Advanced Stats Television: Mental Samurai Episode 3

And we’re back! I’m reviewing the reality TV show Mental Samurai but from a box score perspective. Every week I rundown each contestants performance. Since Mental Samurai is a timed trivia game show, the box score is pretty simple – how quick and how far does each player go?

In case you haven’t seen the show — which is streamable at Fox — contestants are strapped into a gyroscope, called Ava, flung around between four towers and asked a series of trivia questions. Answer 12 in a row, win $10,000. Answer four more, win $25,000 per question. Answer all 16, win the title of Mental Samurai. I run down the category types and subcategories that appear in my week one writeup if you’re new. This week we did actually see one new subcategory added:


  • True Colors: Four different words are shown, each of a color word. Each word is in a different color (different from the word color). The contestant is asked to say what color the word was in. Confusing!

Also, as always future contestant Chris Yeh’s podcast often has bonus content for the show, so subscribe to that if you haven’t already.

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.

Kevin Hays

24-year-old Software Developer. He’s a world champion in the Rubik’s cube. He even has a viral video of solving the most Rubik’s cubes underwater!

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Puzzles Wordplay 0 300 294 6
2 Knowledge Fact Finder 9 285 278 7
3 Sequence Alpha Order 7 271 255 16
4 Memory Chat Attack 8 247 235 12
5 Sequence Back Order 10 225 183 42
6 Memory Blackout 8 175 156 19
7 Puzzles Oddball 11 145 105 40
8 Knowledge Toss Up 6 99 92 7
9 Puzzles Gridlock 9 83 72 11
10 Memory Echo Chamber 9 63 53 10
11 Sequence Striking Distance 9 44 30 14
12 Knowledge Toss Up 8 22 18 4
13 Knowledge Spellbound 0 148 111 37
  1. Rearrange letters to spell a superhero: Wolverine
  2. Where was the Fresh Prince Born and raised, according to the song? You should know this, so I’m not leaving the answer.
  3. Pear, Lime, Corn in order
  4. New Phone — who dis? Which letter was capitalized? He literally said all lowercase except N right before this.
  5. Place the words in the order they appear in the Star Spangled Banner (Twilight, Lights, Fight)
  6. Which tollbooth is not labeled tickets (numbered reverse order)
  7. Uh Oh! Four bikes, front wheel on C has one fewer circle to draw it. This challenge is b.s.
  8. Where is the femur located? Leg.
  9. Find three Grammy Award-winning bands in letter jumble. Wow, in 11 seconds??
  10. Repeat “Winter Spring Fall Summer” with visual clue too.
  11. Order LAX, Ohare, ATL from West to East.
  12. Which animal can live to be 100 years old? Maine Lobster or Atlantic Salmon.
  13. Spell the ten-letter word for the name of the Generation Born Between Generation X and Generation Z.

Kevin advances to the “Circle of Samurai” by nailing the first twelve questions. I will say if I get around to making a “strength of schedule” metric I know it will show Kevin had a ridiculously hard set of questions. Oddball is the toughest question by far. In a cruel twist of fate, Kevin falls on spelling his own generation. Full disclosure, I use Grammarly to edit my posts, and it tells me on a weekly basis my spelling is atrocious!

Marie Criddle

36-year-old stay-at-home mother. She is also a very talented illustrator. She gives Rob Lowe a great journal with a drawing of him surfing on the cover.

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Sequence Alpha Order 0 300 285 15
2 Knowledge Snap Shot 8 277 266 11
3 Puzzles Wordnado 8 258 250 8
4 Memory Blackout 8 242 226 16
5 Sequence Time Warp 10 216 195 21
6 Knowledge Fact Finder 9 186 178 8
7 Puzzles Mirror Mirror 11 167 154 13
8 Memory Chat Attack 10 144 129 15
9 Sequence Record-Breaker 11 118 95 23
  1. List Cookie, Waffle, Sundae
  2. Identify the author from an image of a shake and a spear.
  3. Form word commander from floating fragments.
  4. Which hand is a snowboarder touching his board with in an image – right.
  5. Place Musicals in order the appeared on Broadway, earliest to latest: Producers, Legally Blonde, Mean Girls
  6. What is Lady Gaga’s First Name? Stefani
  7. Chalk Image of e=mc2
  8. Stu order a pizza with emoji for cheese, bacon, and tomato, but no peppers emoji. Which topping didn’t he want?
  9. Arrange models by Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Covers: Tyra Banks, Kate Upton, Chrissy Teigen.

A very strong run. The question that stumped her, was super hard too, given that the difference between all three models was only 2 — Kate Upton was the most with three.

Frankie “Bam Bam” Bloise

39-year-old retired MMA fighter. He has a samurai tattoo!

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Puzzles Wordplay 0 300 292 8
2 Knowledge Snap Shot 8 284 0 284
  1. Rearrange the letters of a vegas game of chance: Roulette
  2. What Rock music is represented by an image of a Hall and Oats?

Last week I said I thought Bennett Reeber’s 231 failure on “Elephant in the Room” would hold up as the longest time on a question. Sadly Frankie falls to a similar problem, but arguably much more forgivable. He recognizes what the two images are — a Hall and Oats. But he never puts the two together. The band category Snap Shot challenge is brutal, as it also took down Dr. Ken last week.

Jaimi Alexander

36-year-old Digital Marketing Specialist. She labels herself the “Queen of All Trades.”

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Puzzles Picture Perfect 0 300 287 13
2 Sequence Striking Distance 8 279 258 21
3 Knowledge Toss Up 10 248 220 28
4 Memory Blackout 7 213 190 23
5 Puzzles Wornado 8 182 172 10
6 Memory Mind Field 10 162 149 13
7 Knowledge Special Equation 7 142 118 24
8 Sequence Measure Up 8 110 79 31
9 Knowledge Initial Impression 7 72 0 72
  1. What image is represented by a man pushing a giant envelope (3 words)
  2. Arrange famous party cities from North to South.
  3. Which direction do Tinder Users swipe to represent they like someone?
  4. What color was the tablecloth in a scene from Dumb and Dumber – tough one!
  5. Identify the word Cosmopolitan from floating fragments. Clue – Drink and Magazine.
  6. Boat in the #2 spot.
  7. Add Dollar Value of Bill featuring Andrew Jackson + Jacksons in Jackson 5.
  8. Arrange professional ball types from small to largest by circumphrence. Golf Ball, Tennis Ball, Base Ball.
  9. Combine these famous people’s initials to name a state capital. Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck, Neil Young. Albany.

Jaimi was already in time pressure when the state capital flubbed her up. Part of the challenge of some of the Mental Samurai challenges is they are two-parters. Step one do this, step two, do that. This can trip people up as their head isn’t in the right space for problem two if problem one knocks em down. Jaimi realized Albany immediately at the end, but I think was too knocked off guard not recognizing a picture of Neil Young. I didn’t know who it was either.

Nathan Gonzales

27-year-old Emergency Medical Tech. His mother was an ER nurse, and he’s getting married soon. I suspect the wedding budget may have gone up recently.

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Puzzles Wordplay 0 300 293 7
2 Sequence Alpha Order 9 284 261 23
3 Knowledge Toss Up 10 251 244 7
4 Memory Chat Attack 7 237 223 14
5 Puzzles Mirror Mirror 8 215 202 13
6 Memory Blackout 8 194 180 14
7 Knowledge Snap Shot 8 172 158 14
8 Sequence Measure Up 8 150 138 12
9 Knowledge Reality Check 8 130 123 7
10 Sequence Time Warp 9 114 101 13
11 Memory Echo Chamber 9 92 80 12
12 Puzzles Missing Piece 11 69 63 6
13 Puzzles Oddball 0 153 143 10
14 Sequence Time Warp 9 134 114 20
15 Knowledge Fact Finder 9 105 98 7
16 Memory True Colors 11 87 68 19
  1. Rearrange to form a long-running reality show: Survivor
  2. List five letter words: ghost, skull, and witch, in order (from picture clues)
  3. Florida or California, which is the Golden State?
  4. I just got house emoji and the rose emoji I’ve got kiss emoji (x4) for you! How many kiss emojis?
  5. License plate mirror image.
  6. Video of a man skateboarding on diner top. Which hand did he extend? Left.
  7. Which magazine is represented by a picture of a Vanity and a picture of a Fair?
  8. Arrange McDonald’s menu items by calorie count: Big Mac, Small Fries, Large Diet Coke.
  9. Which of these is the Real Sculpture of David by Michaelangelo? Fake has a crown of thorns.
  10. Arrange headlining performers from earliest Superbowl to latest: Janet Jackson, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga.
  11. Repeat a pattern of “Eeenie, Meenie, Mo, Mo, Miney” (visual clues as well)
  12. Missing puzzle piece in a fish image.
  13. Spinning Adventure badges. The odd one is missing a bird silhouette.
  14. SNL Actors earliest to latest: Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones
  15. The TV Show Mad Men was set at what fictional advertising agency? Sterling Cooper
  16. Show four color words, each is a different color. Pink is blue, which is the question.

Mental Samurai may be slightly more lenient than Jeopardy. On question 14, Nathan calls Kate McKinnon – Kate McMahMahMah (or at least that’s what I heard). Regardless the order was still right and easily inferable. Amazing, amazing job! Also, he nailed the Oddball question in 10 seconds! How ridiculous is that? As I noted we see “True Colors” for the first time and this puzzle is a doozy. Nathan still knocked it down easily for the fastest time to win both rounds of Mental Samurai we’ve seen. Will it hold up?

Next week I might start doing some more meta analysis. This week’s crop was a strong group that honestly only got flubbed on “gaps in knowledge.” I will say that is one of the fun aspects of the show. There is an element of luck, because no matter how skilled or knowledgable a contestant is, it’s hard to know everything. This week’s crop was incredibly strong and great great job to Nathan for taking down the crown.