I went into the game with Terry and Dave. I was happy to get the Yankee Stadium category out of the way first. But then my first ring-in was to name a pope who said Mass there in 1965. I took a guess at a '60s pope, saying John XXIII, and I was wrong. I've been wrong on $1,000 clues before, but this was my first ring-in of the game, and in my eighth game, it was the first time my score was negative. I managed to get back up to $0 by the first commercial break and put it behind me.
In Double Jeopardy, I hit my first Daily Double of the tournament. I had $3,600, and I had planned to wager half of it, but when Alex prompted me to wager, $1,600 came out of my mouth instead. No matter, it's only $200. It was easy enough, and I got it right. I continued playing as it went, and at the end I was at $13,200 to Terry's $17,200. Dave was still a factor at $7,800.
My initial thought on Final Jeopardy wagering was that I would have to choose between keeping my score high enough to beat Terry if he and I got it wrong (assuming Terry bet to beat me by $1), or staying above Dave if he and I got it right (assuming Dave bet everything). When I calculated how much I'd have to wager to beat Dave ($2,401), I realized that I could have it both ways (if wrong, I'd fall to $10,799, and I expected Terry to fall to $7,999 on an incorrect response). Then I got scared that Terry might expect me to wager small just to beat Dave, and also wager small to counteract that. So I considered the largest wagers I could make. To stay ahead of the $7,999 I projected Terry would fall to if he answered Final Jeopardy wrong, I could wager up to $5,200 (I cut it down to $5,199, just in case) and stay ahead of Terry if we were both wrong. I realized that this was more than enough to get ahead of Terry, and decided I could just wager to barely surpass him. Going for $4,001 seemed the simplest, and it was guaranteed to win me the game if Terry was wrong and I was right.
After locking in my $4,001 wager, I thought about the scenarios in which I would win or lose, given my wager and the ones I predicted for Terry and Dave. I lose to Terry if he gets it right, no matter what else happens. I win if I get it right and Terry gets it wrong, no matter how Dave does. I win if everyone gets it wrong. I lose to Dave if he gets it right. I figured we were more likely to get one that stumped everyone than we were to get one that I'd get and Terry would miss.
When the clue was revealed, I tried to think of any 20th century Frenchmen I could. Proust was the first to pop into my mind, but it didn't seem right. Camus didn't seem right either, because I thought he might already have been dead by the time mentioned in the clue, but I stopped thinking there and wrote down his name anyway.
Alex went to Dave first. "Who was Sartre?" was correct. I started enjoying my final moments on the Jeopardy stage, sighing and being happy for Dave beating me—then his wager of $213 was revealed. He had wagered to beat Terry, but I knew at that moment he wasn't going to beat me. I was stunned. Alex came to me, revealed the response I knew was wrong, and revealed the wager that I knew would at least keep me in second place. Dave was at $8,013, and I had $9,199. Then he came to Terry, sounding doubtful. Terry hadn't gotten it either, but he did make the wager I expected from him, dropping to $7,999. In the moment Alex announced me as the winner, I almost smacked my podium, but I stopped myself because I had done that at the end of my fifth game and I didn't want to be caught doing the same thing twice. Terry hugged me (which is as incredible an experience as winning on Jeopardy), and I caught the hugging bug and turned and hugged Dave. "It should have been you" came out of my mouth, and I immediately wondered whether it was the appropriate thing to say. (Dave took it well, not the way I worried he would.)
I was herded (can one person be herded?) to a row of seats in the audience all by myself, where I would sit and watch the other two semifinals and try to let it sink in. Half an hour later, Jason joined me. We went to lunch with contestant coordinator Robert and the last semi-final winner. Two more games.