If you're not going to win $1 million, you might as well take home $100,000.
For the first time in American Ninja Warrior history, there was a $100,000 prize for the competitor who made it the furthest in the four stages of the national finals, even if he or she didn't reach the final buzzer and $1 million target.
Sean Bryan and Drew Drechsel were the only two ninjas to advance past Stage 2 in Monday's season finale, and they went head-to-head for the ultimate prize.
While neither reached the end of Stage 3 and gave himself a chance to climb the tower for $1 million, Drechsel captured the head-turning consolation prize by making it further in less time than his opponent.
The competitors who advanced past the city qualifiers and finals earned the invitation to the national finals in Sin City, but only 30 made it through the first stage and into Monday's episode. The finale featured Stages 2, 3 and 4, and Stage 2 wasted no time proving it was a daunting start.
Ninjas had to complete the following six obstacles in four minutes and 30 seconds to advance to Stage 3:
Epic Catch and Release: Swing a pipe and lock it in place before swinging to a platform with another
Criss Cross Salmon Ladder: Propel yourself back and forth with a bar up a ladder-like structure
Deja Vu: Unhook a bar and swing it to another side before doing so again
Swing Surfer: Take a long leap over water and keep balance on a big swing
Wingnut Alley: Swing over water on wingnut-shaped bars, a la massive monkey bars
Water Walls: Open a series of heavy doors and swim through them while holding your breath in the show's first underwater obstacle
A number of competitors fell to early exits, including some of the most notable names.
Daniel Gil—who was deemed one of the favorites by the broadcast—fell victim to the Deja Vu, which was a new obstacle and ended the $1 million dreams of eight ninjas in Monday's first hour. Elsewhere, Jake Murray—who was the fastest finisher in Stage 1—couldn't even make it past the first obstacle and fell on the Epic Catch and Release.
Even Jamie Rahn, who made it through Stage 1 despite losing a shoe and shedding the other, lost at Wingnut Alley.
At least rookie R.J. Roman unleashed an epic summersault move on the Criss Cross Salmon Ladder before he also fell on Wingnut Alley.
Najee Richardson was the first to get a taste of the Water Walls, but he ran out of time and breath merely feet away from the buzzer. He called it a "safety issue" for himself because he was getting lightheaded and running out of breath under the water at the end of the course.
It appeared as if nobody would make it through Stage 2 when more than half of Monday's episode passed without a triumph, especially after Richardson came painfully close. However, Bryan, who is otherwise known as Papal Ninja, had an answer by steamrolling his way through the obstacles and hitting the buzzer with a full 21 seconds remaining.
It took until the final competitor for Papal Ninja to receive company in the next stage, but Drechsel delivered with an even faster run. He hit the buzzer with 38 seconds remaining and set the stage for a two-man showdown in Stage 3 with either $1 million or $100,000 awaiting the winner.
Stage 3 featured no time limit and eight grueling obstacles testing upper-body strength, and Bryan set the bar by reaching the Ultimate Cliffhanger—the same place he lost on Stage 3 last year.
That put the pressure on Drechsel, who responded by also falling at the Ultimate Cliffhanger.
However, he made it through the preceding Crazy Clocks obstacle faster than Bryan, which gave him the $100,000 prize.