Tuesday morning I woke up, got dressed, brought an extra shirt, and headed down to the lobby. I was early, but not the first one there. I can't remember who showed up in what order, but I remember the atmosphere: it was like a high school reunion. One where you remember everybody, with the strange detail that you're actually meeting all of them for the first time. I remember Liz Murphy, beyond conversation distance, smiling and waving and saying, "Hi, Stefan!" I said, "Hi, Liz!" back to her. That was the first thing we said to each other. When Ryan Chaffee showed up, I heard him say hello to Stephen Weingarten (who defeated him in December), and I thought he sounded like an evil character greeting his arch-nemesis. (But his voice sounds like that all the time. Maybe he was injecting further evil, or maybe I was just hearing what I wanted to hear.) He asked me if I was nervous, but I felt pretty okay. I was just enjoying the experience.
When we had everybody, we piled into a van. I sat next to Terry Linwood (who looked like the picture of cool in his hat and shiny suit). I can't remember what we all talked about, but it was a pleasant ride.
At the studio, we went into the green room for the usual briefing by Maggie. We were all seasoned professionals, so it didn't go as long as at regular tapings. Therefore we got to ask all sorts of questions, mostly pertaining to our various curiosities. Vijay Balse revealed himself to be as well versed in the little details of Jeopardy history as I was.
I can't remember where it fits into the timeline, but two or three of us at a time went out from the green room onto the stage, where we were interviewed for the website. They also had us force a laugh. (Some of these laugh shots, but thankfully not mine, can be seen in the ToC promo, also on the site.) I may have babbled a bit, but I mostly had good things to say.
When the time came, the first three (Ryan, Liz, and Patrick Tucker) left to play the game. The rest of us were left to watch a movie in the green room, and Talladega Nights was quickly chosen.
Time went by, groups of three left the room, and I was still in there with diminishing company. Talladega Nights ended and Tropic Thunder was started. The lunch break came, and the seven of us remaining (Justin, Christine Valada, Vijay, Joey Beachum, Jason Zollinger, Kevin, and me) had to stay in the green room, eating sandwiches, salad, and fruit. I started realizing that I wasn't fully recovered from being sick, and my early morning and ear weirdness was doing funny things to my head. I tried to relax after Christine, Joey, and Justin were called. I'd be playing against Jason and Vijay in less than an hour.