Thursday evening at the Harleysville Hotel, family and friends were finally let in on Eric Martin’s happy secret:
The software engineer and two teammates won $100,000 in TNT’s wilderness dash for cash called 72 Hours back in November. The show was finally broadcast last night.
That’s two wins in a row by folks with Philly roots. On last week’s debut, Michelle Lamelza, who grew up in the Northeast, triumphed in her team's quest, which crossed a half-dozen South Pacific islands.
See article: “Philly fave wins wild TV treasure hunt.”
See slideshow: “19 reality-show champs from Philly (and 5 who just missed)”
Martin, 34, however, wasn’t exactly portrayed as the star of his team during their three-day endurance test on a rugged and remote stretch of New Zealand coastline, which they started with just one bottle of water per person, a GPS and a walkie-talkie.
Frankly, the self-professed “nerd” who wanted to win to help pay his mom’s medical bills, got a fair amount of airtime because his being “not in the world’s best shape” kept delaying his team.
He was seen lagging behind climbing a steep hill, slipping down off a big rock and swearing, then getting stuck dangling from a rope suspended during a Tyrolean traverse across cliffs.
“Get me the hell off of here!” he yelled.
Teammate Michael, the “gay dude” who’s nickname was “Cupcake,” went back on the second rope, tied a line to Martin, and helped pull him across.
Then Martin got chest pains and insisted on calling in a medic, who said, no, not a heart attack.
Single mom Marie, a heavy equipment operator, was anything but sympathic.
And yet their team was in the lead most of the time, apparently because Martin gave them a big edge with navigation.
Only briefly did the show let him explain how he worked for four years for a company that put maps into GPS’s. “So they might want to defer to me on that one,” he said.
The show also didn’t hint how, in real life, Martin’s far from all geek. He’s a ski instructor, volunteer emergency medical technician, and rock band member.
And he was thrilled when the final leg of the journey involved racing horses on a beach.
“Finally something I’ve done before! And I get to sit on my backside!” he said.
Their Red Team was soon galloping away from the competition, though Martin again got winded in a cave, with Marie on his case.
Soon, though, they spotted the briefcase of cash half-buried in the sand, and Marie and Michael were hauling it back to Martin, because all three had to touch it to seal the win.
“It was a great time, and at the same time it was absolutely hell.” said Martin, who learned about the show’s auditions from Craig’s List. “
Nevertheless, about seven months later, he’s hankering for more adventure.
"I'm definitely kind of getting the itch again,” he told Philly.com.
Martin, who keeps in touch with the other competitors, mostly through social media, recommends others pursue their own dreams.
“Give it a shot,” he said. “You never know, and you might learn a few things along the way.
“I definitely learned not to be too proud to ask for help,” he said. That was his “big takeaway.”
Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.