Sunday's Amazing Race finale won't have any drama like last season, but Phil Keoghan promises a legitimate tight finish. "It's what we always want, but can never guarantee," he tells TVGuide.com. The two-hour closer will find the final four teams — Chippendales Jaymes and James, twins Natalie and Nadiya, couple Trey and Lexi, and The Fabulous Beekman Boys' Josh and Brent — racing through France, where one team will be eliminated. The final three will then head to New York City, where they'll take on a memory task that numerous fans predicted would be the final challenge.
Get the scoop on what else to expect Sunday — and next season — from Keoghan below.
Phil Keoghan: Truthfully, I don't think I've ever been right and I didn't break the streak this season. I knew at the start that [the winners] were a strong team, but I didn't pick them to win the whole thing.What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of each team?
Keoghan: The twins' strength is their relationship — they finish each other sentences. Their weakness is sometimes they're easily distracted and need to focus. The Beekmans are the underdogs and they're very practical ... but they are lacking in physicality. The Chippendales have a positive attitude and a great friendship. They could be overly confident heading into the finale and they sometimes rush into things without thinking them through. Trey and Lexi — youth is on their side, physically. But you wonder if their lack of traveling abroad will catch up with them at some point.
What can we expect in the final legs? The preview shows the memory task is matching "hello" and "goodbye" with each country on the Race, which a lot of people predicted based on the subtitles every episode.
Keoghan: We were wondering if fans would pick up on that new wrinkle this season! I loved having the greeters a little more involved at the Pit Stops. The finale is wide open. The Loire Valley in France — it's honestly breathtaking with a chateau around every corner. ... The final three travel to New York City, where the teams test out their magic skills in one of Houdini's greatest feats. And then there's the final brainteaser Roadblock [with the greetings]. It's so much to fit into two hours of television. I think you'll be exhausted by the finish line.
Did any teams take note of the different "hellos" and "goodbyes" all the greeters said?
Keoghan: Some of the teams started to suspect that something was up with the "hellos" and "goodbyes." They even promoted the greeters on several occasions, but I think they were unsure as to why it was happening.
Is there any forgotten task type of drama on the final leg like last season?
Keoghan: Well, this was just a great finish for us with the teams being separated by mere minutes. It's what we always want, but can never guarantee.
Do you think fans will be happy with the winner? The twins are very divisive after the money fiasco and some fans don't like that the Beekmans were ready to throw in the towel for Abbie and Ryan.
Keoghan: As I've always said with all of our winners, some people will be happy with who wins and others will not. It really depends on who you're rooting for throughout the season. Putting all allegiances aside — you can make that argument that any team that makes it to this stage of the Race deserves to win.
Are you surprised that there has been so much teamwork this season?
Keoghan: Not really. There are always teams who will help each other out along the course of the Race. The alliance between the Chippendales, Trey and Lexi, and the twins was a little more involved than we've seen in the past, but teamwork is always a factor within any season.
Why has it taken so long for teams to strategically use the Double U-Turn the way they did? They essentially made a Double U-Turn into a single U-Turn.
Keoghan: I have no idea, but I will never understand why a team wouldn't always want to U-turn another. It's a valuable device that can be used to slow down another team. Why not use it?
What do you make of Abbie and Ryan and the Beekmans working together and waiting for each other instead of racing against each other to avoid last place?
Keoghan: To be honest, I thought it was a huge risk. No matter what efforts the teams make to jump on the mat at the same time we have the technology in place to determine exact placements.
Would you have eliminated the Beekmans in Amsterdam if they had told you to?
Keoghan: We would never want to see any team give up on the Race and would try to encourage them to stay in the hunt. If you remember, during Season 3, Flo and Zach wanted to give up on the 12th leg and then miraculously went on to win the whole thing. However, that said, we can't force a team to race if they choose to give up because of injury, exhaustion or due to a meltdown. I was happy to see both Abbie and Ryan and the Beekmans fight to the end. It's so difficult to be picked for the show that you never want anyone to give up on this opportunity.
A lot of fans were angry that the twins weren't punished for keeping the rockers' money. Were they not penalized because the rockers lost the money and the money was fair game?
Keoghan: Yes, they weren't penalized because we determined that the rockers had lost the money before the twins had picked it up.
How difficult was the first Moscow leg for you between the rockers losing their passport and two teams being almost a day behind?
Keoghan: Extremely difficult! We were out all night long in the cold — lots of logistical conversations about various scenarios. It reminded me of the long night we had during Season 11 in Poland when we were outside in freezing cold temperatures for 19 hours straight. That's when I long for Seacrest's trailer.
Keoghan: I think the show just provides the perfect ingredients for losing a passport: stress, jetlag, pressure, culture shock and the heat of competition. Are you shocked that people still don't learn how to drive stick before doing the Race? How could the twins just take one class?
Keoghan: I don't think anyone should get a license unless they can drive a stick. It's the only true way to master controlling a vehicle. I taught my daughter how to drive a stick shift on a farm in New Zealand when she was 12 because I never wanted her to be anywhere in the world where she couldn't jump behind the wheel of any vehicle and operate manual gears. Only knowing automatic is pretty much like driving a golf cart on a golf course — just my opinion. There are a few essential skills needed to be on the Race and how anybody could step up to the starting line without mastering a gearbox is a recipe for disaster.
What can you tell us about next season? Is the $1 million bonus going to be back?
Keoghan: No $1 million bonus for next season. We just wrapped filming this installment and all I can tell you is that I've lost between 10-15 pounds on this edition, and all I want for Christmas is a bed and a long nap!
The Amazing Race airs Sundays at 8/7c on CBS. Season 22 will premiere Sunday, Feb. 17 at 8/7c. Who do you think will win?