Boston strong couple Jason Case, 34, and Amy Diaz, 29, met in a Rhode Island hookah bar, dated for 18 months, and then decided to test their skills and their relationship by applying for "The Amazing Race 23." Six months later, their love affair is still going strong, an engagement is imminent, and their bank accounts are healthier, thanks to avoiding Philimination. Yahoo TV spoke exclusively with this season's winners Monday while they were on a train to New York about the highs and lows of the competition, their controversial alliance, and how the race affected their bond.
How does it feel to finally be able to tell people you won?
Amy: We are so relieved. Our moms needed tranquilizers throughout the entire season and definitely last night.
Jason: It was really tough not to tell anyone, but it was harder not to mess up and give anything away. People would try to trick us and ask questions to try to figure out if we'd won or lost. Amy and I were very prepared for that. We had a great poker face for the last few months, so we completely blew people's minds when we won. They had no idea.
Looking back, are there specific moments you can point to that sealed the deal on your win?
Amy: Obviously, [the moment] when I dropped the flour was pretty epic. But we still didn't know how far behind the other teams were. There were helicopters in the air, and we didn't know if they were in those or not. Once we were doing the totem poles, we realized we had quite a bit of a lead. We were a little over halfway through when Tim and Marie arrived. And when we got the next clue, Travis and Nicole had just gotten there. There was probably an hour and 20 minutes between us and Tim and Marie and two and half from [the doctors].
Jason: I felt it back in Indonesia when we missed that train with Tim and Marie, were an hour behind the three other teams and we caught up. That was a huge moment for us. And the following leg, when we did the makeup challenge and finally got our first-place finish, I thought we really came together at that point. We were getting better as other teams were progressively getting worse. We blossomed at the right moment.
Was there a lowest moment of the race when you thought you were done for?
Amy: We were really frustrated that we had come in second place so many times. Then the one chance we got where we thought we'd get a first place for sure was the Fast Forward, and that didn't turn out very good for us, either. We had to play catch-up then, and when the train left on us, we thought, "Really? Is this happening to us again?" We really felt like we were done, especially because our season was really competitive. If you look at the times teams checked in and out of pit stops, first and second was only minutes, if not seconds, apart. And most of the time, all teams were checked in within the same hour. When an Express Pass was used, we still only checked in, like, 15 seconds after them. So when you know the next train isn't for an hour, it is discouraging. It gave us the same feeling as we had on the first leg when we caught the second flight. We knew one of us was going home.
A lot of viewers questioned your alliance with the doctors, especially when Amy stayed to help Nicole finish Road Blocks. Did that alliance help you? Do you regret helping them?
Amy: Our relationship started back on leg two. We helped each other. She didn't have her mat during the shoeshining. I told her what was wrong, and she let me read her clue when I lost mine. From there, we became a little family. I did it because I really, really loved them. That was initial instinct, and we realized as the race went on that we were becoming stronger, and Travis and Nicole were becoming disappointed with each other and falling apart a little bit.
Jason: We witnessed their mental breakdown.
Amy: We capitalized on it when we realized it was happening. My heart wanted to help and my head knew it was smart. When I helped her, we knew we weren't getting first because the other teams had already left. We wanted the two of us to be at the end because if we didn't win, we wanted them to win. But we knew on the last leg we were mentally stronger.
Jason: And physically too. Bringing them along to the final stretch was also an advantage for us because we were a stronger team at that point.
What was your favorite challenge, experience, place visited?
Amy: We absolutely loved Portugal, so we hope to use our money to travel through Portugal, and I will probably drag Jay to the "Sound of Music" tour in Austria. Indonesia was a highlight for me because we finally got first place, and I got to play dress-up with Jay and make him up like he was my little doll.
Jason: I can tell you that we're not doing that bungee jumping if we ever go back there.
Amy: Pretty sure Jason's was me being a backseat driver.
Jason: I had a few. One was that the race goes by so fast that you don't really get to experience and really take in the sights around you. We were so focused on going fast. I also didn't like driving in the U.A.E. We didn't know where we were going, and Amy was barking at me from the back seat. It was our first really bad mental breakdown, but overcoming that and finishing strong gave us motivation for the rest of the race.
When we talked before you left to race, Amy said that you had agreed on a 60-40 split so that you could buy her a ring, propose, and pay for a wedding. Is that still the deal, and have you popped the question? (Amy can't stop laughing.)
Jason: No, it hasn't happened yet. We do have a bright future ahead of us, and we're excited about that. But to me, they are two different moments, and we want to share this as the "Amazing Race" part of our lives and celebrate these emotions. Our relationship is a different experience. I don't want to merge the two together.
But participating didn't break you up, did it?
Jason: No. Like every relationship, we've had our ups and downs. We had no idea if the show would bring us closer together or break us up. There were a lot of unknowns for the both of us, but I feel now that our bond is strong. Having gone through this process and having all of this exposure right now, we have to support each other and be strong as a couple.
Amy: It did wonders for our relationship. We had only been together for a little over a year when we left for the race, and we learned so much about each other as competitors, people, and as a couple. There is no communication with the outside world, and it's only the two of you 24/7 for a month, so we now know more about how we react to situations, our values, our beliefs. A lot of times you don't learn these things until you've been together for five or 10 years. Sometimes even a lifetime. This really fast-forwards the entire relationship.
When you do get married, are your fellow racers invited?
Amy: Absolutely. The friendships will last way longer than the race. Nicole and Travis came to my mom's house for Thanksgiving, and the cast had a reunion in Rhode Island this weekend. We are now on the train to New York to spend another couple of days together.
Jason: We were blessed and honored to run this with such amazing people, from Oklahoma to NFL to the beards. Even Tim and Marie, as feisty as they were. We will probably use some of the money to travel and see some of these people, meet their families, and continue the relationships. Nobody else experienced TAR 23 with us, and it was once in a lifetime.