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Phil Keoghan loves that girl power dominates 'The Amazing Race' season finale

December 9, 2010 |  6:00 am


It took 17 seasons for women to take over "The Amazing Race" but finally the day is here. There's not just one -- but two -- all-female teams in the running for the $1 million: the calm and collected doctors and best friends, Nat Strand and Kat Chang, and the funny, unrelenting home-shopping TV hosts Brook Roberts and Claire Champlin, who came face-to-face with a watermelon in the first leg.

The third team is the dating duo Jill Haney, 27, and Thomas Wolfard, 30, who have also proved formidable, but the universe seems to be rooting for a female duo to take it all in Los Angeles, where the race ends on Sunday for the first time.

"You can be guaranteed that there’s one thing that comes into play in Los Angeles, right?" host and producer Phil Keoghan said in an interview. "Traffic. I’ll just say that. There’s a challenge that tweaks a few phobias for some of the teams. And there’s a few dramatic turns and twists and you’ll be doing a lot of second-guessing. You think you’ll have it all worked out and then it will turn another way. At the end of the day, the most deserving team wins and that’s the most important thing."

Keoghan, who was speaking from a top-secret location where he is filming the 18th season, said he was as excited about the success of the two all-women teams as viewers have been.

"I’ve really enjoyed watching Nat and Kat and Brook and Claire and the fact that we have these two all-female teams at the end of this race, it’s a wonderful dynamic to have for the final leg of the race," Keoghan said.

Brook, 27, and Claire, 30, of course, became world-famous before the show even premiered when CBS released a promo of Claire getting hit in the face with a watermelon during a challenge in the first leg. Claire wasn't down for nearly as long as you'd think she would be before Brook reminded her "This is 'The Amazing Race'" and the two unstoppable women were off.

"Not in a million years did we ever think that was going to happen," Keoghan said.  "We test all of these challenges over and over and how she actually managed to have that watermelon come back into her face, I’m still baffled about the science behind how that all happened. How do you force something going one way and then miraculously turn it around to come right back? I have to be honest with you, I had no idea how impactful that was until I saw the footage when we got back. I had no idea how powerful that blow was. And the fact that they pulled themselves together and stuck to it and they're very, very, very determined."

Nat, 31, and Kat, 35, have impressed viewers with their unflappable natures. While some partners have been abusive toward their teammates -- Chad Waltrip and Nick DeCarlo, we're looking at you -- these two women have behaved admirably toward each other every step of the way.

"My daughters enjoyed watching them," Keoghan said. "They’re two very strong women, obviously very smart. To me, the best thing about 'The Amazing Race' has always been about being able to watch relationships that are strong, functional, and that actually are inspirational. "Of course, we’ve seen the other side of that. We’ve seen all kinds of relationships over the years that for some reason haven’t worked. When there’s a great connection, if you remember when the cowboys were on, or you think about the connection between Nat and Kat, when you see that kind of connection and how they operate under pressure, and we’re able to capture that with a camera and share that with an audience, I think that’s pretty cool."

99241_D050b After 17 seasons, Keoghan has developed an interesting theory about same-sex teams and why they tend to communicate better during the race. This season, viewers have noted on message boards and Twitter that the men have not treated the women in their lives well, especially Nick who berated his girlfriend, Vicki Casciola, mocked her, and eventually stopped helping her finish a challenge.

"It’s almost like a mid-football game mentality where some of the guys are playing a game of football with their guy friends and they forget that they’re actually out there with their girlfriends or wives or partners," he said. "They start yelling and screaming like they’re in the middle of a game. It’s always surprising to me.

"It always reminds me of the book 'Men are From Mars, Women From Venus' which outlines exactly the difference between men and women," he continued. "And I think male/female teams have more of a challenge on 'Race' than same-sex teams just because of that fact that when you’re communicating and trying to work together under pressure, men and women just are wired different. I'm into equal rights and everything, but at the end of the day, men and women are just different and the way that two men will talk to each other when they’re competing as opposed to, say, the way two women talk to each other, it’s so uniquely different."

Participants of the show, including Nick, often say in exit interviews that competing in the race changed their perspective on themselves and their relationships. Keoghan, who keeps in touch with many of the teams, says he believes whole-heartedly that the show provides "a life-changing experience."

"I’ve given up trying to work out what makes relationships work," Keoghan said. "I’ve looked at some relationships and I have no idea how the hell that relationship works, but it does. And it’s easy for all of us to stand from the outside, and pass judgment on why a relationship is flawed and you can’t believe why this couple is together or whatever.

"I admire all of them for putting themselves under a microscope for the period of time that they’re out there and knowing that we’re all standing back and looking at them under a microscope -- we’re looking at every move, everything they say, everything they do," he added. "Every physical gesture. They’re basically there for our entertainment for a period of time. But just as we’re watching it and passing judgment, they’re also pushing themselves and reacting in ways they never have before. Sometimes they do have that 'Oh man, I really need to do something about this behavior.'  So I think it is actually a therapeutic experience for some people when they come on the show."

-- Maria Elena Fernandez

Video credit: CBS

Photo: Phil Keoghan, host of "The Amazing Race." Credit: John Paul Filo / CBS