UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

The Five Spot

042810FiveSpot_WalkerRachael Dietrich Walker is a P-card specialist in Purchasing. Most have only heard the words “This … Is … Jeopardy!” on their TV. She once heard them in Hollywood as she stared at Alex Trebek and a sea of hot lights. “It was filmed in September 2006,” she says. She was living in California. Her fiance (now husband) Robert Walker, who has a Campus Enterprise technology position in Business Services, was going to college there. After they’d met online, she’d moved to California and worked in title research. She joined UNCG 14 months ago. “I manage the purchasing card program. Six hundred [P-cards] are held by people throughout campus.” She distributes them as needed, answers questions, communicates rules, etc. – in an office that has a picture of her and Alex Trebek. But the picture is turned away so she can’t see it. Hmmm. “I came in second, which I mostly blame on not betting enough on the one Daily Double I got and then completely flaming out on one of the last categories in Double Jeopardy. I did get Final Jeopardy right though!” Her episode is archived on a site maintained by fans. The biggest surprise? “Alex is kind of short – not much taller than me,” she says, adding that she’s 5′ 6″. And he acted sort of unusual, she says. Though her name is spelled a little different, it’s two syllables, pronounced RAY-chel. During a break, she recalls, he would pronounce her name slowly, over and over, with three syllables: “Rah – chiy – ell … Rah – chiy – ell.” Trebek did not mix with the contestants, she explains. The first time they saw him is when the game started. The 22-minute show took about 45 minutes to film – the breaks provided him a chance to repeat any flubbed questions. She and Robert watched it on TV when it finally aired – and she has not been able to watch Jeapardy since. She was a bit traumatized by the loss, she says – and she just doesn’t care for Alex Trebek.

I Lost on Jeopardy – but what an experience

  1. You first qualify with an online test. I was one of the very first round of contestants to qualify for Jeopardy through the online test that I believe they’ve fully implemented for all auditioners now. It was a 60-question general knowledge quiz where we had only a few seconds to answer each question – no time to Google! After I qualified through the online test, I was invited to come in and take an in-person written test and screen test, which used to be the standard screening for Jeopardy contestants. This process went on over several months – I took the online test in January, the in-person test in April, and didn’t get the call that I would appear on the show until July.
  2. There’s no way to cram for it. It’s impossible to really study for Jeopardy, but I did prepare by using the “random article” function on Wikipedia over and over again – kind of the trivia equivalent of cramming for an exam. My husband and I also took a trip to an art museum, because art is not and never has been my forte. I actually ended up with a Daily Double in an art category but I can’t credit the museum trip with getting it right – it was about Jackson Pollock, the only artist I do know anything about. … I practiced ringing in for questions by watching Jeopardy for two months straight with a click-pen in my hand. On TV, you can’t see that there’s lights that count down on either side of the screen where the questions appear – you can’t ring in until all of these lights have disappeared. Still, you can sort of practice at home to try to get the timing right.
  3. I actually went to tapings twice. I was living in California at the time, and they keep two local alternates for each taping they do, just in case they end up with everyone being in the negative at the end of Final Jeopardy – that would mean they have no returning champion and they need to pull in a new contestant. I first went in August and got to just sit in on five tapings. I was called back with a guarantee to be on the show in September … They film a week’s worth of episodes in one day – five in a row, back to back. They film two days a week, so they get two weeks’ worth of episodes in the can in two days’ time. Each contestant is told to bring two changes of clothes because if you’re lucky enough to be on for four days straight, nobody is going to remember that you’re wearing the same thing you wore on the first day.
  4. It is cold in the studio. They keep it somewhere in the high 50s or low 60s. This is because the studio lights are so warm – but believe me, they don’t make any difference.
  5. Did not hit it off. For the segment where Alex chats briefly with the contestants, he’s given an index card that has several bits of information on it that the contestants provide. The producers highlight one of the stories as the one that they suggest that Alex talks about, but he has the final say on which item he picks. Mine was that I had gotten engaged two days before I found out I was going to be on Jeopardy, and everyone was way more excited about Jeopardy than my engagement. Alex read it backwards, though – that I got engaged after, not before – and didn’t seem amused when I corrected him on-air.

So how did it turn out? “This is the question I get asked the most,” she says. “For coming in second, my prize was $2,000. Third place gets $1,000, and first place, obviously, gets to keep all of their money.”