For 20-year-old senior Max House Johansen, it seems as if his University of Miami education paid off – literally. Johansen, who is called “well-read” and “very smart” by friends, came home with $25,000 after winning trivia game show Jeopardy!’s “Kids Week Reunion,” which aired at 7:30 p.m. on WPLG channel 10 Monday night.
Johansen, who competed and lost in the original “Kids Week Jeopardy!” in 1999, was contacted by a Jeopardy! producer last May who asked if he wanted to participate in the show’s Kids Week Reunion episode, and Johansen accepted.
“When I didn’t win Kids Week Jeopardy! [in 1999], it haunted me,” Johansen said, adding that in middle school, he was famous for impersonating actor Keanu Reeves. “I’d been wishing to get a second chance ever since.”
Johansen, who outsmarted the two other contestants during Monday’s reunion episode, said that the morning of the show, he “knew [he] was going to win.”
To prepare for the show, Johansen received support and help from roommates and friends and regularly watched Jeopardy! to learn the trivia categories.
“He’s been DVRing every Jeopardy! episode for three months trying to prepare for this,” said Ben Bleustein, a senior majoring in finance. “He would also try and calculate what amount of money he would need if he was the person in the lead.”
He was encouraged by friends to take “True Daily Doubles,” a strategy that can double a contestant’s score if answered correctly and in many cases, take the lead. However, if answered wrong, the score drops to zero.
In Johansen’s case, this risky strategy worked in his favor.
Johansen’s friends said it was “not a surprise” that he won the game show.
“He’s very well-read and he wanted this really badly,” said Johansen’s former roommate Eric Newman, a senior majoring in biology. “He took the time to make sure he was ready.”
Last year, as roommates, Johansen and Newman had “serious and philosophical conversations irrelevant to life,” said Newman.
Other friends said Johansen’s keen memory helped him win the game show.
“He can watch movies and recite the words back verbatim,” said Max Shewer, a junior majoring in advertising. “He’s been brilliant since he came out of the womb.”
Johansen said he will use his prize money for rent, investment savings, “buying things,” and a 21st birthday party next weekend.