Phil Keoghan promises the promo hyping a "photo finish" on The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business is not an exaggeration.
"It's a really tight finish. We really didn't know right up until the last minute exactly who was going to come around the corner," he tells TVGuide.com. "But that's what makes it so exciting. The last couple of seasons, we've had a few wins that were not as close, so this was a real treat."
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Sunday's two-hour finale (8/7c, CBS) takes the final four teams — Harlem Globetrotters Flight Time and Big Easy; sisters Kisha and Jen; father and daughter Gary and Mallory; and best friends Zev and Justin — to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where one team will be eliminated, and then to Miami for the big finish.
So what else can we expect? Well, for one, waxing, some water tasks and no more answer-sharing, assures Keoghan, who's screening his new film, The Ride, in support of multiple sclerosis in Miami this weekend. Plus: Does he know what happened at Gnome-gate?
What do you think about this final four? Is this what you envisioned at the beginning of the season?
Phil Keoghan: I think if the cowboys were still in it, my money would be on the cowboys, just because I think they're the best under pressure. They certainly had their bad days, but when they were on, they were unbeatable, I think. So what's happened with these last four is a scenario where any of these four can win. They're all strong enough and I can tell you that the lead is going to swap over a number of times based on the strength and weaknesses of each of those teams. They're the perfect ingredients for a tight finish as opposed to a runaway finish.
What do you think they each have going for them?
Keoghan: With Zev and Justin, they have total respect for each other. They use a lot of humor. I think humor is really key to traveling well and racing well. They also have a good time. When you're having a good time, that puts you in the right frame of mind, so things tend to go a little easier than if you try to fight. With Kisha and Jen, Jen is probably the fittest person left, even fitter than the Globetrotters, I think. ... Obviously they'd love to come off the back of Nat and Kat's win last season as the first all-female team. The Globetrotters have a lot of unfinished business. They've been dealing with that penalty [from Season 15] from their teammates a lot. "Hey guys, what the hell? How could you not spell 'Franz'?" They have a lot of the qualities that the cowboys have in terms of how they deal with pressure. With Gary and Mallory, they, to me, are the wildcard in the bunch. On paper, you wouldn't write them down as being strong. Gary is not quite as fit as a lot of the others. He's the oldest racer left. However, they have a really great connection with each other that makes them strong. They bring a great energy. You can't discount them.
You think people underestimate them? They're pretty good at tasks, except for not backing up their car.
Keoghan: I think people underestimate Gary for sure, and Mallory, she comes across as maybe she's not the sharpest tool in the shed sometimes. She just comes across that way, but she's actually the opposite. Some people might interpret her as being flippant or slapdash, but she's not. She's ruthless and focused. She's not scared of rolling up her sleeves.
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Everyone's getting waxed in Rio. Who's the sadist who thought of that task? Is that fair to the guys? They have more hair.
Keoghan: [Laughs] All I can say is, think 40-Year-Old Virgin. Think "Kelly Clarkson!" Think of extreme pain. I think that hair being ripped out, whether you're male or female, is painful, period. At a certain point, I think the follicle count — like if you were to do a follicle count per square inch — it's the same for everyone and ripping out hair anywhere is inherently painful. Try to keep your eyes open watching that one!
I assume there will be a memory challenge in the last leg.
Keoghan: Yes. We always like to put in challenges that require teams to have to think, for sure. This one is not as blatant as other seasons we have done, where we've really made it a "take yourselves back and remember when you did this, that and the other." We just tried to mix it up a little bit, but they definitely have to think. And the other tasks — you'll see them on top of the water, in the water, under the water, next to the water. There's a lot of water involved. ... [Kisha and Jen don't swim], and that might come into play. I don't know if you can just get over that. I think the challenges test the teams equally.
Do you think fans will be satisfied with the winners?
Keoghan: I think the most popular winners would've been, without a doubt, the cowboys. If I were to pick another favorite of the ones left, I would probably say, from a popularity contest, Zev and Justin. But all the teams have a lot of followers and a lot of fans. They're all likable. None of them are teams that are going to divide the audience and make them go, "Aw, man! I can't believe that team won!" ... I was not [surprised by the winners]. I would say I was only surprised because we didn't know who it would be. We were getting calls, but it was a stormy, rough day, so it was difficult communicating.
You looked really sad when you eliminated the cowboys, but would you admit they were sloppier this time around?
Keoghan: Yeah, I do think they made a couple of crucial errors — flight choices, and they struggled right out of the gate [with the flag task]. I'm not sure what that was about. I was really disappointed [they were eliminated], to be honest with you. The other teams saw a couple of opportunities on that leg to squash them and did that through sharing information and of course the Double U-Turn. [Sharing information] has happened throughout the entire history of The Amazing Race and yet there's probably been more attention to that fact now because the cowboys were so likeable. We don't disallow that or forming alliances. I don't know if anybody was going to form an alliance with them. I think it had nothing with liking them; it had to do with fearing. If you and I were in the race, we'd be wanting to get rid of them too!
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I take it no one's sharing info these two legs?
Keoghan: Yeah, they're not going to share. The sharing of that was based on knowing that it was good for everybody. But now, no sharing of information is going to be good for anybody. I think all of them feel confident that they can beat any of the teams that are left. It's a very even and competitive playing field.
Everyone's still abuzz over Gnome-gate. Do you know the true story?
Keoghan: [Laughs] Who would've thought chocolate would elicit such mayhem? Vyxsin and Flight Time were both adamant that they were right. I really don't know. I watched it a few times and got reports, and I felt like it was one of those things where it's very difficult to see. A lot of the times we can pick through the footage and work out what went on, but that was very confusing.
When do you start Season 19?
Keoghan: Season 19 is going to shoot in the summer. We're locking in the cast. We're really excited about it. I just think it's wonderful that we get another chance to do it. I know we're going to places that we haven't been before. We're also going to places that will surprise people, I think. "Really? You're going to that country?!" It's not Pakistan, by the way! [Laughs] "Teams must now make their way to Osama bin Laden's old residence."