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Well, folks, this is almost it. The next-to-last Treasure Hunters episode. The night where four are whittled down to three, before next week’s big! Live! Finale! Which promises “millions” in treasure, which I find very hard to believe. I’m finding it hard not to jump the gun by speculating this week, but then if I do I won’t have much to write about next week, so I’m going to just get on with it.

Last week team USA got the boot, due pretty much to just some bad luck and slowness. That leaves us team Air Force, the Geniuses, CIA and Southies in play. It also means that Air Force wife is the only woman left in the game. I’d like to root for the girl, but I find the whole of team Air Force rather bland and boring. Sure, they’re good at this. But if I wanted to see just plain skill alone, I’d go watch a real race instead of one on TV. If it’s on my TV, I want entertainment value. And team Air Force does not provide.

Back in the United States of Acting Like Rubes

Anyway, I digress. The USA girls lost in Paris, and now the remaining four teams are returning to New York. You’d think they’d just spent three months in a yurt in Mongolia from the relief they show at being back in America. Was Paris really that bad, people? The teams seem to share a limo to their hotel, which Charles of the Geniuses say is weird – hanging together when cutthroat time is coming soon.

The limo pulls up at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, eliciting gasps from some racers.

“I’ve seen this thing in postcards that rich people have sent me to make me feel bad about my life,” says Francis. He then declares he’s going to buy it if he wins. Um, I know a genius who must have slept through “Real Estate Values in Manhattan 101.”

Anyway, long story short – the hotel is fancy. And the racers waste no time in enjoying their crystal, their personal butler, their fancy food and their champagne. “We’ve never been allowed near a place like this,” someone says. I can just imagine what the Hanlons would made of it.

Mark of team CIA, in fact, enjoys the champagne a little too much, and sits drunk and overly chatty on a sofa, sporting sunglasses and a fur hunter’s cap. Where he got that I do not know. He informs the humorless Air Force husband that he flirted with the Air Force wife, and the Air Force husband appears even less amused than he typically does, which is saying something. The other members of Team CIA are irked; they think it’s unwise of Mark to get sloshed on television the night before a challenge.

However, the next morning, Mark appears to be fine. Don’t you just hate people who don’t get hangovers? I’m sure the NBC production crew does. They probably just had to kiss 10 minutes of drama bye-bye just because Mark can hold down his breakfast.

Pot of Gould

Anyway, the morning’s clue is as thus: teams must find the Great American Hall of Fame. They also grab Susan B. Anthony dollar coins and head out the door.

In fairly short order, most teams seem to discover that the Hall of Fame is – for reasons not at all explained here – at the Bronx Community College. Because all Halls of Fame of great Americans should be in community colleges, right?

Anyhoo. The Hall of Fame is an outdoor row of busts set among a colonnade. The Southies somehow get there first, and quickly find the bust of old Susan B. But there’s nothing there, and as they look around the other teams arrive. Finally the Southies notice that Susan is looking directly toward a bust of Lafayette. There they find a mailbox that contains keys and a cryptic clue about “Gould Library.”

Everyone takes off, and they quickly find Gould Library, a big open space full of paintings and whatnot. Robohost tells everyone by phone that artists often hide messages in their art, and there’s a message in a painting here. “Art imitates life” he says mysteriously, and the art here pertains to the American Revolution.

Everyone scatters to start staring at paintings. But the Geniuses spot a picture that’s different from the rest – it’s called “Today” and it’s a painting of the inside of the library itself, just as it is, with a ship sculpture in the center and light pouring down on the sculpture, showing the ship clearly in the shadow.

The Geniuses quickly spot the sculpture, which appears to be about two feet away, and just as quickly flick on a light switch to see the ship’s shadow. They turn it off and scutter away to find that exact ship in a painting. The ship also matches the one on the medallion they got in … Dover, I think. They find the ship and realize somehow – it was all confused, I didn’t quite catch the connections – that they have to go to Philadelphia, and they sneak out of the library, leaving the other three teams behind. Dashing to the car, Francis pants, “I never run this fast unless I’m running toward sex or food.” I guess he wouldn’t have to if sex didn’t keep running away.

Anyway, so the Geniuses escape, and a few minutes later the other three teams find the “Today” painting, figure out the clue, and notice the Geniuses are gone. Everyone dashes off to catch the Geniuses, who are in their car with Francis raving about how Philly is his hometown, yo! They’ll totally be at an advantage! I swear I knew right then before I even saw the rest of the episode that this was foreshadowing the exact opposite.

For Want of a Pin Number, The Challenge Was Lost

For reasons that are not clear to me, everyone is headed for the Land Title Building in Philadelphia. By the way, Charles cannot spell Philadelphia. So, you’re just a math/science genius then, huh?

On the way there, the Southies are bickering and the CIA team is running second behind the geniuses.

In the lobby, Robohost calls to tell the teams that the building is 110 years old. They’ll find their clue on the 22nd floor, in a certain suite, but only one of them can go. The Geniuses are there first – Charles heads up to the 22nd floor. When the other two go outside, though, Robohost calls again to tell them that their teammate is searching for a plaque out on the ledge of the building. If he’s afraid of heights, someone will have to replace him.

Charles, meanwhile, has reached the suite on the 22nd floor, and gets a message about credit having wings. Apparently this tips him off to using his team Visa card number as the entry code to the suite. His fellow geniuses call to explain that he’ll be crawling out on a ledge 22 stories above the Philadephia streets; Charles claims to be pumped.

Outside in the hallway, Todd of the CIA team has arrived. Unfortunately for him, while he does realize he needs his Visa card, he does not have it – another member of the team does. He waits, and when the Air Force and Southie ledge-climbers arrive, he just goes in with them. Now, I’m confused – were they right behind him? Or could he have gone back downstairs and gotten the card? Or, you know, called his boys on the ground and said, “Read me the number”? At any rate, the delay means Todd will now be the last one to go out on the ledge.

Charles is first out, and there’s a rope attached to him. Because we’d just hate to lose Charles. He’s so full of warmth and cheer and good humor and kindness. Like when he wanted to leave Sam in the swamp. Anyway, on the ledge Charles gets a little scared, but instead of peeing his pants and screaming like a little girl (dammit!) he crawls on. The teams on the ground are all peering up at the building, trying to spot the plaque. Charles finds it under the ledge, and has to lay down on his stomach to read it. It says something about “Founders” and “Girard.” Francis, the local, screams excitedly that he, like, totally knows where that is, and Charles rolls into the open window to come back down.

Meanwhile, team CIA is kicking its own ass for not having that Visa card. They went from second place to last, and Todd can only sit in the suite and fume and worry about his vertigo while he waits. Matt from the Air Force goes out on the ledge next, and he’s rather scared too. When he finds the plaque, he reads it as “Founders Hall, Girard.”

Incidentally, Team Genius has driven off in a flurry of self-congratulation and confidence, and the first clue to me that this will end badly is that Francis isn’t even driving. Why not? It’s his city! But no, he’s just yelling at Sam. “This is your damn city, c’mon!” Sam says.

Back at the ledge, the Southie – I can’t tell them apart, but I think it’s John? – heads out on the ledge, scared, and Martin down on the ground points out that he, Martin, is the fireman with the dangerous job, yet isn’t the one on the ledge. However, John acquits himself well, gets the clue, and heads down.

That just leaves Todd, who apparently has both vertigo and a sinus infection. Great combo, there. His legs are shaking, and he says the ledge is smaller than his foot. Wish y’all had teamed with girls now, dontcha? Todd narrates every second of his fear to us and his teammates below – “this is probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever done,” he says – but he makes it. Hey! Didn’t the previews show someone falling?! Or about to fall? No one fell! What a gyp, man.

Genius Lost is …. Pretty Much Not Genius

During this, Air Force has wisely used their laptop to look up Founders Hall and Girard. They realize the hall is at Girard College. Maybe I’m wrong, but I seem to recall the “Geniuses” looking for Girard Avenue.

And, I’m right. The Geniuses are lost. Francis calmly says he is “full of quiet rage.” I’d suggest he channel that rage into looking it up, but hey, I’m not a genius, so what do I know?

The Southies actually do stop for directions, and miraculously find a guy sitting there with his own laptop, who knows where they’re going. By this point, Air Force is in first place. They reach Founders Hall and get a call in which Robohost rambles a lot about a shipping magnate who did something to play a key role in the War of 1812. Oh, I’ve found it, now – his name was Stephen Girard and he loaned the U.S. money during the war.

Why he’s suddenly the focus of this clue is beyond me, though. Teams must search the many rooms of the Hall to find the code to open their cryptex, which they picked up in last week’s challenge. Remember we weren’t sure (and by “we” I mean “I”) those things would work? Apparently they will if made very, very simply. As in, can be opened with a seven-letter word. The clue is in a secret room here, but can also be found in other places in the Hall.

The Air Force team enters the building but decides to turn away from a sign pointing them to the Stephen Girard collection upstairs, and start methodically from the basement. This seems like it doesn’t serve them well – they do find some planted “artifacts” and a shipping log, which they take, but they’re still searching when the other teams start arriving.

The Southies get to the building next, but they don’t go straight in. Why not? Because they’re fighting. Yes, three grown men, and their version of a fight is for two of them to repeatedly yell, “Shut up! Don’t tell me what to do! Shut up!” at each other, amid a series of bleeps that I suspect are the boys flavoring their “shut up” with some adjectives. They’re literally shoving each other, too. “We’re our own worst enemy here,” says the one who’s trying to break the brothers up. All this has me dying to scream “SHUT UP AND GET IN THE BLEEPING BUILDING” at all of them. Don’t they remember there are two other teams behind them?

Speaking of which – CIA has realized where they’re going, and humorously, they apparently accidentally cross paths with the lost “Geniuses”, thus helping lead the Geniuses to the right place. About this time the Southies quit their bitching and go inside to start the hunt; soon CIA and Geniuses are inside, too. The game is afoot!

Losing By The Razor-Thin Width of a Credit Card

The Air Force is looking for ship names, and eventually make their way upstairs. Matt reaches out to touch a floor-length portrait of Girard, and if he had, and pulled just a bit on the frame, he’d have discovered the secret room. But the girl tell him not to touch it, and they go elsewhere.

Then, somehow, the Air Force gets their cryptex open. The key word was Liberty, and I guess they just tried it at random. Anyway, the clue inside mentions the Library of Congress, and the call telling them to stand down says that’s the location of the seventh and last artifact.

That leaves the Southies, Geniuses and CIA. All three are running around the hall, crossing paths, and then the Southies are up in some attic, throwing out random words, like “Liberty Bell.” The one holding the cryptex tries it, and lo and behold, it works. They’re in the final three.

Downstairs, the Geniuses come upon that big portrait and they do touch it – and discover the secret room. “I touch everything I see,” Francis says. “Usually it gets us in trouble.” The Geniuses quickly slip in and shut the portrait door, and when CIA comes past moments later, they don’t even touch it.

The secret room is full of model ships and crates, and the Geniuses start pillaging around looking for a seven-letter ship name. Meanwhile, the CIA guys have started poring over an 1811 map of Philadelphia.

Editing, at least, makes this look neck and neck. Both teams to hit on Liberty as the answer at the same time. Both are opening their cryptexes. Who will it be?

Annnnnnddddd……it’s the Geniuses, by a nose! The call to them is congratulatory; the call to the CIA is not. CIA looks confused, as well they should be, since apparently they were just seconds behind. They’re also sad, but Todd says he had the most amazing time ever!

Next week:

Go to the bathroom before 9, because this is a two hour live finale. I’d bet it’s not all live, but whatever. Three teams will battle for “millions.” And I’ll try to stretch my attention-span.