It was the decision heard around the world. On the second-to-last leg of The Amazing Race, Nathaniel ‘Big Easy’ Lofton, 28, exited a roadblock he couldn’t figure out and told his partner Herb ‘Flight Time’ Lang, 32, that he wanted to take the four-hour non-completion penalty. It sealed the fate of the Harlem Globetrotters, arguably the fan-favorites, but the Louisiana natives talked to PEOPLE about not letting the choice taint their take on the trip and their rivalry with brothers Sam and Dan. –Carrie Bell
How long did you attempt the Kafka task before taking the penalty? And did you regret making that decision?Big Easy: I was there for three-and-a-half hours before I decided. I couldn’t think clearly anymore. I don’t regret the decision. I had the answer on the paper so I thought I had used it already and got it wrong. Whatever was on the paper, I wasn’t going to try again so I would have been there even longer than the penalty if I was trying to come up with an answer.
Did you think it was even remotely possible that you might make the final three after the penalty?
Big Easy: The Race is unpredictable and takes a lot of luck. I figured, hey, somebody could make a mistake like I just did. Maybe they’d have to take a penalty on the next leg. Maybe there’d be something physical that was too hard for someone. There was nothing we could do at that point but hope and see. It wasn’t unheard of for a team to catch up.
Flight Time, you were a class act whenever your teammate faltered. The same cannot be said for the other teams.Flight Time: We weren’t competing against other teams. We were competing against ourselves. There was nothing another team could do to frustrate us or that Big could do to frustrate me. We decided at the beginning that once we made a decision, we would stand behind it. That was it. Over. Done. That’s what team work is about. There were so many good things that Big Easy did that helped us get to the next leg. I couldn’t have made it that far without him and vice versa. And he won me a trip for my birthday. I wasn’t going to embarrass myself or my family by acting like a fool and getting mad at someone for trying.
The brothers consistently butted heads with you, yet you still worked with Dan this round. Did you expect the backstabbing?Big Easy: For one second I was surprised he played it that way. Like, “Wow, he really did that.” But that was the strategy they ran the whole time. They did some sneaky things and were after us, but I felt sorry for them because I don’t think they enjoyed it. They didn’t enjoy the waterslide, the dancing, Ski Dubai or eating the herring … We loved every minute. They were caught up in the competition and the money, but I’m not mad at them. I don’t hold anything against them, but they missed out by fighting so much.
Looking back at the Estonia elbow incident, do you think it was an accident or intentional?Flight Time: We blame ourselves for that part because it should have never gotten to that foot race. We finished the volleyball first and stupidly took time to get dressed and then walked the wrong direction as they finished and saw the pit stop. We caught up and they did what they should have which was block us. The path was so narrow that we got tangled up. I don’t think there were elbows. I may have tripped.
What was your favorite moment from your trip?Flight Time: My favorite part was dancing in Holland until I realized I had to eat the herring. The bells were the worst experience. Big Easy: The best part was riding the bikes dressed up with the wood shoes on looking like buffoons.
Clich or true: The experience is worth more than winning the million?Big Easy: I didn’t think we could get any closer on the show but we washed each other’s underwear so I guess we did. I got three emails … from saying they cried when we lost. To have that effect on and to be role models, we won right there. We won more friends and fans. We were going to give the money to charity anyway. CBS