Many people dream about being on the popular quiz show Jeopardy, and just as many dream of winning a game on it. Former Kenyon Quiz Bowl member and Collegian editor Gabe Brison-Trezise ’16 lived out both of those dreams recently, not only appearing in last Thursday’s episode, but also dethroning 19-time defending champion Jason Zuffranieri in a thrilling Final Jeopardy comeback.
Brison-Trezise started his journey over two years ago when he took the Jeopardy online test and was emailed a request for an in-person audition in the spring of 2018. After completing the in-person portion of the process in New York City, he received no notification about whether or not he would appear on the show.
“I didn’t get the call [to participate] until this summer, so more than a year had passed,” Brison-Trezise said. “I had kind of written it off, assumed that I would have to try again if I still wanted to be on the show—but sure enough, I got the call and went off to [Los Angeles] in early August and taped.”
After staying with a friend from Kenyon in Los Angeles, Brison-Trezise appeared on the Sony studio lot and saw what he was up against. “When I saw [Zuffranieri] there on the lot, I knew that he must be on a really long streak because he ended season 35 with six wins and there had already been a couple of tape days in July, and each tape day is five games so the wheels were turning in my mind and I knew he must of won 10 more games,” Brison-Trezise said. “Obviously, that’s intimidating because it’s not a fluke whenever anybody wins that many times in a row. They know their stuff and they’ve also figured out the gameplay and how to maximize their chances.”
On a typical tape day, Jeopardy records five shows, which air one at a time throughout the week. With his first game airing on Thursday, Brison-Trezise was able to watch Zuffranieri win three games before he faced him as well as fellow first-time contestant Christine Ryan. Zuffranieri demonstrated his dominance throughout the opening Jeopardy round, and despite Brison-Trezise getting the Daily Double question correct, he still trailed by $3,400 entering the Double Jeopardy round.
In the Double Jeopardy round, Brison-Trezise was just able to hold on to have a chance in Final Jeopardy, trailing $21,000 to $11,200 after Double Jeopardy. To guarantee a chance at winning entering Final Jeopardy, a contestant needs to have at least half of the leading contestant’s total, or else the leading contestant could bet nothing and still win the game. By getting two of the last three questions of the round correct, Brison-Trezise was able to keep himself in the game for the final round.
The Final Jeopardy category was World Landmarks, and the clue read “‘The Eighth Wonder,’ by composer Alan John & librettist Dennis Watkins, is about this building that opened in 1973.”
“I read that they [write Final Jeopardy] clues a little bit differently than all the other clues. They make it so you have to think about it and chew on it to arrive at the right answer. It’s rarely something where you immediately [know it], it’s more something that you have to figure out using the process of elimination,” Brison-Trezise said. “I wasn’t sure about the answer, but I thought, the Sydney Opera House sort of fits the bill because it’s more recent … I was running short on time and I just started writing, and I happened to be right.”
He was correct and Jason was not, guessing “What is the Prado?” With his $11,200 bet, Brison-Trezise secured his upset of the contestant in who had taken home the third-greatest amount of money in Jeopardy history. Though Brison-Trezise lost the following game, he finished with a take-home total of $24,400.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Brison-Trezise graduated in 2015, when he in fact graduated in 2016. A previous version also incorrectly stated Brison-Trezise’s 1-day winnings of $22,400 as his take-home winnings. With the additional $2,000 for finishing in second the following day, Brison-Trezise’s pre-tax take-home winnings actually totaled $24,400.