Advanced Stats Television: Mental Samurai Episode 2

And we’re back! Quick recap – Mental Samurai is a new reality tv / game show hosted by Rob Lowe. Contestants are strapped into a gyroscope (nicknamed Ava) and given five minutes to answer twelve trivia questions from four categories. Answer all twelve right, win $10,000 and get a chance to answer four more questions (each worth $25,000) Miss a question and it’s over. I’ve been keeping track of each contestant’s performance and will hopefully be adding more analysis as the season progress. Let’s run down this week’s crop. There were no new categories or subcategories this week, so check out my initial post if you want a more thorough breakdown of the rules.

Below is each contestants “box score” with a little analysis. A reminder of the stats I’m tracking:

Category: The category of the question – Knowledge, Puzzles, Sequence, or Memory

Subcategory: Each category has a selection of types. I list these in depth in my week one write up.

Travel Time: How long it takes for Ava to settle the contestant in front of the tower with the question up in front of them.

Start time: What the countdown is at (in seconds) when the question is first visible to the contestant.

End time: When Ava flashes green or red, signifying the contestants answer has been registered.

Answer time: The time between the start time and end time. I note when this is below 18 seconds in green, and above 18 seconds in red, as, in theory, that’s the needed pace to complete the full challenge.

Brandy Edwards

33-year-old Cosmetology Instructor. She says she went to school to become a teacher and decided it wasn’t for her.

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Knowledge True Lies 0 300 285 15
2 Puzzles Picture Perfect 9 276 265 11
3 Memory Echo chamber 7 258 245 13
4 Sequence Striking Distance 7 238 220 18
5 Knowledge Reality Check 9 211 202 9
6 Puzzles Double Crossed 9 193 180 13
7 Memory Blackout 8 172 152 20
8 Sequence Alpha Order 9 143 127 16
9 Knowledge Fact Finder 8 119 107 12
10 Sequence Record Breaker 7 100 77 23
11 Memory Name Dropper 11 66 45 21
  1. A million is a 1 followed by 9 zeroes? False.
  2. Four-word phrase by a picture: “Skeleton in the Closet.”
  3. Repeat a four-word sequence using the words: lion, tiger, and bear.
  4. Arrange popular homes from west to east: Playboy Mansion, Graceland, Whitehouse.
  5. Venus De Milo, one image is missing the arms, the other the head.
  6. Common salad ingredient from two crossword clues – Bell Pepper.
  7. How many white stars are in a photo of a family dressed as superheroes – 6.
  8. Birds alphabetically: humming, owl, penguin.
  9. Which “Sex and the City” character ran for governor of New York – Miranda.
  10. Arrange musical artists by number of billboard top 100s – Beyonce, Michael Jackson, and the Beatles.
  11. Police lineup with men holding a number. She misses it!

The memory tower is brutal. This was a pretty solid run before falling to one of the more common pitfalls.

Ken Franklin

64-year-old retired doctor. He’s a big board game lover and has over 325 in his house and regularly hosts game nights. He’s also made some of his own games.

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Puzzles Mirror Mirror 0 300 292 8
2 Sequence Alpha Order 7 285 273 12
3 Knowledge True Lies 9 264 258 6
4 Memory Blackout 6 252 236 16
5 Puzzles Wordnado 8 228 219 9
6 Memory Name Dropper 9 210 195 15
7 Knowledge Snapshot 6 189 149 40
  1. Backwards nametag of the name “Grace.”
  2. Baby, Bath, Crib.
  3. The Earth Revolves around the moon, true or false? False.
  4. A clip of a hockey goal, with the question of the jersey number of the scoring player – 9.
  5. Combine word fragments to make the word tortilla.
  6. Three employees based on name badge – Rudy.
  7. Two images for the band – The Chain Smokers.

Ken is one of the only contestants we’ve seen that’s taken advantage of answering quickly. It does look like the timer waits until Ava is done saying the question to register an answer. That said, you can answer quickly and go fast. As such Ken managed to stay well ahead of the required sixteen second cutoff speed until he ran into a pop culture question he didn’t know the answer to.

Bennett Reeber

23-year-old student at UC Davis studying political science and international relations. Maybe wants to be a lawyer.

Elephant in the room …
# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Knowledge Snapshot 0 300 290 10
2 Sequence Alpha Order 8 282 265 17
3 Memory Blackout 11 254 240 14
4 Puzzles Picture Perfect 9 231 0 231
  1. What sci-fi movie is represented by a Clover and a Field?
  2. List chair, chalk, and ruler in alphabetical order.
  3. Image of a mother and a son in the kitchen. Answer that the son is holding cucumbers in front of his eyes.
  4. What phrase is represented by the picture of an elephant in a room?

Bennett will likely hold the distinction, for a while at least, of having the longest answer time. He got stumped on the phrase “Elephant in the room.” Despite almost saying it verbatim several times. Watching Rob Lowe give “Office Style” glances to the camera during this part was hilarious.

The gift that keeps on giving.

Heather Hurley

36-year-old Strategic Planner at the Library of Congress! She’s also a member of Mensa and loves libraries.

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Sequence Alpha Order 0 300 290 10
2 Memory Chat Attack 8 282 268 14
3 Knowledge Toss Up 9 259 253 6
4 Puzzles Picture Perfect 7 246 239 7
5 Memory Echo Chamber 11 228 217 11
6 Puzzles Wordplay 7 210 204 6
7 Knowledge Snapshot 9 195 187 8
8 Sequence Time Warp 7 180 159 21
9 Memory Blackout 9 150 134 16
10 Puzzles Grid Lock 8 126 81 45
11 Knowledge Fact Finder 8 73 64 9
12 Sequence Measure Up 10 54 36 18
13 Knowledge Fact Finder 0 126 117 9
14 Puzzles Mirror Mirror 10 107 95 12
15 Memory Blackout 8 87 70


  1. Axe, oar, saw.
  2. What punctuation mark was not used in a text? The answer was a period.
  3. Beer is made from grain or grapes? Grain.
  4. Identify the one-word expression from an image of a worm in a book.
  5. Four-word sequence using words London, Rome, Paris.
  6. Rearrange the letters to form the rapper name “Eminem.”
  7. What term is represented by the image of a fan and a boy?
  8. Arrange Starbucks beverages by year the were released: Frappuccino, Pumpkin Spice Latte, and Cold Brew.
  9. What color was the bowling pin in the juggler’s left hand? Yellow!
  10. Find four TV shows in a letter grid.
  11. In which country do people not drive on the right side of the road? Three options, England was the answer.
  12. Arrange these grades of beef from lowest to highest – select, choice, prime.
  13. (Worth $25,000) Mixing the color of Cookie Monster’s fur with the color of Big Bird’s feathers makes which color? Green.
  14. (Worth $25,000) Reverse chalkboard image.
  15. (Worth $25,000) Sum of dice numbers in a casino image. 11 was the answer.

A pretty stellar run to “tie” with Sam Durbin for the best performance we’ve seen. The question Heather was downed with was brutal as she said the correct numbers aloud but then summed them incorrectly. Other than that, a no-nonsense run. Can’t wait to see her back for the Circle of Champions!

Mitch Emerson

40-year-old rideshare driver and karaoke host from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Puzzles Double Crossed 0 300 274 26
2 Sequence Alpha Order 6 268 255 13
3 Knowledge Toss Up 9 246 209 37
4 Memory Name Dropper 7 202 184 18
5 Puzzles Picture Perfect 8 176 167 9
6 Memory Blackout 9 158 139 19
7 Knowledge Reality Check 8 131 121 10
8 Sequence Striking Distance 8 113 90 23
9 Knowledge True Lies 9 81 65 16
10 Sequence Time Warp 9 56 34 22
11 Memory Hear Say 10 24 4 20
  1. Identify movie: “Purple Rain” from two crossword puzzles.
  2. List Beer, Wine, and Milk in alphabetical order
  3. Victoria Secret models are called Angels or Devils? (Angels)
  4. Year book photos with the correct answer being Betty.
  5. “Paint the Town Red”
  6. Image of a cross on a hand. The ring finger is the correct answer.
  7. Real Great Pyramid of Giza. The fake image has stairs.
  8. Arrange the Alamo, Alcatraz prison, and Independence Hall from west to east.
  9. Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman were high school friends in Sydney Australia. True, apparently.
  10. Earliest to most recent triple-crown winners: Secretariat, American Pharaoh, and Justify.
  11. Which animal sound did you not hear? Bear is the answer.

This was sadly a case of having studied the travel time enough to know that by question 10 he probably had no shot. When his challenge was a “Hear Say”, which requires a decent chunk of time just to hear, I knew he was sunk. A great run by a fun contestant, but fell prey to spending too much time of questions, especially 40 seconds on a toss up.

Carl Sharpe

28-year-old Ticket Sales Manager. His backstory is he ended up in foster care and was raised by his uncle.

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Sequence Time Warp 0 300 277 23
2 Knowledge Snap Shot 7 270 261 9
3 Memory Echo Chamber 6 255 241 14
4 Puzzles Wordplay 7 234 222 12
5 Knowledge Toss Up 9 213 205 8
6 Sequence Measure Up 9 196 183 13
7 Memory Blackout 7 176 156 20
8 Puzzles Compound Fracture 8 148 136 12
9 Knowledge Special Equation 10 126 28 98
  1. List the Walkman, iPod, and Beats by Dre in order they came out.
  2. What band is represented by a Radio and a Head.
  3. Four word pattern using the words nickel, dime, penny.
  4. Rearrange letters to spell “Ellen DeGeneres”
  5. Which drink traditionally contains champagne – Mimosa!
  6. Bed size from narrowest to widest – full, queen, king.
  7. What is written on the hood of a car in a video of it skydiving? “Good Stuff.”
  8. What word combines Quarter____ and ___Door? “Back”
  9. Add the number of the original US Colonies (13) and the number of candles in a John Hughes movie title (16).

Another case where a pop culture blind spot costs a contestant. Carl was well ahead of schedule before getting stumped here. He thought the movie had 13 candles and spent time trying to guess the US Colonies. Rob Lowe again got to entertain the camera being a former Brat Pack member here.

More Meta Analysis

A reminder that friend of the blog and future Mental Samurai contestant Chris Yeh (@chrisyeh) has his own podcast where he recounts behind the scene insights and interviews with other contestants. So definitely subscribe if you haven’t already!

With two episodes under our belt, I was able to start looking at some aggregate data. First, the average travel time is about 8 seconds (in part because there is no travel to the first stop or after the last), which technically means contestants have about 18 seconds on average to try and answer questions. However ….

As noted, Ken showed that you can jam in the answer super fast and as soon as Ava is done talking it will get registered. Of course, some questions like “Hear Say”, “Pay Attention”, and “Blackout” have a built in lag while you wait for an audio/visual clue to finish. Regardless, that’s a pretty good piece of info that any season two contestant, provided the rules stay the same, should use.

One rough part is that time management is obviously the key to this game, but it’s very hard to keep track of.

A final note, we’re starting to get enough samples to see what is the killer for contestants. Of the 12 “deaths” we’ve seen, six came at the hands of a Memory puzzle, two at the hands of a Knowledge puzzle, two at the hands of a Puzzles puzzle, and two at the hands of a Sequence puzzle. Both the “Name Dropper” Memory challenge and “Record Setter” Sequence challenge have knocked out two contestants. We’ll see if that’s a trend.

Alright, until next week!