In a trivia challenge that saw famed “Jeopardy!” winner Ken Jennings eliminated after four questions, Western Kentucky University art history professor Guy Jordan made it through more than 200, setting a record for ABC’s “500 Questions” and ending the season undefeated.
Making his first appearance on the show, which host Dan Harris calls “the toughest game ever devised,” on season two’s fourth episode Tuesday, Jordan made it all the way to the end of the season’s fifth and final episode Wednesday night.
Jordan started off as a challenger, working to knock out the main contestant William Lee, a technical product manager from San Francisco.
In “500 Questions,” the contestant answers as many questions as they can. If they answer incorrectly twice in a row, the challenger gets to pick the category for the next question. A third incorrect answer removes the contestant from the game, to be replaced by the challenger. If the challenger fails to knock out the contestant by the end of a 30-question round, they are eliminated.
Jordan became the main contestant in the fourth episode, and by the start of episode five had answered 109 questions and won $66,000.
Claudia Perry, a four-time “Jeopardy!” winner from Evanston, Ill., was Jordan’s final opponent.
When, at the end of the episode, Perry was unable to knock Jordan out, the game ended with a one-man lightning round for Jordan, who blazed through 18 questions, getting 14 correct and bringing his winnings up to $169,000.
He answered 241 questions in all.
Harris, who said Jordan had previously expressed a desire to use any potential winnings to help pay for his son’s future college tuition, provide better accommodations for students going on a trip to Venice and maybe buy a new car, asked him what he was planning to do with the money now.
“I can’t even begin to think, honestly,” Jordan said. “We live pretty simply. We don’t spend a lot. I’m just happy to have it for savings.”
When reached by the Daily News, Jordan said the pressure of being on the show was difficult to overcome. “When you're up there standing under those lights, with money on the line, you can forget your own name,” he said.
His strategy as a contestant was to choose categories he wasn't as knowledgeable in, so he would have easier categories still available to him if he got a question wrong.
Jordan said “500 Questions” is loads of fun. “I would love to play it just as a pastime,” he said.
Though the show has not been officially approved for a third season, Jordan said he would happily return if invited back, adding that he'll be working hard in the “off-season” to continue honing his skills.
Tuesday night, he watched Episode 4 with his family, adding that it was weird to see himself and hear his own voice on TV. Then, not long after the episode concluded, drove to Haddon Heights, N.J., to watch the final episode with his mother.
His mother did not know about his victory before watching, Jordan said.
“It was a nice surprise but she was most certainly jumping off the walls,” he said.
Members of the WKU community have been enthusiastic about Jordan’s progress.
WKU President Gary Ransdell tweeted “Congrats to WKU’s Guy Jordan, who is knocking it out of the park on #500Questions,” on Wednesday before the final episode aired.
Provost David Lee tweeted, “Congrats 2 WKU Art Prof Guy Jordan 4 a dominating performance on 500 Questions!” on Wednesday.
“What an amazing performance,” Bob Skipper, director of WKU’s media relations, said via email. “Dr. Jordan stayed cool under pressure and not only showed his impressive knowledge, but skill and strategy in his successful run. WKU is proud of him, and his commitment to use his winnings to help students on a study abroad trip this summer.”
— Follow Daily News reporter Jackson French on Twitter @Jackson_French or visit bgdailynews.com.