That screaming you heard on Tuesday night at about 10:45 was 16 million CBS viewers wondering why Amazing Racers Uchenna Agu and Joyce Robinson Agu were begging for cash on Ft. Lauderdale's streets instead of sprinting for the finish line. The married couple had fought their way back from third place and were literally steps away from becoming the seventh team to win The Amazing Race. But before they could claim their $1 million prize, Uchenna and Joyce had to raise the money to pay off their cab fare. Fortunately, their faith in the kindness of strangers paid off and the two landed on the mat in first place to the wild cheers of their fellow racers... and the largest at-home viewing audience ever. Here, they talk about their adventures — the begging! The hair! Da plane, da plane! — and how the race ultimately renewed their relationship.
TVGuide.com: What the heck were you thinking trying to pay off your cabbie?! Couldn't you have just run to the finish mat, won the cash and then paid him his fare?
Well, one of the rules of the game is that the drivers have to agree on the amount you've given them. And he wouldn't agree, so we had to make sure he was taken care of before running in. Plus, it just wouldn't have been right for us stiff this guy. We spent 30 minutes out there begging for money.
Joyce Robinson Agu: A lot of people have told us now, "You guys should have just gone for the money!" But we didn't want to leave anyone mad — that's just our nature. I know it had to look funny. I could see [production] people peeking out from the Bonnet House, going, "What are they doing? Get in here!" We didn't want to have bad karma going to the finish line, so we had to do just one last good deed.
TVG: It's amazing you were able to get on that plane bound for Miami. Be honest now — the producers didn't provide any help with that?
Joyce: I swear to you, I've never witnessed a miracle, but I think I did in that moment. Because that never happens!
Uchenna: There was a moment where I looked at the ticket agent and I just glared at her. They didn't show it, but I kind of yelled at her, too. And that's when she called the pilot.
Joyce: Apparently, the pilot has to be the one to say go ahead and open the door back up, because it's a security risk.
Uchenna: It's not something that you can make happen on a whim.
Joyce: We don't know why he did it. But karma comes back around. If you remember, there was a point on the race in Argentina where we were on a plane, the plane closed and then they let Rob and Amber on! You know, turnabout is fair play, and it's just good karma coming back. We waited for this and it waited for us.
TVG: Your facial expressions made it clear how difficult it was to beg for money.
It was humiliating — I felt like people were looking at us with disgust. We hoped the cameras would be near us so that people would know it was [a] TV thing. But they stayed away, and we just looked like regular people in an airport begging. I imagined what street people, who are really in need and have to beg, must go through. I can envision what that must be like, because I know how people can just turn away and go, "I hope they don't see me."
Uchenna: There's nothing like having to put your pride aside in that way and get down to earth with people and have to beg. When you put your hand out and ask for something you can't repay, it's an eye-opening experience.
Joyce: I was done when that guy in the airport said, "No, we're just not into that type of thing." Uchenna had to carry us. I just thought, "Nobody is looking at us, nobody is going to give us anything." Well, one person gave us a dollar.
Uchenna: Jamaica's a poor country, so we knew we had to rely on the travelers. That's why we went to the airport.
Joyce: We were there for a good five hours before people started coming in for their first flight. We were so behind! But we didn't know where else to go. The lodge that we stayed at during the rest period would have been a great place, but it was 3 am when we left, so no one was around! And we didn't want to go knocking on doors. People may not have taken too kindly to that. [Laughs]
TVG: Did you notice a racial disparity in the people who would help you? In Jamaica, at least, it seemed like the white tourists were less forthcoming.
No, we didn't feel that anyone made a choice to give or not to give based on race. I think it was really an attitude thing — it was our ability to get to their heart in a short period of time and their propensity to give back. If they were going to do it, they would have done it for anyone. We didn't feel that anyone was more or less generous.
Joyce: And actually the people who gave us the biggest amount of money were two very sweet white ladies who were like, "We don't know what you're doing, but you guys look like you need it." Our cab driver was so kind and generous, too. We told him up front — although we probably shouldn't have — that we only had $40 or $50 for what would have been a $250 trip. We originally only wanted him to take us to one location, but we had no idea there would be so many tasks involving a cab. So he took us everywhere, and we only paid him $50!
TVG: I guess you have the money to pay him back now.
Yeah, we told him at the time, "You have an amazing spirit and that's the kind of people we like to think we are." I would love to be able to repay that guy.
Uchenna: We have that information, and his people are going to get letters from us. We want to contact that pilot, too!
TVG: What else are you planning to do with the money? You mentioned on the show that you're going to try for another round of in vitro fertilization.
My doctor actually donated a round of in vitro, which is so awesome because this is the same doctor whose bills we're still paying bills off! And if it doesn't work the next time, we're open for adoption — and now, we can afford it! Because that can be expensive. We also have some family that can really use a couple of dollars. And we also have a couple bills to pay off. You know, two or three or a thousand! [Laughs]
TVG: Joyce, you look lovely with short hair. Are you planning to grow it back?
I swear, I've gotten enough compliments that I'm thinking I may get a little cocky with this short hair! I might have to keep it because I've just never had this many compliments before. I love the hair that René Syler [cohost of The Early Show] has, so if it grows back to that length, I think that would be ideal.
TVG: Uchenna mentioned on the show that you had had some marital problems. Can you talk more about that and how TAR might've helped you fix them?
We were really dealing with some issues going into the race: The problems that come up when you have financial difficulties, failed in vitros and [job] layoffs. All these things were piling up. But then, we got on the race and it was like a cloak was taken off. We discovered that all the problems in our relationship were based on external things. We didn't realize that until we were stripped of our old world and given a new focus.
Joyce: We realized that we had started blaming each other for things. When there's only two of you and things go wrong, you look for someone to lash out at. We had been accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and after being laid off, we couldn't afford ourselves anymore. It was like, "If you wouldn't eat so much, we could pay our bills!" Or, "You use so much toilet paper! You only need two sheets!" Any little thing. You start to worry that maybe you don't have good karma together anymore. But the race was a breath of fresh air into our relationship. We realized that we were together for a reason.