Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kathy's Friday Jeopardy Episode

Yeah, that’s right. I’m finally getting around to writing about my second episode of Jeopardy now. What do you mean it’s not timely? It was only two and a half years ago that I was on TV.

Just to recap in case you’d like to read about the rest of my Jeopardy! experience, there’s the try out, my preparation, my strategy, the trip there, the Green Room (continued in a second post), random Jeopardy! arcana, the Thursday episode (where - spoiler alert! - I win), and the Winner’s Circle interview.

And then there’s the Friday episode.

Maybe I’ve delayed writing about it because that episode is a little painful to rehash. It’s also a snooze to watch. That’s right - it’s actually boring to watch myself on TV!

So where did I leave off? Ah yes, the awkward Winner’s Circle interview.

How does it feel to be the Jeopardy champion? Apparently crazy-eyed.

So as soon as my Winner’s Circle interview ends, Ari Stern’s and Mary Van Tyne’s names are drawn as my competitors for the Friday show. I quickly do a clothes change in the Green Room (and forget to change into the other shoes I brought and needlessly gave myself a pedicure for), get my make-up retouched, and head to the stage again.

We’re told that if Alex can get ready in the ten minutes between shows we should be able to as well, but the difference is we have to additionally make sure our buzzers work, learn what cameras to look at, and things like that. Meanwhile, I assume Alex changes his tie and asks for more grapes to be peeled. (I’ll admit he pronounced the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallojokull, without a glitch in an earlier episode that day so it’s possible he’s busy reading over questions.) I’m so busy that it’s actually just before the game starts that I realize that I just won over $25,000!

We also record Hometown Howdies again and mine (I’m sure it wasn’t shown locally) is something like “See if I can continue my winning streak (that whole streak of one game) on Jeopardy!”

And the music starts (just hearing the theme now gives me chills) and we’re on! Here’s a link to the episode to follow along. Air date: 10/22/10.

The announcer says our names and we smile at the camera. 

Let’s meet our contestants...

:29 “And our returning champion...” What beautiful words.

Let’s see that picture again. That’s right, bitches. I won on f-ing Jeopardy.

:34 I do the “Wow so much money. Jeopardy is like a dream” shake of the head I learned from watching Ken Jennings.

Ken Jennings wrote his name differently each episode. For my second episode I decide to write in my little kid printing that I now use for cards written by the toddlers. (If you mess up writing your name you have to ask a technician to come over and erase it for you, so that kind of dampens your desire to write it over and over to get it perfect.)

My name is Kathleen. I write like a 7-year-old.

Alex arrives. Bow down!

:53 Alex totally calls me on my strategy of jumping around the board in the last game. “I’m going to have to be performing at my very best today because our champion Kathleen - who picks first - likes to jump around the board, doesn’t always start at the top.”

Alex must hate me; that must have driven him nuts.


Alex demonstrates how I “jump around the board.”

My cheshire cat face at getting called out

My reaction to Alex asking, "Kathleen, where do we start? I'm ready."

2:10 Stupidly, I decide that my strategy the previous game of ringing in before the light comes on is too risky, and that I should play it safe again and wait to see the light. Unfortunately that means I end up losing a question or two to Ari. I think I actually changed categories so that I wouldn’t waste TV questions (my strength) on a potentially flawed strategy. But not before I get a Gray’s Anatomy - a show I’ve never watched - question right.

2:20 Why did I guess that Pico della Mirandola and Boethius are from Spain? Is there really a glut of Spanish philosophers?

What is a country that has no philosophers?

2:24 We’ve only been playing for a minute, and I already don’t like the categories. You know when you watch on TV and it’s your dream board of Saturday Night Live History, Former Country Place Names, and Famous Kathys? Well, maybe that’s my dream board. Anyway, this wasn’t that board. I ended up with NFL Passing Leaders and Artillery.

I wear my heart on my sleeve as I grudgingly select the G-Men category.

2:30 I cannot ring in on time!!! I’m missing answers I know in the G-Men category like Billy Graham, Rudy Giuliani, Al Gore, and Dizzy Gillespie. I don’t want to be one of those douchebags that make a scene and distractingly mashes the buzzer and then makes faces when they don’t ring in on time so EVERYONE KNOWS THEY KNOW THE ANSWER.

3:07 We get the first of our many triple stumpers. Unlike the poker faces of my opponents, I make faces when I don’t know the answers.

What is “Cool it with the baffled expressions already”?

4:05 I look at the board and I’m in last place! Ari’s just killing me with buzzer speed. (Score: 400-2000-1200)

What is looking at the scoreboard and realizing “Oh crap. I’m in dead last”?

First Commercial Break and Interview

So during the first commercial break, Alex stands by the challengers for a keepsake photo. You only get one, so as a (trumpet blare, please) returning champion, I just get to watch. But then I forget I’m standing on a riser while Alex is behind me and I fall backwards. Thankfully a no-longer mustachioed French Canadian TV game show host is there to break my fall. I swoon.

(Oh yes, in case you’re wondering we’re on risers to make our height more uniform.)

Now imagine if Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wasn’t on a riser...

5:56 During his interview Ari talks about playing the theremin, and an animated Alex imitates one saying “I don’t play the theremin. I AM the theremin!” 

Alex and Ari the human theremins

6:11 My Alex interview is about my cartography background. I’m not sure where he’s going with his initial questions, hence my series of quizzical faces. 

Alex, you sly dog, where is this going?

I was warned that Alex might ask about cartography since he hosts the National Geographic Bee, but I feel unprepared. He asks what kind of maps I make, and fearing I’ll talk his ear off I end up keeping it too short. It’s my own fault for not being prepared to talk about what I do for 10 seconds. I hoped instead of talking about my old job he’d go more in the direction of my liking maps from a young age and how it all began when I used to memorize the atlas for fun when I was 9. (Side note: one of my saddest things in life is that the Bee started the year I became ineligible.)

What did I do for a living? Do you want the 5 second or 25 second version? Oh, you want the 10 second version? Oops, I didn’t study that one.

7:18 A Mel’s Diner question! Those Alice episodes I hated as a child yet watched anyway finally come in handy.

7:31 Reno 911. Another show I don’t watch, but figure out the answer anyway based on knowing that Reno is in Washoe County.

7:55 I start trawling for Daily Doubles in the Ancient Wonders category by selecting questions in the $600 and up range. I’m very mad at myself for hesitating on guessing Colossus of Rhodes since I knew that one was coming. 

My Colossus of Rhodes fail face

8:50 You can see Ari and me making the same face when we can’t ring in in time.

Blink if your buzzer timing’s off.

Here’s my intense I-know-the-answer-and-it’s-the-Hanging-Gardens-of-Babylon face.

9:35 I get the highest point value question in the philosophers category, and answer that George Berkeley is from Ireland. It’s no coincidence that I went to Berkeley, but probably 99% of Cal students don’t actually know who the university is named after. The only time I ever heard it mentioned was in a great class I took with a professor (Grey Brechin in the hizzy!) that name-checked him and spoke of Berkeley’s quote: “Westward the course of empire takes its way.” And when my dad visited Ireland, George Berkeley was mentioned during a tour, and the guide asked if anyone had heard of the California university with his name and my dad proudly raised his sweatshirt to reveal his gut, er... I mean his Cal Berkeley tee. 

Berkeley pride

Double Jeopardy

10:17 This is an example of the type of board I hate. The general theme is David Mamet and Glengarry Glen Ross but each category could be anything. I’m old-fashioned and want to know which category is geography, literature, etc. instead of all potpourri.

Worst Board Ever. And that “Your Fired” category turns out to be about artillery. Yay.

This really isn’t a great episode of Jeopardy and not just because I lost. There’s no drama, boring categories, and lots of triple stumpers. What, me bitter?

11:12 I’m 600 points behind Ari, but it’s the closest I am to catching him in Double Jeopardy.

600 points behind Ari at yet another triple stumper. This one’s about Eli Manning. Yeah yeah, I know it’s an easy one, all you football fans.

11:34 Should I stay in the “Third Prize” category after we’ve just had two triple stumpers in a row?

“Do I really want to say in this category?” faces

The clue next to my serious-answering face.

11:59 The Verdict, bitches (it’s the answer to the above clue). It’s my best answer in Double Jeopardy. Finally my hobby of memorizing the years movies came out pays off.

12:08 This part is so embarrassing. Here’s the clue:

I don’t even remember the category (A-B-C) being explained though of course it was - all answers need include the letters A, B, and C. I wish I could blame my answer (Rabat) on this, but clearly I should have known as soon as I saw “largest city” that the answer is Casablanca (not to mention the “Here’s looking at you, kid” stuff. I was so confident when I answered I almost insufferably rolled the “R” in Rabat.

“What is Rrrrrrrrabat?”

My series of “please find me a hole to hide” faces

After the show, I fixated on this clue and the Colossus of Rhodes ones and kept kicking myself for missing them, realizing that I would have won if not for that. Of course after the fact everyone thinks of moments like that, and I’m sure Ari can think of questions he missed, too. And Mary has her own missed Daily Double at the end of the game.

When visiting my friend Kashi a few weeks later, I commented on her Casablanca travel poster that a question about that city comes up on Jeopardy. When she watched the first day and didn’t see a Casablanca question before Final Jeopardy, she told me she knew then that I had won.

12:31 It’s pretty embarrassing that I didn’t get any of the real estate questions, yet we’d JUST bought a house and I worked in a real estate office. But those type of questions don’t work for my style of play. I’m looking for key words in clues, and not ones that involve actual, you know, thinking.

14:11 This is one of many times I am slow to pick a category because they’re all just awful. How did I get this board? Weaponry? For reals?

14:20 I ring in and then immediately regret it, thinking my answer is wrong. Instead I’m taken aback that my guess of “closing ranks” is correct! 

What is “Crap. Did I buzz in”?

What is “Crap. Did I buzz in?” close-up?

“What is there-is-no-possible-way-it’s closing ranks?” “Seriously? It’s right?!”

Ari at the thought of making it a true daily double.

Of course I got this one. Whenever we visit New York, Mark quotes this announcement for weeks after we arrive home. Even now “Stand clear of the closing doors, please” is echoing in my head.

15:50 Ugh. I have to pick a category again? I simply didn’t pay enough attention to categories - as in the rules governing them or what they are about - and didn’t pick up at all that “Firing” meant weaponry! I finally choose the Mamet category but don’t know how to pronounce his name and hope for the best. (Thankfully my pronunciation is correct and I don’t embarrass myself.)

16:18 Alex actually tells me “hurry” because it’s taking me so long to choose a category. I should be going for big number values but the categories are so bad for me I’m not sure I even want to. (I know I’m not alone in struggling with the categories since we have so many triple stumpers.)

My slowness at choosing categories drives one blogger batty. (Her write-up of this episode can be found here.) 

“Errrrr.... do I really have to pick a category?”

16:34 I identify Babe Ruth as the baseball player who hit 714 home-runs. This was a no-brainer for me since I was a baseball nut in grade school and actually wanted to be a baseball statistician, but Facebook friends (who didn’t know my grade school passion) were surprised I got it. Actually, my friend (and one-day champion in 1999) April’s Final Jeopardy was a really well-crafted clue related to this subject.

16:57 Mary finds the Daily Double I’d been looking for, and if you watch the video you can watch my smile of insincerity fade. 

“Oh, Mary, so happy you found the Daily Double... NOT.”

I’m so glad I didn’t get this one. She ends up losing $4000 on this, and I remember afterwards she was kicking herself because if she’d gotten it she would have finished in second after Double Jeopardy. And to add insult to injury her husband is apparently a gun fan. (The clue: If you're a Glock-17, you fire bullets of this metric caliber, equal to .35 inches. Answer: 9mm.)

Mary, upon opening the Daily Double. This really should be her Facebook profile picture.

17:14 You can see me look at the scoreboard at the end of Double Jeopardy. (Score: 8600-14200-2600)

My series of “Double Jeopardy” is over faces. The first: “Oooh, it’ll be an uphill battle.” The second: “Focus. You can do it!” And third: “I’ll smile big and just hope no one saw me make any weird faces.”

Final Jeopardy

During the break, I try to figure out my optimal betting strategy and do the math over and over and over again. I take forever double checking my wager because second place is the hardest to calculate for, and I don’t want to be the chump that lost on Jeopardy because I subtracted wrong. The Jeopardy handlers tell me to take my time and when I ask them they say they’re not waiting for me, and that someone else is still doing calculations, but when I finalize my bet, the game immediately continues. (Also, my friends in the audience tell me someone, slightly exasperated, asked Alex a question wondering how long we had to make our bets.)

I had people tell me after this episode that I bet poorly (thanks, by the way), telling me that I wouldn’t have won if Ari had missed the question. While that would be true if Ari bet nothing, in order to protect his win his best strategy was to protect against me doubling my bet. And by the way, Ari - who I believe is a post-doc in math - confirmed later to me that I made the optimal bet.

17:32 For the second day in a row I luck out in our Final Jeopardy category: The Oscars. (I used to memorize Oscar winning movies, actors, and actresses by year. For fun.) 

The category and the clue

Alex announces that it’s not an easy clue, which throws me because I immediately think of only one answer which turns out to be the right one. (Later, Lila tells me her friend John guessed the answer was Sylvester Stallone which didn’t occur to me, and must be why it’s not an “easy clue.” Stallone was 30 when Rocky was released.) I spend the rest of my 30 seconds trying to think of other options just in case.

It might look like I’m clueless to Alex (as he later suggests), but I’ve already written down my answer. Just racking my brain in case I’m wrong...

As the camera starts to pan to Ari, I’m suddenly aware of the camera showing us in turn while the Jeopardy music winds down.

I look at the others like, “I know I have this. Do your worst.”

Mary before and after learning she has the correct answer.

Alex says, “I believe Kathleen was struggling with this clue.” And I’m like “Bitch, please.”

Dam(o)n straight, I got it right.

Ari acts (I think) like he’s surprised at my score, but he must know he’s won.

18:54 I know I’m screwed when I see Ari smiling. Later Ari tells me that his answer came to him in the last 5 seconds but he wasn’t sure. It breaks my heart, but what goes around comes around since I got my answer the previous game in the last 5 seconds.

Ari’s win faces

(Non) Winner’s Circle

19:35 Time for the end of the show where we stand around and make awkward conversation with Alex. Note our standing positions. This is always the line-up after the show indicating who won first, second, and third place. For some reason second place means I get to stand closest to Alex. 

This chart shows the game dynamics. All the clues and answers from the game can also be found on that page from the J! Archives.

Now that game is over, I would love to see a snippet of my episode in a movie or TV show one day, you know in an episode where a character is shown to love watching Jeopardy. (This does happen! Really! I’ve seen it!)