The Amazing Race: All-Stars premieres this Sunday on CBS and for fans of the show, there's someone for everyone in the cast. From affable cowboys Jet and Cord, to inspiring father-son cancer survivors Dave and Connor, to small-town best friends Mark and Bopper, fans are already loving this season's crop of contestants. Now, Race host Phil Keoghan is dishing all to ETonline about the new season, including revealing a twist in the first episode that even shocked him.
ETonline: I'm really excited about the All-Star season. Almost everyone you picked are people that I personally love and am excited to see come back.
Phil Keoghan: Who knew that picking All-Stars would be such a topic of conversation with fans? It's amazing how people start weighing in on the teams they like, so it's actually been really good just to stir the fans up that way.
ETonline: I'm really excited about Mark and Bopper and Jet and Cord.
Phil: I would say that Jet and Cord would be the most talked about team in Amazing Race history. Just the iconic cowboy hats and their good manners and their competitive spirit and having come so close before. They are definitely, if not the top, they're one of the top teams in terms of popularity with fans.
ETonline: Definitely, so how did you decide who would come back?
Phil: Well it really was about the teams that the fans were talking about. So it was looking online to see who the fans were talking about, who did people love to hate, who did people mention when they talk about Amazing Race moments, that was really how it started, just, 'Who do people care about?'
ETonline: Who would you say on this season are the ones that everyone loves to hate?
Phil: Definitely the most polarizing team that we have coming back would be Brendon and Rachel. … The people who love her, love her with a passion. … Then there are people who really dislike them for whatever reason and yet love watching her in the mix because they want to see whether she's going to get to that breaking point. You know, that wonderful line of hers when she was on last time, 'I thought 'Amazing Race was meant to be fun!' She obviously in that moment wasn't having a lot of fun. There are a few more polarizing teams. Certainly Margie and Luke, with their history on the race, they have certainly stirred the fans up as well.
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ETonline: Yeah, all of these teams are teams who made it pretty far on their seasons, from what I remember.
Phil: Well, something happens on the race this time… We've had teams running in on top of each other before, that's reasonably common, maybe you have three, four teams running in on top of each other on the mat. But at the end of the second leg, the competition was so tight that the mat was so crowded that I couldn't get everybody on for a start. I believe we had pretty much every team standing in front of me at the end of the second leg.
ETonline: Wow, so it's going to be close this season…
Phil: Yes, definitely close.
ETonline: Who are you excited personally to see come back?
Phil: I really like the relationship between Dave and Connor. I have a close connection with my dad, and I love that father son relationship. And I think their story really touches people just because they both survived cancer, and … there's so many people in the audience who can relate because they've had cancer themselves or they know somebody – who doesn't know somebody who's had cancer? So that they've shown, having both survived cancer, to me is very inspiring to the audience. And certainly inspiring to me. And then the relationship they have as a father and son and the circumstances to which they were eliminated last time, where they had to pull out because of an injury and they were doing so well and this is a chance for them to re-write their Amazing Race history. I think that of all the stories, that to me is the strongest one.
ETonline: So, with this group of people, how do you think that they'll all get along?
Phil: Well, going back to this idea that they're all incredibly competitive, there is a connection with the teams, that because they've been on The Amazing Race before, they're part of a family, and so at the beginning of this race, we have the most emotional start that we've ever had on Amazing Race, where one team is put in a situation where they're not actually able to leave on the race. And we've never had this before. And it's not something that I ever saw happening.
Because 24 hours out, with all the vetting that goes on, and all the work that goes on to get our teams to the starting line, you just don't see something going wrong at the last minute. But in this particular case, it did. And that really shocked everybody. I also go to see in that moment, just how tight all the teams were, in terms of them really wanting to have a fair competition and actually caring about each other. Yes, towards the end, it obviously gets a little heated, because it's a lot more cutthroat. But on the whole, people want a fair competition. They want to race fairly and they want to do fairly, the sportsmanship is pretty good.
ETonline: All of these teams are out for redemption, but are there any teams who are more out for redemption than others?
Phil: Certainly in terms of redemption it would have to be Jessica and John, after their moment in season 22 where they became the only team in Amazing Race history to be eliminated with an Express Pass. And John to his credit has found a way to laugh at the situation. I was so bamboozled by what happened and so confused by their answer about what went wrong that I could only say 'Oy Vey,' which is such a wonderful phrase to encapsulate just how crazy that was. So as far as redemption, it's our 'Oy Vey' team that are back to redeem themselves.
The Amazing Race premieres this Sunday, February 23 at 8/7c on CBS. And though New Zealand native Phil spends his year traveling the globe with The Amazing Race, he doesn't limit his travels to that – he also spent 26 days last year riding an 85-year-old bicycle on the route of the 1928 Tour de France, for a new documentary that he's currently editing. Look out for that!