Audrey Sarin grew up yelling at the TV in her grandparents’ living room in Washington state as they watched Jeopardy!. They would huddle around the TV, answering the questions along with the contestants. It wasn’t long until her grandparents encouraged her to apply for the show.
In December 2018, when Sarin was a senior in high school, she taped her first episode for Jeopardy! as part of their teen tournament which took place throughout the show’s 35th season. Four years later, now as a marine science senior at Cal Poly, she was invited back earlier this year for the high school reunion tournament.
“It really was like a high school reunion for me, getting to see my friends who I hadn’t seen in four years,” Sarin said. “It was truly special.”
While Sarin didn’t win the tournament, she won friendships with fellow contestants from all around the country. Many of the fellow teen contestants from Sarin’s first season have been in a “massive” group chat since they first competed, staying in contact, and keeping each other company during their formative college years.
When Sarin found out she was being invited back, her group chat with fellow Jeopardy! teen alumni exploded. When Sarin first saw the email from producers, she thought it was a scam until she realized that everyone else in her group chat got the same email.
“We thought, ‘This is legit, we might actually get to come back and see each other,’” Sarin said.
A big difference from the teen tournament and the high school reunion tournament was that everyone in the tournament got to watch each other compete live from another room. Along with other contestants, Claire Sattler watched Sarin compete from the Wheel of Fortune stage.
Sattler was the final winner of the teen tournament four years ago and now as a senior double major of molecular, cellular and developmental biology and theater, dance and performance studies at Yale, she was thrilled to come back and reunite with her friends.
“It was like being in Philly in a sports bar during the Superbowl,” Sattler said. “Everyone was just losing their minds. We were excited for these people that we’re just so attached to.”
“It was crazy and surreal to all be back in the same room again and actually, to be in the same room with people who I’d actually never met in person but I’d become good friends with online through the other contestants,” Sattler said.
Despite both being on the same Jeopardy! tournament back in high school and having the same online friends, Sattler and Sarin didn’t meet in person until the high school reunion tournament.
Another contestant had been telling Sattler and Sarin that if they ever did meet in person they would be best friends, but the two finally got to see for themselves at the taping.
“They got us in a room together and I’ve been very close with Audrey since the tournament,” Sattler said. “It’s been really lovely, actually getting to be her friend.”
One of Sattler’s favorite memories from taping weekend was during a late night at a vegan ice cream shop in LA. Sattler and Sarin sat with another contestant who needed advice. They listened to their situation and then gave their “big sister advice.”
“We just sat there for like, at least an hour just talking, joking and just sitting with that stupid, overpriced ice cream,” Sattler said. “It was such a joy.”
With this being Sarin’s second time on show, she felt more relaxed and grateful than she did the first time around.
“I never thought that I’d ever be on the show again,” Sarin said.
For herself and the other contestants, playing this time around was for fun and not so much the money.
“Of course I was invested, I was playing the game. I wanted to win, but I didn’t have any jitters or nerves,” Sarin said. “I was just trying to enjoy the whole experience.”
While Sarin wasn’t nervous, her friends and family watching her taping certainly were, according to her roommate, food science senior Hannah Bryan.
“There were multiple times where me, her aunt and our other roommate were all holding each other’s hands and squeezing whenever she would get something or when they would be interviewing her,” Bryan said.
Bryan shared with Sarin in her excitement when she was invited back on the show.
“I was super excited for her. Clearly she had such a great connection with the rest of the cast last time,” Bryan said. “She was super excited to see them again and I was just excited to see her compete.”
One of the friends Sarin got to reunite with was fellow Jeopardy! contestant, Alison Purcell.
Purcell and Sarin also met during the Jeopardy! teen tournament and became friends while doing promo for the show together.
“We got really close, we were promo buddies throughout the first tournament,” Purcell said. “I remember her being really easy to talk to and super sweet.”
Purcell got to watch Sarin’s episode from another room and cheered her on along with the other contestants.
“Audrey went against two really tough competitors and she held her own and she did great,” Purcell said. “I just remember being so excited and happy for her.”
Sarin says that one big misconception of Jeopardy! is that contestants know the themes and topics before the taping of their episode, however this is not the case. Contestants do not know what questions they’ll get or even the category.
“The only way to study for Jeopardy! is to be a curious person in your own life,” Sarin said.
Part of Jeopardy! is trying to hit the buzzer before the other contestants. It doesn’t matter if you know the answer if you don’t press the buzzer before everyone else — something Sarin struggled with during her taping. However, Sarin says she doesn’t let it bother her.
While Sarin didn’t move forward in the tournament she was happy with the way she competed in her episode.
“I was a little disappointed but I really was so pleased to get to relax, sit back, and enjoy the ride,” Sarin said.
Another difference in this tournament from Sarin’s last was the host of Jeopardy!. Alex Trebek was the face of the popular game show for 37 years. He hosted the show right up until his death in November 2020 after battling pancreatic cancer. Sarin’s teen tournament was the last teen tournament he hosted on the show. Jeopardy! is currently hosted by Mayim Bialik.
“There was a sense among all of us that we lost an icon,” Sarin said. “It was bittersweet to be back there without him but Maya was an excellent host.”
For Sarin, getting to sit on the wheel of fortune stage and watch everyone compete was the most exciting part of the weekend. Along with her fellow contestants, Sarin laughed and cheered on those competing, calling out the answers with them.
“It’s been amazing to reconnect with those friends,” Sarin said. “That’s really been the highlight of the experience for me.”