My Jeopardy! Adventure, Part 2: Finally here, and two forces of nature

(c) 2019, By Fran Fried

NOTE: Coming up on the second anniversary of the airing of my wild Jeopardy! trip (Oct. 17), it’s time to let this loose – the second of a three-part tale about the adventure of a lifetime. At some point, some of this will be incorporated into my albatross of a book. For Part 1, go here.

From the Jeopardy! home page the week my show aired. All dressed up on Day 1 but not called.


July 31st, 2017.

A bit of luck wouldn’t hurt. Being deliberately vague, I put up a post on the Book of Faces on this day before takeoff for Los Angeles and my Jeopardy! trip:

Hi kids. Pardon the cryptic nature of this. (This will all be revealed in time! Honest!) But I think I could use a little insurance mojo right now.

I’m gonna be laying low the rest of the week. Heading off to one of those adventure-of-a lifetime things. At the very least, it’ll be something fun to tell someone else’s grandkids one day. At the most, it’ll be a life-changer.

Paola [my bestie] and other friends keep saying “You’ve got this.” And I remember all those times over the years that Miss Cheryl [a very cool and beautiful friend from New York who has shown me much kindness at my low points] wrote me, at my lowest, “You’ve got this.” But more importantly, I’ve been telling myself “You’ve got this.” I’ve been relearning all the things I learned about myself through the transition.

Anyway, thanks for all your kindnesses. You’re all coming with me. I’ll hopefully be able to tell you about it this fall. I’ve got this.

And the good mojo poured in from all corners: over 300 likes and nearly as many comments of encouragement. It never hurts. Some figured it out and asked me on the down-low if it was Jeopardy! Even if I felt a little extra pressure to do better – to win at least a couple of games. As I said, I brought my friends and family and transpeople in general along for the ride, not to mention, I guess, my hometown. I also brought along my father in spirit; I wish he could’ve seen this. Maybe he did, except he was probably on the light years-long waiting list at the moment to get time on the course with Arnie Palmer, and in the meantime, playing a nice, leisurely round of 18,000 with my Uncle Gene and their golfing buddies …

Aug. 1st: Palm trees again at last!

I went to bed around 6ish the night before and was up around 1:30 to shower and do my last-second packing. I wanted to be out of the house sometime around 3:30 and, not knowing how long the TSA lines would be, park the car and arrive at the Bradley entrance around 5 for the 8:45 a.m. flight. (For non-Conecticutians: Bradley is Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, just north of Hartford.)

Apprehensive? Sure – I am before any flight. I hadn’t been west of the Hudson in the five years since I drove home – okay, a couple of times to visit friends in Upstate New York, just on the west side of the river, and I hadn’t flown in 6 ½. Plus, this Jeopardy! thing had an otherworldliness about it: This isn’t happening to me; it’s happening to someone else.”

I left at 3:30, and wouldn’t you know that Mom, early riser that she is, stayed up the whole night to make sure I was up and out of bed, and didn’t nod off until I left? I stopped at the Dunky D’s in Southington to pick up breakfast and had a leisurely drive, with no traffic on 84 or 91 that time of the morning, and I was actually surprised to see a line almost out the door for tickets and checking in luggage around 4:30. Actually, it was a dozen deep leading to the Southwest ticket counters; that put me at ease about my decision.

They do things a little differently at Bradley; the TSA inspectors are in the lobby, so once you check in and get your boarding pass, you bring your to-be-checked luggage over to them; they X-ray your bags and go through them right there before they go on the conveyor belt. I would check the suitcase, and bring along the carry-on bag, which had room for me to tuck my laptop inside once I got past the TSA scan.

The first and only time I had flown as Frannie 2.0 was when I came back to Prospect for Christmas 2010, and the TSA crews at both Oakland and Bradley were perfectly fine with me; no douchebags hiding behind their badges to sexually assault me. But that was seven years and one administration ago. In this era, where a lot of people, in power or not, feel enabled by their president* to do shitty things to others, I had no idea what to expect, but mentally, I was bracing for some bullshit as I went through the metal detector and scanner.

So once I dropped off my suitcase, I snaked along meant I didn’t have to open the laptop. Not sure why the government was showing me love, especially this the line to the agent who checked IDs and boarding passes; she scanned my license … and said, “Today’s your lucky day.”

“Huh?”

“Congratulations – you’re been selected at random for pre-screen, meaning you don’t have to take off your shoes and all that.” “All that” also meant I didn’t have to open the laptop. Not sure why the government was showing me love, especially this administration. But no looking too hard at gift horses for me – off to the much quicker pre-screen line.

After that, I sat at a seat in the hallway between security and the gates when I heard this deep voice say, “Excuse me, miss …”

It was Jeff Day. Prompting a “Holy shit!” and a hug from me. Jeff I’ve known over 30 years, and his wife, Ellen, a few years longer. He still does a show at WPKN, the long-established nonprofit radio station in Bridgeport, where I had a regular show for 13 years. He was with his brother Kevin. Wish the circumstances were better; they were headed to Florida to see their mother, who had a stroke. We walked down to their gate at the end of the terminal. I told them why I was there, and we caught up for a while. He said he’d known something was up with me, as he’d seen my cryptic Facebook post.

And in the midst of this, I heard a woman’s voice, low-key, coming from my left. It was Deb Sutfin. I’ve known her and her husband, Ron, for years as part of the New Haven alt-music scene. Anyway, Deb works for a software company and had to fly to Cleveland for the day, but she wanted to say hi before she had to board. Jeff and Kevin and I continued chatting for an hour before their plane took off; I still had two hours to kill, so I went back to the gate and opened the laptop and continued studying the timeline of British monarchy.

This trip, I just decided early on not to worry – Let go and let God, or however the saying goes. I didn’t worry about the plane taking off; besides, only a cruel God would let something happen to the plane after all I’d been through. Besides, I was flat-out exhausted. I was ready for a good night’s sleep, and I had just started my day. I’d been only getting four, five hours a night the last couple weeks, and that Monday night my body said uncle. So I was gonna sleep. And I slept nearly all the way to Chicago Midway.

I had an hour or so to kill there before boarding for LAX, so I stopped to get a couple of Char Dogs at the Gold Coast Dogs, as I hadn’t had a Chicago dog since the last time I flew into Midway, which would be Christmas break 2010. Then off to the gate … to find that the plane had crapped out. To be more specific, the AC had cut out. Not a good thing in August. So after about 20 minutes, they moved us all to another plane in another concourse. With the wait, it was an hour delay.

I slept on and off during the second leg, but was pretty wiped out when I finally arrived at LAX close to 4. From there, a 15-minute cab ride (all the cabs seem to be Priuses now) for 20 bucks to the Doubletree, and the money suck was on.

Two things were for certain: After five years since my move from Fresno back to Connecticut, it was nice to see real palm trees again; and the California sun is brighter than the one I’m used to back home. I felt a certain comfort about being back in California; for better and worse, mostly for better, it will always be in my blood. I just wished to hell I could see my peeps. They had my back at the weirdest time of my life, and I miss them a lot. So close to Fresno – a four-hour drive from L.A. – and so far. It would’ve been wonderful to rent a car, head up to the ’No and knock on my Fresno bestie Heather’s door. Dammit.

Once I checked in (and received my warmed-up Doubletree chocolate chip cookie), and plopped my things on the other bed in my double-queen room, I realized all the restaurants that looked so close on Google Maps were a good walk or a drive away, and I was tired and wasn’t planning to stay up late. Eat, go back to the room, cram some more and then bed early (which was actually closer to my East Coast bedtime). There was an open-space restaurant/bar in the lobby, so I said what the hell. Got the cheapest thing on the menu, a bacon cheeseburger, but subbed the fries out for a salad. And I asked the waitress, Asia, if she’d ever had the mango iced tea, and we got to talking. And we small-talked as I waited for my order, with the Angels game playing out silently in the background, me telling her about Jeopardy! (“Yeah, we get a lot of contestants”) and her telling me about the trip she had just taken to Vegas. Friendly faces – and ones that are genuine – are a wonderful way to put someone at ease on the cusp of a big day. And she said the mango iced tea was great, and I ordered it, and it was.

I returned to my room as the sun started to fade. I tried to study for awhile, and finally said screw it – I don’t know what they’ll ask, and if I don’t know, well, I don’t know. I turned in at 8 and set the alarm for 4, to be cleaned up and ready to go a little after 5. Not once would I turn on the TV my three nights there. Got up to pee at 1, and that’s when I realized that somewhere along the line I fucked up my left knee. I tend to hyperextend it sometimes in my sleep, and I have no idea how I do it. But I did it, and walking to the loo, with my knee snapcracklepopping, was excruciating. I was hoping my knee wouldn’t buckle on me. It’s bad enough I have a surgically repaired right knee already. But the more I walked, the more it loosened up, and I was able to get back to bed. The room was an icebox – the thermostat read 70, but in the bed nearer the window and the AC, it felt more like 40. Still, I was ready to nod off for a couple more hours or so. I was too tired to think about the big day.

Aug. 2nd: A little prayer and a big bus ride

This is not how I envisioned my big day to start.

I woke up around 4:30 Pacific Time, which was close to the time I’d be waking up for my job back East. That’s fine. What wasn’t fine was that I was suddenly hit with an unwanted earworm from the jukebox that almost constantly runs in my skull. You can’t write about music for 20 years, as I did, or DJ for nearly 30, as I have, or listen to the radio nearly all my years, without having some music popping up, even if just for a line or a swatch of a couple of bars.

The earworm was a sweet, wonderful song under any circumstance – except for waking up and getting ready to appear on Jeopardy! It was “Guess I’m Dumb” by Glen Campbell, departed from the coil just two months prior. He cut it in 1965, as he was moving from playing guitar in The Wrecking Crew to a budding solo career. Brian Wilson gave him the song as a thank-you for replacing him on bass for an Australian Beach Boys tour right after Brian’s breakdown. I love the song … but again, not at this particular moment. I let out an audible groan.

Negative earworms were no match for the power of Lady Soul.

I told myself, “Oh, no – you’re NOT going back down that rabbit hole! You’ve waited your whole life for this.” I picked up my phone, went to YouTube and found something much more uplifting: Aretha’s version of “I Say a Little Prayer.” At her peak, she could stir the dead, much less an alive-but-insecure game-show contestant. And for a kicker, in the name of being bedazzling, I followed that with Husker Du’s version of Sonny Curtis’ Mary Tyler Moore theme, “Love Is All Around.” I was back in a good place.

Besides, one thing I had done the previous month or so in the name of positive vibes was, from time to time, try to envision how many wins I’d have and how much money I would win. It’s something I used to do a lot during my frequent 12- to 18-mile bike rides through Fresno during my first unemployment. The numbers on the mental digital pinball counter would whirl madly, then spit out some random six-digit winnings numbers. A few times it was seven figures. And while I set five as the number of wins I wanted, minimum – anything past that would be gravy, as well as an invite to the Tournament of Champions – a couple times my mind wandered into the 30s. Once, I even entertained passing Ken’s 74 wins, but generally, I set my goals a little lower, more realistic. Yet, the whirling numbers kept spinning up until showtime.

Anyway, I had myself all together and ready to go around 6:30. No use staying around the hotel room, and no use trying to cram any more crap in my head. Headed down with my suitcase to breakfast. Last night, it was a $14 cheeseburger. This morning, it would be a $14 omelet with a side of hash browns and whatever coffee it took for me to be alert. Well, it certainly wasn’t after the first cup. I small-talked with Adan, my waiter, a gentlemanly older man with more than a touch of old-school panache. He, like Asia, told me he’d seen a lot of contestants. And I asked him for a refill. He picked up the pot – it was two feet from my face. I’ll take “Fucking Duh!” for a thousand … It was then that he told me one of the girls on duty had asked if I was nervous. I mean, I’m a natural fidget, but hell, I didn’t know I came off that anxious. “I’m always like this,” I told him. Maybe I’ve been in uptight Connecticut a little too long …

I eventually saw what looked like contestants grabbing seats in the lounge and in the lobby. Obviously, a sailor in dress whites is gonna stand out; I wasn’t sure whether he was a contestant or stationed nearby. A young woman in a black dress. Another woman, a redhead in a sweater, skirt and yellow knee-highs that vertically read BEERS in red. A larger guy, also youngish, with a beard and glasses. I wasn’t sizing up contestants, just curious as to whom I might be playing against. As for me, I was dressed in my job interview regalia – black tank top and cardigan, black skirt – with black leggings and the new black Mary Janes. I also wore a red-and-black coral necklace that one of my former fellow Bee copy editors, Sarah, had made; she sent it to me out of the blue right after my father died 14 months before. It’s one of my favorites, and came with a dose of good juju.

A tall blue Mercedes van pulled into the circular driveway and just past the main entrance, at 7:15. The driver, an older, mostly bald, burly man in a white shirt and tie, didn’t get out. Rather, he kicked back to take a nap. From my spot, a distance away, I sensed some anticipation and nerves. Redhead was pretty antsy. About 8 o’clock, she walked out to the van to see what was up; the driver told her 8:15. Adan gave me a Starbucks to-go cup, and I got up and slowly made my way over to the rest of the assembled mass.

The driver finally came in to get us, load our bags in the storage, and get us situated. There were 10 of us. We were a pretty broad demographic cross-section: two Asian men in their 20s or 30s; a young Japanese-American woman in her 20s with a vividly cool shade of long blue hair, whose family had all shown up, and whose father (who gave off a seriously hella California vibe: glasses and a long, gray hair in a ponytail) boarded to give her one last hug; Redhead and the Navy lieutenant, both in their 30s; the big bearded guy, white and in his 30s, it seemed; and a middle-aged woman from Connecticut who didn’t quite start her life being female.

Big Bearded Guy, named Chris, broke the ice as we headed off. In a booming voice that fit his body and personality, he asked where we were all from. The lieutenant, next to whom I was sitting, was Manny, a flight officer based in Washington state. The redhead was Scarlett, from Tennessee. The woman in the black dress was Laurie, from North Dakota. The blue-haired girl was from L.A. Chris said, apropos of nothing except breaking further ice, “There are two types of contestants: comic relief and serious ones. I’m comic relief.”

As we headed up Sepulveda Boulevard, I noticed a metallic lime-green mid-’70s Eldorado, a serious pimpmobile, on a jack in a garage out the portside window where Manny was sitting. “That’s a cool car,” I said. Fantastic-looking cars are one thing I miss about California. In Fresno, I looked forward to the next-to-last weekend of March, the dates of one of what was one of the best custom car shows in the world, the Fresno Autorama; and the second Saturday of April, the Tower District Car Show, with several hundred cars, drivers and trailer queens alike, lining the streets of my hangout neighborhood. I mean, my hometown has a great car show the fourth Sunday of each August, which draws about 700 vehicles, but in California, vintage cars are much more plentiful, and out in the wild year-round.

Anyway, Manny missed the Eldorado, but I told him about how cars were something I missed about California, and he and I got to small-talking about them. Manny, a stocky, brown-haired man, is a quiet guy, a family man – a family man who just happened to fly jets for the Navy and have a passion for Formula One. “I like fast things,” he told me with a grin.

It took about 15 minutes of red lights before we finally turned right onto Culver Bouevard, then a left, and … this must be the place. Sony Pictures Studios. This ride is really about to begin.

Entering the studio are today’s contestants …

The van stopped inside the main gate. Lauri Janover of the contestant crew, glasses on and clipboard in hand, was there to greet us and check us in as we stepped off. She had a big “Hey, Fran! How are you?” and a hug for me as she checked me in. Then, I felt like I was back at the airport. Or a courthouse. Or a combination of both, only outdoors, which does sound like the backdrop of a weird dream, doesn’t it? That’s because the Sony security guys have you place your baggage on the table and open it, then you go through the metal detector. Then, once you’re inspected, infected, detected and all that Arlo Guthrie sorta stuff, you’re fine. Glenn Kagan, one of the senior contestant coordinators, introduced himself and loaded our bags on a dolly to wheel inside.

And once we were all through, Lauri led us around to a left turn, then another, and at a corner, the entrance to Studio 10. The home of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. And in case you’re wondering, the backlot looks pretty much like everything you’ve seen in films about Hollywood since the ’30s: tall, block-long California beige buildings; people and golf carts and bicycles moving in every which direction. A lot of TV series are shot here, as well as films.

On the way there, Lauri told us that this was the first day back from summer vacation, but it was actually the start of the fifth week of the season. They had shot four weeks ahead of time in anticipation of a writers’ strike that never materialized.

We walked in, and to our left was the entrance to the studio. To our right, we were greeted with a life-sized cutout of the Trebek and a glass case that lined the right wall, loaded with rows of dozens of gleaming Emmy awards.

And the door on the left, with the star on it, was the green room. (And this green room, like so many, is painted white.) A long table sat immediately to our right as we walked in, with the makeup studios just past it. In front of us, there was a closet for us to leave our changes of wardrobe; around the corner of the closet was the champion’s dressing room, with its own star on the door. Along the back wall were a mini-fridge with water, soda and juice; above it sat a shelf with bananas, apples, donuts, cookies and granola bars. In the far right corner was the loo. In between were a sofa and chairs. The walls were decorated with posters of Ken Jennings and the show’s all-time money-winner, Brad Rutter – Contemporary This-Could-Be-You. Very tasteful. All the comforts of sequester. This would be our nerve central for the day, maybe longer if we were lucky. As you can imagine, we were kept here when not in the studio, as the crew shielded us from the rest of the universe in the name of keeping the game level.

Anyway, I met more contestants at the studio. Like Rich Coble, a lawyer from Philadelphia, who, as I discovered, also grew up in Connecticut (Bridgeport); Like Emily Wilson, seemingly late 20s, who lives in Bed-Stuy by way of Cleveland, works at a nonprofit elsewhere in Brooklyn, who had an engaging smile.

And then there was Austin. Or, as Lauri said to us, “I don’t want to alarm you, but you have a nine-time champion in your midst.” And I heard at least a couple of sucked-in breaths, and maybe a couple of people’s sphincters did the tighten-up at that point.

Fans of the show, as well as news and pop culture, know fully well by now of Austin Rogers, the bartender from Hell’s Kitchen who made his way into the Tournament of Champions, and onto The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (who, if I remember right, drank at the bar where Austin worked), and among the annals of the greats – arguably among the most famous contestants in the history of the show, along with the Ken, the Brad, and Watson, the IBM computer that made mincemeat out of the aforementioned pair for fun and money and a chance to make computers frighteningly smart and allow them to someday take over the planet.

I took the news about the 800-pound gorilla in our midst (that’s a metaphor, kids! A metaphor!) with an even demeanor. I was ambivalent about whether I wanted to face him, especially in one of the first games. I mean, on one hand, he must be doing something right to mow down so many intelligent people like Godzilla on a night out in Tokyo (and after we just finished rebuilding the damn place!). On the other, do you know how cool it would be to unseat a nine-time champ?

But in the moment – considering his shows wouldn’t air until October, and the fact that I had just met him – I just knew he was some one-of-a-kind force of nature, possibly from another planet. Chris the computer guy from Arizona was actually wrong on the bus: Austin was both comic relief and was there to win. And big. And had already won over $300K by the time we met him. (Actually, $332,400; not that I’m counting …) And it was killing him that he had to stay quiet about it six extra weeks, into October, because of the odd break in the schedule.

He was a bundle of nerves, funny and anxious and a little neurotic in that professional comedian sort of way. And, as fans would soon know, had his own distinct style: rolled-out-of-bed-unruly shock of brown hair, full beard, thrift-shop blue suit and brown dress shoes. And next to no filter. When Trebek asked him on the show that afternoon about his wardrobe, he explained that, except for one black suit, everything he wore was from thrift shops: “People in the Upper East Side will completely give away a lot of good things – except healthcare, apparently.” “That’s coming out in the edit.” He then asked Maggie Speak, the producer in charge of the contestants, “Did I really say that?” (He did, and actually, it stayed in.)

Anyway, he seemed nice enough, down-to-earth enough. I asked him a stupid question as an icebreaker of sorts: “Are you wearing a hockey playoff beard?” He said no. I told him how I had gone to Hell’s Kitchen one day the summer before. (I had briefly filled in for a friend, stringing broadcast and Web copy for ABC Radio News in Midtown, and met up with an old Fresno friend at a bar on Ninth Avenue after work.) I said, “I couldn’t believe how gentrified the place has become.” “Don’t get me started,” he said with disgust. He began working in bars there years before the wealthy took over the neighborhood, as, sadly, they have most of NYC now. I told him and Emily about my experiences with the takeover of the young rich clones – having lived in Greenpoint the first four years of my life; having gone to my share of hardcore shows at A7, on the Lower East Side, in the early ’80s, and how so many places are now long gone. Even from four summers before, when I would hang in the City on Fridays when my shift as a news copy editor at MSN ended at noon, rather than taking the train back to Stamford and sitting in a 20-mile traffic jam on 95 in the heat of summer. A lot of places – just plain gone, or gone generic.

It was small talk, getting-to-know-you talk among strangers, and it was actually a good experience. There was not one bad egg in the bunch of contestants; everyone was down-to-earth. It would be competitive, but there was a certain degree of respect. We were all qualified, all good enough to have gotten through the gauntlet and to Culver City at last. We were all there for the same reasons: to fulfill dreams, to maybe win some money, maybe enjoy a certain bit of fame, show the world that we weren’t stupid. No dummies were we. We were all in the same boat, or at least the same green room.

About 15 minutes after we arrived, Corina Nusu walked in. She was the official, no-nonsense member of the crew. She went over all the rules with us, just so we were all on the same page, and then she had us come to the table, find the places at the table with our names on them, fill out more paperwork, as if we hadn’t filled out enough already, and Lauri checked our driver’s licenses and Social Security cards as we waited our turn to see the two makeup artists in the back.

Austin and another contestant went first, and once I was done with the forms, I sat in the makeshift lounge and small-talked with Manny and Emily. About midway through the process, I was called in and sat with Lisa; she was about my age, maybe older-but-looks-years-younger, slight, brunette, stylish, serious dark brown eyes. She had a gentle and reassuring way about her, and I pictured my pal Miss Cheryl, who worked as a makeup artist for a cable network back in the City.

I had put on just the faintest bit of eyeliner and a light cover of powder foundation before I left, to look presentable and not scare anyone, knowing I would have to take it off, which I did first thing.

“Could you make sure you hide all my chins?” I asked half-jokingly.

“Oh, stop,” she said.

The last time I had had a real makeover was three summers before, in Stamford, at a Bare Minerals store on a beautiful girls’ day out with Hollas Rivera, an old New Haven friend with whom I had reconnected that summer. (Crushingly, she died suddenly three days before my show aired.) I don’t mind makeup artists working on me, as I’m always curious as to what they’ll do and how they’ll interpret me. (It’s not like the haircut days of my boyhood, when I’d get paranoid about the barber or stylist cutting it too short.)

As Lisa progressed, I mentioned, “It takes a lot of work looking natural.” “Yeah,” she replied. “We have to. The HD cameras are brutal on you.” The end result: She couldn’t totally obscure the extra chin – I mean, who can do the impossible without Photoshop? – but she did a good job darkening the soft white underbelly of my face. The eyeliner didn’t have the upturned cat/batwings I normally wore, but I looked nice. I looked presentable. I looked ready to play.

Once my enjoyable interlude in the chair ended, I grabbed a banana and a little duckpin bottle of water and went back to the table. And once Corina and Lauri had the crowd warmed up, it was time for the main attraction – Maggie and her natural, raspy burst of energy. She talked to us for at least 20 minutes, telling stories and preparing us for what to expect.

“But most of all, have fun!” she implored. “I had a girl here last year who came in second, and she was really upset. I told her she did great. She said, ‘But you don’t understand’ – and we don’t, because we’ve never been where you are – ‘This was my Olympics!’ And I told her, ‘Yes! And you won a silver medal! There’s no shame in that. They’ve had 30,000 people take the online test each of the last two years, and only 7,000 passed the test, and only 400 a year get to the show. That’s huge! You’re among the 1 percent!’”

The only time I’ll ever be in the 1 percent … She’s right, of course – but still, I didn’t want to be one of the thousands left on the scrap heap of one-and-done.

All the while, the house photographer, also named Lisa, was snapping candids. She got me to pose next to the winner’s dressing room. I told her I didn’t know whether this was foreshadowing or me jinxing myself. She chuckled. As we departed the green room, she had me pose again, this time with life-sized cardboard Trebek. I put my arm around him and looked over at him. “That’s great,” she said. I don’t know if the shots ever showed up anywhere.

As we left the green room en route to the studio, there was a silence and maybe a sense of awe, at least from me. We walked down the passageway to the first portal on the right, the entrance to the audience seats; to our right, in the second through fourth rows above the contestant crew’s table on the stage floor, were our seats; the civilians sat across the aisle and the rest of the way down. And we saw the enormity of scale of the studio for the first time.

The studio audience. You feel you’re on stage at a black-box theater, not in front of 9 million viewers.

The studio audience was small and comfortable enough for me – maybe 200-250 seats, about the size of a professional black-box theater (I immediately thought of Long Wharf in New Haven and Hartford Stage). But the stage area is massive. Mentally, I had long ago prepared myself for the fact that the stage area would be large, but not this cavernous.

The contestants sit in the section nearest the podiums, behind the contestant crew. And one of the rules is that you’re not allowed to talk to, or even make eye contact with, the rest of the audience, especially friends, families and significant others. Just keeping things on the level. The clue crew and the producers sit beneath the far left section of the audience. Next to them is the podium where Johnny Gilbert stands. Just past his left is a bank of two giant-TV-screen sized video monitors, where the video and photo clues are shown. Beyond that stands the game board; it was hard to gauge from across the room, but it looked to be not quite 20 feet high; maybe 18, and it had to be about a third the height of the ceiling. (It’s been a while since my days estimating the lengths of golf shots as a sportswriter.) Hanging above and in back of it are three scoreboards, corresponding to our positions onstage. After a gap, there’s the partition from which Trebek emerges, leading out to his podium and a chair at back center stage.

A contestant’s-eye view of the game.

Near the front of stage right, directly across from the board, stands the bank of three podiums. And we would spend much of the next couple hours getting acquainted with it … over and over.

Each podium contains a buzzer, and an electronic screen on which to write our names and, later on, our Final Jeopardy answers. On our sides of the scoreboards you see at home are a horizontal strip of white LED lights, with a red light centered atop it. The white lights, along with the strips of LEDs that line the top and sides of the game board (which you also don’t see at home), let you know when to buzz in; the red light lets you know it’s your answer. There’s also a Sharpie on the left of the console with a piece of green scrap paper on which to figure our final wagers. In between each podium is a panel, an anti-cheat device, that’s raised before Final Jeopardy. That was new this season.

And, oh yeah, the hydraulics. One of the things you never see – and maybe never give a second thought to – is why everyone is the same height. Yep – we stand the rectangular risers behind the podiums, and the crew raises and lowers the risers to even us out.

Also new this season: Instead of Alex conferring with the contestants in the middle of the stage floor after the show, he was coming to us and small-talking the show out. I wear a lot of black because it hides the weight. But not nearly as well as hiding behind a podium. It meant I could’ve gotten away with several tops and not worried about bring extra shoes or skirts. But then again, where’s the fun in that?

We spent what seemed like two hours (and maybe was, though I’m not sure, as we leave our phones in the green room) doing the J! equivalent of hurry-up-and-wait: Taking turns, three at a time, coming down from the audience and sitting in the bullpen of seats next to the contestant crew, waiting to take places, one or two at once, at different podiums; getting battery packs strapped to us by Mitch, the mic tech, for our lavaliers; the crew raising and lowering us at will; trying us out at several sound and lighting levels and camera angles, with the makeup artists on standby in case of cosmetic adjustment; shuffling around to the other two podium positions.

In the meantime, the crew ran through showing the clues on the game board, because after a long summer break, there were bound to be computer glitches to work out (and, indeed, there were some). John Lauderdale, the stage manager, put us through the process, which also included how to sign our names on the scoreboard, and how to place our Final Jeopardy wagers. (Figure out your bet on the scrap of green paper with a Sharpie, but use the electronic pen – NOT the Sharpie – on the glass board in front of you, on which you’ll write your answer and wager.)

Somewhere in the midst of this, the audience was brought in to take in the pre-game prep. While all our business was going on, Johnny, in his trademark black nylon jacket, came out to warm up the crowd and take questions and answers. He had just turned 93 three weeks before, and in the third game of Austin’s run, he was acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records for having the longest career as an announcer for the same game show, 32 years. And he still walked well and his voice was still resonant. Bless him. And at some point, he would say my name on the air.

Let the games begin

Sometime past noon, they had finished the process, and were ready. And after pulling two index cards out of a bag, Maggie called out, “And our first two contestants are … Rain … and Rich!” Rich being the aforementioned Mr. Coble; Rain was Rain Dunaway, a University of Louisville med student who told Trebek during the first break that she passed her school interview after mentioning she would be auditioning for the show the next day. They drew index cards again for positions; Rich got the middle spot. They would be the first to face the talented Mr. Rodgers. They went back to the green room for last-second makeup touches and, if needed, bathroom breaks. They then took their places.

And yes, it was time. The countdown … 3 … 2 …1 … the 3D graphics appeared. The music was brought up … “This … isssssssssss … Jeopardy!

Sitting up a few rows, far away from the stage, everything seemed small, even more so because of the way a TV exaggerates proportions. I sat back to enjoy, to absorb, to study, focused on the video screen.

And we got our first look at the Phenomenon of Austin. Johnny introduced the first two contestants; the usual smiling headshots from Rain and Rich.

“It’s a puppy!”

And, our returning champion … intent expression, looking down and to his right – pantomiming stretching out and blowing up a long balloon, then twisting it into a balloon animal, holding it up to the audience, mouthing “A puppy!” with a huge smile, then popping the poor imaginary critter with an imaginary pin, with impunity. It was funny, a refreshing break from the usual … but “What the fuck?” was running through my head. It was clear that he was some sort of force the likes of which the show had never seen. And at that point, he had 332,400 valid reasons to be himself.

And out stepped Trebek, dapper as always, doing some weird sort of Austin-style miming with his hands. Alex explained the scenario: Austin had already qualified for the Tournament of Champions, but if he kept on winning the entire week, he wouldn’t be eligible for the 2017 tournament, which would air two weeks later. And with that, on with the show …

The opening categories made me think, “Maybe I should’ve wanted to play him first off”: Video Games, States by Colorful Locales, Third Time’s a “Cha”rm, Law Slaw, Translate the Noted Pair, and Classics on Audible. Austin led off with Video Games, got the first question right, and buzzed in on the next one, even though he was uncertain: “What is Frogger? … is not right.” Alex responded, “Well, yeah, ‘What is Frogger?’ is right.’” To which he let out a loud, surprised and thrilled “Ha!” as the audience laughed. And he ran through the category, capped off with a Daily Double; he whatevered, “Yeah, yeah; $2,000” … and then got it wrong. (The subject was Monument. I would’ve whiffed on it, too.)

“So we’re now tied,” Trebek deadpanned, again to laughter. The host was having fun with him, even kinda subtly, good-naturedly, taking the piss out of him. But it was pretty clear that Austin would be in control, even when he missed one. At the first break, he was up a K, at $2,800.

Here’s what you miss at home during the seemingly endless stream of med commercials and local TV station news promos: The crew makes adjustments as needed; the clue and contestant crews confer among themselves; one of the crew brings out duckpin bottles of water, numbered so we don’t drink the wrong ones; and Trebek walks out to the audience to talk and to do a little Q-and-A. But not before he stops behind the podiums to take our me-and-Alex headshots. Essentially, we’re grinning from ear-to-ear, while the host peers over our right shoulders and gives what I call The Great Stone Face: this blank, almost bewildered expression.

With all that out of the way, on to the post-commercial interviews. Rich talked about his brush with showbiz, entering the Tom Thumb contest at Bridgeport’s Barnum Festival as a kid (“I wasn’t thumby enough”). And Austin gave a shout-out to his brother, deployed with an Army engineering company in the Middle East; “I just want to say, ‘Hey, K! I guess we’re both in desert wastelands. L.A. joke!’ Up top!” he barked to Trebek, as he and Alex shared a high-five. Clearly, Alex was having fun with this.

“Up top!” Maybe the only time Trebek has ever done a hi-five on the show.

Austin did lose the lead momentarily on a wrong “Cha” answer, but by the end of the first round, he had $5,400 to Rain’s $4,600, while Rich was at 0. But the drama was over fairly quickly in Double Jeopardy; Austin began moving through the board like a hot butter knife; by the time two categories were cleared and he hit the first Daily Double, he was up to $9,400, to Rain’s $3,800 and Rich’s $800. He bet $5,000 on Something About Mary; he snapped his left fingers in the air, pointed, “What is typhoid?” and kept right on, wrapping up the board with a Bond Bombshells clue for $1,200, where he let his inner little boy fly as he chuckled, “What is Pussy Galore?” Going into Final Jeopardy, he had $22,800, $15,400 ahead of Rain. In Final, Rich answered “What is I had fun” to the clue in Historical Areas and wound up with $1. Rain guessed wrong, but finished at $3,400. Mr. Rogers, who some purists would say had a lot of gall, also had Gaul, for the correct answer, worth another $9,000. That would be $33,000 for the game, and a running total of $365,400 after 10 wins.

At that point, I was still alternately relieved that I didn’t have to face him the first game, but also thinking, seeing some of the clues I got that he missed or didn’t answer, that maybe I could beat him. (Just because I was watching from the studio instead of the living room didn’t mean I wasn’t saying the same things some of you do as you watch the show.) It all depended on buzzer speed. Was I quick enough on the draw? A dent in the armor of confidence, to be sure. Gemini that I am, I would remain ambivalent.

So the 10 of us waited around as the crew unplugged the microphones and battery packs from the contestants, and ran through whatever technical matters they needed to do to set up for the next game. And did the pins-and-needles thang as the contestant crew prepared to draw index cards out of a bag to determine which two of us got to face Austin. It would be Sarah Favorite, a grad student and healthcare specialist from Williston, North Dakota, who drew the No. 3 position; and the self-described comic relief from the bus ride, Chris Cardinal, a software entrepreneur from Phoenix. And for his 10th appearance, Austin conducted the Imaginary Canned Orchestra of the Air as Johnny introduced him.

“Chris and Sarah, you’ve gotta be on your best today. Good luck,” Trebek said. And away to the game board. Sarah and Chris got on the scoreboard first, but their leads were short-lived, as Austin swooped in. And kept going. He would hit the first Daily Double for $1,400 right before the first break, and went into the break up $2,000 on Chris and $2,200 on Sarah.

From there, it was just pure amusement. Trebek misnomered Austin as “Austin Rivers,” and asked, “What do you want to talk about today, champ?” “I don’t know, dude; what do you want to talk about?” (History? Perhaps the

Not to be confused with Austin Rogers.

first time anyone has called Alex “dude.”) They settled for him riding to and from work on a bike. He talked about how he had naming contests for his bikes through the years, from James van der Bike (wrecked) to Bike Tyson (stolen) to his current two-wheeler: “The overwhelming vote was Alex Trebike, but I did not allow it, “’cause that’s an insult to an august man, so I went with Spokey Robinson instead.” Trebek really was enjoying this. So was everyone watching. I mean, this was good television. It was entertainment, as much comedy as it was quiz show. And while it wasn’t quite runaway territory – yet – Austin finished the first round with $6,000, to Chris’ $3,400 and Sarah’s $600.

I knew many of the answers in the round – and one of the categories in Double was The Newspaper Game – and I figured I could give Austin a run … that is, if I could beat him on the buzzer. I just didn’t want to face the possibility of going home on the first day – or before Ms. Just-Above-Minimum-Wage at least got a damn lunch out of the deal. In a long-winded way, I’m saying that yes, I remained firmly, noncommittally, ambivalent about wanting to face him.

Anyway, Austin’s pullaway in Double Jeopardy was slow and subtle, after Sarah got three of the five clues in At the Opera. (And the Connecticut in me made me want to say something when Trebek, a notorious stickler for pronunciation to the point of taking away points from contestants, pronounced the Thames River – site of the Yale-Harvard Regatta, a 19th Century Sports clue – as “Tems,” like the river in London, rather than the correct “Thaymes.”)

And actually, Chris caught the next Daily Double, in The Newspaper Game, bet $5K on the London paper The Telegraph, and, with $11,200, got within $3,600 of Austin. But a few clues later, the champ bet $3,500 on the last Daily Double (under Zoology for $2,000), and as Fred Schneider once sang, there goes the narwhal for $20,700, and a $9,500 lead. And he got enough corrected answers in the final two categories to creep into the coveted runaway heading into final.

(And once again, Alex with the name: “That’s most impressive, but what else do we expect from Austin Rivers?” At least they caught it at the break going into Final: “Austin Rivers is a talented professional basketball player. Austin Rogers is a talented Jeopardy! champion.”) And Austin Rogers wound up with $29,300 more in his checking account.

Well, I figured, it would be no shame losing to him, but dammit, I’m here to win, to achieve my lifetime goal … but if I’m gonna lose, let’s wait ’til after lunch. And … the next contestants drawn were Brian Kato, a State Department contractor from D.C. (who went to the same school as Merv Griffin, in San Mateo), playing from the third spot; and Lisa Rhae Burgess, a retired teacher from Surfside Beach, South Carolina. And I’m not quite sure what the champ was pantomiming this time, but Alex introduced him as Mr. Showbiz.

And Lisa Rhae out-jousted Austin $1,800-$400 in the Sitcoms by Mom category to get the early jump, but the champ finished off History a thousand ahead of her by the break. (And Austin’s entertaining fun fact this episode was the thrift-shop wardrobe.) Again, easy-enough questions; I think I had close to three-quarters of them correct as I played along. And in the theater seats, it just felt like a bigger, more relaxed version of watching at home, except I couldn’t stand up to play along with my buzzer pen.

And then on to the runaway. By the opening Daily Double, his score, $7,200, was double that of Lisa Rhae. And after wagering $4,200 on A Place for Yourself, it was academic. My competitive instincts, though, were finally beginning to overtake my feelings of fear or ambivalence. I knew he could be beaten; now I was hoping for that chance.

Anyway, in Double, Brian got the first two clues in “Au”thors (Austen and Auden) to get to $3,600, and pull close enough that he felt confident enough to make his move and make it a true Daily Double on the next clue … and lost it on St. Augustine. He did get the other Daily Double, under There Will Always Be an England (1066), and bet $2,000 on top of the $400 he had, so he crawled far enough out of the hole, and nicely, it turned out, but not far enough to prevent another runaway, though Brian and Lisa Rhae finished respectably. Austin’s $16,300 was enough to put him at $411,000 after 12 wins. The fifth-highest win total, and the fifth-highest winnings total, of all time.

(And a couple of cultural bits that came up: I’m sure there were more than a few viewers, many of them African-American, who were yelling “Dap!” “Straight Outta Compton!” and “‘Lift Every Voice and Sing!’” to clues none of them got. Also, none of three got the colleges clue that pertained to football: The alma mater of Mike Ditka and Tony Dorsett was the University of Pittsburgh. A couple months later, there would be the infamous football category where none of the three contestants buzzed in on any of the five clues. Knowing I don’t know everything, I knew not to give contestants a hard time over categories they didn’t know. But I sure wish to hell I got that NFL category to run to daylight.)

With that out of the way, on to the cafeteria for a quick lunch – very quick. The line was so slow that by the time I got my Black Forest-on-pumpernickel sandwich and sat down, I had about five minutes to finish it before heading back to the green room. And then, back to business. And I was struck not by the Fear of God, or the Fear of Austin, but by the Fear of Scarlett.

This Sims was for real

After lunch, it was a repeat of the morning’s run-throughs. And at one point, Ms. Sims was standing to my left as we played a half-dozen clues. And all of them were easy. And on every single one, without a fail, she beat me by a razor shade on the buzzer. I mean, holy shit! I was just looking over, and she had that out-for-the-kill look, and I was dumbfounded. When John Lauderdale, the stage manager, rotated us out of there, it felt like the mercy rule. So while I remained ambivalent about Austin, I now had two contestants I didn’t want to face: Manny, because he was a nice guy; and Scarlett, because she was a holy terror up there.

And the Holy Terror of Oak Ridge would be one of the chosen pair to face the Lion of Hell’s Kitchen, drawing the second position. Sean Chong, a med student from Silver Spring, Maryland, drew the third. And Austin’s latest introduction, with his usual nonplussed expression, would find him drawing back the outside ball on one of those perpetual-motion desk toys where you clack the ball into four other balls and watch the one on the other end swing upward. But I wasn’t thinking about that; I was thinking, “Holy fuck – I hope I don’t have to face her.”

“Scarlett and Sean, good luck – you’re gonna need it,” Alex said, prefacing the game by telling the audience that only four people had won more games and more money than Austin. And first blood was drawn by Scarlett – opening clue, All the “Best” for $200: “You’ll experience this type of scenario if you qualify for the Tournament of Champions.” She offered her best-case scenario – which was not only the correct answer, but maybe some foreshadowing? After all, if Austin lost, he would be eligible for the next TOC. She reeled off the next two answers, too, and yeah, this game just had that feeling about it.

Austin was lagging in third at $1,400 (Scarlett $3,000, Sean $2,000) when he hit the first Daily Double, a video of a sculpture, at the end of The Inuit category; he went all in on it, but mistook a musk ox for a yak and lost it all at the first break. But then, in a stroke of luck, Trebek announced that the judges reversed their decision on an earlier answer, another Inuit clue, and gave him back the $1,200 he lost on that one. However, with two more wrong answers, he found himself $200 in the hole with a category remaining, and had just $2,400 to Scarlett’s $8,200 after the Jeopardy round. And as Trebek said coming out of the break, “For the first time, I think ever, our champion, Austin, is not in the lead at the break. Scarlett is.” Yeah, as I said, there was just that feeling …

And it was justified. She ripped through the first six clues, including (bless her!) running all of Hello, Dolly Parton!, to run her lead to 10 grand. Austin hit a daily double for 3K on That Crazy 14th Century to get to $6,600, but Scarlett, at $15,200, still had a runaway. This was usually the point where he would start pulling away. And he started making a move during Geogra“P” and hit the second Daily Double. At that point, he had $8,200 to Scarlett’s $17,200 and went in for $7,200. And, after a tiny struggle, he answered Penzance, and he got it. Yes, he was back, and if he were to go down, it wouldn’t be without a good fight. And in fact, he took the lead by $200 when Scarlett missed an $800 clue in Eightysomething and Austin put in the rebound to go to $16,600. And he then took the $1,200 clue, and maybe he was gonna pull this one out. But then he missed the $1,600 to fall back again.

With two categories left, he went to Begins or Ends With a Tree, a word with a tree name embedded within. And that set him up for another Classic Austin Moment. The $2,000 clue was “Slang for a detective.” His response: “What is a – oh, God – a dick?” Shades of Ken Jennings’ legendary “What’s a hoe?” Thanks to editing, you didn’t hear the laughter from the audience, but Trebek kept a straight Trebek face: “I know nothing about a dick tree, but there is a gum tree – and Austin chuckled here – ‘gum’ for gumshoe.” (Another first: Alex saying “dick tree.”) And Scarlett wrapped up Double with a last-instant buzz on Be a Smart Patient – she answered a six-syllable word for “Not to be taken with another thing,” coming through with “Contraindicated,” finishing with a $4,600 lead, at $21,200, and Sean at $2,800. Yep, again, that feeling.

“Well, we have a game here!” Alex said, as they went into break, with the Final category being Movie History. The clue: “A 1947 FBI study chided this holiday film’s ‘attempt to discredit bankers … a common trick used by Communists.’” I knew It’s a Wonderful Life right off, and was hoping when it came my turn, I’d have one where I got it in an instant. Sean missed and ended with $1,000. Austin had it, and bet all but $50 of his $16,600. But $33,150 wasn’t gonna do it this game. Scarlett kept a great poker face as Alex read her answer, also correct; she bet $12,000 to finish with $33,201. A

Scarlett, Dethroner of Champions.

tiny smile, then a burst into a huge one. As huge as the money, she’s now in the J! pantheon as The Contestant Who Beat Austin. A quiz bowl player’s dream. Then a high-five from the dethroned champ, who had the heartiest applause in return. It was edited out (Trebek mentioned it at the start of the next game), but he said with much grace, when the applause died down, “She flat-out beat me.”

And, his 12-game reign over, off he went to sign his paperwork to get his $413,000. And I started to get nervous all over again. Oh fuck – please don’t choose me! I so didn’t want to face her, and I wasn’t ashamed to say it. The way she played, it seemed as if she could be another steamroller.

All smiles around after Scarlett became Smiter of Bearded Giants.

The names were drawn, and Emily and I weren’t chosen; we’d be back in the morning. The last game of the day, Scarlett would put her title to the test against Manny and Michelle Kritselis, a managing editor from Rolling Meadows, Illinois. And the smile she gave during the introduction was priceless.

So, on with the show. And dammit, right off, the first category announced was one right up my alley – Rickenbacker Guitars – and again, I sat there thinking what I’ve thought countless times in front of the TV: Dammit, I would love to have that category! Anyway, Michelle was out in front at the first break, with $2,800, $1,600 up on Manny and $1,800 on Scarlett. And in the audience, I was able to relax for the only time in the two days I was there, as it was day’s end.

After a couple of wrong answers, Manny found himself down to $200. But then he bounced right back – the $800 in Stocking the Cabinet Department, plus the Daily Double right after that, where he bet the whole $1,000 and got it right. Then he went back and nailed the $400 and $200 clues to wrap up the category, and then the first two in Rickenbacker (and oh yeah, I would’ve aced it) to go up on Michelle by $400. Scarlett got the final two clues to pull into a first-place tie with Michelle at $3,400, with Manny just $200 back. It was, at halftime, a damn good game.

To start Double, Manny went mid-category, choosing “The” Movie (film titles with “The”) for $1,200 – and landing the first Daily Double. I had a feeling he wished he had bet more than the face-value, as he came up with “The Truman Show” right quick. He got four of the five clues in the category (Scarlett got the other) to shoot up to a $3,000 lead over Scarlett, at $8K. But this was as much a back-forth as the first round promised. Eventually, though, Manny pulled away from Michelle and the champ. With eight clues left, the lieutenant had a $3,800 lead at $13,600, thanks to two military clues in October Occurrences (Nelson’s HMS Victory and then-Cpl. Alvin York). With two to go, he was up $16,000-$9,800 on Michelle. She took Botany for $2,000 on the next-to-last clue, hit the second Daily Double, bet $3,000 – and took a wild stab on the third class of plant pigments (“What are … Chlorophylls”) and got it right. She pulled within $400. (Sometimes it’s best to take that guess about which you’re uncertain – just say something and maybe you’ll get it.) And she let out a sigh of relief was not only palpable, it was heard clearly as Alex read the last clue, on which no one buzzed in.

I was just shocked that Scarlett didn’t get in a buzz edgewise in the final three categories. I mean, the way she took care of Austin in the game before, I was expecting the buzzsaw. But instead, we got to see the J! equivalent of the NFL’s adage “On any given Sunday …” You never know what subjects are gonna pop up on the board, and some you’ll ace, some you’ll be treading water. And I was hoping that the clue gods would go easy on me when the time came. But she could still be a spoiler at $7,400; these things have happened. (And hell to the yeah, I certainly found that out the next day.)

The Final subject was Flags of the World. The clue was about the flag of Laos, with the white circle of the moon over the blue band representing this river. The Mekong. You could see Scarlett struggling, eyes cast up to the ceiling. Manny exuded confidence, while Michelle didn’t seem as certain as she put her pen down before the end of the song. Scarlett actually managed

Manny and that little grin of victory.

to laugh, as she had the wrong answer and knew it, betting $7,000 to finish at $400. Michelle also got it wrong, a $5K loss to $10,600. Manny, his expression tight, let out a slight grin, but even had he not gotten it right, he would’ve won, anyway, as he wagered just $1,199. With $17,199, he’d be coming back tomorrow, or as viewers would later see, on Monday. Friday the 13th of October – actually Thursday, August 2nd in real time – proved to be lucky for the lieutenant. Scarlett was gracious in what I considered a surprising defeat – but in the same vein as Nancy Zerb taking down Ken Jennings to end his 74-game reign, Ms. Sims would be forever known in Jeopardy! lore as The Contestant Who Defeated Austin.

We all returned to the Green Room to grab our belongings. Knowing that we wouldn’t have to step out in front of the podium, I could condense my wardrobe a little for the next day. The producers might pick you up in the morning in the bus, but when you leave, you’re on your own. I asked Manny if he wanted to split the cab, as I needed to keep my spending tight. He was down with it, and we just chatted small talk on the way back. We commiserated over race cars, and he talked about his passion for F1. “I just like fast things,” he said again with a grin. I might have mentioned the one time I attended a media day for the Memorial weekend races at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut in the ’90s – a tuneup for Le Mans for the upper classes of sports cars – when I went around the track with Wayne Taylor in his GT car for two laps.

We got back to the hotel, and I really wasn’t hungry; I changed into a T-shirt and shorts and plopped myself at the desk to do some more boning up on my less-secure categories. Turns out the menu that evening was word soup, and I was swimming in it. I got to bed sometime after 10, and I didn’t feel that much apprehension. Worry can be such wasted energy, especially without any action to resolve it. So I resolved to get some rest, because I was gonna do something I waited for my whole life. One way or another, I was gonna be appearing on Jeopardy! tomorrow morning.

Part 3: Coming up next, grab your popcorn for the blow-by-blow.

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One Response to “My Jeopardy! Adventure, Part 2: Finally here, and two forces of nature”

  1. My Jeopardy! Adventure, Part 3: Wha’ hoppen? | Franorama World Says:

    […] What happens when someone goes through two humongous, unplanned life changes at once. Strap in … « My Jeopardy! Adventure, Part 2: Finally here, and two forces of nature […]

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