For years, Abby Fisher was just your average fan of Jeopardy, the self-described "America’s Favorite Quiz Show."
She would loudly call out the answers – correct most of the time – in the form of a question to the annoyance of her family who would sit and watch with her "thinking I was nuts."
Finally, her family collectively said, "'Look, just take the online test, already.' So I did," Fisher said.
And after a year-long process, at the ungodly hour of 3 a.m. last Friday morning – the show was pre-empted at its scheduled 7:30 p.m. slot by the start of the NCAA Basketball tournament – Fisher was playing the game for real in the middle player's position with iconic host Alex Trebek and two contestants taped in a studio near Santa Monica.
And despite leading both the defending champion and the other contestant late in the game, all Fisher was praying for was not to end the two challenge rounds without any money and thus unable to answer the question in "Final Jeopardy."
"I didn't want to look stupid on national television," Fisher told Belmont Patch this past Friday.
The Leicester Road resident has lived in Belmont for 20 years ago this spring with her husband (a New York Mets fan as she revealed to Trebek on the show) and her son, a 2011 Belmont High School graduate who is matriculating at Kansas and a 16-year-old daughter who attends Newton's Beaver Country Day School.
After her family pushing her to apply, the professional volunteer registered to take the on-line test which only occurs once a year.
"But I didn't think they'd ever call," said Fisher who is one of 1.3 million potential contestants who have taken the online test since it began in 2006.
But sure enough last May, the show's producers called to ask if she would come to a Boston hotel for an audition which included a live test – to make sure she didn't have someone else take the online test – and taking part in practice games.
Fisher was told that she made the grade to be a contestant on the show but it could take up to 18 months before that call would come.
"I thought that was probably the last I would hear from them," she said.
But in October came the call every fan dreams of receiving: could you fly to Southern California to be play the game in November?
"I could tell people I was on the show but couldn't tell them what I or others had done," she said. (While the show was delayed in Boston, it played at its regularly scheduled times elsewhere so family and friends across the country were commenting on the game before Fisher could.)
Fisher knew she would be staying in Southern California for two days as the show films two weeks of shows with five shows produced each a day.
"It was an amazing experience," Fisher said, as they put her up in "a great hotel," having her make up professionally applied, signing legal disclaimers and being pampered by the show.
"Everyone was extremely nice and helpful and the other contestants were really fascinating with great life experiences. I really enjoyed it," she said.
The show's producers are also prepped Fisher for the 30 seconds in the show which they would talk to Trebek about some interesting fact about themselves. For Fisher, it was revealing that she got a tattoo to celebrate the Boston Red Sox winning their first World Series in decades in 2004.
Then it was her turn, joining the defending two-day champion Lauren Girard and fellow challenger Steve Rininger from Chicago on the fourth show of the day. And that's when her nerves came to the fore.
"It's terrifying, just nerve racking even after seeing the set up and playing practice games," said Fisher.
"What I was really trying to do was to stay focus on the subject but I was thinking, 'Oh my God, I'm on TV playing 'Jeopardy!''" she said.
But Fisher quickly found her footing and soon was answering three of five questions correctly in categories such as "_O_O" (four letter words with double "Os") and "Century of the Invention" and "Jacob" to the question "In the Bible, Shechem defiled Dinah, daughter of this man and Leah; her brothers killed him."
She was leading at the first commercial break with $3,600 and was in second after the first round at $5,600.
Lauren and Fisher got off to fast starts in "Double Jeopardy" with Fisher getting five right and Girard four.
Fisher was in second place with $10,400 when she found the last Daily Double answer in the category “Currency Speculation.” She bet $3,000, but incorrectly said that the first lady on a new $10 gold coin was Martha Washington, rather than Dolley Madison.
"When I finally saw the dates on the coin, I said, 'Duh,'" she said.
At the end of Double Jeopardy, Fisher was in third place with $9,400.
The Final Jeopardy question "On his deathbed, he told police 'What I have done is nobody else's business'; one theory is he was protecting others." was extremely obscure with both women answering incorrectly; Fisher thinking it was said by Oscar Wilde. Only Rininger named "Vincent van Gogh" for the win.
Fisher finished with $2 and earned $1,000 for coming in third which essentially paid for her trip to LA.
But the experience of being on television was well worth the disappointment of not coming out on top.
"I'm really glad I did it. It was so worth it and anyone who has ever thought about being on [Jeopardy] should absolutely take the test. It's really worth it," she said.
"I'm now wondering if I can put being a contestant on my resume or not," she said.