Contains spoilers of tonight's episode.
Hometown Howdy: "Hey Twin Cities, this is Fred Beukema from Minneapolis. Circle me, Bert: I'm the returning champion on Jeopardy." Other than Melissa, nobody in the studio had any idea what I was talking about. A couple of the coordinators asked me about it when they came to stand by the lecterns during the first commercial break.
In my interview bit with Alex, I talked about my time writing headlines for the Onion back when I was a senior in high school & first-year in college. This is the headline I specifically referenced.
Also, after lunch, I mentioned to Tony, the contestant coordinator who handles getting the biographical information to Trebek, that Alex had been mispronouncing my name all day. Tony said something, and Alex got it perfectly, but unfortunately, Johnny Gilbert had now picked up his previous pronunciation. Gilbert re-recorded my intro during the first commercial break.
First off: yes, I know lamprey. But my brain wasn't releasing information to me at that moment.
Meg and Peter had me on the run. My buzzer timing felt off pretty consistently, and one or the other of them was beating me on the buzzer as often as (or more than) I was beating both of them. Categories that I loved, and was excited to play (mythological couples, especially, all of which I knew) passed me by, mostly answered by others. I'm relieved I got the volcano one right, as I was feeling iffy on that. I think I'd happened to read something about Hawaiian volcanoes in the prior weeks of January.
Other than a brief lead at the first commercial break, I think I was perpetually behind in this game. By the end of Double Jeopardy, I was in second but within range of Peter. Trebek revealed the Final Jeopardy category: "19th Century Construction," and Peter tipped his hand: "oh, man," he said, only nominally under his breath. I knew that my winning would depend on him getting this wrong. For my FJ wager, I'd have to assume that he would. I bet to prevent Meg overtaking me if she doubled her score.
Thankfully for me, his worry about the category was borne out. Although the Suez Canal did float through my mind as a 19th-Century construction project on the Sinai Peninsula, canals don't usually get names that sound like titles of artwork. The only major, modern construction project that fit the name was the Statue of Liberty.
This was the end of the day's taping, so as I got off stage, I signed the paperwork for each game's winnings. Three games, $69k. Wow. Neat! I don't think it had hit me yet. Looking up at Melissa, it looked like it had hit her. Stopping back in the green room to gather my things, Heather and John mentioned they'd come up with a new nickname: "the Twin City Terror." Sounds like a serial killer, but it made me laugh.
As we stepped, blinking, out of the building into the sun, I was congratulated by various audience members. Hugs and congrats from Melissa's family and from my college buddy Pete, who lives in LA and I was only now able to say hi to, although he'd been in the audience all day. This was the first I'd been able to interact with Melissa since leaving the hotel in the morning. She was mostly speechless, other than the occasional "wow!" Hadn't hit me yet, although I was chuckling from time to time.
Upon returning to the hotel, I called my parents and brother to share the news. It still hadn't hit me, although the chuckling had expanded into full-on jags of periodic laughter. That night Melissa and her family and I went to a nice Italian place in Santa Monica to celebrate (I'm glad I didn't know their slogan was "Life is a combination of magic and pasta" until just now: barf).
We went to bed earlyish again, and I had to check myself: I wanted to win two more now, get to the five episodes that used to mean retirement from the game, a car, and an automatic invitation to the Tournament of Champions. That way lies madness. Game at a time, I recited, play the game that's in front of you, and don't think of outcomes or expectations.
Mostly, though, I was having a blast and just wanted to keep playing the game, regardless of winning.
Next Jeopardy blog, to be published after Monday's game: A new day of taping, and game four!