Contains spoilers of tonight's episode.
It was January 28th now. Happy birthday to my brother and to Rakim. Early to rise. Repeated Tuesday's breakfast routine, including listening to some Ennio Morricone to start the day right. There was a whole new crew of people with garment bags in the lobby, in addition to Heather and John returning from yesterday. On board the bus, we returners answered questions about the game. This continued while we gathered in the waiting area in the Sony parking structure and waited for more folks to arrive. I was slightly embarrassed to be in the middle of repeating something funny Glenn had said on Tuesday (that you should be sure to add a verb when writing your Final Jeopardy question -- you don't want to be the guy who wrote "WHO THOMAS EDISON" on TV), when Mr. Kagan himself arrived.
In the green room I was sent straight into makeup as Inta had been the day before while Maggie once again held court and got everybody up to speed. We went through our morning rehearsal, and I was delighted that the crew was warming up the screens on the game board using the following clip from Animaniacs, which had been one of the study songs on my iPod:
Back in the green room, the challengers were named. Anne from Stow, MA (shoutout to Whitney Davidson), a new contestant, and John from Kansas City, were called out. John was the contestant I'd spent the most time chatting with, who admitted he was itching to go up against me in a game. We all shook hands and headed out.
Fourth Hometown Howdy: "Hey, Twin Cities, this is Fred Beukema from Minneapolis, and I'm the returning champion on Jeopardy. By the time you see this, we might even have another Senator!"
If only that were true.
Today's was a tough board, and both Anne and John were solid on the buzzer. I committed the cardinal Jeopardy sin of flat-out guessing on a question, in Military Abbreviations. The answer was what the tactical abbreviation C2 stood for, and, influenced by being in the middle of Battlestar Galactica, I asked "What is Condition 2?" Ooh, sorry, they were looking for command & control. Command & control.
This is the game in which I started swearing under my breath when I got Daily Doubles. There came a point where it seemed like every time I got one, it was in a category I didn't like. In any case, I really hope the mic didn't pick that up. In the oblique "famous people as aerobics instructors" category, I knew that Indiana University was the tease-out clue, but I wasn't connecting the Kinsey Institute with IU, and all I could come up with was Bobby Knight.
[Hindsight addendum — Just watched the show when it aired, and here's a piece of advice for any future Jeopardy contestants: do not be afraid of a True Daily Double if it's in a category you like. I could have done some real damage in that "THE" Nation category. But given that I was not seeing clues I liked in recent DDs, I was staying conservative.]
Overall, this game felt like a question of survival more than anything, and I could feel it slipping away from me. I knew this had the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, so in Double Jeopardy took it an opportunity to shake off what had happened so far and focus on my buzzer timing. I had been trying to anticipate the Go! Lights, but was locking myself out more often than not. So I stared very intently at each clue as it was read, keeping the Lights in my peripheral vision, and let video game reflexes run the buzzer. It helped, and at the end of regular play, I had managed to eke out a lead.
I'm very happy that I managed to do that, but it was not enough to shut Anne or John out. It would all come down to Final Jeopardy. The category was revealed, and while I don't remember the exact name, I'm pretty sure it was "Painters." Now, let me draw your attention back to this unfortunate bit of foreshadowing from a few weeks ago, my Jeopardy studying to-do list. The circled items, unfortunately, represent things I didn't get around to before heading out:
Art. Blerg. If I could have safely done so, I would have bet very little or nothing. But the others were close enough that I'd have to bet enough to cover either one of them doubling their score.
Anyway, the clue boiled down to "On March 30th, 1746 in Spain, and 1853 in the Netherlands, these two painters were born." So I started thinking of painters. The Spaniard was surprisingly easy, as Goya (pictured, left) was the only big one who fit the time period. At this point, I think there was smoke coming out of my ears. Now, the Dutchman... Hm. Well, there's Rembrandt. I don't think that's right, he's older. Same with Vermeer. Bosch is way too old. De Kooning is too late... and so on. All of this missing the obvious 19th Century Dutch painter. You know, the one who did most of his work in France and cut his ear off and was played by Kirk Douglas in that movie and painted Starry Night, which is on one of the credit cards that was in my wallet in the green room at that exact moment. Running out of time, I went with Rembrandt (pictured, upper right).
John got Van Gogh, if I remember correctly, which meant I now knew I was wrong, and had to hope Anne got one or the other wrong. She didn't, so I knew I'd narrowly lost a very tough game. In the only bit of post-game chatter I recall, Alex commented on this being a hard game and how the writers expected Goya to be the harder part of the FJ clue. I likened my brain to a car refusing to turn over on a cold morning.
I signed for my $2000 consolation prize and Melissa and I smiled at each other. I grabbed my stuff from the green room, as did John, and we joined my family and friend Pete in the audience. We decided to stick around and at least watch the games taped before lunch, especially since Heather was likely to be up, and we wanted to cheer her on.
Everybody loses on Jeopardy eventually, even if it's Ken Jennings in his 75th consecutive game. While it's easy to be philosophical, it doesn't make finally bouncing out any more fun. This isn't really about the money, or the competition, or the fact that Alex seemed excited that I was winning (just before the last game started, I overheard him chatting with someone behind the game board, and the only words I recognized were "Beukema Week." Aw.). Actually, it was all those things, too. But most of all, I just wanted to keep playing. The game is fun. I want more, just as Bob Harris said he did.
Now, here's the thing. As Alex explained at the beginning of today's show, with three wins I became the first person to qualify for the next Tournament of Champions in 2010. The top 13 players between now & then, by number of wins, will join two College Tournament winners in the competition.
It's going to be a long year.
Next Jeopardy blog: Leftovers!