Those who have enjoyed watching Hunter Appler dominate Jeopardy! over the past couple of weeks may get another chance next season.
In an episode of the iconic television quiz show that aired June 8, the 2002 Mount Airy High School grad launched into a six-game winning streak that has positioned him to possibly participate in a forthcoming Tournament of Champions.
His performance – including $2,000 won while finishing second in his seventh episode Thursday night – generated a winnings total of $147,603.
While other eligibility rules apply and final selection is up to the producers, the tournament generally features champions who have won the most games during the prior season.
According to a tracker available 0n Jeopardy.com, Appler is tied for the second-most number of wins this season with the third-highest winnings.
“It’s not a guarantee, but I’m hopeful,” he said.
Appler, a Charlotte attorney who lives in Augusta, Georgia, made a visit Wednesday to his hometown for a viewing party hosted by his mother, Kate Appler, at The Loaded Goat.
“In some ways, it was a lot like my wedding reception. I did a lot of smiling, shaking hands and thanking people,” he said. “I agonized a bit whether I would be doing it for my town, or for my own ego. But I realized it would probably be a lot of fun for everybody, and it wasn’t worth overanalyzing.”
The party completed a cycle of positive experiences that began when he first applied to be on the show.
He had been asked to participate in a regional qualifying event after applying through an online test.
“I felt good coming out of Savannah,” he said, doing well with the answers and making a note of instructions that stressed how showbiz was an important element.
‘They make no bones,” he said. “They’re trying to do good TV, so I made an effort to be good for the camera.”
Producers indicated that few contestants get on the show their first time, and Appler didn’t hear anything about advancing to the actual show for about a year.
“I had all but forgotten about it,” he said.
Until he got the call.
“I was ecstatic,” he recalled.
During that phone call, in which he was asked about any felony convictions or conflicts of interest, he accidentally hung up on the producers.
They called back, and a few weeks later, Appler flew out in March for the taping with six family members in tow.
To put appearing on Jeopardy! in context, consider a few things:
• Appler was a member of a Quiz Bowl team at Mount Airy High which contended for a state championship.
• He and his wife, Abigail, are avid viewers of the show and also have an active bar trivia team.
• Trivia by definition means details of little value, but it’s fun.
The way Appler puts it, his hobby is accumulating random knowledge.
“It’s not important,” Appler said. “It’s sort of a silly thing.”
But on Jeopardy!, that kind of knowledge is important.
“This is where all that matters,” he said. “Right here, right now, that matters. I can really turn this to my advantage and come out the winner.”
As the emcee at his bar trivia put it, Appler had been “brought up to the majors.”
So how did the reality compare to the dream?
“The thing that stuck with me most, once it started, was how much fun it was,” he said.
He developed a camaraderie with his fellow competitors, all of whom he said were very knowledgeable.
“The buzzer, however, that’s where the game is won and lost,” he said.
Appler handled the buzzer, and the answers (questions) well enough during his seven episodes that were taped over two days.
“Winning felt like a mix of excitement and relief, especially the first time,” he said. “But I also didn’t want to let myself feel too celebratory, I knew that I had to keep a level head for the next game.”
And the next, and the next, and so on.
But winning six games wasn’t the only highlight.
“I had a list of things that, ideally, I would get to do on Jeopardy!” he said, which were saying “let’s make it a true Daily Double, Alex,” and then getting the answer right; winning a game with a runaway and working his cats’ names, ‘Quincy’ and ‘Winston,’ into an answer.
“I am happy to say I got to do all of them, so they are my highlights,” he said. “Additionally, the Daily Double I answered in my final game (‘What is Japan?’) was such a great clue that answering it correctly is another highlight.”
Speaking about the loss that ended his run, Appler said, “the fact is, I felt good. I mean, not great, I still wish I’d won. But I don’t kick myself, or regret how I played that Final Jeopardy.”
With Appler in the lead by just less than $2,000, the Final Jeopardy! category of “Book Titles” was announced.
“I didn’t think I’d know it, so I bet nothing. And I didn’t know it. I hoped Liz wouldn’t know it. And she did know it. So she won,” he said of the only other contestant in range to win.
“The way I see it, I played it perfectly, I just didn’t have the knowledge. My competitor did. That’s the best way any champion can go out.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.