Dowagiac resident wins big on 'Jeopardy!'

Jennifer Quail of Dowagiac poses with “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek during a taping of the game show in October. Quail, who has been a fan of the show since her childhood, has won three episodes in a row.

DOWAGIAC — Jennifer Quail’s time on “Jeopardy!” has taken Southwest Michigan by storm.

The Dowagiac resident, who grew up watching “Jeopardy!” with her family, is living out her dream, having won the first three episodes that have aired, starting with Wednesday evening’s show.

Quail, a wine-tasting consultant for Domaine Berrien Cellars in Berrien Springs, has won more than $90,000 so far on the popular syndicated show that showcases trivia.

Though she’s been running through her opponents, one of Quail’s biggest obstacles was getting on the show in the first place.

When she applied to appear on show earlier this year, it was the fourth time she had gone through the audition process.

“The normal audition process is you take the online test,” she said. “Each time, I sat and waited. They call you back if you get over a certain score.”

After she was brought in for an audition, Quail was given a written test and an interview.

Then she waited another eight months.

“It’s such a long wait. If you don’t hear from them in 18 months, you’re told to take the test and go again,” Quail said.

During her four tries, she was asked to go for in-person interviews in Chicago and Boston.

Quail was on vacation in Newfoundland when she learned her application had been accepted.

She proceeded to call her parents. Ironically, she said the most excited people to hear the news were the people on her pub trivia team.

In early October, Quail – accompanied by her brother – flew out to Burbank, Calif., to appear for taping of the episodes.

That’s when it hit home for her.

“It was really surreal. We all were in awe,” Quail said. “The set is smaller than you expect on TV. Other than that, it was just like what you see on TV.”

Of course, meeting Alex Trebek was icing on the cake for Quail.

“(Trebek) is so sweet. Between commercials, he’ll go and chat with the audience and take their questions,” Quail said. “He will rib you a little bit if he thinks you were too chicken on a Daily Double.”

One of the things Quail is frequently asked about is how Trebek is doing with his battle against pancreatic cancer.

As of October, Quail said Trebek looked well.

“Healthwise, he seems to be doing quite well,” she said. “Everyone has been asking about him.”

A winning effort

Winning has been great for Quail.

However, she said her main goal was just to get on the show and not finish with a negative score.

“I seriously did not anticipate winning by an enormous margin,” Quail said. “The people who work on the show and other contestants were really nice. We were all nervous ‘Jeopardy!’ fans.”

The show films five episodes in one day.

After contestants enter the green room, fill out paperwork, get their makeup done and rehearse, they are then asked to sit in the audience.

From there, show staff draw the names of the two challengers to face the current champ. From the audience, Quail had to watch matches before she was called up.

“It’s scary when they say you’re next,” she said. “But it’s nerve-wracking when you’re waiting for your turn.”

Since Quail’s run as champion is still being aired Monday through Friday in syndication, she is unable to divulge a lot of key moments from the show.

In the three episodes that have already aired, Quail said she enjoyed the archaeology category and was thrilled when one of the Daily Doubles featured an easy question about Sherlock Holmes.

The reaction she has received from the community has been constant, Quail said.

It’s been two months since she taped the shows, but Quail said it’s been great to watch after the fact.

On Wednesday night – her debut appearance – Quail went to a party at her boss’ house with coworkers. Since then, she has watched episodes by herself.

The experience quickly became surreal when, after the initial episode aired, she checked her phone and found 58 notifications on Facebook.

Quail said she is not used to the local fame: “I had my first weird moment in the grocery store in the checkout line when someone recognized me.”

Contact: twittkowski@TheHP.com, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski