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''Treasure Hunters'': Three teams get lucky

On the French leg of the ”Treasure Hunters” race, the producers let the outcome be decided by one of the most random puzzles yet

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Treasure Hunters: Bjerke

”Treasure Hunters”: Three teams get lucky

So here’s the weird thing: This week’s episode of Treasure Hunters was its most exciting by a French country mile and yet also proved to be its most irritating.

Since I’ve got a history of complaining bitterly about NBC’s summer reality adventure (although I didn’t abandon my TV Watch duties last week even in the midst of a horrific stomach bug), let’s go with my gripe first. Am I the only one who wanted to apply HeadOn (directly to the forehead, naturally) after realizing the show’s producers had set up the series of clues for this leg of the hunt so ineptly that three out of five teams essentially skipped two puzzles and headed to the artifact by pretty much relying on random luck? I tasted that old, familiar Treasure Hunters rage (kind of like warm, flat Zima) the minute the Southie Boys took note of the strange texture of their Paris map and decided to try to use water to wipe off the paint (although who would do that without producer prompting is beyond me). And just like that, out the window went the need for three teams to play spot the landmark from the Eiffel Tower or to figure out the nifty brainteaser about washing the streets of Paris. (Le clever!) The thing is, I’d have applauded the Southies’ breakthrough if it had taken any great decoding or deductive skills to achieve it. But instead, as with most Treasure Hunters challenges, this one seemed to come down to a random flash of inspiration and, more important, shoddily created maps. Making matters worse, of course, was that (as usual) the Southies shared their discovery with their traveling buddies, the Ex CIA and Genius teams, pretty much sealing Team Miss USA’s ouster in the process.

So am I bitter that last week I listed Team Miss USA as likeliest to win and now they’re kaput? Not really, to be honest. That would require far too much emotional investment. What upsets me is the fact that the week Miss USA started relying on their own wiles — and broke free of the pack mentality that has reduced Treasure Hunters‘s suspense levels from day one — they fell victim to the united (and very lucky) Southie-Genius-Ex CIA cabal.

That’s really a shame — from the perspective of both good karma and good television. Indeed, with Miss USA and Air Force each operating as independent contractors, the decision making in this week’s episode took on a real sense of urgency, mainly because it forced the central herds (and nerds) to acknowledge they were competing in an actual race, not just taking a reeeally long, weird vacation documented by an aggressive camera crew. If the infusion of on-screen competitiveness is Team Miss USA’s one gift to Treasure Hunters, then its trio of women deserves kudos. And double the mad props if any of them breaks down and uncovers the magic behind the old pageant trick of rubbing Vaseline on one’s teeth. Either way, how can you not like a team that exits with the line ”This is not the outfit I wanted to be eliminated in!”?

Of course, this week’s other story was the journey to Mordor by Sam, Frodo, and Gollum. Watching the Geniuses scale the 2,100-foot Peille Gorge, it was hard to believe that only moments before Sam was kvetching that he didn’t even care to sleep on a top bunk. That said, dude deserves credit for finishing the course, not taking the easy route by way of an air-conditioned drive to Saint-Tropez, and providing us viewers with a hilarious highlight reel that won his team the following:

The Treasure Hunters Trophy for Dirtiest-Sounding, Yet Totally Innocent, Comment ”Sam gets halfway up. Stops. We wait five minutes, and nothing happens. All we can hear is heavy breathing.” —Teammate Charles, describing a hesitant moment in Sam’s ascent.

The Treasure Hunters Plaque for Fantasy That Would Gross Us Out If It Weren’t So Wildly Unlikely ”Jessica Biel’s gonna see this, and she’s gonna say, ‘Screw Seventh Heaven — I want seven minutes of heaven with Sam.’ ” —Teammate Francis, offering a ”huzzah” to Sam upon completion of the Peille Gorge climb. (Oh, Jessica, you seem like a nice kid. If you’re out there, tell me you’re not, in fact, wasting your Monday nights with this show, too.)

The Treasure Hunters Cup for Dialogue That Sounds Straight From a Steven Seagal-DMX Action Vehicle ”We’ve bled together. We sweat together. We climb together. We die together. That’s how we roll.” When you combine a line like that with Francis’ muttonchops of death, the dude is kinda sorta badass.

What did you think of this week’s improved Treasure Hunters episode? Is Air Force going to win easily, or can one of the other three teams score an upset? And can anyone explain why the producers made it look like they were decoding a word scramble when they changed ”Retire la Pierre” to ”Remove the Rock”?