Treasure Hunters: Bjerke
August 15, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

”Treasure Hunters”: Dumb, dumber, and stupider

Let’s hear it for Carol Radtke, arguably the most intriguing character featured on tonight’s episode of Treasure Hunters!

Now, if you’re scratching your head at this very moment, wondering, ”Who the heck is Carol Radtke?” fret not: At no point during the telecast did we see Carol’s face or learn anything about her personality. In fact, her sole contribution to the hour was winning the Genworth Financial at-home Treasure Hunters game, which I’ve been either too lazy or too dense or too defeated to play for the past nine weeks.

That said, on a lot of levels, I’m more emotionally invested in Carol’s journey than I am in any of the nine players remaining in NBC’s summer reality scavenger hunt. For starters, I want to know what it is about those mini treasure chests and wacky road-sign clues — the sudden appearance of tonight’s ”I Seek Thy Reef” scrambler just seconds before commercial jolted me out of a Laird Macintosh-induced trance — that makes Carol want to grab a pad and paper and solve a history puzzle and yet has me scrambling to seek the fast-forward button on my DVR remote. More important, if Carol were here right now, I’d ask her, ”Was the $10,000 prize worth the nine hours of your life you’ve invested in Treasure Hunters but can never get back?” Seriously, Carol, if you’re out there and you have an answer, let me know. I think I still have time to play next week.

I’ve got some questions for the Southie Boys, Team Air Force, and Team Genius, too, of course. For the Southies, I’d like to know why this far into the race, they’re still convinced every puzzle and every course can be solved using random, half-baked thinking? (Exhibit A: That historic building has its lights on, therefore it must be the Lie-berry of Congress!) Yeah, I know that the affable knuckleheads solved the French street-washing riddle by spilling water on their map and that they simply guessed last week’s cryptex answer, ”Liberty.” And true, that lit-up building was, in fact, the Lie-berry of Congress. So what’s my point again? I’m not sure, but from here on out, I think I’m actually rooting for the Southies to win. What other team would look in the African history section for a book on the American flag? Or write on their own arms in an effort to master the intricacies of the card catalog? Or admit on national television, as Matthew did, that ”We’re dumb, but we’re not stupid”? These guys aren’t half-bad TV, either, and that’s got to be worth something, even if twins Matthew and Martin sport such similar hairstyles and clothes that I’ll never tell ’em apart.

My sudden and unexpected shift in allegiance toward the Southies means I’m no longer pulling for a Team Air Force romp. True, you have to admire that they’re the only team that consistently has winning on the brain, as we saw with their efforts to start making sense of their clues — and the overarching nautical theme — on the way from Philly to D.C. But I cannot condone Matt R.’s new-age nonsense about how ”just winning would be an accomplishment, and if the prize is of epic proportions, hey, that’s just more icing on the cake.” Dude, no. Didn’t you learn any kind of killer instinct back in Basic Training? And if not, hopefully your wife did, so she can smack some fight into you before the Geniuses take home first prize.

Speaking of which, yes, I’ve finally found a team to enthusiastically root against — and who will probably win just to spite me. It was a little surprising to see Sam, Frodo, and Gollum finally express some excitement about the possibility of winning (especially Francis’ vivid, ”We’re so close to this treasure, guys, I can friggin’ taste the metal in my mouth — and no, that’s not the metal fillings”), but why, then, carp about the challenges of solving the final cryptex? (”We’ve got to think! This is killing me!”) Quick, someone call 1-800-QUIT-YR-WHININ!

When it comes to the Geniuses, though, somehow I sense it’s the journey, not the destination. In fact, if they cross the Treasure Hunters finish line first, I’ll advocate that the prize be replaced with the following: a razor (brand to be determined by the best product-placement bid) to shave off Francis’ deeply hideous muttonchops; an asthma inhaler to ensure that poor Sam never falls behind his not-entirely-loyal teammates; and a nice Flowbee haircut system to help Charles navigate his way toward a more socially acceptable ‘do. Not a bad idea, actually, because as the old saying goes, ”You can lead a reality TV star to a pharmacy, but you can’t make him understand the importance of good grooming.”

What do you think? Do you have a favorite team yet? A least favorite team? And knowing that next week is the finale, do you think the journey was worth it?

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