It is safe to say Ashok Bhaskar ’12 is one persistent Branfordian.
After repeatedly trying out for “Jeopardy!” since the age of 14, Bhaskar’s childhood dream of participating in the popular game show came true in an episode aired Friday night. Although Bhaskar placed last out of the three contestants, with a final score of $666, he said the show awards $1,000 to the third-place finisher.
“I watched ‘Jeopardy!’ all the time as a kid,” Bhaskar said in an interview. “I think the real thing was much harder.”
In a small viewing party in a Branford College suite, around 20 of Bhaskar’s friends and suitemates waited for the show to begin, taping black-and-white posters with the words “Jeopardy!” and “Ashok!” to the walls, as the smell of microwave popcorn and the tune of a remixed version of the “Jeopardy!” theme song filled the cramped common room. Bhaskar — whom friends described as quirky — laughed and sometimes squirmed as he watched himself on TV; attendees raucously cheered and booed at the screen.
Dead silence overtook the room when Bhaskar wagered and lost all of his money in a special “Double Jeopardy!” question, but the viewers celebrated seconds later, when he answered the next question correctly. Friends teased Bhaskar as he blanked on Yale-related questions — both Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86 and William F. Buckley ’50 were responses to clues.
“Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek noted before the game began that Bhaskar was competing against two “veterans”: the previous day’s winner, Ben Auer, and Kori Tyler, a contestant who was given another chance to compete due to show technicalities on a previous episode. The two scored $25,608 and $22,800, respectively, in Friday’s episode..
Despite the outcome, Bhaskar said he has no regrets. His stint on the show comes after an insistent process of trial-and-error: Not even the game’s age limit of 18 deterred him from applying (unsuccessfully) multiple times to the show as a teenager. After several tries taking the application test, and applying to both the college and standard format of the show, he finally got a callback for the standard version.
Friends at the party Friday said they were surprised when Bhaskar was selected for the show’s regular format rather than the college tournament. Still, they said they said they were not shocked by his intent to go on the show given his eclectic passions.
“He’s a friendly guy,” Louis Gilbert ’12 said. “Eccentric, in a good way.”
Matthew Gaba ’12 listed a handful of Bhaskar’s quirks, which include riding to class on a longboard, sleeping with his eyes open and being a former member of the Yale Anti-Gravity Society. During his question-and-answer session with Trebek, Bhaskar recounted a failed attempt at juggling with fire, which landed him with burned hands.
Attendees interviewed agreed that in spite of his performance, Bhaskar ended the show “with a bang,” as one friend at the viewing party said: Baskhar intentionally wagered enough in the “Final Jeopardy!” round to end with exactly $666.
“I had to leave the show with something interesting,” he said.
Bhaskar is the second Yalie in less than a month to appear on “Jeopardy!” Earlier in February, Leah Libresco ’11 advanced to the college championship semi-finals of the syndicated quiz show, racking up $10,000 in the process, but Bhaskar said he had not watched her episodes on TV.
For Bhaskar, Friday’s episode will not be the last time he intends to be on “Jeopardy!” He is ineligible to participate again as long as Trebek remains as host. But he still has hope.
“I’ll just wait till his death or retirement,” Bhaskar quipped. “Then I’ll try again.”