The series finale (yes, I said series, and I don't think I'm wrong about this) of our favorite currently running puzzle solving race game was divided into three acts, sometimes mixed together. I feel it is my obligation to separate them out for all six of you left reading this summary. With that introduction, let's go on with the show:
Act 1 - "Oh Say Can You See?" (Part 2)
Previously on the highlight of Laird's career, three teams had made it to Washington, DC to try to find the last artifact and the treasure. The clues eventually led them to Baltimore and the Key Industries factory. The Geniuses made it to the final chamber but were still searching for that last word to put into their cryptex. Air Force and the Southies were wandering about in separate areas outside. Who will win the treasure? That's what we're about to find out.
The Geniuses had been in the chamber for an hour and 51 minutes - and counting. They looked a little whipped. Charles, lead bright boy, said they'd tried every historical 5-letter word they could think of. Well, perhaps inspiration would come to them.
But it had better come quickly because the Southies found the entrance and started moving down. The Geniuses heard them from outside. They decided to stay quiet and not let on that they were already where their unknown opponent needed to be.
Meanwhile, Air Force also found the entrance. They met up with the Southies, who were still trying to figure out how to open that locked door. One of the fly guys figured out that perhaps the medallion they picked up on the boat a few hours ago (last episode) should go into the slot. They tried it and it worked. Now all three teams were in the chamber and all even.
The clock ticked away for all three teams - 5 hours, then 6 for the Geniuses, 3 hours+ for the others. They all looked like they'd been up for days trying to figure out a clue to a treasure of untold wealth.
It was Francis, the smart guy from Philly, who figured it out. He thought that perhaps it was the initials of his namesake, Francis Scott Key, was part of the code - FSK. But what about the other two letters? Well, let's try FSKEY to see if that works. Gosh golly, it does. The cryptex opened and revealed a spinner like you'd see on some board game. But this game had much higher stakes than what you'd find at the toy store. They put their spinner in the spot in the middle of the floor and spun it. It came up "right foot green" - er, I mean, star. They located the star on the near wall, and in an explosion of light and smoke, one final chamber opened. This one had the chocolate gold coins in it, and they were so happy. Though they were initially skeptical, the race was over, and Laird eventually told them so.
Laird then told Air Force and the Southies that they lost, not that it wasn't obvious by what they had just seen. Then some mysterious force (probably the producers) shuffled them out of there, so the Geniuses could celebrate in peace.
Act 2 - "The Treasure Challenge Sponsored By Some Insurance Company With Too Much Money And Not Enough To Do With It"
Laird greeted the ten weekly winners of the Genworth phone challenges - in person. They were:
Jeff from Baltimore; John from Eugene, Oregon; Rita from Lakewood, Colorado; Karla from Salt Lake City; Marissa from Aliso Viejo, California; Catherine from Newport News, Virginia; Gabe from Pleasant Grove, Alabama; Luann from Watertown, Connecticut; Scott from Brandon, Mississippi; and Helen from Chamute, Kansas.
They were standing in a line in front of our fearless leader near the Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. He informed them their next clue was waiting for them behind him and what they did after that was completely up to them.
"Good luck, travel safe... GO!"
OK, I made some of that up. But that start looked SO familiar...
The players reached the clue, which told them to find the building which once held the Star Spangled Banner. The drawing they were given was of the Smithsonian Castle, where there would be a lockbox waiting for the teams lucky enough to get there. The combination was 5013 - 50 stars, 13 stripes. The other twist was that there were only five clues for the ten contestants. The other five would be out. Scott, Luann, Karla, John, and Helen found their clues and moved on. The rest got "ELIMINATED" stamped on their foreheads.
The next clue gave them a key and sent them to a nearby statue of Joseph Henry, and told them to go where he was facing - the National Archives Building. While there, they would use the key to open some more lockboxes. There were only three clues, so the other two would be out. Scott, Karla, and Luann were the lucky three.
They were next directed to the Old Post Office Tower, where they would use the provided stencil of the Washington skyline to find their next destination. It turned out to be the National History Building. The first one there would win the $100,000. It was Scott that made it there first. He was quite happy and he made a call to his wife on his unidentified cell phone.
Act 3 - "Sixty Seconds and Counting"
The live finale was held in Washington, DC at some fancy pants auditorium. All the teams were there, and so was Laird. The Geniuses made a separate entrance. They greeted the other teams with hugs and such until Laird commanded them to come to where he was and answer some silly questions about winning the prize.
Questions were solicited from the peanut gallery through nbc.com, and some heavily censored ones got through.
But first, there was a video recap of the highlights of the season.
Ex-CIA was asked about what happened to cause them to finish fourth. They said it was very close between them and the Geniuses - so close that the producers had to review the tapes. It confirmed what they thought all along - CIA was a little slow and thus eliminated.
The Grad Students were asked about their best memory. Melissa said that it was getting off the Jefferson way back in the first episode being sick but still finishing second.
The Browns (specifically Keith) were asked about looking like a fish out of water in water. Keith reiterated that three weeks in the kiddie pool was not enough preparation for the show.
The Fogals were asked if they thought their tactics were ruthless. Certainly not, Pa said. Just competitive and fair. Though he did concede they overdid it on the river.
The Southies were asked about that river encounter and they described it for us. Ma and Kayte Fogal apologized to them.
Air Force was asked about the Fogals. They said they loved them, and said they conceded the race to them when it was down to those two in London. Awwww, isn't that special? Even more special is the fact that Brooke was pregnant.
The Hanlons got a special spotlight of moments, some of which hadn't yet made the air.
Mark (ex-CIA) wanted to quit his job immediately after the race, but was talked into just giving two weeks notice. He now has a new job in Florida.
The Young Professionals learned that they should have trusted their instincts, especially when comparing Mt. Rushmore with Mt. Teddy. More interesting was that Taryn wasn't there, and some guy was standing in his spot. I'm sure there was a story behind it, but no one told us.
Miss USA wanted respect for the beauty queens of the world, but they were frustrated by their lack of physical strength - especially at the dig in Georgia.
Also there was Scott, his wife, his kid, and Buzz Richmond, some random Genworth vice president.
The last question was, how much was the treasure worth? $3 million!*
The Geniuses and their loved ones seemed to be happy with that, and they mobbed the stage.
And so with that, Laird and his cast of media whores said goodbye to us, probably for good.
*"The $3 million is payable in the form of a monthly annuity payment to each winning team member paid over 25 years totaling $1 million, or any winning team member may choose to receive a cash prize equivalent to the present cash value of his/her annuity."