Amazing Race: Phil Keoghan Explains Why These 11 Teams Have Unfinished Business
It's time to hit the road again on The Amazing Race — with plenty of familiar faces. The CBS reality hit returns Sunday with 11 veteran teams who had never won before to settle, as the season's subtitle says, some Unfinished Business.
"These are teams that have been so incredibly popular that it was an opportunity to bring back some favorite teams that have favorite stories," host Phil Keoghan tells TVGuide.com. "They're teams that have really been walking around with the 'woulda, coulda, shoulda' ever since they got kicked off. It's like, enough moaning; come back and give it another shot and no more excuses."
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But casting Unfinished Business — the show's second all-star outing after Season 11 — was as hard as designing the Race itself. For one, Season 13 wound up not being represented at all, even though fan favorites Toni and Dallas, who lost their passports, seemed like shoo-ins. "It really comes down to whether you think that story of theirs is really stronger than that of anyone we've got," Keoghan says. "There are a lot of other teams, but I feel pretty confident that the teams we've got have the best stories and the best motivation for coming back."
So why are these 11 also-rans the cream of the crop? Keoghan explains the show's picks below.
Ronald and Christina — Season 12, 2nd place
Last we saw them: Christina got stuck on the final memory task, costing them the lead and the chance to become the first parent-child team winners.
Why they deserve a second chance: Many remember Ron's explosive personality and constant belittling of his daughter, which he toned down as Season 12 winded up. "Ron, in my opinion, probably went through the biggest transformation on the Race," Keoghan says. "He was quite humbled by the experience. You dream for transformation in a character. But how much residual behavior is still left? I was interested to see what would happen when they're under pressure again. You'll see, under pressure, some of those old traits come to the surface again. Then, it's how do they move forward? Did they learn from the past?"
Kent and Vyxin — Season 12, 5th place
Last we saw them: Already handicapped with a Speed Bump, they unwisely U-Turned a team that was in front of them in India, rendering it void.
Why they deserve a second chance: Well, they're pink Goths! "People always ask what they need to do to get on The Amazing Race. I always use Kent and Vyxin as an example," Keoghan says. "They epitomized what we're looking for, but they illustrate we don't know what we're looking for. Their personalities are also the antithesis of what you'd expect to come from people who dress as Goths." Keoghan also has a special connection with them: Kent's dad recently died from multiple sclerosis, and the couple came out for Keoghan on his bicycle ride across the United States in support of MS. Keoghan's journey is documented in his new film, The Ride, which features Kent, Vyxin and his dad. "They love the idea that their dad lives on in the film. A huge part of it was for them to run the Race again in memory of him."
Margie and Luke — Season 14, 3rd place
Last we saw them: Die-hard Race fan Luke couldn't identify two surfboard photos on the final memory task, preventing him from being the first deaf winner.
Why they deserve a second chance: "Luke's one of those characters that people love or hate, and that makes for good TV. He's vindictive and will do whatever it takes to win," Keoghan says, referring to the mother-son duo's ruthless tactics in Season 14. And of course, he has another chance to make history as the show's first deaf winner. "I always wonder if their communication is stronger because they pay attention to each other. They won the first leg in Season 14 and that was a wake-up call to everyone else."
Amanda and Kris — Season 14, 8th place
Last we saw them: They fell victim to Margie and Luke's blind U-Turn, which stung even more because Amanda claims Margie told them she and Luke wouldn't U-Turn anyone.
Why they deserve a second chance: The couple, now engaged, gets to face off with their nemeses again. "Kris admitted that he's extremely competitive," Keoghan says. "Young couples are interesting to watch because they're usually not that worldly. It's like watching kids trying to be grown-ups. You're going to see that right out of the gate." Speaking of right out of the gate, Keoghan promises twists on game elements to keep everyone on their toes — the first of which comes at the Pit Start. "They're back for a second time and we don't want them to ever feel like they know what's going to happen."
LaKisha and Jen — Season 14, 4th place
Last we saw them: They took an ill-timed bathroom break just steps away from the Pit Stop.
Why they deserve a second chance: Pee break aside, the sisters' other notorious moment was a meltdown over a water task because neither of them could swim. "They were interesting because they're two strong, athletic women and you find out they can't swim. Then you realize they're really vulnerable and they looked like two little girls there," Keoghan says. So have they learned to swim since — and is there another water task? "You know there's always going to be air, land and sea in whatever we get them to do. Let's just say if they're smart, they would've come back with a few more tricks."
Mel and Mike — Season 14, 6th place
Last we saw them: A cabbie erroneously drove them to a beach in Thailand in search of a gorilla statue, when it was in fact at the zoo.
Why they deserve a second chance: Because age is just a number. "Mel's 70. He's one of the oldest team members ever, but he's a fit 70," Keoghan says. "Age is never a measure of people's ability. There are plenty of young people who are not fit." And unlike a lot of parent-child relationships seen on the Race, this one is void of any drama. "It's a wonderful relationship. Mike almost fathers his father. You'll see a lot of that for sure."
Jaime and Cara — Season 14, 2nd place
Last we saw them: They suffered some bad taxi luck when their cabbie got lost and stopped for gas in the finale, foiling their goal to become the show's first all-female winners (Season 17's Nat and Kat have since accomplished that feat.)
Why they deserve a second chance: Every show needs a villain. With their competitive and aggressive attitudes, the former NFL cheerleaders earned a "mean girls" label. "Jaime, man, you do not want to get in a fight with her!" Keoghan says. "She is feisty. She tells it like it is and she has no qualms about it." And with Race airing in high-definition for the first time, the ladies can show off the hair that matches their fiery 'tude. "The hair this year is flaming! These redheads are back," Keoghan says. "Let me tell you, that HD really brings out the red. There might be a lot of orders for that color."
Justin and Zev — Season 15, 9th place
Last we saw them: The best buddies were eliminated when Justin discovered he lost Zev's passport — after they arrived first at the Pit Stop.
Why they deserve a second chance: "It was so sad when they got eliminated," Keoghan says. "They were just unlucky. They're a team that definitely deserved a second chance because they're strong enough to win. There's no doubt about it. They were definitely more calculated this time. They come out the gate strong."
Flight Time and Big Easy — Season 15, 4th place
Last we saw them: The Harlem Globetrotters opted to incur a four-hour penalty after Big Easy gave up on unscrambling... "Franz."
Why they deserve a second chance: Who doesn't want to redeem themselves after that? "Everyone knows they're strong Racers. [Taking the penalty] was a bad choice, but I also don't know if Big Easy was ever going to unscramble it," Keoghan says. "It's hard for people to understand what's happening to teams — their brains are fried at that point. I think even the choice to take the penalty wasn't done with a lot of thought." And it forced Keoghan to sleep on the street on a mat. "They kept me waiting at the Pit Stop all night. I saw the sun set; I saw the sun rise. As soon as I saw them [this season], I said, 'Don't keep me waiting on the mat again!'"
Jet and Cord — Season 16, 2nd place
Last we saw them: Eventual winners Dan and Jordan cut in front of them at the airport and then pulled further ahead when they moved up to first class.
Why they deserve a second chance: As Keoghan says, the cowboys/brothers were the "obvious choice" to return, given their popularity, aw-shucks-ness and never-say-die attitude. "They struck a chord, no pun intended. Actually, I did intend it!" Keoghan jokes. "I think they represent something that is so Americana and so warm. You watch them and go, 'Man, I wouldn't mind going and having a beer with those guys.' They're just down-to-earth. My favorite part of them was that they always had the cowboy hats on. Bungee-jumping with the hats on? C'mon! I have only good things to say about them."
Gary and Mallory — Season 17, 6th place
Last we saw them: They drove around for nine hours in Oman, thanks to an imprecise map.
Why they deserve a second chance: "I just don't think we could've done this without their story," Keoghan says of the perky Miss Kentucky 2009 and her MacGyver-like dad, who filmed two seasons in one calendar year. "You wait until you see Mallory on this first leg — some of the lines she comes up with. She is just a bundle of energy. She really does exemplify why I love Racers who come on and really embrace the opportunity. I got a huge kick of seeing her on the show. And Gary can do anything! It's such a cool connection they have. It's so grassroots."
Who do you think will win?
The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business premieres Sunday at 8/7c on CBS.