect your guesses for the Morse code?
Joe: It could've. We actually went through "Vive le France" and many versions of that. And we did "The war is over." When Phil came in and said it was "We will prevail. Vive le France," we were like, "OK, we weren't even close." That shows you that no matter how many times we listened to it, it wasn't helping because we didn't even get close to it.
Heidi: Just imagine those two sentences in dots and dashes. It was a long, long message.
TVGuide.com: At what point did you decide to stop?
Joe: We stopped listening to the beeps because it was not helping the situation. But we were always guessing what the message could be. ... We were always pushing it, even when we went for shelter. It started to rain and got really cold and Heidi was shivering, but we were still talking through it.
TVGuide.com: You had a good attitude about being U-Turned and getting eliminated, unless you were angry and it wasn't shown.
Joe: That's the funny part. I've been labeled as a villain, but I think it's just my competitiveness. I never disrespected any other teams. I never even talked bad about any other teams if you look at other interviews. ... We always looked at every team as being competitive. We never even thought about U-Turning anyone because we were in the top 3 at that point.
TVGuide.com: What did you think of Louie and Michael's reason behind U-Turning you? They made it personal, saying they wanted to knock you down a few pegs.
Heidi: People say that, but in all honesty, we consistently placed in the top 3 and I think they also saw us as a strong, competitive team. It was their opportunity to take anybody down and they decided it would be us. Joe and I have been married for 13 years. We've known each other for so long. We're good communicators. We never had a communication issue on the race. These are all strengths that could be intimidating.
TVGuide.com: Had you stayed, how do you think your knee would've held up, Joe?
Joe: My knee would've been giving me problems the whole time. There's no question. It was already swollen. I iced it every night. I was taking a lot of Advil and codeine, but I would've fought through it. I'm a football coach for my kids' teams, so I push hard. I think most teams probably saw that. ... In a foot race, there was no way I could beat anybody, but I would've done the tasks. I actually just had knee surgery. It's on its way to recovery.
TVGuide.com: What are you up to now?
Joe: I recently left my job. I'm going to make my $1 million pursuing other areas with my key strengths. [Laughs] I'm a strong salesperson. There are some opportunities that came around, so I'm just investigating them to get the next multimillion dollars.
Heidi: The great thing about the race is that it just opens up so many doors. My background has always been in finance and accounting. When my daughter, who's my youngest child, is back in school in the fall in the first grade, I had always planned on going back to work then. But a lot of new opportunities have opened up, whether it's guest-speaking or light acting on the side. There are a lot of things out there that we're definitely evaluating and exploring.