It's hard to top Josh and Brent's shocking win last season, but Phil Keoghan promises that Sunday's Amazing Race finale will be another tight one. "It's very close," he tells TVGuide.com. "It will keep viewers absolutely guessing until the end who's going to win. It's not one of those finales where one team has been in the lead the whole time." The two-hour finale (8/7c, CBS) finds hockey players Bates and Anthony, newlyweds Max and Katie, country singers Caroline and Jennifer, and roller derby moms Mona and Beth racing through Belfast, Ireland, where one team will be eliminated, and then Washington, D.C. for the final leg.
Find out what else you can expect from the episode, why Keoghan's still saying "oy vey" about John and Jessica's Express Pass fail and more.
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What do you think of the final four? You said earlier this season you only picked two out of the top five teams.
Phil Keoghan: [Laughs] I did! I love the teams we have left. They're really diverse. ... It's kind of perfect from that point of view. The country singers, while they may have been flirting with the hockey players, they're more focused on the prize now. The hockey players have been looking for love since Day 1. To be honest with you, I think they still have love in their eyes. And if there's one thing that will come in the way of a man's focus, it's a woman! The girls have used that to their advantage when it suited them.
The girls are more followers than the guys are.
Keoghan: I would agree. They follow more. The hockey players are certainly not intimidated by anything. In terms of the strongest female team, you'll have to look at the roller derby moms. They're really determined and have been fighting hard to stay in. They're used to going head-to-head in competition. And Max and Katie — I didn't see [them making it this far]. They would have to take the award for Most Improved Players. They bickered a lot in the beginning. I don't know what's changed. ... Maybe their Speed Bump and issues in Botswana were a wakeup call.
The hockey players, singers, and Max and Katie have an alliance. Are they going to try to oust the roller derby moms?
Keoghan: Well, I don't think any alliance works this late in the Race. If you start to focus on alliances at this stage, you get into trouble. You have to stop the flirting, stop the teasing and the rest of it. I didn't say there won't be flirting anymore, but flirting isn't going to help. Leave the rest for the after-party.
The final leg's in D.C. and the briefcase task looks like the Family Edition one. Is this another Switchback?
Keoghan: I'd say it's a little bit of a flashback. It's a very cool challenge. ... We had some great challenges. You might even see the president in the episode! ... We have a brainteaser. We love having things that forces team under pressure to think. They see other people there and start to panic. The more they panic, the more we know we're getting a good show. We have a challenge that surprises where it's like the flags last season and you don't know who's actually going to come out on top. The finish is close. ... When it comes to the final leg and you know there are teams right behind you and the finish is right there, it's just hard to keep your composure. I don't know [if anyone] makes a really poor decision, but there's absolutely frustration. You may be a little surprised at who wins. And that's a good thing.
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Like the Beekmans last season? Where does this rank compared to that?
Keoghan: That was more than a surprise. That was a shock! [Laughs] This is just a surprise. Just because everything has been leaning one way in the leg and then all of the sudden it turns. That's what I love about the show — things can turn on a dime. You don't know how people will react to certain situations.
Speaking of that, John and Jessica failed to use their Express Pass.
Keoghan: Oh, my God! Oy vey! That's all I could think to say then. I didn't know how to describe it. Again, we do 12 shows in 21 days. When he looks back at that with time, he's going to go, "What was I thinking? Why did I say 'no regrets'?"
Actually, when I talked to them, he stood by his comments.
Keoghan: Really? I still don't understand to this day what it was about. I understand them thinking a team might be behind them and not using it, but I don't understand him not wanting to admit that he was disappointed that he made a mistake. What was it in the end? Was he able to articulate it?
He said they don't need the money because they were there for the adventure, so that's why he was OK with the elimination.
Keoghan: I still don't get it. He was like, "That's the way it is." It's like surely you can't shut off your emotions to the point where you don't have a sense of regret. It's just a natural human reaction to go, "Aw, man! Are you kidding? I thought there was another team. All we had to do was use the Express Pass? Ugh!" I don't know if it was pride or ego or what, but he wouldn't allow himself to go there. That's the part I thought was "oy vey." I was like, "At least you can say to your partner, 'I'm sorry. You kept telling me to play it. I made a mistake.'" Don't pretend it didn't happen and you're not disappointed.
Maybe he's still too embarrassed. Do you think that was on the level of losing your passport?
Keoghan: It's definitely up there. The Express Pass is there to bail you out of trouble, so use it. The whole losing the passport thing, I mean, you strap that onto your body. You can lose your bag or your mind, but the passport is your ticket to staying in the Race. I think that's the biggest mistake you can make. However, everyone who's lost a passport on the show has admitted that they made a mistake!
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What's the latest on Season 23?
Keoghan: Can you believe it's been 23 seasons? We continue to get teams we could've never dreamed up. There are certain teams you don't even know are out there until you see the combination. Expect some different, new casting announcements. I've started writing the scripts for next season and the challenges are great. ... We will have new places [and we'll start shooting] in the summer. We don't tell people specific dates because they find us anyway. That's one of the things that's changed dramatically since Season 1 with social media.
There are literally fans from around the world who come together and live-tweet and collect sightings of you and the teams. Does that bother you guys? Or do you like that it's almost interactive now? Twitter did help Kaylani get her passport back.
Keoghan: Exactly. There are live updates all the time. Personally, I think it's exciting. What's weird was when we were going one way in an airport and The Amazing Race Asia team was going the other way, but neither of us had any idea that the other would be there. I think anyone who was trying to keep track would've been extremely confused. One of the other franchises was shooting in Christchurch [New Zealand] and my friend emailed me and said, "I can't believe you came to Christchurch and didn't even give me a call." I was like, "What are you talking about?" He manages the Christchurch airport and he said, "I saw the crew and the racers running around the airport." I was like, "Sorry, dude, that wasn't me." But Twitter and social media have added a whole new element for fans. Fans love being in the know. I think overall, our fans are pretty good. They don't give away too much. Sometimes people love dropping spoilers, but our fans are good. They tend to do it in such a way that doesn't ruin it for fans who don't want to know.
Sometimes they withhold major spoilers until after the season's over.
Keoghan: And we love that because I think they think they're part of something bigger. They don't feel like they have to spoil everything. Little teases here and there to whet the appetite are enough.
You're also working on a new show, The Phil Keoghan Project, that's inspired by your dad. What's the latest on that?
Keoghan: We're developing it and taking applications now. My dad grew up working hard, getting up at 5 a.m. to work in the garden. My family is blue-collar people. My dad would always say he came from a hardened generation. He'd say, "All these people are paying now for designer bodies, but my friend built his strength on the farm." He admires people who never had a chance to compete on a sports field, but they still have this functional gift to use their strength in an amazing way. ... So I want to celebrate those blue-collar jobs. I've always been fascinated by people who push themselves to the limit.
The Amazing Race airs Sundays at 8/7c on CBS. Check out a sneak peek of the finale below.
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