Phil Keoghan Previews 'Amazing Race All-Stars': Most 'Emotional' Premiere Ever

The CBS reality show host talks to THR about how the teams were chosen, which duos have sparked the biggest fan reaction and one team's failure to make it past the starting line.
"The Amazing Race" host Phil Keoghan

Eleven teams return for a second shot at the $1 million prize when The Amazing Race returns Sunday night.

Among the teams returning for the third all-stars edition of the CBS reality competition are the Globetrotters, the Cowboys, the Twinnies, Brendon & Rachel and Dave & Connor. In what CBS is calling a "dramatic twist," one team will not make it to the starting line.

The teams will travel through four continents and nine countries, spanning more than 35,000 miles, with challenges including taking on a mission high above the city in Guangzhou, China, rappelling down the roaring rapids of the Kiansom Waterfall in Malaysia, fighting with gladiators in Rome, and fueling up vehicles in Sri Lanka.  

PHOTOS: 'Amazing Race' All-Star Cast Revealed

Ahead of the premiere, host Phil Keoghan talked to The Hollywood Reporter about how the teams were chosen, which duos have sparked the biggest fan reaction and one team's failure to make it past the starting line.

How did you decide which teams to invite back?

It's very difficult to decide exactly which teams to bring back. The fans certainly have opinions about who they'd like to see back. We really listened to the fans in terms of the teams they were talking about the most. There have been so many character over the years, but I think this is a really great mix because you have teams that some fans love to hate, and you've got the ones that are the most lovable ever.

Who are the ones that fans seem to be most interested in?

I would say the Cowboys (brothers Cord and Jet McCoy) are the ones talked about more than any other team. They are so distinctive with the cowboy hats and their charm and grace and their competitive nature. Then you've also got that heartfelt aspect with Dave & Connor [O'Leary], where they were probably one of the winningest teams we've ever had on The Amazing Race and then had to pull out in this heartbreaking moment where they were actually winning the race and then couldn't carry on [because Dave ruptured his Achilles tendon and tore his calf muscle]. Of course, there are also teams like [newlyweds] Brendon [Villegas] and Rachel [Reilly], who spark a lot of reaction from people. They are probably the most divisive in terms of people liking and hating them than any other team in the lineup. Some people are infatuated with Brenchal, and other people just really can't stand them. All of the teams in our group have strengths and weaknesses, and I think it's the right mix.

This is your 24th season, but it still seems like during every race there is some big mistake made by a team, or some big surprise over the course of the race. Anything like that we can expect this time around?

The first big surprise for us came at the start -- something happened that had never happened before in Amazing Race history. We had a team who was in a situation where they couldn't actually leave the starting line. The opening of [the premiere] is so gripping; it was the most emotional start of all the seasons. That really threw all of us; it threw the teams; it threw the team concerned. It was one of those last-minute thing that really had all of us scrambling to work out what to do.

Was it due to medical reasons, or something else?

There was a medical concern with one of the teams. So then I was put in a situation where I had to give the terrible news to this team that they could not actually run the race. It was just a very challenging situation, and it certainly created a moment that we just never saw happening, ever, because we really work so hard to have everything squared away from the start. It broadsided all of us. And the other teams were gobsmacked. It just goes to show you how unpredictable the race is.

Do ay of the teams stand out as having improved from their first time on the race?

I think the lineup of teams we have, knowing the track record of all of them, proves this is the most competitive lineup we've ever had. The competitive juices were really just flowing right from the start, especially after such an emotional start. That seems to charge the race in a very different way.…  At one point  we had another first on the race, where almost every single team ran into the mat at one time. That had never happened before. I literally had to count to work out where all the teams were; I was so confused about what was going on. The mat wasn't even big enough to accommodate everybody. That shows how close and competitive  this season is.

The Amazing Race season 24 -- which kicks off in Los Angeles with the UCLA marching band before the teams head to Guangzhou, China -- premieres at 8 p.m. on Sunday on CBS.