Season 26 1-time champion: $22,200 + $2,000.
Kimberly Jantz - an Attorney
December 3, 2009
Try Out - Huh. It's been awhile since the online test - about 16 months. I vaguely remember that it was cold outside, I was wearing a robe and drinking a beer. Of course, that's a fairly accurate description of my day to day life in general, except in the summer when it is hot outside and I wear a lighter robe and occasionally switch to Margaritas. I took the test and then forgot about it.
Try Out Part Two - A few months later I received an email inviting me to come to Dallas for a second round. It occurs to me now that there might be something wrong with a person who believes taking a quiz is incentive enough to drive four and a half hours into Texas. My dad and I drove down together and our first order of business was finding an Ethiopian restaurant. You just can't get good Ethopian food in Oklahoma. I filled out an information sheet (I'm an intern at the Public Defender's Office, I'm not a convicted felon, I'm in law school), played a practice game (sweet JRR Tolkien category) and took another test. The hardest part was coming up with interesting bits of information. You know, for the fans. I think I wrote some stuff about gardening and my internship. Because when isn't okra interesting? Riddle me that.
16 Months Later - I got a phone call from Glenn at Jeopardy! checking to "see if my information was still correct". No, I'm not an intern any more, I graduated and passed the bar, was in my second week of working as a real grown up attorney and recently got engaged. Amazingly, I still was not a convicted felon. Then he says something like - "can you be out here October 13th for taping?" Sure. Shortly thereafter I had some sort of psychotic break where I laughed hysterically to myself inside a grocery store. Then I had a sobering thought. I had just spend the last few months memorizing Oklahoma Civil Procedure and debating fall wedding color trends with my sister. It was clear to me that, if I ever had a brain, it was no more. I knew I would have to study but I also knew that I was both very busy with other things . . . and very lazy.
Three weeks later - My mom and I were on a plane heading to California and my BFF Brandon already got into L.A. the day before. (I call Brandon my BFF because it's endearing and I sense it will annoy him.) I had done very little to study. I found myself hoping for the following categories: Dog Breeds, Fantasy Books, Vertigo Comics, Tornado Alley, Wedding Venues in Tulsa and "S" Words.
My boss had zero problem with me taking a week off work. Kevin (my special man friend to whom I shall be married) said he wasn't worried about me at all, that I'd do great. Papa and sister Sarah also stayed home, telling me that they were already proud of me no matter what happened. (Isn't my family awesome). Behind the scenes, they were all sending my Mom messages with helpful tips like, "make sure she eats something", "don't let her stay up all night" and "tell her to relax and just have fun". I'm sure Mom found all of this helpful.
We spent the day/night before taping eating some great Thai food and watching football and making new friends at the hotel bar (hi Dennis in KC!). I picked up valuable advice, like always thank your bartender. Thank you! I tried to get some sleep.
Day o' Taping - That morning I was in the hotel lobby drinking an irresponsible amount of coffee. I kept staring at strangers wondering if they were also there for Jeopardy! I briefly imagined that the whole thing was a joke. Finally I spotted the other contestants. This is not hard to do because we all have the word "dork" or "nerd" tattood on the base of our skulls. Plus, there's a secret handshake. The first two people I met were Leigh-Ann and Grant. Both from the DC area, both awesome and both clearly smarter than me. Leigh-Ann is a literature professor and Grant is the resident Indiana Jones for Montpelier, James Madison's home. From what I was able to understand, he travels across the country hunting down artifacts, getting into fist fights and screaming "this should be in a museum!" right before jumping off a moving train. Needless to say, all of the contestants I met that week were 42 varieties of awesome. (I met more cool people the next day when I went back to tape, but that is another story entirely.) They ranged from top chef fans to a soccer blogger to a spelunker to a deep sea diver who brought a salvaged emerald to the taping. (No no. Still not a convicted felon.)
We piled on to the shuttle and once we arrived at the studio lot we were never alone again. We sat in a room to fill out certain forms, have our make-up done and practice hometown howdies. When it came time for buzzer practice, we were shuffled to the stage to take our turns and then shuffled back into the room. It was the same process for the time between show tapings. We were like an adorable and skittish group of goats being herded hither and thither. Throughout a lot of the practice rounds and earlier tapings, I could sense my mom, Brandon and friend Holly mere rows away. But we were all sternly warned what happens if you make eye-contact with people in the audience - they take away your birthday.
Leigh-Ann and I ended up being the last two contestants called to tape that day. It was great because it allowed me to grow progressively more anxious throughout the entire day. By the time they re-touched my make-up, I thought I was about to pass out. Of course, this is where everyone that works for Jeopardy! really showed just how awesome they are. They knew how nervous I was and made sure that I had juice and water and that I took a moment to sit down and breathe.
The Game - Don't really remember much about it. I was constantly being beat to the buzzer, including on the Mickey Mantle question. I remember I was in last after the first round. In between the rounds I changed my focus. I would read the question and then stare at a point on the wall until Alex finished talking. Buzz. Suddenly I started getting in. This was also helpful because it calmed me down and let me sort of zone out and pretend I was at home. I never looked at how much money I had. First of all, it was too far away to see. Secondly, numbers confuse and upset me. Thirdly, everything goes by too fast to check. At the end of Double Jeopardy! I was shocked to see that I had the lead.
Final Jeopardy! - So, political non-fiction. Not my favorite but not the worst thing in the world. I had to wager, but again I'm not a math person. I didn't spend any time understanding or devising betting schemes. I took the second place amount, doubled it and bet enough money to where I would be roughly over that amount. See? I couldn't even figure out how I could win by $1. It took me an entire commercial break to figure out that $8000 would be enough. Little did I know that mom, Brandon and Holly were making fun of me - knowing that simple addition is well beyond my capabilities.
I knew the answer, but for some reason I started writing All the King's Men and not All the President's Men. The stern look on my face was the result of mental scolding. I had to finish writing out the wrong answer and then go back and cross out King's for President's. I was afraid I would run out of time otherwise. I knew I had it right in the end, but it seemed more fun to mess with my mom's head and pretend like I got it wrong. By the way, it seems worth mentioning that I play on a very terrible soccer team in Tulsa called Team America. We each have a President's name on our jersey and yes, I am Nixon.
After the Show - Aside from spending time with the nicest and most supportive people in the business (hi robert and maggie and mitch and glenn!) the most fun I had was back in the hotel bar after taping and before everyone had to catch their red-eyes back to the East Coast. (Fortunately, most of my new Jeopardy! peeps live in the DC area so maybe I can visit them all in one trip some day soon.) The contestants all hung out, drank some beers, watched Jeopardy! on tv, yelled at the tv, and tried to start a rivalry with the people in town to be on Wheel of Fortune.
At Home - Everyone's excited to see me on tv, but my family (those who know the result) are a little tired of hearing about it. I've decided I'm fully ready to go back on Jeopardy! should they decide to invite back former contestants that mentioned comic books in their blogs.