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Welcome back to another episode of Treasure Hunters, where this week hopefully we’ll see whether God smites the Fogals and whether Papa Hanlon’s mullet can stand up to the rigors of a race.

Last week the young professionals were eliminated at Mount Rushmore, thanks to a misinterpretation of a clue by themselves and the optimistically-named geniuses. Everyone else took off for the Blue Coyote Bed and Breakfast, somewhere in South Dakota. Assuming they’d get a full night’s sleep, it looks like a few teams stayed up late.

Bad move. Because Robohost starts calling them at 2:20 in the morning. The next leg will have the teams following in Lewis and Clark’s footsteps. (That’s Meriweather Lewis and William Clark, sent by Thomas Jefferson on an expedition to map a water route through the West and generally explore the western territory, for anyone who didn’t know. They set out in 1803. For more information, and because I want this show to teach even if NBC doesn’t care, here’s a handy link.

Anyway, what NBC means by Lewis and Clark’s footsteps is a lot more vague. Robohost claims Lewis and Clark went about their mission in secrecy, and that to keep their findings from the French they buried information along the way in case something happened to them. Oh, really, NBC? According to the Library of Congress, “while Jefferson made no effort to hide the Lewis and Clark expedition from Spanish, French, and British officials, he did try to shield it from his political enemies.” I also doubt that they buried elaborate secrets, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they cached some luggage so they didn’t have to drag crap all the way over the Rockies and back.

What Else Are You Supposed To Do In Amsterdam?

Ok, history lesson over, for the time being (look, I just don’t want TV teaching inaccurate history lessons). Teams must travel over 600 miles to Montana to the Lexington Mine, where they’ll find a clue. They’ll all be taking Toyota Tundras. Our first product placement of the night! Unless they slept on Serta mattresses or used Colgate toothpaste or something.

Anyway, everyone grabs keys to the Tundras and runs outside, where trucks are scattered around the grounds. Most teams quickly begin pressing those remote keyless entry thingies, waiting for the truck that matches their keys to beep at them. Lost in the melee are the Hanlons, who sleepily trudge out last.

Most teams hit the highway and have no problems, since after a few shots of people saying the same road number, we won’t see them again till they get to the mine. The Hanlons, however, are a different story. I’m learning their names – Ben is the older short-haired one, and Pat is Mr. Mullet himself. So Ben tries to tell Pat, who’s driving, what route to take, and Pat won’t listen to him, saying they mustn’t get off the highway. (Well, you know he didn’t use a word like “mustn’t” but whatever.) Josh, the son, tells us that Pat is just stubborn, and once he gets an idea in his head he won’t give it up.

Ben says he is a college graduate and has traveled the world – I presume he thinks this gives him some sort of edge when it comes to finding the road to Montana. Pat would disagree, however: “You’ve been to Europe one time, went to Amsterdam and got wasted,” Pat says. “1,500 beers at the same time, so you probably don’t remember *bleep*.” Well, I’m sure Ben wanted that assessment of his youth on national TV. Ben says he and Pat are like night and day, and always bickering with each other.

Snakes On a Plane

Let’s leave the Hanlons to their fighting, and jump ahead 9 hours – the time it takes teams to drive to the mine in Montana. The Air Force teams arrives first, followed by Team USA and the Fogals. Robohost chimes in to explain that during the Gold Rush, thousands of people died in mines like this one (I doubted this, but a google search suggests that this really was a gold mine in the 1800’s.) The clue is in the mine; passages are tight, so teams can leave one member behind.

Teams appear to be traveling into the mine on a mantrip, three teams at a time (six people). One of the Air Force team finds a bucket, and soon after that they come upon an area where a light is trained on a bucket in a pit. A pit that ohmygodisfullofSNAKES! I’m not sure whether to be more surprised that the producers threw such a hokey Indiana Jones thing in there, or that girly-girls like the USA chicks don’t run screaming. Actually, apart from initial revulsion, most of the teams seem to just step over the snakes without a lot of concern for whether these snakes might oh, say, DROP ONTO THEIR HEADS AND KILL THEM. I mean, I’m just saying, that might be a concern for some people, you would think. Perhaps their confidence in the fact that NBC doesn’t want to get sued by their survivors if one of them dies of a rattlesnake bite makes them able to step over COILED, HISSING SNAKES like they were cow patties.

Anyway, the clue says they must “bend the light”, but it takes Team Air Force a while to realize that perhaps this means “refract the light,” and that water refracts light, and that hey, there’s a handy bucket right there! After filling up the bucket in the snakepit, the Air Force guys discover a message at the bottom – it says they’re to go to Wood Bottom, the Missouri River, Montana.

Robohost explains that teams must drive to the Wood Bottom Recreation Area and canoe 20 miles down the Missouri River, as Lewis and Clark did. But the boat must be in the water by dusk, or they’ll have to wait till dawn.

Team Air Force heads out, once again appearing to be the only team using ask.com to help them. The Fogals get it next, leaving the USA girls in the mine and feeling only mildly worried about them. Don’t worry, Fogals, it’s not like YOU are God. There are still a bunch of teams to go in that mine, I think someone will help the USA girls if they get lost. Or attacked by snakes.

With little drama – apparently, since we don’t see any – the USA girls find the clue and leave, as do the geniuses, CIA team and grad student girls. The Southies, Brown brothers and Hanlons are the last three groups into the mine.

Predictably, the Hanlons start imagining clues on the walls – and Pat’s not even with them this time. The Browns finally figure out the water clue, and as they pass the Southies banging on a wall on their way out, they agree to share – but only with the Boston guys. They do not want the Hanlons to be clued it. The Southies agree, and soon both teams are on their way, leaving only the Hanlons in the mine.

How Many Hours Does It Take To Figure Out You’re Stupid?

Let’s move on to Wood Bottom, where the Air Force team has arrived. They read the clue and realize that they cannot be on the water after 5:30 p.m., and it’s after that now. They realize this is an equalizer, and that their lead will be lost because all the other teams will catch up while they overnight in tents by the river.

Most teams do arrive, and the group grills out, jumps in the river and generally everyone seems friendly. But hark – there’s a distinctive lack of “business in the front, party in the back” hairstyles here. Where are the Hanlons?

Astoundingly, they are STILL in the mine, ELEVEN hours later. Are you kidding me? Their camera crew must be ready to kill them. Apparently they’ve wandered around the place and come up with nothing, even though they’ve SEEN the snakepit with the water bucket. Finally, they decide to go back and put the water in the bucket, just to see what happens. Surprise! You boys could have done that 10 hours ago and been sleeping in a tent right now. Instead, they have to stagger out of the mine (and be greeted by Pat like they’ve been gone six months) and still drive all the way to Wood Bottom.

The Hanlons get to the river at 3 a.m. Pat, who never set foot in the mine and could theoretically have had an 11-hour nap waiting outside, says he was so tired he was hallucinating. They stagger into their tent.

Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

Two hours later, Robohost is calling and waking the teams up. He explains this section of the river is part of Lewis and Clark’s route. Teams will canoe down the river, which has stars affixed to the bank. At the fourteenth star, teams must get out, go forty paces behind the star, and dig for their next clue.

Most of the teams launch their boats. It’s foggy this early in the morning on the river, and it’s clearly a workout. The poor Brown brothers quickly slip into last place, and capsize. The bigger one, Keith?, is the one who only had three weeks of swimming lessons, and apparently it all flies out of his head in the river. He says his biggest fear is drowning, although I should point out they’re all wearing lifejackets. Anyway, the brothers drag themselves out of the river and sound afraid to get back in.

Again, we’re missing a mullet. The Hanlons are just dragging out of bed at 9:30, with all the other teams four hours ahead of them. Could someone just slap them for me, please? Haven’t they ever heard of a sense of urgency, or did Ben lose his in Amsterdam?

Four hours downriver, the other teams are arriving at a portage area – they’ll have to carry their canoes three miles overland. Apparently this is not easy – the canoes are heavy, the terrain lumpy, and at least these groups feel like they’re in a race. Under the pressure, the Fogal daughter breaks down in tears – and I have to just say here, I am amazed at how these win-at-all-costs parents produced such whiny offspring. Feeling bad for them, the Southie boys turn back to help, and basically wind up carrying the Fogals’ canoe. Even before I saw how this turned out later, I knew they’d regret that.

Back upstream, the Browns are having a come to Jesus talk. The more fit ones tell the bigger one he can’t be afraid of the water, and the bigger one says they aren’t giving up. He decides he’s willing to try once more, and his brothers say they’re proud of him. “Pretend you’re Huckleberry Finn,” one says as they paddle along. Um, has he read Huck Finn? I hope that doesn’t mean someone has to pretend to be Jim.

Anyway, the Browns are doing fine, but their spill into the water has cost them – the Hanlons manage to pass them, cackling as they sail by. “We might sleep in a little bit, but then we’ll kick a little ass!” Pat crows.

Doh! Fogaled Again!

Downriver again, the grad school girls are in serious trouble. While carrying the canoe, one of them fell in a hole and twisted her knee. She says she felt something tear, and she appears to be in real pain. And kudos to the girls – the other two keep at it, alternately carrying the canoe and carrying the hurt girl down the path. They’re not giving up.

Up at the front of the pack, the Air Force team has arrived at the fourteenth star. They land and count off 40 paces and start digging.

Behind them, the Fogals, CIAers and Southies have all formed a flotilla. They’ve been counting stars, but the Fogals suggest that just in case they’ve miscounted, they get out and dig at the thirteenth star, and then go on if there’s nothing there.

The CIAers and Southies agree, and when they reach the thirteenth star, those two teams head to shore and disembark. Imagine their surprise, then, when the Fogals shoot by them and head downriver, cinching second place for themselves for the time being. I know this is a race and all, but you can be competitive and sportsmanlike at the same time. The Fogals are well on their way to alienating everyone, and I wouldn’t be surprised, if it comes down to a footrace sometime, whether one team will sacrifice itself and literally sit on the Fogals so someone else wins.

The CIAers and Southies leap back in their canoes, and they’re furious. “We’ve been Fockered. Instead of the Fockers, the Fogals,” someone says. Someone else does one better: “We’ve been Fogaled.” Yay for coining a new verb! A little less “yay” on their Bush-esque mangling of the old “shame on me” aphorism, when they say “Fogal me once, my fault, Fogal me twice, your fault.” Oh, well, I’ll let it slide, this time. One of the CIA guys says the Fogals have made a huge mistake in the way they’re playing the game. Or maybe he’s a Southie who’s mad he carried these people’s canoe and then they screwed him. I can’t really tell most of these people apart anyway.

Getting The Competent Teams Out Of The Way

So the Air Force team, after digging around a bit, thinks to dig in a nearby firepit, which is where they find a big box that contains the clue. Robohost calls to explain – the box is full of papers, which have the key to a secret code that Lewis and Clark used to communicate their findings to Jefferson. Actual history alert: this is semi-true. According to the Library of Congress site, while Jefferson did devise such a cipher code, it was never used.

To figure out the code – I believe it’s something called “double replacement”, although I could be wrong – teams are told the key word is “artichoke.” They must go to a place called Tower Rock, where they’ll see how they need to use this.

The early teams head off, with the Fogals appearing to say that they couldn’t stop midstream, and then praying. A medic arrives to check on the grad student girl’s knee, and wraps it up. She still is in pain and appears unable to walk, but they’re still trying.

At Tower Rock State Park, Robohost says the teams have the key to the double-substitution code. They must crack it to find the artifacts hidden here – there are only 8 artifacts and 9 teams. As we see by following team Air Force, there’s a coded message on a board near a trail, and they must decode it. The Air Force figures it out shortly – they’re to “follow close and to the right, beneath a rock as dark as night.” Ooh, that’s some fancy rhymin’, there. Not.

Despite the questionable literary value of the clue, the Air Force team quickly finds the proper rock (which looks more like rock-shaped fiberglass) and unearths the artifact – a compass. Not far behind them, the Fogals; CIA, Southies and Team USA find their compasses as well.

I Guess That Value Meal Came With Incredibly Good and Undeserved Luck

That leaves us with the running-around-like-chickens-with-their-heads-cut-off Hanlons, the slow-and-steady Browns, and the gimpy grad girls. The Hanlons arrive at Tower Rock first, but seem to have completely forgotten any instructions about “decoding” anything, as well as the fact that they have the key to this code in their hands. I can tell they’ve forgotten because the first thing Pat does is try to look at the coded message upside down. Earth to mullet – it’s going to be a little bit harder than just standing on your head. Although that would be funny.

We see that the Browns have made it off the river and the grad girl is on crutches and her team is last, but they’re hanging in there.

Flash forward four hours, and the Hanlons STILL haven’t figured out the code. They don’t seem to have even tried. You’d think in four hours of wandering around this place, they’d have stumbled over the compasses by accident, at least. But they haven’t, and they’re tired and hungry and fighting. The son keeps saying they need to use those pieces of paper – duh, you think? – and Ben and Pat are bickering to the point that Ben says, “I’ll kick your ass, after we get through with this game.” Oh, do it now, Ben! I always find brawls to be entertaining, as long as no one knocks over my drink during the fight.

At any rate, what the Hanlons do next just stuns me. They’ve got two teams behind them, they’re looking for the last clue of the day, and what do they do? They decide they’re delirious with hunger and leave to find food. Why didn’t they run through McDonald’s on the drive to the Tower Rock? I do not know. What surprises me is how well-fed and healthy they look, for people who are OBVIOUSLY SMOKING CRACK.

At least the son still has some sense. “Eighty miles round trip to get a hamburger in the middle of an elimination challenge,” he says, shaking his head. “I can’t believe we’re doing this.” Get in line, junior.

So the idiots head off, finally ordering burgers at some fast-food place and giggling about whether they can get a decoder ring with that. “We think better ‘cause we’re eating,” says one, happily.

We return to the Browns, who are somehow only 15 miles ahead of the grad girls. Both teams arrive at the Tower Rock place and start working on the clue. The Hanlons get back and, now fortified with grease, say, “Let’s see that decipherin’ stuff again.” Within what appears to be minutes, Josh figures it out. Where was this five hours ago?

Editing, at least, is making it look like a footrace by this point – all three teams are thrashing around in the bushes, looking for the black rocks. The grad girls find the compass, and are glad they stuck with the race. That leaves the Browns and the Hanlons, and I watch in disbelief as karma fails to properly kick in and the Hanlons find the last compass. What? These fools left to EAT and they still don’t lose? Poor Browns. They’re eliminated by phone, and in interviews say they are very disappointed in themselves.

Or… are they?
The previews seem to suggest a fight next week between the Hanlons and the Browns. Can that be? Maybe grad girl’s knee really will knock the girls out, and the Browns come back. Which I guess would mean that next week the elimination will again be between the slow Browns and the clueless Hanlons. And I’ll say this – when those two teams are gone, I’ll be sad, because they are the majority of the entertainment factor here. How am I supposed to make fun of Perfect Team Air Force?