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BYU law professor relives 22 minutes of ‘Jeopardy!’ fame

Christine Hurt knew the outcome of Wednesday night’s ‘Jeopardy!’ episode before it even aired. But her big moment was unfolding on national television, and Hurt sat on her couch, glued to the TV.

Christine Hurt appeared on “Jeopardy!” Dec. 18. The BYU law professor finished in second place.
Provided by Christine Hurt

OREM — Christine Hurt knew the outcome of Wednesday night’s “Jeopardy!” episode before it even aired.

The BYU law professor had lived every trivia-filled minute of it in October, when she flew to the studio in California to compete on the long-running game show.

But now her big moment was unfolding on national television, and Hurt sat on her couch, glued to the TV.

She knew it all, but that didn’t stop her from smiling as she watched herself pick up steam, laughing as Alex Trebek made fun of her odd wagers and covering her face with her hands as she revealed her Final Jeopardy answer.

The big difference this time around, though, is that Hurt had an army of 30 people cheering her on. She sat next to her husband and youngest son on the couch. Her daughter watched from the stairs. Neighbors and friends from the BYU Law School, including the dean, Gordon D. Smith, filled a living room decked out in Christmas cheer (Hurt’s eclectic nutcracker collection could make a story of its own).

Everyone cheered when Hurt got her first clue right — “In music, pianissimo means very this” — and got on the board with $600. And going into the first commercial break, when Trebek told her, “You have the lead,” everyone broke into applause.

Hurt’s friends and family were no doubt rooting for her, but they did give her a hard time when she missed a question about cheese: “Made in 100-pound wheels, this Swiss cheese from Fribourg has a golden-brown rind and a firm, pale yellow interior.”

BYU law professor Christine Hurt, who appeared on “Jeopardy!” Dec. 18, throws a watch party at her house.
Lottie Johnson

“Oh stop it! You weren’t on there!” Hurt exclaimed as her friends in the know teased her for going with “brie” instead of “gruyere.” She later redeemed herself — and secured her job as a law professor — when she correctly answered a question about the 1967 Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia.

Watching Hurt play “Jeopardy!,” it’s hard to believe she ever struggled with the buzzer — she previously told the Deseret News that during the practice round, she was buzzing in too quickly and getting locked out of the question.

“If it were a written trivia contest, every contestant would get most of them right,” she said. “The buzzer makes it a game.”

But Hurt often had control of the board, and she landed on the game’s three Daily Double questions. She wagered $920 on her first Daily Double — an odd amount that had Trebek scratching his head. (During a commercial break, Hurt said her three Daily Double wagers represented her three kids’ birthdays).

She got the first Daily Double question right: “‘An America in which all seniors live nourished lives with independence and dignity’ is the vision of this charity with a rhyming name.”

Hurt answered with “Meals on Wheels,” widened her lead from $6,600 to $7,520 and closed out the first round in first place.

She was still in the lead when she landed on the game’s second Daily Double: “In 1918 Woodrow Wilson outlined these, one of which was free navigation of all seas.”

Her incorrect response, “What are the 12 points?” led Trebek to wistfully say, “You’re two points off.”

Hurt’s $1,118 wager brought her down to $8,002. She also missed the other Daily Double question, but she only wagered $624 and got several questions right near the end, so the professor entered the Final Jeopardy round in first place with $14,178.

And then it all came down to strategy.

The category was “Plants and Trees.” During the commercial break, Hurt told her friends she spent the entire time focusing on the math, calculating how much she would have to wager to win if all the contestants got the question right.

BYU law professor Christine Hurt appeared on “Jeopardy!” Dec. 18.
Provided by Christine Hurt

But only one person got it right.

“One of Britain’s few native evergreen trees, it’s prized for bringing color to winter, and its foliage is often hung in homes.”

The answer Trebek was looking for? “Holly.”

Hurt came up with “fir.” Her $8,223 wager brought her down to second place.

The worst part of it all? She has a sister-in-law named Holly.

Hurt previously told the Deseret News that if she could get a do-over, she’d develop wagering strategies beforehand so she could focus more on the questions.

“It’s hard to overstate how stressful it is while the game is going on,” she said. “The people who are able to slow things down and employ a strategy, my hat’s off to them, because to me it just went incredibly fast.”