Nathaniel "The Big Easy" Lofton claims he correctly unscrambled the letters to spell "Franz" during a Roadblock task but was so confused by that point that he couldn't keep track of if he had already guessed it as an answer or not.
The 28-year-old from New Orleans, LA and his Harlem Globetrotters teammate Herbert "Flight Time" Lang, a 32-year-old from Brinkley, AR, decided to take a four-hour penalty that they were never able to overcome and thus became the ninth team eliminated from The Amazing Race's fifteenth season during last night's broadcast of the CBS reality series.
On Monday, Flight Time and Big Easy talked to Reality TV World about why the Roadblock task was so confusing; what went into their decision to take the four-hour penalty; whether they have any hard feelings towards "Brothers" Daniel and Samuel McMillen; and how one contestant's fears opened the door for them when hope was all but lost.
Reality TV World: Big Easy, how surprised were you really when Dan decided not to give you the word during the Roadblock task?
Big Easy: I was surprised for like a second-and-a-half and then realized it was Dan, so it was back to reality quick. It was part of his strategy and it was a good deal on his part -- there was nothing mean about it. He wasn't obligated.
Reality TV World: You said that you would have given him the answer had you gotten it first, but is that something you really would have done given you were competing for a spot in the final leg?
Big Easy: Yeah, I would have because the other team wasn't there yet -- ["Married Couple" Ericka Dunlap and Brian Kleinschmidt] -- also we think, as we said, that we can beat the teams if it gets to a foot race. It was the beginning of that leg and I think if we had gotten to that next part -- pushing the [Golem statue as part of a Detour task] -- me and Flight Time, physically, we would have knocked that out quick. So I probably would have given it to him.
Reality TV World: Were there any clues in the museum that might have tipped you off that the answer might have been "Franz," Kafka's first name?
Big Easy: Not that I know of. Looking back on it, there were over 200 phones ringing at the same time and there wasn't any clues at all.
Reality TV World: What exactly did the clue tell you about the word you were trying to unscramble, did it even tell you it was a person's name or mention Kafka at all?
Big Easy: No. I can't remember exactly. I don't want to lie to you, but I think it was like a local thing. That's all it said.
Reality TV World: You commented at one point that you started to get confused since you weren't keeping very good track of the letter combinations you had already tried. Do you think that played a large role in your inability to solve it?
Big Easy: I think that was my demise. I actually wrote the word "Franz" down on the paper, but I didn't transfer it to the sheet that I had to transfer it to to get the people to look at it, to okay it. Maybe I thought I did, maybe I thought I didn't -- I got confused with it. I didn't know that was actually the word, but then I thought I already went up with it.
Reality TV World: When Brian arrived you told him you had been there for about two-and-a-half hours. How much time total do you think you spent in the museum trying to complete the Roadblock?
Big Easy: Total? With the four hours, maybe seven or eight hours.
Reality TV World: So that's with the four-hour penalty?
Big Easy: Yeah, with the penalty -- maybe three-and-a-half or four without.
Reality TV World: When did the option of taking the four-hour penalty begin to cross your mind?
Big Easy: As soon as Brian received [the clue after completing the Roadblock], I figured it was cold outside and I didn't get it in three-and-a-half hours, it makes no sense to take another three-and-a-half hours not to get it and then maybe take a four-hour penalty after that, because that's 12 hours. It would leave Flight Time in the cold for 12 hours! I didn't think that was fair to him. I just didn't do it. I just didn't get it done. There was no reason for him to suffer anymore.
Reality TV World: Once you decided to take the four-hour penalty and knowing the previous leg was non-elimination, how confident were you that you'd be able to avoid elimination? Were you just really hoping one of the other teams would make a big mistake?
Big Easy: Yeah. As you can see in previous episodes, no one's saying that the next thing is going to be any easier. We felt, "Okay, we take the penalty and maybe somebody makes a mistake like we did on that obstacle." We kind of figured the next thing was going to be something physical and we figured if we can catch up with them, then we can do what we do.
Reality TV World: Flight Time, you seemed supportive of the decision to take the penalty. At that point did you just assume there was no way Big Easy would solve the puzzle?
Flight Time: He had been in there for four hours, and I've been asked a lot of questions about if I regret not doing it. No, I don't regret not doing it because we had a strategy going into the race that I would do the final [Roadblock]. At that point, we were at five and five -- and that was the sixth one and I was going to do the last one.
To take the penalty, anything can happen during the course of the race. You saw how it finished -- Ericka and Brian did have a tough time carrying the glasses. It was daylight when they actually got to the Pit Stop. It was daylight when we actually got the next clue to go to the [Kryocentrum]. I'm not sure exactly how far we were behind, but I think if we could have probably gotten another hour -- if we had taken the penalty maybe an hour before -- I think we would have had a chance to catch them at the end.
So there's no regret. Everything happened exactly the way it was supposed to. We just feel fortunate that we had an opportunity to run 11 legs of the race.
Reality TV World: Big Easy, after getting a chance to think about it some more, did you start to think the time you spent on the penalty might have been better spent trying to solve get the answer? There weren't a lot of combinations of the letters left to try...
Big Easy: I don't think I never would have gotten it, but I think we took the four-hour penalty from a strategy standpoint. I think eventually I maybe would have gotten it. But if I would have taken another six hours to do it and gotten it right, who wins on that? It was all about time and it was all about getting it done. I definitely did not want to stop doing it, but it was a race. Strategy-wise, that was the smartest thing to do.
Reality TV World: Was it having to keep filling out all those other questionaire boxes on the submission forms that took up the time when you were trying to solve the word?
Big Easy: It definitely took a lot of time and it was part of the reason why maybe I made a mistake and I had already thought that I put something down. It's probably one of the reasons I thought I had put "Franz" down, because it asked your name, your address, the name of your first pet, your partner's name. All that goes into making the challenge tougher. It was a tough challenge -- it wasn't real tough -- but it certainly got me to slip up. It happens though.
Reality TV World: Was that some new rule that you had to wait out the penalty at the Roadblock task instead of continuing with the leg and then having host Phil Keoghan force you to sit down the time at the Pit Stop before checking you in?
Big Easy: We had to get the next clue. The only way you can move onto the next thing is if you get the clue after the penalty. We didn't know what was next. You get the next clue when the penalty time is up. We couldn't leave without knowing where we were going.
Reality TV World: Did you guys ever confront Sam and Dan after race about Dan's decision to not give you the answer?
Big Easy: No because there was nothing to get upset over. It was part of their strategy -- it was actually a smart strategy for them. It was the way they ran the race. We decided to run the race our way, and they decided to run it their way. That was part of their way. We don't have an issue. We never had any problems with Sam and Dan at all. They were cool. We had a good time with them.
Reality TV World: That leads well into my next question. It looked like you guys had a bit of a rivalry with Sam and Dan -- so was that just the editing making something out of nothing or was there actually something going on between you guys, specifically when you had that physical contact when you were racing to the Pit Stop in Estonia?
Flight Time: Me personally, I would say it's a lot of editing. I didn't even realize until watching that these teams had so much fear for us. Just watching the show, I didn't know until after Dubai when you hear the teams comment that they see Big Easy struggling with the briefcase and the teams actually wanted us out of the race.
I remember [Mika Combs] saying, "It was nice to see Big Easy struggle with that." I remember [Gary Tomljenovich] saying, "I would love to see Big Easy in that wrap."
I didn't realize that the teams really feared us that much -- and I definitely didn't realize that Sam and Dan had said so many times that they wanted us out of the race. Not one time did we think that they were saying those things about us.
Reality TV World: Okay, so the rivalry was a result of editing?
Big Easy: It wasn't a rivalry to us. It was always fun. But they got tangled up in it and there would be confrontations, but after that it was over. The only rivalry was with ourselves. We raced against each other in the race, not a specific team. We always felt like we controlled our own destiny. So it wasn't about the other teams at all.
Reality TV World: One of the only reasons you guys made it as far in the race as you did was because Mika was afraid to go down the waterslide in Dubai. How surprised were you that something that seemed so easy as going down a waterslide would be enough to eliminate another team?
Flight Time: With that situation, on the previous leg of the race we had to go up in the world's tallest building in Dubai. We were broken off into two groups, and Mika just happened to be in the group with us. She cried all the way to the top of the tallest building thinking that we might have to jump off of it.
Once we got to the top and she realized we were just getting a clue and going onto the next thing, we went back to where we had to get the car to look for the water in the desert. I remember her still being frightened about the fact that she may have had to jump off of that building.
So going into the Pit Stop, we read on the clue that a team might have to "take a leap of faith." I said in the car, "If there's anything with jumping off of something, we can probably depend on Mika still being there." That was just based on the previous leg of the race, knowing about her fear of heights. Luckily for us, they were still there when we got there.
Reality TV World: When we talked to Mika's partner Canaan Smith, he said he was upset at the way you guys were taunting Mika. In hindsight do you regret that strategy?
Big Easy: No, we don't regret anything we did. I didn't taunt her, I just told her, "Don't do it. If you're scared don't do it." It was all just playing on her fears. We're professional athletes and the game is psychological. It was a psychological moment, there was nothing mean or malicious.
You look at it, Canaan was trying to physically push her down the [slide]. I think that's something he might regret more than us saying, "Don't do it." We didn't say we wanted her to die or anything like that. We just said, "Don't do it." That wasn't mean at all.
Reality TV World: Did you ever talk with Mika and Canaan afterwards? Maybe feel a need to bury the hatchet with them?
Big Easy: There wasn't a hatchet to bury. I think it's the heat of the moment, because when we saw them at Elimination Station it was all hugs and we talked and we had a good time. We're good people and everybody knows it on the race. If somebody's mad at us, it's because of the heat of the moment in the race. It was nothing mean we did. We had fun the whole time.
Actually, we helped [Mika and Canaan] out the leg before when they were going to Ski Dubai. Flight Time actually told them to go back and put their coats on so they wouldn't be freezing going up the lift. There was nothing mean, it was all competitive spirit.
Flight Time: Going into the race -- with the Mika situation -- you know that there's a chance that you're going to have to do something with heights or do something with water, just from watching. You know there are teams that are going to tell you the truth and you know there are teams that are going to stab you in the back.
Going into it knowing that, for me, it's very difficult to get upset when these things happen because you know there's a chance that it will happen. Just like with Dan not giving him the word. He decided at the last minute that he wouldn't. You can't get upset with that because you know it's a thing that happens during the course of the race if you're a fan of the show and from watching it in the past.
Reality TV World: You already talked about how you were unaware how several of the teams commented on your need to be eliminated due to your physical strength. Were you concerned that your physical strength might put a target on you before you entered the race?
Big Easy: This game was physical and mental -- it wasn't all about physical strength. If you look at it, we're the only team that's really done it before -- worked together. So we weren't worried about our physical strength. We knew it was going to help us out, but all the other teams were pretty athletic also.
So we were happy to be on the race. We enjoyed the race, we respect the race, and if we could race again we would do it. The only thing was we wanted to go into the race and be ourselves. We hope everyone realizes that we're good guys, and I think we came across that we are who we are. Everybody else did too.