Ken, I’ll take ‘Really Smart Huskies for $200.’ Northeastern University librarian to appear on Jeopardy!

Rebecca Bailey standing next to Ken Jennings on set of Jeopardy!
Northeastern reference librarian Rebecca Bailey with Jeopardy! host Ken Jennings.

Editor’s note: Northeastern reference librarian Rebecca Bailey shines on Jeopardy! on Thursday night, answering 21 questions correctly and just one question wrong. Unfortunately, that one incorrect answer was in Final Jeopardy! and Bailey gave up her lead. The question? “Dante gives him, born to a Kurdish family in the 12th century, a place of honor in limbo along with the war heroes of Rome & Troy.”

Answer at the end of the story…

As a reference librarian at Northeastern University’s Snell Library, Rebecca Bailey is used to answering questions.

Thursday night, she will answer them in the form of a question, as she appears on Jeopardy!

“I’m very excited for people to see it,” Bailey said succinctly in an interview on Wednesday, successfully deflecting the opportunity to hint as to the episode’s outcome.

But appearing on the popular game show was not an opportunity Bailey particularly sought out.

“I am probably one of the most accidental Jeopardy! contestants you’ll ever meet,” Bailey said. “There are people who take the online test every year and have been trying to get on for years and years. I was kind of the opposite.”

Indeed, Bailey (who worked full-time at Snell for more than 10 years before moving to part-time upon the birth of her daughter 8 years ago) said she was no more than a casual but curious viewer.

“Watching the show, I feel like I know a decent number of answers, so I wondered what the test was like,” Bailey said. “That was my entire purpose.”

Apparently, she did well, because things snowballed from there.

After taking the initial test last April, she was given a second test with several other potential contestants via Zoom in June. Then she was informed she had passed the second test, and she was invited to play a mock game, also via Zoom, in October. In the beginning of January, she got a call inviting her on the show.

“I was completely shocked, floored. I never thought it would get to that point. I never had the goal of appearing on Jeopardy! I just took the initial test, and it kept going,” Bailey said. “It was kind of terrifying when they called, and of course I said I’d do it, but it wasn’t anything I expected. It was completely shocking.”

So, what was it like?

What is “intimidating.”

“I felt absolutely like ‘what am I doing here?’” Bailey said. “I was petrified.”

Bailey explained that contestants are brought to the studio roughly a dozen at a time as the game show tapes five episodes in one day. Contestants go through hair and makeup; they bring multiple outfits (in the event they move on to the next episode, they wear different clothes) and go through wardrobe, they do a rehearsal where you get to try the buzzer, and then the contestants are sequestered to wait until their name is drawn to appear on whatever episode is being filmed.

“The longer it goes on, the more nervous you get,” Bailey said.

Her episode was the fourth of the five episodes taped that day, so she got plenty nervous.

Finally, she got to the stage.

“It’s such a blur when you’re in it,” Bailey said. “There’s a lot I don’t remember about my experience in the taping because you’re so busy in recall mode, trying to remember these facts, you’re not able to make memories.”
But that will make watching herself on television Thursday evening exciting. Jeopardy! airs in the Boston area at 7:30 p.m. weekdays on WBZ Channel 4 (CBS affiliate). People elsewhere can go to and enter their zip code to find out the time and channel in their area.

And while she may not remember specifics—for example, what all the categories were during her game—she does remember the people she met.

“Everybody’s nerdy and they all have their own specialties,” Bailey said. (Her specialty is U.S. presidents and world capitals).  “They’re really great people.”

Overall, Bailey said she is glad that she made it to the stage.

“You’re kind of joining this community, I appreciate it for that and just for the experience,” Bailey said. “It’s something way out of my comfort zone, and I never thought I would do it and I’m really glad I did.”

Answer: Saladin

Cyrus Moulton is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @MoultonCyrus.