Phil Keoghan believes in love, Texas, and The Amazing Race
Singles out there: If anybody feels you, Phil Keoghan feels you. As he tells EW, “Why is it so hard to find someone that you’re compatible with?”
Of course, Keoghan is talking about The Amazing Race’s utter failure to make a successful romantic match out of its five Blind Date couples in Season 26, a five-way missed connection that Keoghan says the show takes full responsibility for. But even if TAR failed to make a future love baby named “Road Block,” the show did match 10 strangers well enough for three of the four finalist spots to be taken up by Blind Date teams. Three weeks before hitting the eleventh Pit Stop mat in Trujillo, Peru, Team Medical (Hayley and Blair), the Lawyers (Jenny and Jelani), and Team SoCal (Laura and Tyler) had never met each other. Now, along with Team Truck Stop (Rochelle and Mike), they’re heading to Dallas, Texas to race for a one-in-four shot at winning the million dollars.
But you guys, Keoghan was seriously hoping for a little more rrrrromance in this season’s rrrrrace around the world. He’s meant it every single time he’s asked the Blind Date pairs for DTR-updates at the Pit Stop, and he has his suspicions that some of them have been leading him on with this whole, “We just have a great mutual respect for each other” play. Of course, I also have my own theories that Blair and Hayley have been slowly transitioning from Joey-and-Pacey-in-season-1 to Joey-and-Pacey-in-season-3, but only time will tell. Luckily, we have Keoghan on hand to assess the truly important stuff: How each of the Final 4 teams will fair in the Big Texas-Sized Final Leg.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that three of the four teams left are Blind Date couples. Has this season taught you anything new about team dynamics?
PHIL KEOGHAN: Well, first of all, I never saw this happening. I never saw the whole idea that people who have only known each other for three weeks could somehow find a way to work together and race around the world. In fact, a lot of fans though that [the Blind Date teams] would be at a severe disadvantage, and in the beginning, all of the existing couples were thinking, “Ugh, we almost don’t need to worry about those guys because they don’t even know each other. We’re a solid team, we know each other.” And all of a sudden, that’s not how it worked out.
So do you think the opposite is true? Did the Blind Date teams actually have an advantage over the existing couples?
No, I just think that the combinations of those teams worked well. If you look at the Blind Date couples, you’ve got Jenny, who’s an absolute perfectionist, paired with Jelani, who’s got the gift of the gab, being an agent. And then, Team SoCal who are, in my mind, the most compatible of any of the teams this season—gosh, I thought they would have fallen in love by now. And then, Blair and Hayley who are used to working in life or death situations, used to working under pressure, both well-educated…
Ah yes, let’s talk about Hayley and Blair a little here… people love talking about Hayley and Blair.
Hayley and Blair started out pretty rough, and quite frankly, I never saw them coming this far. I really thought something would happen where they’d walk in opposite directions and just call it quits. And then in the last couple of legs they’ve been the strongest! It just goes to show how hard it is to be compatible with somebody. On paper, they’re a perfect match, as with a lot of the teams, but as much as we tried to come up with viable opportunities for these singles, we really weren’t that successful in generating a love connection. I guess there’s a reason they start out with 30 women on The Bachelor.
I do have my suspicions about Laura and Tyler, though. I’m not 100 percent convinced that they didn’t pull the wool over our eyes and maybe we’re going to find out that there’s—I don’t know—a celebration next year. This whole experiment only proves how complicated love is; I haven’t really been able to draw any conclusions. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear that Hayley and Blair are together.
Speaking of surprises, looking back at the beginning of the Race, are there any teams that you’re surprised aren’t here in the Finals?
The biggest surprise for me was right out of the gate with Jeff and Lyda. They’ve been dating for four years, they’re both fit, compatible, really love each other… I just didn’t want to see them go quickly because I love when older people kick younger people’s butts. And Aly and Steve, on paper, you would have picked them to make it into the Final 3. But when you think about it, we’ve had a lot of professional athletes on The Amazing Race, and only one team, Bates and Anthony, has ever won. A lot of very good teams on paper have been humbled on this race.
Many fans (including me) have definitely been humbled this season by the couples who made it to the end that you couldn’t have predicted from the beginning. What should we expect from them in the final leg?
It’s big in a Texas way: We’ve got longhorns, we’ve got bulls, big monster trucks, a big final challenge, and a big finish. The lead chops and changes right out of that first challenge—all the teams go really big.
And from the TAR expert—what were your Finish Line predictions heading into Texas finale?
Look, I’m always wrong. And you know what? No one in our production ever calls it. They can say what they want, but I know that we all make our picks for the order of the final three at the very beginning, and no one has picked it in all our years of doing it.
With these teams, you’ve got the real street smart team with Mike and Rochelle—you remember how Rochelle rocked up to do the mechanical challenge. They’re from Middle America, they’ve got those practical skills. And then [Jenny and Jelani] who are all about details and perfection; Tyler and Laura who are the most compatible; then this other team—who I think are really the underdogs— Hayley and Blair, who I thought were going to implode about four legs ago. I didn’t think they were going to make it out of Thailand! Now, here they are, the best performing team in the last couple of legs. They seems to be listening to each other, they’re compatible… who knows what’s going to happen?
You do, Phil—you know! But the host is staying tight-lipped, so tune into The Amazing Race season 26 finale at 8 p.m. ET on CBS to find out if Team Medical, Team Truck Stop, Team SoCal, or the Lawyers take the million.
Phil Keoghan hosts the globe-trotting adventure series.