Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca talk about 'The Amazing Race'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 10/03/2011
Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca thought they were in decent shape when they finished the first leg of The Amazing Race's nineteenth season in fourth place.
However, their bad luck left them with a taxi driver who repeatedly got lost and couldn't figure out directions, while their lack of focus caused them to ignore a vital sign featuring instructions -- that if followed -- would have landed them in ninth place, safe from elimination. But due to The Amazing Race franchise's first-ever double-elimination leg, Ethan and Jenna finished in tenth place and were ousted from the competition along with last-place finishers Ron Zeitz and Bill Smith during Sunday night's broadcast of the show's second episode.
During a conference call with reporters on Monday, Ethan and Jenna talked to Reality TV World about their The Amazing Race experience -- including why Ethan wrote down the name of the children's orphanage on a small piece of paper when the couple had a hard copy of the actual clue, why they decided to perform the "Money Maker" Detour task instead of the "Ticket Taker" task, how frustrated they were to be eliminated when they didn't even arrive at the Race's second Pit Stop in last place, and what the Racers thought about the new Hazard penalty that was introduced during the show's premiere episode.
Reality TV World: Ethan, could you clarify why you wrote down the orphanage's name on a piece of paper and then put it in your pocket? Did you intend to have that as a backup in case you lost the clue or something and then what do you think happened to it?
Jenna Morasca: I told him to do that, actually. I told him to write it down in case for a chance that the clue might have been misplaced or if we didn't want to reach for it. But the actual clue was never ever lost. It was just across the street. But that was my idea. I'm a plan-aheader. I always want to have like 50 options.
Ethan Zohn: It was easier to show the taxi driver and if we had to pull over on the side of the road, which we had been all day, to kind of ask people, "Where is this?" -- rather than pointing at a small little thing printed. We wrote in down in big Sharpie market -- the name of the orphanage -- so we could hold it up and out of the window, so people could point in the direction we needed to go.
Jenna Morasca: It's confusing to give someone a whole clue and try to point it out when they don't speak the language or understand what you're saying. So, we had written it down just in case, so we could show the driver the name in big block letters.
Reality TV World: So what exactly happened to that piece of paper when you were looking for it in the moment?
Jenna Morasca: That piece of paper was in the bottom of our backpack.
Ethan Zohn: Yeah, that was there.
Jenna Morasca: We just didn't want to dig for it, so we ran back and got the clue.
Ethan Zohn: It was quicker to go across the street and pick up the clue than it was to look for the clue in our backpack.
Reality TV World: How did you guys decide to do the "Money Maker" Detour task instead of the "Ticket Taker" task?
Jenna Morasca: Because we figured it out that the "Ticket Taker" people would all be trying to get the same cars, and meanwhile, when you did the "Money Maker," everybody would have their own block -- their own street corner. Meanwhile, all the ticket takers would be trying to get cars from the same area, which I thought would be a little bit harder to do since there would be multiple teams there.
Ethan Zohn: And Jen's a really good dancer!
Reality TV World: How did you guys decide to have Ethan do the spelunking Roadblock task? Was it predetermined or did you just make the decision in the moment?
Jenna Morasca: Because Ethan's been spelunking before.
Reality TV World: How frustrating was it to know that since you were the ninth team to get to the Pit Stop the first time, you would have still been in the Race if you hadn't missed the sign?
Jenna Morasca: Pretty frustrating!
Ethan Zohn: Yeah. (Laughs) I mean, eight out of 11 teams missed it, but it was frustrating. I mean, we checked in eighth.
Jenna Morasca: In our minds, I don't think it's like -- the sign wouldn't give me nightmares. It's the taxi driver that would give me nightmares, because if it wasn't for him, nobody wonders -- you guys have to wonder, like we started in fourth place and we checked in in eighth. That was before -- we were in eighth when we got to the sign challenge, before we had even messed it up.
So, you guys have to wonder how that happened. And so, it happened because of the cab. So, I blame the cab more than the sign because I don't think that would have been a problem if we had not have been lost the whole time. We could have run and made that up, I think, just like everyone else did.
Reality TV World: What did you think about the Hazard, the new The Amazing Race penalty that forced one team to complete an extra task within the first leg of the Race? Did you like it, dislike it -- what are your thoughts?
Jenna Morasca: It seems like the Hazard is kind of an extra bonus challenge because somebody's going down from it and one got to bungee jump and the other just got to untie a knot. So, I wish we would have gotten the Hazard. I'm jealous!
Ethan Zohn: In previous races, you had to turn in all your clothes and all your money as a bigger punishment for the non-elimination leg than to do a Hazard. But I think they got to keep mixing up this game a little bit. So, it's a clever way. I wish it was like a little more difficult -- the Hazard -- and that it created a little bit more of a panic in them.
Reality TV World: What did you think about the return of the Express Pass twist that got introduced a few seasons ago? Some teams have expressed how they don't like it, so were you glad to see it come back or do you think it devalues the Race or anything like that?
Jenna Morasca: I think it's a good reward for people that have earned it.
Ethan Zohn: I think it's good. You're -- any prize for coming in first is deserved whether it's a trip or money or the Express Pass. If you come in first in the first leg of the Race, I think you deserve some sort of prize. The Express Pass is okay, yeah. It's deserved.
Also in the call, Ethan and Jenna told reporters why they had fallen from fourth to ninth place so quickly, how much time they spent retrieving the clue they realized they had left behind, whether they felt putting instructions solely on a small sign at the orphanage's table was fair gameplay, how far behind Marcus Pollard and Amani Pollard they believed they had finished the leg, and whether they would ever do The Amazing Race or Survivor again.
You guys seemed to clump together when you were getting off the train and heading into taxis. What happened between the station and the Roadblock that split the teams up so much?
Jenna Morasca: We had a really bad taxi driver, so that's what split the teams up. There was also a challenge that you guys didn't see that actually split the teams up into two groups.
Can you elaborate more on what that challenge entailed?
Jenna Morasca: Out of the train station, we were told to go to this hotel and we had to jump in the cabs and the cabs took us to a hotel. When you got there, you had to grab a key and you were either in the first group or the second group and they were like 20 minutes apart. That's when everyone got their taxi driver that you had to keep the entire leg and that's when, unfortunately, we got into the wrong cab.
Did accidentally leaving the clue behind really affect your timing in the leg? Did it make a huge difference?
Jenna Morasca: I actually -- we wrote down what was on the clue and put it in the bottom of our bag before we went to that challenge. I left the challenge, or the clue, with our clothes and halfway on the way back I was like, "It had to have been there."
We didn't think it was a big deal because we already had it written down -- which is why I was asking Ethan where he put the piece of paper. It was in the bottom of our bag, so we went back and got it, and it probably took like a minute or a minute and a half total.
Ethan Zohn: It was like going to the mailbox.
Jenna Morasca: It was the shortest trip ever.
So that probably didn't have an affect on your Race?
Jenna Morasca: No, it didn't have an affect at all.
Ethan Zohn: Not as big of an effect as...
Jenna Morasca: The reason we went from fourth place to -- we checked in first in eighth or ninth is because of our taxi driver.
When you went to the orphanage, did you realize there was a sign on the table at all?
Jenna Morasca: Yeah. Basically in our clue -- and we're always told we have these clues and the information that we're supposed to go by in our clue -- we were told to turn in all our rupiah...
Ethan Zohn: From the dancing challenge.
Jenna Morasca: ... from the dancing challenge and when we got to the challenge, it wasn't underlined or marked in red like you guys saw, and it also wasn't marked with any Race flags. So, it was just like any other sign. I mean, if someone was holding a sign that said that, was that a challenge? So, I figured it said, "Turn in all your money that you raised and any additional money."
So we actually turned in all of our additional rupiah because on the clue, and I checked the clue, it didn't say anything about your converted money. Everything that it said was only about rupiah. So we only had like 20 dollars that we didn't convert.
Ethan Zohn: U.S. dollars.
Jenna Morasca: U.S. dollars. So we did turn in all our additional rupiah and we figured if we had gotten it wrong, we wouldn't have gotten a clue like on all the other Race challenges. It's like if you said the wrong words to the monk [during the Roadblock at the Taipei Confucius Temple], he wouldn't have given you the clue.
If you don't do a challenge right, you don't get the clue. So, I figured that probably other people missed that, but we wouldn't have gotten the clue if we would have gotten that challenge wrong.
So once you had given the children all your money, you weren't given anything further right? You didn't receive a different clue or something?
Jenna Morasca: No, we did not.
Ethan Zohn: Yeah. Even if you gave them like no dollars -- gave them one penny off the floor -- you would have gotten your clue, which doesn't make sense.
Jenna Morasca: We checked with the secondary clue and it says nothing about extra American money. So, we figured since we were in Indonesia, we'd give them our rupiah and we did. We gave them all of our additional money.
We just figured, "Well, they gave us the clue, so they must have been okay." And we came in ninth. We checked in before the Vegas girls [Kaylani Paliotta and Lisa Tilley]. We were safe at that point had we be allowed to check in.
How do you feel about the whole leg coming down to the confusing sign? Did you think that was fair?
Jenna Morasca: I don't know. I guess if we say it's unfair, we're going to sound like we're bitter. But I've just never heard about doing a challenge where they give you the reward if you do it right or wrong. And the teams that got it wrong, like they're not stupid teams. These are really good teams.
Ethan Zohn: Eight out of 11 teams got the clue wrong, not that that means anything, but it was obviously very tricky. I think it was meant to trick you.
Jenna Morasca: Yes, you can tell by the way [The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan] was asking people. He was expecting them to get it wrong.
Did you think you actually had any chance of catching Marcus and Amani once you realized your mistake?
Jenna Morasca: Oh yeah. We were on their heels.
How far behind Amani and Marcus did you finish?
Ethan Zohn: Maybe five or seven minutes.
Jenna Morasca: Yeah, we ran the entire time in Indonesia because we were always at such a disadvantage because our cab driver was so lost. We were always behind. Nobody else wondered why we went from fourth place to ninth place, you know?
Like, the missing clue only took one minute, so there has to be a reason why went from there. That's the truth, so we literally ran -- every challenge we ran everywhere -- full speed, backpacks on, 110-degree weather. We were running from start to finish no matter what place we were in.
Ethan Zohn: We actually made up a significant amount of time by running from when the task got screwed up multiple times.
Jenna Morasca: We hauled ass.
Ethan Zohn: We actually thought we were going to catch Amani.
Jenna Morasca: We did.
But you obviously couldn't make up for the taxi, right?
Jenna Morasca: Yeah, the guy was even given directions in his own language four or five times and would still go the wrong way.
Ethan Zohn: We stopped like a million times.
Jenna Morasca: I didn't understand that. The guy is sitting there giving you directions in your own language to the right place, and you're still taking these weird turns.
From what you watched back on TV, did anything surprise you and was this experience more difficult than your time on Survivor?
Ethan Zohn: Different!
Jenna Morasca: Different!
Ethan Zohn: I guess if you had to compare the two, with things like being uncomfortable, not showering, not eating, not sleeping -- that's the same stuff that happens on Survivor that happens on the Race.
But there's so much less out of your control on the Race. With Survivor, I feel like you have some sense of control. It's really just how Jenna and I work as a team, and we're doing great. We thought we were doing great working together.
How has being on the Race together affected your relationship? Did it make you closer?
Jenna Morasca: I don't know if we can necessarily say that because one, we weren't on very long, and two, we've been through so much anyway. So you have to think in like the scheme of fighting for your life, the Race can't really compare to that.
Did you feel any jealousy from fellow Racers since you both had already won a lot of money on your Survivor seasons?
Jenna Morasca: Not to our face. They actually had a lot of questions after like, "What did you do? Did you move to LA? Did you get an agent?" Everybody has a lot of questions about it, so to our face, no. Nobody seemed to think it was a big deal, but why would they to us? That's all good stuff to talk about behind someone's back, for sure.
How did you come onto the show thinking you would approach your fellow Racers about your Survivor history?
Ethan Zohn: Initially, we thought it was going to play out and be a big deal and we're like, "We're not going to tell anyone" and stuff like that. But when we showed up there, we didn't bring it up. We didn't brag about it. We waited for other teams to bring it up and when they did, we were completely open and honest about it.
If they had questions, we'd answer them. We weren't trying to shy away from the fact. But I thought it would be a bigger deal, but it didn't seem like it was. Bottom line is, once you're out there, everyone's pretty much the same. You're all just racing around the world.
You've been through a lot together, but did you make any plans of how you were going to interact with each other on the Race?
Jenna Morasca: The only thing my Dad said before we left for the Race was, "Please don't fight with each other on TV." That's the only thing he said to make sure we didn't do.
Ethan Zohn: We just waited until the cameras were off and then we just yelled at each other. No, I'm just kidding. We only talked to each other when the cameras were on. But no, we have been through so much, so there was really nothing I was afraid of, really.
Jenna Morasca: Yeah, we've been through those stages of our best and worst, so.
Ethan Zohn: We travel well together, we've been together for a long time and I think we compliment each other. This was just a great opportunity when CBS approached us to do the Race.
We were like, "Yeah, why not? It's such an awesome opportunity. It kind of celebrates what we've been through now that we're able to go out there and be with each other and travel the world together." CBS is, because of Survivor, we're big fans of CBS and we pretty much support everything they do. I think it was a really great opportunity for us.
Jenna Morasca: Unfortunately since we weren't on long enough, you won't be able to see how awesome we are together on TV.
Ethan Zohn: That's why you have to tune into our new show, which is called Everyday Health, which is on ABC every Saturday morning.
Jenna Morasca: Or Sunday depending on your local listings.
Ethan Zohn: It's basically Jen and I traveling across the country road trip style and we get to meet the most extraordinary, ordinary people who have faced a crisis in their life and now they're using that crisis to help others.
So, Jen and I kind of swoop in and we meet them and their friends and their family, and then we help them plan some great big pay-it-forward moment. So it kind of represents everything that we are as people.
Jenna Morasca: It's going to be on until February.
Would you do The Amazing Race again if they asked you to?
Jenna Morasca: No.
Ethan Zohn: No, I don't think so.
Jenna Morasca: I'd do Survivor again.
Ethan Zohn: There was too much left out of our control on the Race.
Could you talk about something else viewers didn't get to see?
Ethan Zohn: Obviously a lot is cut out and what you don't see is that we were at the China Airlines counter -- I think three teams got their tickets before, I think it was 11PM, and the rest of us got there after. So we just had to wait at the ticket counter until...
Jenna Morasca: We all got on the flight. It was fine. So we all basically slept in the airport and we were playing hacky-sack and playing in these roller chairs and playing cards. Yeah, (laughs) that's the stuff you don't see -- everyone just having fun and they forgot about the Race for just a little bit.
It was probably still in the back of their minds but it was those kind of fun moments that unfortunately, you don't get to see on the Race.
How long did the Confucius Roadblock task actually take everyone?
Ethan Zohn: Oh, God. For some people, that took forever. It was on a crappy old payphone. It was all crackly, there was traffic going by, so you're like kneeling down blocking one ear. What they didn't show you was that Confucius wasn't just right there. You had to walk at least, I'd say, 75-100 yards to get to them.
So in the meantime, you're just going over and over it in your head in your head and trying to remember it, and then when you get there, you're like, "Oh, no. You forgot one word."
I think where everyone stumbled, and where I stumbled, is the guy who was saying it on the phone -- Confucius -- his accent was so strong that you couldn't hear him say the difference between "preparation" and "preparations." It was just the plural and that's where, I think, a lot of people went wrong, including myself.
So, overall, how much of that Roadblock task was edited down? How long did that really take?
Ethan Zohn: It probably took me what? An hour, maybe. Hour. I went back at least...
Jenna Morasca: No, it did not take you an hour.
Ethan Zohn: No?
Jenna Morasca: You only went up there like three times or four times. It did not take you an hour.
Ethan Zohn: We did pass like four teams, but no it took awhile. I was out there, I mean truthfully, it was probably 11 or 12 times. You could only listen to the phone once and then you had to go to the back of the line, so you'd listen to it, you'd run to Confucius, and then you'd go to the back of the line.
If there were four or five people in front of you, you'd have to wait for them to get done with the phone call before you could get back on the line.
You weren't allowed to write the phrase down right?
Ethan Zohn: You couldn't write it down, and not only that, you needed a phone card. So all they said was, "Here's a payphone. Go make a call." And everyone's picking it up trying to figure out, "How do I make a call?"
There's no change. I have no money, and then you had to -- Everyone was like, "Oh, you need a phone card!" So I sprinted to the nearest convenient store, bought a phone card, came back, and then if the phone card ran out, you had to get another phone card. So, it was a whole disaster.
What did you guys think about the events that unfolded after Kaylani lost her passport?
Jenna Morasca: I think that I want her to get me the lottery numbers this week. (Laughs)
Ethan Zohn: She got so lucky. I don't know how that happened.
Were you guys aware of what was going on in that Kaylani and Lisa were going to be eliminated at the airport?
Jenna Morasca: I would think so. If you lose your passport, you can't go anywhere. They should play the craps table more.
If you guys had hung in longer, who do you think your biggest competition would have been?
Jenna Morasca: Who knows, I mean, [Bill Alden and Cathi Alden] are still in the Race, so who knows.
Ethan Zohn: Yeah, they showed in the first leg of the Race that it was lucky that it was a non-elimination leg.
Jenna Morasca: We could have walked when Phil said, "The world is waiting for you" until we got off the train at the train station. We could have just strolled through the rest of the leg.
Ethan Zohn: Bill and Cathi were seven-and-a-half hours behind and everyone else...
Jenna Morasca: Congratulations. You're seven-and-a-half hours behind and you're still allowed to be in the Race.
Ethan Zohn: I always thought that a non-elimination leg was almost like a reward for making it so far and you guys are struggling and you're tired. It's like, "Alright, you deserve a break and you just got lucky." But the first leg, no one's done anything. It was just surprising that there's a non-elimination leg in the first leg, and then the second leg of the Race was a double elimination. So that was a surprise as well.
Which teams would you say were very strong?
Jenna Morasca: I like the snowboarders [Andy Finch and Tommy Czeschin] and what I liked about the snowboarders were that they give off this vibe like they're just chill and don't care, but I was like, "This is bullsh-t. These guys are totally in it to win it."
Ethan Zohn: They are Olympic athletes.
Jenna Morasca: They got the right attitude. They're having a good time but they're not over-stressing. Ethan and I really like them, so whenever we were in the Race, we sat and talked to them and hung out with them quite a bit.
Do you two see a wedding in your near future?
Jenna Morasca: Maybe.
Ethan Zohn: With the snowboarders?
Jenna Morasca: Eventually.
Would you ever do Survivor again?
Jenna Morasca: Yes. 100% percent.
Ethan Zohn: Yeah, I don't think so. Maybe I'd come on a family visit.
Jenna Morasca: The only thing he wants to do competitive-wise now is Dancing with the Stars.
Ethan Zohn: I just really love sequins! (Laughs)
Jenna Morasca: (Laughs)