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Alex Trebek called me a ‘saucy wench' and other Jeopardy! bits

CULVER CITY, CALIF. (Oct. 26, 2011) – “Jeopardy!,” America’s favorite quiz show®, is reuniting 15 of its recent champions for a head-to-head competition for a chance to win a quarter million dollars. The 2011 Tournament of Champions, beginning Nov. 2, will feature the show’s recent highest money earners, including the winners of last season’s College Championship and Teachers Tournament. Kara Spak on Jeopardy.

Spoiler alert! Don’t read if you don’t want to know what happened on Thursday’s “Jeopardy!”.

I lost on “Jeopardy!”

But it’s not over yet.

I played Thursday in the second day of the “Tournament of Champions,” the competition for the top 15 players from the past 16 months.

On the stage, the 30-minute show went by in about 30 seconds, a complete blur of not being able to ring in and then finally getting in and answering with a wildly inappropriate answer (“What is a threesome?” to a question about a love triangle). During a commercial break that followed, Alex Trebek called me a “saucy wench.”

Film preservationist Brian Meacham and I played Roger Craig, a computer scientist with the distinction of winning the most money in a single game ($77,000) and placing fourth on the list of all-time “Jeopardy!” money winners with $230,200.

Craig definitely won the most money in our game – neither of us could catch him.

That left one more option for us to advance to the semi-finals – wild card spots. “Jeopardy!” tournaments offer four of these for the top four money scorers who do not win their games. Contestants who haven’t played their quarter-final games are sequestered in the green room so they have no idea what the other players are betting.

In the month before the tournament started, while I was frantically cramming information about the solar system and weather patterns, my husband was studying an online archive of “Jeopardy!” games. He noticed a pattern in past tournaments where those in second or third place bet it all, thinking they needed a huge number to advance. He calculated that I should sit tight if I had $12,000. That should be enough to move to the semi-finals. If I had more or less, I should wager accordingly.

I moved into “Final Jeopardy” with $6,000 and struggled on the wager. The category was “Countries’ Highest Peaks” and I could only think of one country’s tallest mountain – America’s (Denali in Alaska). I assumed I would get it wrong so I wagered $12.

Much to my surprise I got it right, not because I knew what mountains the clue was referring to but I was able to ferret out a decent guess based on the other information in the clue. This put me into the second wild card spot, but there were still three games left. My score of $6,012 didn’t seem like enough money to get me into the next round.

After the game, Trebek seemed baffled by my wager. “Didn’t you want a wild card spot?” he asked while we chatted as the credits rolled. Somewhat still shell-shocked from the threesome answer, I tried to explain my reasoning. At that point, though, I could do nothing but sit and watch the next three quarter-final games to see if $6,012 was enough to get me through to the semi-final round.

You can follow along by watching the next three quarter-final games at 3:30 on WLS-Channel 7, or wait for the wild cards to be revealed at the end of the Nov. 8 game.