About a year ago, the episodes of Jeopardy! I taped in August 2012 aired. I won about $30,000 over three days, including a second-place prize on the third day. I blame my loss on George Saunders, but not really.
Jeopardy! typically tapes five episodes in a row, two days in a row, every other week. I played games 4 and 5 on a Tuesday (which aired as Thursday and Friday episodes) and then returned on Wednesday morning to scare the 12 new contestants as a two-day returning champion.
They needn't have been frightened. Whatever brain chemistry allowed me to eke out my first win (with a fingernail-biting correct Final Jeopardy answer) and have a complicated second win (with an incorrect Final Jeopardy answer) was depleted by Wednesday morning.
Still, I could have won if it weren't for that rat fink George Saunders.
The question came up in the category of 19th Century Female Authors. Not an area of focus, but I was good enough in it. I hit a Daily Double. I bet my entire stake, $5,000, because I was far enough behind that there was no chance to win without extremely good luck in Final Jeopardy. I was tired. I went for the gusto. There's a play-by-play of the episode here. Had I bet, say, $1,000, I could have finished on top and won.
The answer? Amantine-Lucille-Aurore Dupin was the real name of this "manly" authoress whose love life scandalized Paris.
My brain raced through the following in about three seconds:
"I know there was that movie with Emma Thompson…there was a French author who had a male pseudonym…I have no idea…no idea…wait, was it George Saunders?…no, he is a contemporary author…I am just going to say George Sands, as that is probably wrong but at least close enough that I sound intelligent."
"Who is George Sands?"
"Ooooo…surrey!" says Alex. "The correct answer is George SAND." No s. Drat.
I managed to get a $2,000 answer before Double Jeopardy ended, but the leader was no fool. She bet enough to win even if the other competitor, who had more money than I, bet his entire stake. (I call this "threading the needle," and I did this in my second game.) The Final Jeopardy category was Kings, one of my worst memorized categories. I decided to play for second place, in which I'd win $2,000, instead of stretching and potentially finishing third, which is only a $1,000 prize.
Amazingly, I had the correct answer through reasoning. The answer? The last British monarch to be buried outside the U.K., he was interred in 1727 in the land where he was born. Too easy. German, of course. Couldn't be George III, because George was alive in 1776 and for a bit thereafter. George III's father was George II and alive by 1727 as well. Had to be George I. Alex was mystified that I'd bet nothing. (Oddly, a German was the answer on my first win, too: Karl Marx as in Karl-Marx-Stadt, the temporary name of Chemnitz between WWII and the fall of the Berlin Wall.)
If I had any regrets of my entire time on Jeopardy, it was George Sand/s. I had studied novelists, but just not well enough. Even with all the other missed answers, I could still have won day 3, another pile of money, and been a three-time winner, which qualifies one to be picked for a championship tournament (though you also have to win sufficient cash overall). But I simply didn't know the right answer. I was stunned to get within spitting distance.
I don't really blame George Saunders. He was an innocent bystander.
Still, he owes me $10,000.