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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Larissa Kelly, my Jeopardy love

I have a crush on Larissa Kelly of El Cerrito, CA, who has been tearing things up on Jeopardy for the last three days. I know this because Jeopardy on the treadmill is the only thing that gets me to go to the gym.

Her first day, she finished Double Jeopardy with so much money that if she had bet it all on final Jeopardy and answered correctly, she would have set the all-time record for single-episode winnings. Well, she answered correctly, but she wagered conservatively, which is no surprise because she is entirely phlegmatic and unperturbable. But with this calm comes intrigue: she hardly ever cracks a smile, and never rewards Alex Trebek's flattery in the slightest.

Today's game was incredibly close; she entered Double Jeopardy behind, was in third place for part of it, and only pulled into a slight lead with the last few questions, and the final Jeopardy question was especially hard. And even then, when she won, she only let herself smile for an instant before pulling herself together.

Larissa is a PhD candidate studying 19th century Latin American history and archaeology. Her focus, she explained in the meet-the-contestants opener yesterday, is not about sites like Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza directly, but rather about the social constructs that Mexican archaeology rests on, and the project of building narratives of archaeology that serve purposes of nationalism, revolution, or imperialism. To put her explanation in context, I watched an episode last week where a contestant's introductory story was that once she and her sister had to run across four lanes of traffic at a toll stop to pee.

In a wonderful moment, Larissa singlehandedly polished off an entire category on opera yesterday, and the audience broke out in extended applause. She appreciated this with a smile whose brevity would make a hummingbird feel sluggish.

I also appreciate Larissa's exposing some of the workings of the game. From what I know of Jeopardy, much of winning is in your buzzer timing, since many of the questions could be answered correctly by two or all of the contestants. The buzzers are not activated until Alex finishes reading the question, and every press that comes too early disables your buzzer for some small amount of time. Usually, contestants keep their buzzers too low behind the podium for television viewers to see, but Larissa pulls hers up and waves it dramatically as she presses it, and you can see her wince when someone beats her to the punch.

Here are Larissa's first three Final Jeopardy questions. Video of the first two are available online at the time of this writing; for the third, see

May 20th:
Category: Children's Authors
"In 1896 he said his mother had lost her childhood at 8; he "knew a time would come when I also must give up the games."

May 21st:
Category: World History
"One of history's largest refugee migrations, about 15 million people, took place 1947-1951 between these 2 countries."

May 22nd:
Category: Early 20th Century Plays
"In the preface to this play, the author writes 'The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it.'"

I got only the first one, and that was practically a freebie, judging by Trebek's ususual, offhand prediction that Larisa would surely get it right. Larisa, needless to say, is three for three.

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Anonymous Anonymous on Fri May 23, 06:48:00 PM:
Both members of my household have expressed their fondness for Larissa, even furtively googling her. Both also agree that Alex is acting faintly pervy towawrds her.

Back off, Trebek!

Blogger Jeff'y on Tue May 27, 12:01:00 AM:
Paraphrasing Alex: So why is it that your husband can't find release?

I think that qualifies are more than faintly pervy.

Anyway, the members of the Posnick household are Larissa fans as well.
Blogger SPG on Wed May 28, 10:05:00 PM:
And tonight, the night when our Larissa self-destructed, Alex told her she was, "Gettin' off a lot here!"

We're going to miss her.
Anonymous Anonymous on Mon Oct 13, 10:24:00 PM:
Larrissa is a sort of super woman who i can't help but watch and fall in love with.
Anonymous Anonymous on Mon Mar 23, 07:26:00 PM:
Jeopardy is awesome, but larisa has got to go. She sucks. When she pushes the buzzer it seems as if she is having a seizure. I can't wait until her reign is up. You all are weird.
Anonymous Anonymous on Fri Sep 04, 06:37:00 PM:
Larissa may have a good memory and seem fairly intelligent, but her personality more than overshadows any of those accolades. Her mannerisms and behavior more than indicate the presence of a superiority complex, among other psychological disorders. A prime example is the blatant pouting she displayed at the end of the 2009 Jeopardy Tournament of Champions. I am not impressed by her, and also found myself quite annoyed by her performance.