Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kathy's Thursday Jeopardy Episode Part I: And it Begins...

Now that it’s been a year since I taped my Jeopardy! episodes (8/10/10), and after writing about the try out, my preparation, my strategy, the trip there, the Green Room (in two different posts), and random Jeopardy! arcana, I figured it was FINALLY time to finally write about my actual episodes.

See the Thursday, 10/21/10 episode here and (if you want) follow along below (several paragraphs down) as I talk about various questions. For all game questions, go to the Jeopardy! Archives for my game. If you watch nothing else watch the (big spoiler alert) part where I win. It’s a good ending. And I’m not just saying that because I (even bigger spoiler alert) won a crapful of money. It was definitely the most exciting game of the week.

Jeopardy! tapes a week worth of episodes in one day. So after a morning of watching the Monday-Wednesday games and eating lunch, we had another practice round. My friends in the audience were surprised that I skipped the Geography category in favor of Skiing (something I’ve never done before in my life). It’s probably stupid but I didn’t want my competitors to know my strengths.

Right afterwards, they drew our names out of a hat to see who would be in the Thursday episode and to determine our podium positions. Finally my name! I really didn’t want to be in Friday’s game lest I actually win, since then I’d have to come back. My make-up was re-touched and then we were back out again.

I was strangely not nervous all day long. Standing up at the podium just seemed surreal, and the 100 or so member studio audience made it feel more intimate - as though there wouldn’t be millions watching at home. There were many other piddly things in life I've been much more nervous about, and despite my fears lifelong of being on Jeopardy!, surprisingly this wasn’t one of them. I think it had something to do with having babies and realizing there are much more important things in life besides crashing and burning on Jeopardy!.

First they recorded our Hometown Howdies (here’s the video of mine).

Hey Bay Area, I'm Kathleen Mikulis from Mountain View. Watch me on Jeopardy! to see if I make enough money to actually afford living here.

Then everything happened pretty much in real time. The music started, and on cue I looked into the camera with a smile I had to hold and hold...

And it Begins...

Let's meet today’s contestants. Personally I like the hot stay-at-home mom from Mountain View, California.

:50 At the time I don’t get Alex’s joke about “casual Thursday” since I'm not one of the two male contestants who skipped wearing a suit jacket but I laugh anyway.

So the game starts. I realize immediately that my strategy of waiting until the light comes on to ring in is not working. (Contrary to what you might think, ringing in first on Jeopardy! isn’t about buzzer speed but buzzer timing. Just to recap how buzzing in works, there’s a stagehand that flips a switch when Alex finishes reading the question. If you buzz in before the light (not visible to the viewers at home), you are locked out from answering for a whole half second. It doesn’t seem like much but a half second is everything on Jeopardy!.) I’m up against a three day champion who is definitely at an advantage having been able to practice his buzzer timing.

I have to change to the riskier strategy described in Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy! of trying to anticipate when the stagehand will turn on the light to buzz in. It’s maddening because you waste several questions buzzing in too early or too late trying to get the timing right.

3:46 My stoner next door neighbor still teases me about my semi-soft ice cream guess. (The answer was fudge. As in the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival offers sauerkraut-flavored fudge.)

4:42 You can see me looking at the scores (3800-2000-200) right before commercial break and thinking maybe this going on Jeopardy! thing wasn’t such a great idea...

What is "Crap. Look at my score..."?

What is "Crap. Look at my score..." close-up?

How I felt going into the first commercial.

Next time: Kathy's Thursday Jeopardy Episode Part II: The Interview

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