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The 'Amazing Race' Crosses the Finish Line
Fri, Dec 14, 2001 09:12 PM PDT

by Brill Bundy
Zap2it.com, TV News


LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) - When lawyers and best friends Rob Frisbee and Brennan Swain crossed the "Amazing Race" finish line on Thursday (Dec. 13) night, close to 14 million viewers watched them. Not only did those viewers see Frisbee and Swain complete the 32-day race around the world and collect the million dollar prize, they saw separated couple Frank and Margarita Mesa come in a close second, and the much vilified Team Guido, life partners Joe Baldassare and Bill Bartek, get left behind in the Alaskan wilderness.

For the winners, the money is a nice bonus -- which they plan to use as a nest egg in order to pursue careers in writing and acting respectively -- but not the ultimate prize.

"We got to play the game and see the world while we did it," Swain says.

While other teams bickered and fought, nagged and schemed, Frisbee and Swain managed to stay calm and polite (other than stiffing a cab driver on his tip at the beginning of the race) throughout the 11-city, multiple-country trek.

"Before the race started, we talked about that a little bit," Swain admits. He and Frisbee have been friends for over three-and-a-half-years, having met through work at a Los Angeles law firm (Swain is in patents and trademarks, Frisbee handles corporate mergers and transactions). "Rob can tend to be a little bit of a hot head sometimes, and I can as well, although Rob is known for it a little bit better than I am."

"We realized if we were going to win this thing we were going to have to stay calm and collected, so there were times when Rob would get a little bit upset about something, and I would say, 'Wait, there's nothing we can do about it.' We managed to play off each other's strengths and knew that we couldn't fight, otherwise that was going to cost us time."

It was remarkably different strategy than the one employed by their primary competitors in the end, the Mesas. Frank and Margarita, separated parents, used the experience as a way to reconnect and attempt to snag college tuition for their daughter. Frank's dominating nature and near-constant belittling of Margarita raised some eyebrows and had him referred to in less than complimentary terms at water coolers around the country. Yet, several months later, they are still together and both say their relationship is better than ever, largely due to the experience of the race.

"We've seen the best and worst of each other in the past year-and-a-half, the lowest points and the highest points, and to go through that together has been very enpowering," Margarita says. "We've learned so much about each other and how to deal with things."

"I think when you get to a point in a relationship where stuff is hard and you're having a hard time, it's easy to sweep things under the rug and kind of not deal. We were on that race, and boy, were we dealing. When you don't have anyone else to talk to and it's just the two of you trying to get through all that, you have to deal with each other. We're so much better for having gone through that."

In addition to their rekindled marriage, Frank says that he's made nice with Frisbee and Swain, who he relentlessly "talked trash" about in the last episode, accusing them of things that they were decidedly not doing.

"I did make friends with them," Mesa says. "I told them I thought it was very interesting that I had them pegged in one way ... but the editing doesn't show that they did some underhanded things."

Okay, so he sort of apologized.

"I think he honestly believed that there were times that we were playing a little bit underhanded, although I don't know where he got that impression," Swain says, recalling how in the early days he and Frisbee had formed a brief alliance with the Mesas.

Things went sour in France though, when the two teams were stopped by authorities while running down the street due to laws forbidding filming on the famed Champs Elysees.

"You can't share a cab, because you have a cameraman and a sound man," Swain explains, "So we just thought, 'We need to get a cab and get there as quickly as possible.'"

"[Frank and Margarita] really took offense at that and thought we just left them there to handle the situation. I guess in the heat of the moment maybe we did a little bit, but we really assumed that we'd both make it there in time and didn't do anything intentionally."

Meanwhile, having been left in the tundra, Baldassare and Bartek are philosophical about the "million dollar bus ride" that was the first step in setting them far behind, and are even more good-natured about how at some point the game became more about beating Team Guido for many of the other teams than actually winning.

"Our new favorite quote is, 'The camera never lies, but editing tells its own story,'" Baldassare says.

"Who's ever thrilled to be the villain?" Bartek adds. "But, you know, the villain is sometimes the person who is remembered the best."


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