'The Amazing Race' exit interview: James and Abba
The rockers on how their first-place finishes crumbled so quickly
By Diane Vadino Nov 20, 2012 1:35PM
Until last week, rocker buddies Mark "Abba" Abbattista and James LoMenzo seemed like shoe-ins for the show's final three: They were tough, smart, and impervious to any of the drama around them, even when the other teams' hijinks involved stealing their money. If it weren't for the worst cabbie ever—the guy who drove away with Abba's passport—we're sure they'd still be at the front of the pack. We talked with the duo—sure candidates for the next edition of "Unfinished Business"—about where it all went so wrong.
MSN: What was the secret to your early success? The more the other teams floundered, the smoother you guys were.
James: It was all about the hair.
Abba: The other teams were just jealous as we ran by, with our hair flowing behind us.
James: Seriously, part of it was just Abba's experience booking flights—he gets up to the computer, and he knows exactly where to find what we need.
Abba: The show does have a tremendous travel element to it. It wasn't my first time out there—we've traveled more than all these teams combined. Trey and Lexie haven't even been out of Texas before.
James: Also, we always took an extra moment before setting off on something—if it took us an extra moment to discuss it, that was okay.
Abba: You don't dive into a pool headfirst without looking to see if there's water in it first. I don't know if that's an age thing. But it's not a hesitation if you don't know what to do. You know, as a carpenter, measure twice, cut once.
Photos: Meet the teams
In terms of the travel, I can imagine you knowing your way around a five-star hotel. But I wasn't sure how much that would help you in Bangladesh.
Abba: You're thinking of the dream of the rock star, but the reality of the not-rock-star people is slogging away in way way worse conditions. Ten guys in a van and everybody eating at Del Taco. But it's not such a bad thing, sleeping on the floor. There's a purity to it. It keeps some honesty in your life. I've slept in plenty of Motel 6s.
So talk me through the passport debacle.
Abba: I slept with my passport on me—I never didn't have it on me. But we'd just done the swimming challenge, and when I got changed, I put my pants and my passport in my bag. If we hadn't gone to the pool....
James: We spent the whole day looking for a cab. It looked like a gypsy cab but we grabbed it anyway. When we got to the Tree of Love, we saw the cluebox from the cab, and we thought we'd just be running up from the cab, grabbing the clue, and running back to the cab. I suspect that what happened is that he took off with our stuff as soon as we were out of the cab.
That must have been terrible.
James: I had chided the Sri Lankan girls over and over about leaving their bags in the cabs.
Did you go straight to the embassy to try to have it replaced?
Abba: The Russian government is a lot less flexible than the U.S.—we needed a visa. And this happened on a Friday night, and the following Tuesday was the Russian independence day, which was another unfortunate situation. Everything was closed. We were inside Interpol; we'd gone to several different police stations. We really, really tried. We knew we couldn't move forward.
How long did it end up taking you to get a new passport?
Abba: Six days. We figured it was sort of like we'd come in first that leg and gotten an all-expense-paid vacation in Russia.
That was the second time you guys were ripped off. Did you know prior to watching the show that the twins had stolen your cash?
James: We learned about it when you guys did—well, the week before, in the previews.
Abba: We did get robbed, but we also had an experience in Bangladesh that nobody else had. We were out in the devastated poverty of Bangladesh, and the generosity of these people and their kindness was just amazing. We never expected anything back. To live through that and conquer what seemed to be a pretty insurmountable challenge—that was great. To my mind, we were eliminated—but I don't think we ever got beat.