Editor’s note: This is the second installment about a Santa Monica man’s experience on the game show ‘Jeopardy!’
Although Scott Richard Lord’s journey to winning five consecutive shows on “Jeopardy!” was aired over the course of a week, in real life it happened all in one day.
The popular TV quiz show hosted by Alex Trebek is taped well in advance, and five episodes of the show are shot each day.
Lord, a Santa Monica resident, was called to a contestant podium on the first episode of the shooting day and proceeded to win five games.
As his success continued, Lord hardly had time to process what was happening. Only after taping finished for the day at about 3:30 p.m. was he able to let his accomplishments sink in.
“It’s a high-energy thing,” he said. “I had so much energy and adrenaline running. But at the end of the day I was ripped.”
Lord knew members of his family, including his wife, kids, brothers and nephews, would be in attendance to cheer for him, and he didn’t want to disappoint them.
So he prepared for the show as much as he could.
But he didn’t focus on learning new factoids. Instead, he closely watched “Jeopardy” on television and browsed a website that maintains encyclopedic records of previous clues and answers.
“I would just look through to see the types of questions,” Lord said. “Because it’s partly what you know, but a lot of it is getting a little bit used to the way they phrase things. They often give clues in the answer. Sometimes you do know the answer, but what they’re looking for is a little different than what you’d think.”
Although pure knowledge and familiarity with the show format are crucial to success, getting accustomed to the contestant buzzer is arguably even more important.
When Lord went in for an audition after passing the online test, he got to practice with a pen that resembles the show’s electronic response clicker.
“You’ll see people who obviously know the answer,” he said. “Sometimes all three people know the answer. But it’s all about ringing in the quickest.”
Lord recalled several instances in which he tried to ring in but an opponent was faster and produced a correct response, making Lord glad he wasn’t the quickest clicker.
The skill of ringing in was seemingly mastered by Ken Jennings, who won 74 games in a row in 2004.
“As he played game after game, he got better and better at timing the buzzer,” Lord said of the record-holding champion.
Before taping began, Lord said, show coordinators allowed him and his fellow contestants to practice using the clicker to make sure they were able to ring in successfully.
From bettor to best
In his first game, which aired July 20, the opening round doesn’t start off well for Lord. He falls behind early, going $200 in the hole after missing his first answer attempt on a question about river names.
But he doesn’t stay down for long. He makes it “back on the plus side,” as Trebek likes to say, on a $600 question about the umbilical cord and keeps the momentum going in a category about medical knowledge.
Then, in his introductory interview, he tells Trebek about the time Placido Domingo sang at his Santa Monica home.
“It sounds like a joke, but yes,” he says. “A few years ago my mother’s wife passed away from Alzheimer’s and since then we’ve hosted an event at our house to try to raise money to fight the disease. Through some people I knew we were able to ask Placido if he would come and sing, and to our surprise and delight he said yes.”
When play resumes, Lord looks at ease. He trails defending two-day champion Jennifer Morrow by $4,300 late in the first round, but goes on an impressive roll and earns a narrow edge.
“Scott did some fast catching up in that first round,” Trebek said.
Early in the second round, when Lord comes across a Daily Double in a category about the Bill of Rights, he doesn’t hesitate. He bets all of his $6,600 and offers the correct response to a clue about the Fourth Amendment, doubling his sum.
In the final round, with Lord holding a $3,100 lead over Morrow, the contestants are asked to name the American-born poet who quotes from Richard Wagner. Third-place contestant Mary Ciconte incorrectly guesses Walt Whitman and coughs up her entire sum. Morrow also writes Whitman but bets conservatively, retaining $12,500. It all comes down to Lord, and his response is the correct one: T.S. Eliot.
“I bet enough to make sure that even if the next-highest person wins and bets everything, you still have enough to beat them,” Lord said. “I was fortunate to get an answer I knew.”
He adds $11,401 to his total, finishing his first game with $29,001 and the right to keep playing. He’s just getting started.