The season that kicked off the franchise. As most teams had no expectations coming in, it has a distinctly different feel than the rest of the series, with most of the teams believing that "playing fair" was more important than "playing to win". While overall an enjoyable season, it has its glaring faults, mostly due to everything being new for the production team as well, meaning they didn't know what would and wouldn't work yet. This led to the course having Schizophrenic Difficulty, and the badly placed equalizers allowing the top two teams to get so far ahead following leg 9, that nothing that happened between the first half of episode 10 and the last 20 minutes of the finale actually mattered in the outcome of the Race. Still, the positives outweigh the negatives. The teams who made it deep into the season included some very memorable and popular characters, and though the beginningnote and ending of the season are kind of rough, legs 4-9 hold up well against anything in the series.
Rob Frisbee & Brennan Swain
Lawyers and best friends, they were the first winners of the Race. They would form a friendship with Kevin & Drew and Nancy & Emily (to the point that Brennan and Emily both broke up with their partners to start dating after the season), the three of the becoming the loudest voices decrying the tactics of Bill & Joe. While they did not have the same strategic chops as Bill & Joe and Frank & Margarita, they made up for it with their physical advantage on tasks. The badly placed equalizers late in the game allowed them to cruise into the Final 3, and ultimately win the Race when they got a better cab than Frank & Margarita in New York.
- Born Lucky: They were on the right side of the badly placed equalizers.
- Flawless Victory: Technically yes, but thanks to the badly placed equalizers it was impossible for them to finish below second after leg 9.
- Game-Breaking Injury: Rob broke his knuckle during the rock climbing Detour in leg 9, which hampered his performance in subsequent legs. Though without the forced Roadblock spilt of later seasons, this just meant Brennan had to carry more of the team's weight.
- The Good Guys Always Win: The last of the fan favorite trio triumphed over the less likable Frank, and "villains" Joe & Bill in the finale.
- The Load: Frank called them this in leg 3, when he said they were clutching to an alliance he did not want or need. Then again in the finale for always following them.
- Loophole Abuse: While the teams were not allowed to bring phones with them, in the finale they bought a cell phone from a local to use for the rest of the leg.
- Rubber Band A.I.: They were the first team to voice their complaint about equalizers evening out the game, though they (and Frank & Margarita) would later avert it on the last four legs.
- Satellite Character: Brennan was almost never shown talking in the interview segments; all the talking came from Rob. He later explained in an interview that this was probably due to his tendency to ramble on compared to his partner's terser, and hence more editing-friendly, talking.
- Surprise Difficulty: In-Universe. Discussed in the first leg, after winning the Fast Forward.
- This Is a Competition: This Is A Race: Invoked early on, but it didn't stop them from going into an alliance with Kevin & Drew and Nancy & Emily.
- Train Escape: In the finale, having gotten the clue telling them to go to the Finish Line at Shea Stadium, they got to the train station just as the train arrived, getting a 20-minute lead on Frank & Margarita and ensuring their victory.
- Underdogs Never Lose: No one thought they'd be able to beat Frank & Margarita in their own city (Then again, considering that the final stretch was only a cab ride, followed by a train ride, followed by a long run to the Finish Line, there really was not much skill involved once the teams hit New York).
Frank Mesa & Margarita Mesa
- Frank: It's on like Donkey Kong!
Separated parents trying to reconcile their relationship. They were top competitors from the very beginning, and like the other teams they were not fans of Bill & Joe. However, they did not participate in the complaining about the Guidos' tactics, choosing instead to focus on the Race and their own relationship. Like Rob & Brennan, they wound up easily making the Final 3 thanks to the badly placed equalizers, where they were very excited to discover the Finish Line was in Queens, in their neighborhood. However, Frank micromanaged their cab driver, giving him specific instructions on the route to take, which might have worked if it were not early in the morning, and there was almost no traffic. Instead, they fell behind and finished 2nd.
- Amicable Exes:
- Assumed Win: They celebrated on the train ride to the Finish Line, thinking just because Rob & Brennan weren't on the same train as them, that meant they had won. Cue heartbreak when they saw Rob & Brennan already standing on the mat.
- Bittersweet Ending: They did reconcile their relationship.note
- Born Lucky: They were also on the right side of the badly placed equalizers.
- Brains and Brawn: Frank called themselves this at the beginning of the third leg.
- Divorce Is Temporary: Or separation, in this case, at least judging by how they were acting by the end of the season.note
- Establishing Character Moment: Frank's repeated freakouts in the first leg when they got somewhere 2nd, usually behind Joe & Bill.
- Foil: Joe & Bill, especially early on. Frank could not stand losing to a couple of middle aged gay guys, and would blow up every time it happened, even when they would still end up on the first flight with the Guidos.
- Jerkass: Frank, although he mellowed out somewhat later on.
- Large Ham: Frank
- The Masochism Tango: As exes they tended to argue, but kept their focus on the race.
- No-Damage Run: Of the same variety as Rob & Brennan.
- Read the Freaking Clue: In leg 6 they got off their train early in Bologna, Italy instead of taking it all the way to the Modena, Emilia-Romagna station, and got a 30-minute penalty.
- Share Phrase: Though it is usually associated with Chip, Frank was the first to use, "It's on like Donkey Kong," which would be quoted by several other teams over the course of the series, becoming an unofficial Catch Phrase.
- Tempting Fate: They were far too confident heading home to New York in the finale.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Bungee jumping for Margarita.
- Working with the Ex
Joseph "Joe" Baldassare & Bill Bartek (Team Guido)
- Rob: [Bill & Joe] are your best friends to your face, and then behind your back they do whatever it takes to stab you. We've been talking about it, I think all the teams agree that they don't really play the game like sportsmen, but they're playing to win.
Life partners, and the show's original "villains". Their anything-to-win style of racing would upset the fans and other teams, yet it also made them the fathers of the Metagame, as they invented most of the basic strategies that would be emulated by teams over the next several seasons until Colin and Rob gave the game a kick in the pants. The favorites to win for most of the season, they would make a critical mistake in leg 9. After winning the Fast Forward they sat around all day, drinking tea, waiting for a direct bus to the Pit Stop instead of heading there right away. When they finally arrived they were last, and were only saved due to Nancy & Emily's 24-hour penalty. Though they would go on to make the Final 3, they were never in the game again after that, as badly placed equalizers prevented them from ever catching up to the lead teams. Their lasting influence on the game would get them invited back for All-Stars.
- Affably Evil: The other teams might not have approved of the way they played the game, but they managed to keep a sense of humor about it all throughout the season.
- Anti-Villain: The only thing they were guilty of was trying to win the Race, and other than when they tried to block Rob & Brennan, Kevin & Drew, and Nancy & Emily from making their flight to Italy, everything they did is pretty much considered basic strategy now. It's telling that they're now regarded just as highly by fans as some fan favorite teams.
- Badass Gay: See Badass Grandpa below.
- Badass Grandpa: The self-proclaimed "Two Gay Grandpas." They invented most of the show's basic Metagame and went into All-Stars with the other teams seeing them as one of the biggest threats.
- Born Lucky: According to Nancy, a good luck fairy followed them around, but that didn't save them from...
- Born Unlucky: They got stuck on the wrong side of the badly placed equalizers.
- Coordinated Clothes: They deliberately dressed the same, years before this became standard for teams.
- Disqualification-Induced Victory: They were saved from elimination after their Fast Forward gaffe by Nancy & Emily quitting the Detour.
- Eating Lunch Alone: A defining scene for them was them eating alone on the ferry to Tunisia while all the other teams ate together.
- Felony Misdemeanor: Everything they did (outside of attempting to block security to prevent three teams from making their plane) falls into this. Everything else "evil" they did is now considered basic strategy. Some of the "horrible" things the other teams accused them of doing were:
- Breaking an alliance when they felt they were giving more information to the other teams than they were getting in return (in turn becoming the first team to realize that long term alliances don't work on the race).
- "Cutting in line" at the Pantheon when the other teams walked right past the clue and they spotted it first.
- Not telling the other teams they were about to get on the wrong train when the simple act of looking at their tickets told them that information (and after they had already helped the teams buy those tickets).
- Rob & Brennan and Kevin & Drew were ready to start a fight because the Guidos somehow intentionally shoved Nancy while standing in front of her.
- I'm Not Here to Make Friends
- Idiot Ball: Sitting around all day after winning the Fast Forward.
- In-Series Nickname: Team Guido. Also, Kevin & Drew called them "Bert & Ernie".
- Ironic Nickname: Team Guido, a pair of middle-aged, cultured gay men who nicknamed themselves after their dog.
- Kick the Dog: They were the first to arrive at the Tunis airport and got the only two tickets left for the most direct flight to Rome, but panicked when they saw Rob & Brennan, Kevin & Drew, and Nancy & Emily quickly get tickets for a faster connecting flightnote , and decided to block security to keep the others from making their flight. In the process they supposedly shoved Nancynote . It not only turned into an ugly confrontation, but the plan didn't work, as the other teams reached their flight on-time, and became pointless once the other teams' connecting flight through Lyon was cancelled, letting Joe & Bill arrive in Rome before them anyway.
- Loners Are Freaks: Wanting to run the Race by themselves earned them the ire of the other teams and the fans.
- Manipulative Editing: They have repeatedly said the same thing: The camera does not create footage. If it's on the film, it's because you said or did it. The editing, however, can add, delete, or change the context. Also, because post-race interviews indicate they didn't want to be portrayed as villains because of the impression it would leave on gay people, they manage to be one of the few teams who actually sound genuine about claiming to be screwed by the editing.
- Mid-Battle Tea Break: After winning the Fast Forward, they sat around drinking tea while waiting for the direct bus, causing their Unwinnable by Mistake situation.
- Nice Hat: Their safari hats.
- Non-Gameplay Elimination: In the finale, no less. They were given a clue telling them Rob & Brennan had won the Race while they were still in Alaska.
- Oh, Crap!: When they showed up at the Pit Stop after winning the Fast Forward, only to discover they were the last team to arrive after waiting around all day for a direct bus.
- Paranoia Fuel: In-Universe. At the beginning of leg 6, they said that the other teams were spending more time obsessing over what they were doing than running their own race (which would come full circle when Joe would do the exact same thing regarding Boston Rob in All-Stars).
- Pet the Dog: After defeating Nancy & Emily at the Fast Forward, they gave them helpful advice for getting back to the Detour, and the two pairs even hugged.
- Riding into the Sunset: Their last shot of the season was them riding off in their dog sleds in Alaska.
- Read the Freaking Clue: In leg 6 they got off their train early in Bologna, Italy instead of taking it all the way to the Modena, Emilia-Romagna station, and got a 30-minute penalty.
- Smash Cut: After Rob & Brennan had crossed the Finish Line in New York to win, and Frank & Margarita had crossed the Finish Line to congratulate the former, the show suddenly cuts to in frozen Alaska, with the Guidos reading the clue telling them that Rob & Brennan have won the race.
- Something We Forgot: The final leg so focused on the other two teams, that they were merely a footnote at the end of the episode.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Their focus on strategy instead of making friends and how it alienated the other teams became central to the season.
- Strategy Versus Tactics: During the first 7 legs, they only dropped out of the top 2 once, and lost only to fast forwards in 3 of those legs. However, they were able to achieve this partly because they spent most of their money on faster transportation (and other more useless comforts), and fell behind in legs 8 and 9 due to lack of funds to pay for long cab rides. Other teams, while falling behind in earlier legs (such as Rob & Brennan placing lower in legs 4 and 5 due to saving money on a slower train), didn't have as much of a problem with these particularly long legs.
- Tempting Fate: They felt comfortable sitting around all day after winning the Fast Forward, waiting for the direct bus to the Pit Stop, thinking all the other teams were going to be held up by doing several other tasks. This decision essentially cost them the Race.
- This Is A Race: The first major proponents of this.
- Unwinnable by Mistake: Due to the equalizers that pushed them further and further behind after leg 9, making it impossible for them to catch up.
- Wicked Cultured: They had lived all over Europe and spoke several European languages. Though the wicked part has become increasingly debated since.
Kevin O'Connor & Andrew "Drew" Feinberg
- Kevin: Swing you fat bastard, swing!
Friends from New York, and the first fan favorites due to their constant joking around and good-natured bickering with each other. They would prove to be deceptively good racers, winning three legs on their way to finishing 4th. They were officially eliminated in leg 11 after their cab driver took them to the wrong entrance of Tiantan Park, but their real elimination came, like Bill & Joe, when the badly placed equalizers distanced them from the front two teams during leg 10. Their status as the first fan favorites would get them invited back for All-Stars.
- Bald of Awesome: They won three legs.
- Big Fun: Goes with being the first comic relief team.
- Big Guy, Little Guy: Drew being the big, Kevin the little.
- Born Unlucky: Like Joe & Bill, they were trapped behind the badly placed equalizers, and had no chance of winning after leg 9.
- Establishing Character Moment: At Batoka Gorge, Drew was the first to go on the gorge swing, and Kevin yelled after him, "Swing, you fat bastard, swing!" Before that, they had done nothing but argue, this was the first sign of the humor that would become their signature trait.
- Failed a Spot Check: Coming out of the Taj Mahal, Drew put the clue in his back pocket to hide it from Nancy & Emily, but once they got outside he was unable to find the clue, and searched for it for several minutes until Kevin pulled it out of his back pocket.
- Global Ignorance: In the first leg, when they were in Zambia:Drew: Well it's got a map in it though, here, Zambia, there's where we are.Kevin: That's Namibia, Jackass.
- Grumpy Bear: While nowhere near as bad as he would become on All-Stars, Drew still showed shades of this from time to time, like when he said Paris was no big deal, or his complete dislike of everything in India.
- Manly Tears: Drew, during their elimination.
- Odd Friendship: With Nancy & Emily.
- Shaped Like Itself: In India:Kevin: I bet those elephants smell like elephants.
- Shoo Out the Clowns
- Stupid Crooks: Mentioned by Drew, when he said the other teams saw them as this at first.
- Unwinnable by Mistake: They also got caught behind the badly placed equalizers.
- Vitriolic Best Buds
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Rats for Drew, which he backed up with a story of why (he stepped on a tire in the Bronx and a bunch of rats came streaming out.
Nancy Hoyt & Emily Hoyt (Momily)
Mother and daughter team, they became fan favorites due to their tenacity despite being heavily outclassed by the other teams and being constantly on the edge of emotional breakdown. They would be the first major victims of Killer Fatigue in Thailand. After losing a vital Fast Forward to Joe & Bill, Nancy convinced a frustrated Emily to quit the Detour, earning them a 24-hour penalty that would cost them the Race. Even though they would still make it to the Pit Stop before Joe & Bill, they were penalized, and finished 5th.
- Buxom Is Better: Most of the male racers didn't pay much attention to Emily until she showed up to the first Pit Stop in her sports bra. All the excited jumping didn't hurt either.
- Failed a Spot Check: An audio version, as while they struggle to ask directions to the Taj Mahal, one man in the crowd clearly said "Go to Agra" a couple times, but the stress of the situation made them unable to pick it out from the rest of the crowd noise.
- House Wife: Nancy.
- Idiot Ball:
- Nancy jumping out of the car to take a picture of a rhino when it was standing there right next to their car, able to charge at any second.
- Taking the 24-hour penalty instead of switching Detours.
- Minor Injury Overreaction: While Joe & Bill were trying to block customs to keep Nancy & Emily, Kevin & Drew, and Rob & Brennan from making their flight, Nancy somehow got shoved. Nancy got reduced to tears and the other teams completely lost it, ready to start a fight with Joe & Bill.
- Not What I Signed Up For: Said in India after dealing with the unsanitary conditions of the train.
- Odd Friendship: With Drew & Kevin.
- Rage Quit: After losing the Fast Forward and being unable to find their free car in Bangkok, instead of just switching to the other side of the Detour, Nancy convinced a frustrated Emily to just give up the Race and take a cab to the next Route Marker.
- Team Mom: Nancy to Kevin & Drew and Rob & Brennan.
- This Is a Competition: This Is A Race: Averted, Nancy could not handle when the race came to this, and would break down over the other teams being cutthroat.
- Values Dissonance: In-Universe: It took them one and a half hours to buy train tickets in India because the teller refused to sell to women who were alone.
Leonard "Lenny" Hudson & Karyn Jefferson
Dating team, Karen spent most of the Race yelling at Lenny, who trailed along behind her, clearly not enthusiastic about being on the Race. They struggled, yet managed to escape elimination following several lucky breaks. In India, despite leaving the Roadblock ten minutes before the other teams, they had trouble finding the Taj Khema Hotel, and were eliminated in 6th place.
- The Drag-Along: Lenny made it very clear he did not want to be on the Race.
- Failed a Spot Check: Lenny, at the Eiffel Tower Roadblock, did not see the flag atop the Arc de Triomphe, so he just randomly guessed the Pit Stop was at Notre Dame.
- Global Ignorance: They were eliminated because Karyn did not recognize the model of the Taj Mahal that was shown to her along with the Pit Stop clue. They were not the only ones, as Joe was the only one to recognize the Taj Mahal and know it was in Agra, but Lenny & Karyn just took longer than the other teams to figure it out.
- The Load: Lenny. Karyn accuses him of doing nothing in their final leg.
- The Masochism Tango: Brought on by Lenny not wanting to be on the Race, and constantly saying that he wanted to quit. They broke up after their elimination from the Race.
- No Indoor Voice: Karyn, mostly yelling Lenny's name. However, she lost it on a Cab driver who had gotten them lost.
- Say My Name: "LENNNYYYY!" i.e., what Karyn was famous for doing.
Paul J. Alessi & Amie Barsky
Engaged couple, they would be the first of many "fighting couples" on the race, whose aggressive personalities managed to ruffle feathers with other teams as well. They were just starting to gain momentum when they got lost in Tunisia looking for the Roadblock, and came across the Pit Stop by mistake, where they were already the last team to check in and were subsequently eliminated.
- The Drag-Along: Paul repeatedly tried to get her to quit the race and go home.
- Fiery Redhead: Amie.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Paul.
- The Masochism Tango: Mostly brought on by Paul not wanting to be there.
- No Sense of Direction: Getting lost in Tunisia.
- Non-Gameplay Elimination: They were eliminated on the spot after arriving at the Pit Stop by luck, not even getting to finish their final leg.
- Rage Quit: Paul repeatedly tried to do this during the second leg, but Amie forced him to keep racing.
- Sequence Breaking: They got lost looking for the Roadblock in Tunisia and came across the Pit Stop by mistake.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Bungee jumping for Paul.
David "Dave" Groark & Margaretta Groark
The Race's first older team. They managed to work their way into 8th place, where they were eliminated after their cab driver wouldn't accept their American money.
- Failed a Spot Check: They did not see the clue at the Eiffel Tower, and walked up to the platform where all the other teams were.
- Happily Married
- Sequence Breaking: They remain the only team to ever complete a leg without properly completing a task without using an Express Pass or being forced to go back and complete it. At the Eiffel Tower, they missed the clue at the bottom, both walked up to where the other teams were, got the answer to the Roadblock from Paul, walked back down, opened the clue, and went to the Pit Stop without one of them going back up to complete the Roadblock. Instead of being forced to go back, they instead received a penalty. (They also failed to complete the Detour correctly in the first leg, but it was never mentioned in the show.)
Patricia "Pat" Pierce & Brenda Mehta
Working moms and friends, they won the second leg by Fast Forward, but got eliminated on the third leg when they were charged with finding a Foucault pendulum, except that there were two Foucault pendulums in Paris, and they were the only team to go to the wrong one, which caused them to fall behind and miss the trains the other teams got on. The Race would not use such an intentionally deceptive task again in future seasons.
- Action Mom
- What Happened to the Mouse?: They have this huge walking stick with them at the Starting Line, yet it just disappears when they reach Zambia. (It was confiscated by airport security.)
Kimberly "Kim" Smith & Leslie Kellner
Teachers and roommates. After clashing with Paul & Amie during the second leg, becoming the first team in Amazing Race history to steal a cab from another team, they were eliminated in 10th when they got caught up bickering with their cab driver over change.
- Alpha Bitch
- Failed a Spot Check: They missed the clue at the base of the Eiffel Tower, and rode the elevator to the top, putting them behind.
- Self-Deprecation: Called themselves stupid in Paris.
- This Is A Race: The first team to invoke this.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Bungee jumping for Kim.
Matthew "Matt" Robar & Ana Robar
Married couple who met while serving in the army. They became the first team to ever be eliminated from the Amazing Race after they got extremely lost driving to the Pit Stop in Zambia, allowing all the other teams to pass them by.
- Happily Married
- No Sense of Direction
- Tempting Fate: Matt made a comment about how long they'll probably last. In the DVD commentary, it's noted that we probably wouldn't have seen this if they had lasted longer.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Like many others, bungee jumping for Ana.