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Hi again! Last week we finally saw the (figurative) smiting of the Fogals, who are hopefully back in Kansas or wherever they’re from, trying to explain to their congregation exactly why it’s ok for a man of God to cheat. That leaves us five teams and previews that promise something about mountain climbing. Oooh. Um. Exciting? Only if someone falls. Cross your fingers!

The remaining teams – CIA, Geniuses, USA girls, Air Force and Southies – have overnighted at a manor in Kent, England. With the use of this handy invention called “video footage,” we see that the early-arriving teams were delighted to see the Geniuses come in, but less thrilled to see the Air Force team, who appear to be completely unpopular due to their actual racing abilities. The Southies say this was the one time they were hoping to see the Fogals. Where the Geniuses were greeted with cheers, the Air Force are greeted with silence, then some belated, half-hearted, “Oh, hey, guys.” The Air Force team says they don’t care, they’re not thinking of ways to work with the other teams.

Robohost says there are only two more artifacts for teams to get in their quest for whatever mythical, made-up-by-NBC treasure is at the end of this ratings rainbow. This week, the theme is that teams will be looking for the headquarters of a secret society, of which Founding Fathers like Washington and Jefferson were members. Clues in images of art and nature will show the way, and their search begins where Pia Ferrata ends. Apparently that’s somewhere in France. Game on!

Climb Every Mountain, Search Every Cave

The teams fly to Nice, and the Air Force quickly zooms to first place in the car. Team CIA falls to last, at one point appearing to be heading in the wrong direction. “Our Achilles heel is navigation,” one says. Probably best the CIA didn’t keep you, then.

Somehow everyone knows they’re driving to a little town called Peille. And once there, everyone quickly finds the street called Pia Ferrata, and starts running down it. A call from Robohost, always the clue that they’re on the right track, says the ideals of this mysterious secret society were based in nature. So teams must climb the large mountain in front of them, where a clue is hidden in a cave.

However! If teams don’t want to make the arduous climb, they can drive 150 miles to St. Tropez and find the statue of an American revolutionary, Pierre Andre de Suffren. I’ve never heard of him, but apparently he was some French naval commander. More here, if you care, but I suggest you not bother, it’s very dull stuff. And I don’t see much connection with anything “American” or “revolutionary” at all. Anyway, if teams don’t want to climb the mountain, they’ve gotta go find that statue for their clue.

The USA girls debate this choice. But the one who hurt her arm digging something a couple of episodes back points out that she still is having trouble lifting things, and isn’t sure how she’ll hold up in a mountain climb. The girls decide to go to St. Tropez.

The Geniuses discuss their options, too. It’s clear that Sam wants to go to St. Tropez – he’s terrified of heights and worried about his asthma. But Charles declares they’re going up the mountain. Is anyone else starting to get the feeling that maybe, just maybe, Charles isn’t that good at compromise? Or teamwork? Or sympathy? I also have to say, I have a feeling he does not have a girlfriend. I’m just saying. Who’d put up with that?

Anyway, the USA girls set off, and congratulate themselves in the car for making what they still think is a wise choice. They also think the Geniuses, who are not masters of physical exertion, should have come to St. Tropez too.

Everyone else heads up the cliffs, and it really does look hard. When they said “climb a mountain” what they really meant was “mountain climbing.” It’s not just a nice stroll up a path, it’s suspension bridges and metal handholds on a cliff face. Team Air Force is leading the pack, and the husband one says he worried about how his wife would handle it, but that she impressed him.

Below Air Force, the Southies are feeling good because they know the Geniuses and the CIA team are behind them.

And back with Team Genius, Sam is, predictably, slowing everything down. “I’m absolutely terrified at this point,” he says, and I’m feeling bad for the guy. But Sam doesn’t want the team to have to crawl back down and then go to St. Tropez – they’d lose for sure, he says, so he’s going to keep trying.

Sexy Beast

Air Force has reached the top of Peille Gorge now, 2,100 feet above sea level. They easily spot the cave in which there’s a box with a ring of keys and a picture of the outline of a castle. On the picture it says “Retire La Pierre”. The phone rings to tell them that the keys will help unlock secrets, and the picture is of the place they’re going next. They’re also told that this secret society used an “inverted rose” – i.e. upside-down – to indicate there was treasure hidden nearby. So the first team to find the rose this time will get $50,000.

Outside the cave, Air Force stops to scan the town of Peille below, looking for their castle. They spot it on a hillside and head down the mountain – via road, this time. I bet everyone will be hugely relieved to find they don’t have to go back down the way they came up.

Meanwhile, the USA girls get to St. Tropez, find the statue, and find a clue that I think directs them back to Peille. They’re congratulating themselves on having made the right choice.

On the mountain, Sam is now in freak-out mode. He’s clinging to metal bars on a cliff, hyperventilating. Charles says for five full minutes all they could hear was Sam breathing. Francis tries to buck Sam up, telling him to think of what he wants most in his life, and his parents. Sam finally says he’s on his way up, and – while we suffer under cheesy dramatic Lifetime-movie music -- he hauls himself over a rock outcropping. I almost expect him to appear on a football field hugging Rudy. Instead, we get Charles yelling a congratulatory, “You’re a beast!” and Francis saying that Jessica Biel, could she see that, would want him. So, uh, I guess Sam’s a Jessica Biel fan? Dream on, honey.

Sam says climbing that cliff was a huge accomplishment for him, and he couldn’t have done it without the encouragement of a friend like Francis. Aww. He doesn’t mention Charles. Hilarious.

French Castles – Built More Sturdily Than Jenga, Apparently

Meanwhile, the Southies have gotten the clue and are headed for Peille Castle. We see a shot of a loose rock in the castle wall, and immediately I can tell you this is going to be a problem. I was raised that you don’t just go up to ancient ruins and start taking apart their masonry. Something that old, you just figure the loose rocks are meant to be there. However, the Air Force team was raised differently. They arrive at the castle first, find the spot from which they think the picture was drawn, and notice some loose rocks in the wall. They pull out the rocks and the whole castle falls down. Haha, no! But that’s what I would fear. No, they pull out the rocks and find a paper that says “Ancient Roman ruin crumbles on a hillside of La Turbie.” Also, apparently the letters of “Retire la Pierre” could have been unscrambled to read “Remove the rocks.”

The Air Force team jubilantly heads for the car and La Turbie, noting that the keys they’d been given are going to throw a lot of people off.

Sure enough, the Southies get to the castle and start trying keys in a locked gate. They notice the loose rocks, but pass them by, deciding the picture of the castle was just meant to get them there. By the time the Geniuses and the CIA team arrive, the Southies tell them they’ve tried every key on the ring. The three teams of men start fanning out, and before you know it the fools have hiked a mile and a half from the castle. Meanwhile, the USA girls arrive back in Peille and head for the castle.

There, the USA girls actually move a rock before putting it back. Then a different girl moves a different rock and, lo and behold, they’re clutching the clue and have vaulted to second place, through pure luck. The three male teams, off 2 miles away wandering in the woods, finally come back to the castle and figure out the loose rocks.

“We were furious,” says one Southie, commenting on all the time they wasted. The nine men troop off, noting that there’s a lot of tension between them because no one knows where the USA girls are, so one of those three could be in last place. In fact, they’re all in last place. “This group decision bullshit is pissing me off,” says one of the CIA guys.”

Americans Mangling Ancient Ruins, Part Deux

Team Air Force, sailing ahead has arrived at the Trophy of the Alps in La Turbie. This site actually has an interesting history and is more than 2,000 years old. Anyway, the Air Force team clambers over it, looking for that inverted rose, but don’t see anything. Then someone remembers the clue mentioned the hillside, so they climb down and sure enough, find the rose symbol on a board lying on a rock. They start poking around the grounds nearby and finally find a box under a tree, containing the $50,000 treasure (well, gold coins). They say it was wonderful to have some tangible reward for their hard work.

A phone call also points out that they’ve picked up an old map of Paris, and that they must fly there. Their next move is up to them.

The USA girls get to La Turbie next, and quickly find the rose and the map of Paris. They say they’ve proved to themselves they don’t need the other teams to give them information. Foreshadowing, perhaps?

In quick and dull succession, the Southies, CIA and Geniuses go to La Turbie, find the map, realize the gold is gone, and head to Paris.

A made-for-TV clue from Genworth says “wipe out the colour,” which bugs me on two levels. For one thing, just because we’re in Europe doesn’t mean you have to start using English spellings for words. I might be wrong on this, because I’m basing my information on a “guess” rather than on “actual research,” but isn’t Genworth an American company? I mean, mostly, at least? Anyway, so there’s that peeve. Then, I’m just tired of Genworth all around. I’ve never even had any dealings with the company, BUT – there are a bunch of girls on the far side of my social circle who work for Genworth. They run in such a gaggle they’ve become known as the Ladies of Genworth, or, for short, the Logs. The Logs dress slutty and seem absolutely vapid, and I’m just about tired of dealing with them at parties. So I’m just not a fan of Genworth in general.

Like Ours, Just a Lot Smaller

Anyhoo. So in Paris, the Air Force arrives first. They’ve already looked at their map and decided to find the Champ de Mars, near the Eiffel Tower. I think they decided this because it’s marked with a big red X on the map. But it’s the right choice – under the Eiffel Tower, the phone rings. Robohost says this secret society was made up of artists, etc., and that one created a classic symbol of American freedom. They can see it from one of the Eiffel observation decks, if they look to the west.

So Air Force hops an elevator, noticing that they themselves are very stinky. “I like France more when we’re in first place,” says one of the guys. Yeah, I’m sure France cares a lot about that. I think France would say “Je ne donne pas une merde” to that.

Up in the tower, they look west and finally spot “Lady Libertie,” the French model of the Statue of Liberty. Confused? History of the Statue of Liberty and, if you scroll down, its French copy, are here. The girl Air Force member makes to go, but one of the boys wants to stop and enjoy it. She gives him three seconds, then they head off.

At the Liberty statue, the team finds a plaque that says something about washing the streets clean to find their next path. Nearby is a river and a bunch of buckets. Team Air Force dutifully fills a bucket and wanders off, although they don’t know what streets they’re supposed to wash. After a while, however, they stop and decide to look at that map again. Lo and behold, it occurs to them to wash the streets on the map, and when they do the map rubs off and the clue appears. The secret society they’ve been chasing is the Rosicrucian Order. Link here. There’s information about a rose cross, and the address of a chateau in Normandy (I think). They must get one of the cars waiting by the statue and go to the chateau.

Producer Intervention or Phenomenal Luck? Discuss

Meanwhile, team USA is headed for the Eiffel Tower, and the Southies/CIA/Genius teams aren’t far behind. By this time, night has fallen, and the Eiffel Tower is lit up like Christmas. I’ve actually seen it like that, by the way – I was in Paris with my mother and sister, and our tour group went to see the Eiffel Tower at night. Most unfortunately, this was after a dinner of nearly inedible pot roast but highly smooth-drinking red wine, so by the time we got there, I was abysmally drunk and insisted on trying out the doors of buildings to try to find something open because I had to go to the bathroom. I was not in top form the next day and I am just thankful my mother has never mentioned the whole sorry episode to me again, since the mere memory is very embarrassing. (Not so much the being drunk in public, I’m an old hand at that, but the being drunk in front of my mother, which I’ve never done since.) I do recall the lights as being pretty, however.

Anyway, the USA girls can’t see the statue from the tower, because all they can see are lights. However, through an enormous stroke of luck, when they come back down they stop in the gift shop and one girl happens to see a picture of the liberty statue with the Eiffel Tower in the background. She shows the others and they head off to find it.

At the same time, the three male teams are on the subway, when somehow – I do not know what stroke of [s]producer suggestion[/i] genius prompted this – one of the Southies suggests pouring water on their map, right there, before they even get to the clue that suggests they do so. And of course, the Rosicrucian clue appears. They’re tempted to go to this chateau, but they don’t know how, so they decide to keep going to the Eiffel Tower.

At the chateau, the Air Force team gets a call telling them the 6th artifact is hidden here, and that the Founding Fathers were Rosicrucians and that the ideals of that society were enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. Bollocks, I say, but I don’t really know, because I got sleepy during the research and gave up. I’m not writing a thesis here, I’m telling you what happened on a TV show. So what happened is, the Air Force team started searching the chateau.

Are We Really Down to Using Fake Literary Artifacts?

In Paris, the USA girls get buckets of water and wonder what the hell it is they’re supposed to be washing. “We cannot just walk around the streets of Paris looking for a pile of dirt to clean,” one says. At the Eiffel Tower, the three guy teams arrive and are told via phone call that they’ve solved the mystery of the map already so they should just go to the statue and get their cars.

At the chateau, after much door-opening and lock-trying, the Air Force team finds the correct room, the correct locked door on which to use their keys, and a closet full of boxes that contain either sand or the artifact they’re looking for. The artifact is a cryptex, which would be familiar to fans of Dan Brown’s works, and in fact appears to have been invented entirely by that author, and according to this Wikipedia entry, it might not even work. But in any event, the Air Force have found it, so they can go rest and wait for everyone else to catch up.

Back in Paris, the three male teams have found their cars and gone off toward the chateau. This leaves team USA in last place, frantically scrubbing Parisian graffiti off the streets. Finally, back at the statue, they decide to look at the map again. Predictably, they think to wash it. Then we cut to the Southies and CIA teams getting lost, allowing the Geniuses to arrive at the chateau first, and they quickly find the box room and the “cryptex.” Not far behind, CIA and Southies get un-lost and find their own cryptexes. (Cryptii?). That puts the USA girls in last place for good, and they get the elimination call while still at the Liberty statue. Dude, that’s cold. Anyway, they hug and say they’re proud of themselves and have no regrets.

Next week:

It’s down to the final four, the last elimination before the live finale. The challenges will send teams out on a ledge, literally, it looks like someone falls (although they’ve got safety harnesses on, so no biggie) and there appears to be some sort of physical argument among the Southies that involves the cameraman.

I have to watch it just to see whether this cryptex thing really works. I have my doubts, Dan Brown. lucy@fansofrealitytv.com