Game 2 turned out to be a lot closer than I remembered and a lot closer than the final score indicated.
As I was brought out to the stage for Game 2 was calling me, "Champ." It was a strange feeling. I stepped up to the champ's podium on the right, with LuEllen taking the middle and Jeff taking the left. We wrote down our names, tested our buzzers (we did this before every start or restart of play, so there could be no question that they were working properly), the theme music played, and we were off and running.
As much to get the feel of it as anything, I decided to try playing the first round "straight," with no bouncing. I figured (correctly, as it turns out) that the other two would be unlikely to make the strategically-correct putaway bet if given the opportunity on a DD, so I wasn't as worried about finding it.
I started stronger than I had in the previous game, but the board was much less favorable to me. I beat LuEllen to the buzzer much more often than not when I wanted to ring in, but she went after a lot of questions that I just didn't know.
I came out of the first round with $7000 to LuEllen's $5000, with Jeff a non-factor in third. Jeff started things off, then LuEllen started gobbling down questions in the "Art" category. Categories about art and sculpture are among my very worst, and I didn't even try for the buzzer before LuEllen hit the first DD. Trailing by $2000 in what was clearly a wheelhouse category, she bet $2000. Looking back on it, I strongly disagree with this play; she should have taken a true DD and surged into the lead. At the time, I was quite happy to see a conservative wager. She got the question (the only one in the category that I could have answered correctly) and play continued.
A few clues passed without me getting in, then LuEllen hit the second DD. She wagered $2000 again (a more defensible wager in a random category like "'Go,' Baby, Go"), and was asked a geography question that I couldn't have answered in a million years. She couldn't answer it either, and with that, both DDs were gone with zero net effect on the score.
From there, I was able to start making some progress; my score steadily rose past LuEllen's. Jeff, though, went on a surprise tear, rocketing from a distant third all the way up to a few hundred out of second place. I finally put a stop to it and ran off a few of my own.
With one question left, $2000 in the category, "Great Lakes" (famous people with "Lake" in their name), I had $17800, LuEllen had $9800, and Jeff had $9200. I glanced at the scores very quickly and realized that I needed to ring in on the last clue no matter what; if I got it right, I'd lock the game, and if I got it wrong, I'd still have a crush over both of the other contestants. I set myself to ring in and the clue was revealed; it amounted to, "What football position is designated, 'SS'?" I knew the answer was "Strong Safety," and when I saw the lovely red lights, I knew I had won.
I had always wanted to win a game of Jeopardy!, and I did so in Game 1. My next goal was to lock a game, and I did that in Game 2. It felt great.
I made an itty-bitty wager of $100, and the Final Jeopardy! clue about flags popped up: "'L'unifolie' is one of the names popularly given to the new flag unveiled in 1965 by this country." I knew they wanted a French-speaking country, but, for some reason, my brain wouldn't translate the French. (I don't speak French, but my mom's a French teacher, and I darn well should have been able to see the cognates there.) So, I tried to think of a former French colony in Africa, came up blank (Nice going, brain! Thanks for that!), and flailed with "Haiti." That was wrong, of course, since on Trebek's Jeopardy!, the answer is always "Canada."
So, as it turned out, I was damn fortunate to finish my lock. If one of the other two beat me to the buzzer on that last question, LuEllen would have beaten me and I'd have gone home singing, "Blame Canada!" Instead, I won $19,700, bringing my total to $49,901, and it was back to the Winner's Circle interview and the green room to get ready for Game 3...