Former Fresno resident Fran Fried became part of “Jeopardy!” history following Tuesday’s episode.
Not so much because Fried is transgender, and is believed to be only the third trans person to appear on the popular game show.
But because Fried was part of arguably the wildest “Jeopardy!” ending ever.
Fried, 56, led for most of the show, including a $10,300 lead with only six clues remaining.
Ex-Fresnan Fran Fried was tied going into Final Jeopardy! at $12,300 and owned a $11,300 lead on the contestant who was in third place.
But after fellow contestant Carlos Nobleza Posas of Salt Lake City managed to pull into a tie with Fried at $12,300 going into Final Jeopardy!, one of the craziest finishes went down.
The category announced for Final Jeopardy! was “Asian Geography” with the final clue: It’s the only country that borders both the Caspian Sea & the Persian Gulf
Defending champ Manny Abell, a Navy officer from Lacey, Wash., had the least amount of money going into the final round at $1,000.
He got the Final Jeopardy! answer wrong (responded with “What is Iraq?”) and bet $999.
Nobleza Posas then showed his response, which also was wrong (“What is Azerbaijan?”). His bet was all $12,300.
Then Fried showed her response: “What is Tibet?”
Fried’s answer also was wrong.
The correct response: What is Iran?
Fried placed her hands on her face as it was revealed she also bet all $12,300.
Which meant Abell won the show and survived to play again despite finishing with just $1.
What can I say? I got thundered on the river.
Former Fresno resident Fran Fried
Abell became only the second contestant in “Jeopardy!” history to win with $1.
The only other time it happened was in 1993.
In an interview via telephone, Fried said she felt she had to be aggressive and bet it all since she was in a tight race with Nobleza Posas, who had managed to make a furious comeback at the end of Double Jeopardy!
Fried, who’s notorious among her friends for betting wild at the poker table, said she’s spent the past 2 1/2 months trying to figure out how to explain her collapse to family and friends once the episode aired.
“I was gobsmacked when it happened then,” Fried said. “And I’m gobsmacked now.
“What can I say? I got thundered on the river.”
Fried said she actually felt somewhat guilty going into the show’s airing because she knew the disappointing outcome (it was recorded in August).
Meanwhile, many family and friends and countless others expressed so much excitement to see her on “Jeopardy!”
In her hometown of Prospect, Conn. – where Fried has lived since moving from Fresno in 2012 after three years living life full-time as a woman – a local cafe and a tavern threw viewing parties.
Many in Fresno, including former co-workers at The Fresno Bee where Fried worked as an editor for five years, intently watched on the TV and cheered from afar.
Fried re-watched the episode as it aired on the East Coast. She couldn’t take watching it again by the time “Jeopardy!” aired on the West Coast.
“There was this feeling up there just knowing my whole childhood dream was going down the toilet,” Fried said. “I thought for sure I’d stick around for at least a game or two.
“I felt comfortable and confident, but not cocky up there. My lifetime goal was to be a five-time champ. Then that happened.”
Still, Fried walked away from the show with $2,000 in winnings, awarded second place.
She remains optimistic the exposure on “Jeopardy!” and the support she’s received leading into the show, including from thousands of strangers on both the East Coast and West Coast, can lead to something big.
“The first night, I didn’t sleep very well. … I felt like I blew my big chance for something wonderful to happen,” Fried said. “But you know, maybe something good will happen.
“My life has already taken some crazy turns. I should know to be ready for the next crazy turn.”
And perhaps more so, Fried said she is hopeful that her appearance on “Jeopardy!” can inspire other transgender people to not only be comfortable with who they are, but to chase after their own dreams.
Like Fried did by being on “Jeopardy!” It took four tries before she finally made the show.
“If I helped move the ball forward in that regard, that’s a good thing,” Fried said. “That’ll make the experience worth it even more.”