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Double-‘Jeopardy’ appearance pays off
6/19/14

Beginner’s luck paid off for Paige (Junker) Ormiston, AU Class of 1999 and Honors grad, who spent two days as a contestant on one of television’s most beloved game shows, “Jeopardy.” The shows ran nationwide this week, although they were filmed in February.

Paige, Deputy Force Judge Advocate for Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic (CNAL) in Norfolk, VA, won her debut appearance tallying $32,200 in winnings. While she did not prevail on her second day and did amass $15,200 on the board, she was awarded the show’s $2,000 for second-place finishers. Not bad, however, for being selected to appear on the show on her first try. As she learned along the way, some folks endeavor for years to make it to the set.

Paige offered to share highlights of the experience, which took a little more than a year, with her alma mater.  

What's the process for getting on the show? 

“In January 2013, I took the online test and did well enough to be invited to try out in person.  The producers do a ‘road show’ of 12-15 cities around the country every year.  I traveled to Niagara Falls to try out in April 2013.  At the tryout, you take another timed test, and then get to play the game with the other prospective contestants. 

“The producers bring the real buzzers and set up the game board in a hotel ballroom and everyone gets to play for about five minutes.  They do a contestant interview, and you’re placed in the pool if you test well and do well both answering questions and interacting with the producers on camera. 

“Then I waited. The show notified me in January 2014 that I’d been selected to film in late February. The show does not pay travel expenses for the tryouts or the actual taping, so I made my reservations and flew to Los Angeles to film on Feb. 19.” 

What was filming like?

“The production staff has been doing this for 30 years, so it’s a well-oiled machine. Because you only get to go on once in a lifetime (unless you get to come back for a tournament of champions), the staff wants to make sure you have a great time playing the game.  After the shuttle bus dropped us off at the studio, we filled out a pile of paperwork and got our makeup done.

“After that, we filmed the “Hometown Howdies” promos for our local (television) stations to use to promote our appearances.  After that, all of the contestants got an opportunity to play for about five minutes in order to get used to the stage and the buzzers. I was selected for the second of five episodes filmed that day. 

“I was too excited to be really nervous until Alex Trebek (long-time host) walked onstage.  I’ve been watching the show with my parents, then college roommates, and now my husband for almost 30 years, so I was REALLY excited to get to meet him. 

“Each episode takes about 40 minutes to film, so it’s over pretty quickly. The contestants who were there to film with me were a really interesting bunch from all over the country. We’re only allowed to talk to each other and the producers until the filming day is done, so we all had a chance to chat and admit how excited we were to be there. Some of them had been trying to get on for years.  I didn't realize how lucky I was to make it on the first time I tried out.”

Take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlQF-oO2W2k  (Paige appears at the 25-second mark.)

What did you do to prep? 

“I watched a lot of “Jeopardy!” My husband (Wiley) and I watched every night once I found out that I was in the contestant pool. I double-majored in biology and general science, and I love to read for pleasure. I have an uncanny ability to remember totally useless facts, but not stuff that I actually need for everyday life. On the plane to Los Angeles, I read the “2014 World Almanac” almost cover to cover. There are two questions I got right because of that last- minute cram/review session. My husband is also a big trivia nerd and was a big help to me as I was prepping.”

What's Alex Trebek like? 

“Very professional.  He’s polite and gracious, but this is his job and he’s not there to chit chat.”

Paige had to keep the outcome of her play secret until the shows aired this week.

“My husband is the only one who knew exactly how I did. The show doesn't mail the check for your winnings until 120 days after your episode airs, so if you let the cat out of the bag, you don’t get paid.” 

Was it hard to keep the secret? 

“Yes. I’m good at keeping secrets – it’s a job requirement for what I do - but keeping this one was really hard.”

Paige added, “I had a wonderful time playing the game - I hope that showed up on screen.  I am really competitive, so I’m a bit worried that the fact that I had a great time didn’t come across.”

Paige has been a Navy JAG for 11 years.  Currently, her job is similar to being in-house counsel for a large company.  AIRLANT’s mission is to man, train, and equip the East Coast Naval Air Forces. 

“We provide legal support to dozens of aircraft squadrons and seven aircraft carriers. That support includes military justice, ethics advice, administrative law advice, congressional inquiry response, and investigation reviews. It’s interesting work, and I really respect the people I work with and for.”

Paige and Wiley are the parents of two young boys, Thomas, 3, and Henry, 1.