After doubling up on prize money last season (for one team at least), The Amazing Race is doubling up on something else for Season 22 (premieres Sunday, 8/7c, CBS): the Express Pass. In a new twist, the winners of the first leg will not only get an Express Pass for themselves, but a second Express Pass to give to another team by the fourth leg. "We really don't like to deviate too much from what works," host Phil Keoghan tells TVGuide.com. "This time, you can give one Express Pass away. All of the sudden, the first place team has that power and you create a situation where the other teams want to suck up to that team. 'Can you be my BFF and by the way, can I have that Express Pass?' It's little tweaks like that that I think keep it interesting for the audience and the Racers."
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So what else can you expect this season? (Well, three teams quitting a task on the first leg in Bora Bora, for starters.) Keoghan, who's training for a follow-up to his MS research documentary The Ride, gives us the scoop.
You guys have got a hot streak going with your premieres. Something wild or unpredictable has happened in the past couple, and now three teams quit a Roadblock.
Phil Keoghan: Yeah, I think the first leg always has the greatest potential for something to go wrong because there are more teams in that leg than any other leg. They're racing for the first time, so they think they know more than they know. And suddenly they find themselves in a really stressful situation. I was going to say we have the recipe for disaster and when I say "disaster," I mean great content for great television. ... I wasn't surprised they did it. The way the whole thing worked out, the choice they made was a pretty practical one. I didn't realize that the challenge [finding a clue underneath hundreds of sandcastles] was going to stump the teams the way it did. It really was the luck of the draw.
It's sort of like when Boston Rob convinced people to sit out the meat-eating Roadblock in Season 7.
Keoghan: That was probably one of the first times that that was a calculated move. There are more calculated moves this season. What you're going to see is teams learn that ultimately, you're gonna have to knuckle down and do the work. Even going back to the example of Rob, who met his own demise later, at the end of the day, it's really is about getting from place to place as fast as you can and completing the challenges as effectively as you can. There's only so much you can do as far as sit out, outthink or manipulate. It's not a show that really lends itself to those kinds of tactics, which is one of the reasons I like it. You can be outdone if you try to over-think the Race. You can be outdone if you don't try to think at all too.
Some of the teams try to devise a pact to ensure a "fair" allocation of the second Express Pass, but what are the chances that the first place team keeps its word?
Keoghan: [Laughs] That's the thing. That's human nature. It all sounds good when you don't have it, but ultimately, they're not breaking any rule by changing their minds. There's a dilemma in agreeing to the pact. You don't know how strong the teams are. You've got to give it away early, but you can't judge the other teams yet, so you might give it away to someone who could turn out to be your biggest competition and you could lose face. You're going to see them deliberate. It's more calculated because they start to think about it and see the strength of the other team that, according to the pact, is supposed to get it.
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The cast is very eclectic. Max and Katie are the clear villains, and I love how they relish in their villainy. They freely admit they don't have friends in real life and they put on a façade when they talk to other teams. Will the other teams catch on eventually?
Keoghan: [Laughs] They have great personalities and are funny. ... What you see in the Race always is you never know how teams evolve. Sometimes it's teams who appear to be nice in the beginning who twist and become a little exclusive. Some are talking to some and not others. I just love that on our show. We always see such crazy diversity. We have OBGYN twin brothers [Idries and Jamil], who are very smart and very physically imposing, funny, and right next to them is Chuck. It's like we have 11 teams and a mullet.
That hair needs its own show.
Keoghan: That hair — I mean, in the dictionary, where it says "mullet," they need a picture of his. It's the most powerful mullet I've ever seen. I go back to the mullet days and I've never seen a mullet like that. One of the most fascinating things about the mullet is seeing how it reacts on the Race in the different weather conditions. He's in taxidermy, and it's like he took one of his dead animals and put it on his head. At one point it didn't look real and I had to ask him ... and he pulled on it really hard to show me. I didn't touch it! It's like an Egyptian carpet. You've gotta see this thing in HD. It's going to blow people away.
Besides the mullet, what teams should we keep an eye on?
Keoghan: I love the roller derby moms [Mona and Beth]. They're strong, confident, physically imposing women who are ready for a challenge. They remind me of the bowling moms. They have that go-get-'em attitude. We've been wanting a team like that back on the Race for a while. I think there are a lot of strong women like that and it's good to have them represented on the show. The hockey players [Bates and Anthony] — Bates checked Wayne Gretzky in his first game. They're definitely not scared. [YouTube stars] Joey and Meghan are so enthusiastic, especially Joey. When he jumps for joy, it's like he's jumping out of his shoes.
Let's talk about the challenges. What is this Shemozzle in your home country of New Zealand?
Keoghan: It's a shepherd dog's race. I've done it; that's inherently part of being from New Zealand. It's sort of like these mud obstacle races in America. There are a bunch of crazy ingredients, like molasses, eggs, feathers, mud, water, hay, trucks, trailers, grass and bubbles. I'm so excited about going back to New Zealand. We were there in Seasons, 2, 5, and 13, when my dad was the greeter. Now we're actually in my hometown of Christchurch and Canterbury. They've had a lot of suffering the past few years [with the 2011 earthquake], so on a personal level, I was so keen to go back and to show the world that Canterbury and Christchurch have picked themselves up. It's important to show how places come back.
What other challenges can we look forward to?
Keoghan: We go out with a bushman in Botswana for scorpion-hunting. What makes the Race work so well is you go from the furnace in Africa to the freezer on the edge of the Eiger in Switzerland in one episode, and the challenges definitely reflect that.
Will we see any craziness on the level of the rockers losing their passports last season?
Keoghan: Yes. Early on in the season, there are a couple of big game-changing moments. You might say heartbreaking moments as well.
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Heartbreaking how? Someone has to pull out? Are they injured?
Keoghan: Teams are put in a really challenging situation where they're drawing on all their strength to decide what to do and it's difficult. It's not too dissimilar to what happened to the rockers. In the rockers' case, they really had no out, but there are moments where teams find themselves saying, "Is this it? Are we done for?"
You've said that you suck at predicting the final three. How off or close were you this time?
Keoghan: I was off again. [Laughs] At least I admit it! I did manage to pick two teams who made the top five. That's the best I've done in a long, long time. I don't mind admitting that I suck at picking the finalists.
I don't think anyone predicted the Beekmans to win last season though.
Keoghan: Yeah. I love the Beekmans, but I never saw that either and not even while the Race was going on. They were certainly not the MVP, but when it mattered, they came through. Who doesn't love an underdog? I don't know how the hell they did what they did.
Any word on a Season 23?
Keoghan: We're gearing up. Hopefully there'll be an official announcement at some point, but as always, we start working on the next season regardless. ... There's been some discussion about the route and new places. But as usual, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Let's not make the family edition again!
The Amazing Race premieres Sunday at 8/7c on CBS. Check out a sneak peek below.