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“We was robbed,” James LoMenzo quipped at the end of Sunday night’s The Amazing Race. “Literally,” chimed in Mark “Abba” Abbatista. Which sums up the duo’s stroke of seriously bad luck leading to their elimination in Sunday night’s episode.
It all started in last week’s episode, when James, a former member of the bands White Lion and Megadeth, and Abba, an entertainment lawyer, left their backpacks in a taxi while heading to perform one of the challenges to receive their next clue — and the cab driver drove off with their belongings, including Abba’s passport. As longtime viewers know, teams must have their passport to continue on with the race.
When James and Abba reached the mat, host Phil Keoghan told they were in fourth place and still had time to find the missing passport. Failing to locate the taxi, they finally returned to the mat in last place, only to be told it was a non-elimination leg.
James, 53, and Abba, 45, spent a good deal of time in this week’s episode trying to procure a new passport for Abba — including filing a police report — to no avail. As such, they were eliminated from the race. (Five teams remain.)
On Monday, the duo talked to The Hollywood Reporter about how they got home, whether they finished the entire leg, the prank Abba almost pulled on the other competitors and why they were seen in a limo with a priest.
The Hollywood Reporter: So Abba, it was just you who lost your passport?
Abba: No, I did not lose my passport; it was stolen from us. We had a cab driver who drove away with both our bags. As soon as we got out of the car, he drove off; it was a conscious, malicious act of theft and not something stupid where we just left our bags somewhere. Why my passport was in my bag was I had gotten out of the pool [where the challenge called for the competitors to perform with a Russian synchronized swim team] and I had no towel and I was wet. I took the passport out of my clothes because they were soaking wet. It was the one of the oddest circumstances in my life; next time I’m synchronized-swimming with a Russian Olympic team, that definitely will not happen.
James: He normally has his passport tattooed to himself.
Abba: Normally, I sleep with my passport because I’m so insecure; I have it tied with a piece of string and I tie my bags to me, so people can’t take something if I’m sleeping. We were in the airport overnight in Bangladesh and everybody was sleeping and took off their shoes. And I was contemplating taking everybody’s shoes just for fun. They were all just laying there with their bags. I [took extra precaution] to make sure nobody took my shoes. It’s a lesson for everybody: No matter how careful you are, every once in a while it gets you.
THR: So he literally just drove off as soon as you got out of the car? Had you told him to wait for you?
James: Throughout the race, I told the twins [Natalie and Nadiya] on more than one occasion, [leaving your bags] was the most foolish thing you could do, and they did it with impunity. I felt it would be OK to leave our bags there because I actually saw the clue box where we pulled over, and I thought we could grab the clue and jump back into the cab and go on to the next clue.
Abba: We were only 50 feet from the car.
James: It was a calculated risk, but it didn’t feel like that at the time. We thought we’d jump back in the car and go on with our day. The rules are that you can’t really split up, so I couldn’t hold the cab while Abba did the task. By the time we started getting to the task, several minutes had gone by, and Abba said, “Let’s make sure the cab is still there. By that time, the cab was long gone. It happened so fast. The situation was not that uncommon; everybody does it: I could see the clue box and I thought we’d run up there and grab it and in 30 seconds we’d be back to the car. It wasn’t a stupid move; it was a common move. Everybody out there did the same thing; the only time we did it, our bags were taken.
THR: So how was the situation finally resolved?
James: We’re actually talking to you from a Russian prison [laughs] .
Abba: Who’s paying for this phone call? Because this one is expensive [laughs]. We did our best before the elimination during the leg, going out to different police stations and hoping to file reports. But the Russian bureaucracy and the culture of the governement and the authoritative organization of the police are quite a bit different than ours. You have to sign their forms 15 different ways, and then everybody else has to sign it. … And everything happened on a Friday and Saturday, and Tuesday was Russia’s Independence Day. The country shut down. It was the worst possible weekend it could have happened. We were knocking on everybody’s door, trying to get some leeway. We went inside Interpol — some places we were like, “How did we get here?” … We spent quite a bit of time there — six days — before we were able to get this thing taken care of and out of there.
THR: So I take it you never got your backpacks back?
James: There is some guy wearing very stylish clothes wandering around Russia [laughs]. At this point, we had nothing. I literally had a hair tie, and James had a sweatshirt on. That night we were combing our hair with a fork because we had no comb. We were total MacGyvers. It was rough because lost a pair of prescription eyeglasses, so I was basically blind and wearing my contacts until I got home.
James: I had a Snickers bar — damn, I was satisfied [laughs].
THR: Did you complete all the challenges?
James: We actually completed two of them. The speed bump [the duo had to complete a speed bump for coming in last during a non-elimination leg, but it wasn’t shown on TV] was to bring a priest to a church but there were only one-way streets and you had to figure out a way to get around [without asking anybody for directions] — we nailed that. We got to the time zone challenge and did it in 20 minutes. But by that time, because we had burned the whole day, we just went back to the finish; we had nowhere else to go. Having seen the Russian dancing challenge, I don’t know if Abba could have done that [because of problems he was experiencing with his knees]; it would have been horrific.
THR: I was going to ask you why we saw you in a limo with a priest with no explanation.
James: Obviously, he was not a very good priest [laughs]. We needed some divine intervention. Please pray for our passport or do something.
THR: Earlier, your money was found by two other teams [the twins and Lexi/Trey] while you were making travel arrangements, but you thought you had lost it. When did you realize those teams found and kept the money for themselves?
Abba: Until we saw the episode, we had no idea. We had been in a cab, and I fell asleep while in the back, and I thought that while I was laying down it fell out in the cab.
THR: Were you shocked when you discovered the truth?
Abba: Yeah, I think I was, especially Lexi and Trey. Their participation in it was shocking to me. We got along with all the teams, but it was pretty disappointing to see what happened.
James: It created another great adventure for us we hadn’t counted on.
Abba: And James was extremely supportive in that situation. I was just embarrassed and guilty and ashamed. … But getting out of that situation was probably one of my favorite moments of the whole race [they hit the streets to ask people for money]. The generosity of strangers really saved us. It was a touching moment where we were in one of the poorest places on the planet, and people are helping you and giving you something they don’t even have.
THR: What do you think about your nickname, “Long hair, don’t care,” that the Chippendales [James and Jaymes] gave you?
James: I love it. When people are talking about you, it’s great.
Abba: What happened was, we wound up on a flight that nobody else was on in Indonesia. This created a situation where the other teams were going, “Oh my god, what the heck are those guys doing?” I asked [the Chippendales], and so they told me that Chippendales are usually clean-cut guys, but some decided to let their hair go? And they would ask, “What, are you not going to get your haircut? You’re long hair, don’t care?” Because they don’t care enough to get a haircut. … But we played well into “long hair, do care.”
James: We realized jumping into alliances early in the game couldn’t serve us in any way. But I could see how that looked to an outsider and why they called us out. But I thought it was perfectly cool.
Abba: It was confusing to them, but we are older and more experienced in our travels, and we didn’t need the validation of the group to make a decision. We played differently … but also attracted a bunch of attention to ourselves. But like James said, if people are talking about you, it’s a good thing.
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