After solving a final task clue that proved so exhilarating that several of members of the competition's three remaining teams literally fell asleep while trying to solve it, the "Team Geniuses" team comprised of college students Charles Taylor, Francis Goldshmid, and Sam Khurana were crowned Treasure Hunters' winners during last night's finale broadcast of the NBC reality competition show.

"You've journeyed through more than 200 years of American history and you've used its knowledge to solve the riddle behind the treasure -- congratulations, the gold is yours," Laird Macintosh, Treasure Hunters' awkwardly stiff host, told the Geniuses via a cell phone video after they successfully solved the competition's final cryptex clue and entered a hidden underground chamber full of gold coins.

"My grandparents are retiring, my parents are retiring," Francis gushed after Laird confirmed the trio's victory. "Francis is going to be able to take care of his family and get to go to med school... Sam is going to be able to open his clinic, I for sure can pay for med school," Charles later added. "It's like somebody just reached down and said 'Here's a bunch of your dreams, go live them.'"

While home viewers only had to endure about 15 minutes of watching Treasure Hunters' three remaining teams pace around a clearly fake Egyptian tomb-like underground chamber in Baltimore and unsuccessfully attempt to guess the cryptex's five-letter code, the Geniuses (who had originally had a two and half hour lead on "Team Air Force" and "Southie Boys," the two other remaining teams) actually spent nearly seven hours attempting to come up with the cryptex's "FSKEY" (for "The Star-Spangled Banner" writer Francis Scott Key) solution.

After spending about 20 minutes revealing Charles, Francis, and Sam's pre-taped win, Treasure Hunters' switched over to a Survivor-like live reunion show format for the balance of its Washington, DC-based one-hour finale broadcast. However, rather than focusing on interviewing the thirty contestants that home viewers had spent the last ten weeks watching, the poorly produced live finale filled most of its remaining time with flashbacks of already previously seen footage and chronicling another pre-taped Easter egg hunt-level $100,000 competition between ten viewers who competed in the show's online game. With little time left to actually interact with the show's contestants, Laird (who appeared only slightly less wooden live than he had in the product placement packed show's cheesy cell phone videos that were used to communicate information to the competing teams) ended up repeatedly cutting off several of the contestants as they attempted to respond to his questions.

As the live reunion show ended, Laird finally revealed "how much the gold is worth" -- a minor detail that the show (which actually taped last fall) had apparently not yet revealed to Charles, Francis, and Sam. According to Laird's dramatic announcement, the gold -- repeatedly billed as "a treasure beyond imagination" in the show's pre-premiere promotions -- was worth a very imaginable $3,000,000 ($1,000,000 for each team member.)

However after Charles, Francis, and Sam finished their live, jubilant on-stage celebration, the show's closing credits revealed that Laird's "$3,000,000 prize" pronouncement was rather cruelly misleading and that, unlike nearly all other reality show prizes but similar to what NBC did with the $1,000,000 grand prize of its Summer 2003 For Love Or Money series, Treasure Hunters' "$3,000,000 prize" is actually "payable in the form of a monthly annuity payment to each winning team member paid over 25 years totaling $1,000,000; or any winning team member may choose to receive a cash prize equivalent to the present cash value of his annuity."

In other words, if Charles, Francis, and Sam want to collect their full $1,000,000 individual prizes, they'll each receive about $40,000 a year (before taxes) over each of the next 25 years. Should they not want to wait 25 years to collect their money, they'll receive (similar to the option offered to many state lottery winners) a substantially smaller lump sum amount. During For Love Or Money, Erin Brodie's $1,000,000 first season prize -- payable over 40 years instead of the Geniuses' 25 years -- had a lump sum pre-tax value of $465,000 (Erin later gave up the prize for an opportunity to successful double her money on the show's second season.)

Despite heavy NBC promotion and an executive producer's pretentious claim that the show (Imagine Television's first foray into reality television) would "raise the bar in reality TV," Treasure Hunters -- widely viewed as a Fox-like ripoff of CBS's The Amazing Race reality series -- has proven to be a summer ratings disappointment for the network. Last week's penultimate episode averaged only 5.0 million viewers and a 1.9/5 rating/share in the advertiser-desired Adults 18-49 demographic.