Rhone Talsma talks 'Jeopardy' buzzer strategy, those neon glasses, dethroning Amy Schneider
Rhone Talsma is $29,000 richer and a new "Jeopardy!" household name after dethroning history-making champion Amy Schneider.
The 29-year-old librarian from Illinois "expected an intense response" after winning Wednesday's "Jeopardy!" game against the No. 2 winner in consecutive games. In reality, he was not prepared for the attention.
Schneider, an engineering manager from Oakland, California, broke Matt Amodio's record of 38 games with her 40-game streak, becoming the most-winning woman in the show's history.
Expect to see Schneider again this fall in the Tournament of Champions, but the spotlight is now on Talsma, who took the crown with neon green specs and a brown Uniqlo outfit.
"Jeopardy!" episodes are taped in advance, so he's kept his victory under wraps since November, but viewers are just now discovering Talsma. USA TODAY talked to him Thursday, the morning after his winning appearance.
"I wish I had a social media manager right now,” he says. He shares how he beat Schneider, and what was going on in the brain behind those spectacular glasses during the show.
Amy Schneider dethroned by Rhone Talsma: A look back at the tricky 'Jeopardy' clues she missed
He was ready for the 'Final Jeopardy' on geography
Talsma's win Wednesday leaned largely on a true Daily Double about mythology, asking what the Greek goddesses of vengeance are more commonly called in Latin (answer: the Furies) and a "Final Jeopardy" that leveraged his geography knowledge: The only nation in the world ending in "H" (answer: Bangladesh).
Those two moments changed everything.
"I was just so shocked; there was this huge wave of catharsis," Talsma says, describing the moment Jennings announced him as the winner. "All of the emotions that I would have felt during the course of the game all came flooding back at once … I’m laughing, my heart rate is racing, I’m smiling, I’m almost crying.”
Talsma says the Daily Double question "felt like it was a layup," but remembered advice he saw on Reddit: "It’s always easy if you know it." For the final clue, he says he's "always been fascinated" by geography.
"I have a collection of maps in my apartment."
'Jeopardy!':Amy Schneider defeated after 40 games. The moment she knew 'I was in trouble'
His buzzer reaction, Wikipedia helped him win
"I know that I am intelligent," says Talsma, who studied at DePaul and earned his Master's degree in library and information science. But his "main assets were my reaction time, my quick recoil on my buzzer speed and my ability to think strategically."
Before the taping, Talsma said Schneider shared her buzzer strategy: Instead of waiting for the clue indicator light to time her buzzer push, Schneider advised listening to the cadence of Ken Jennings' voice as he finishes reading the question.
Talsma says he had better success using the indicator light as his cue. However, he and Schneider share a fondness for using Wikipedia to study for the show.
"I love Wikipedia, because it's totally democratic and flat level," he says. "It's my homepage when I open up a browser."
Those neon glasses stood out, but they aren't his good luck charm
Schneider wore a classic string of pearls during her "Jeopardy!" streak and told USA TODAY they were a way to keep her girlfriend Genevieve, who gave her the necklace, in her thoughts as she blazed through clues.
For Talsma, it was hard for fans to miss his neon and tortoise shell glasses, which he says he bought after seeing them in an Instagram ad. But the colorful frames aren't his good-luck charm – he credits that to a frequent visitor of the Chicago Ridge Public Library, where he works.
One patron named Tony often stops by the reference desk during Talsma's shifts to ask him "really interesting" questions. In October, Talsma says Tony was able to prognosticate his game show fame.
"I remember that I was sitting at the desk and he told me that I should be on 'Jeopardy!'” he says.
Talsma laughed at the thought and replied "maybe someday" to his visitor while holding in the secret that he'd already auditioned for the show. After Tony left, Talsma went to the break room to check his phone and saw a text from a "Jeopardy!" producer reaching out for a callback.
"While I was having the conversation with Tony, I was getting invited to play 'Jeopardy!' so I decided he was my good luck charm," Talsma says.
When the Wednesday show aired, Talsma says he watched alongside Tony.
'Jeopardy!' interview: Champion Amy Schneider on her strategy (and why she wears those pearls)
He's Amy Schneider's 'biggest fan,' a 'Sex and the City' purist
Talsma grew up watching "Jeopardy!", adding that Jennings' 2004 wins were one of his earliest memories of the show. But since the game show airs at 3:30 CST in Chicago, it can be "hard to watch" in the middle of the work day.
Instead Talsma is a "huge 'Survivor' fan," and now that he's made his TV debut, he's considering auditioning for the CBS reality competition show.He's also a self-described "'Sex and the City' purist" and watches the HBO Max revival, "And Just Like That," describing it as both "frustrating" and "fun."
'And Just Like That': For everything it gets wrong, it sure gets one thing right about female friendships
For music, he is a big fan of pop duo Magdalena Bay's most recent album, and lists Beach House as his favorite band, hoping to see them in concert soon.
Talsma says another individual who has earned his fandom is his former opponent, Schneider.
"Amy is incredible, (she's) really a role model for so many reasons. She embodies so many traits that I hope to embody myself in the way she is both humble and confident," Talsma says. "She knows that I'm her biggest fan … If the Tournament of Champions allows a studio audience, I will be there in the front row. I will have a life-sized cardboard cutout of Amy."
Contributing: David Oliver, Erin Jensen, Hannah Yasharoff
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rhone Talsma: 'Jeopardy!' champ talks neon glasses, dethroning Amy