Advanced Stats Television: Mental Samurai Episode 4

Week 4 and we’re in a groove, so I’ll just be copy/pasting my recap notes if that’s ok. 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.

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.

Stephanie Thornton

38-year-old Direcotr of Consumer Insight. She’s a Mensa member, which is how she met her husband. He’s also competing!

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Sequence Alpha Order 0 300 291 9
2 Memory Blackout 9 282 269 13
3 Knowledge Toss Up 9 260 246 14
4 Puzzles Picture Perfect 8 238 230 8
5 Memory Echo Chamber 8 222 209 13
6 Puzzles Wordnado 9 200 188 12
7 Knowledge True Lies 9 179 166 13
  1. Egg, Ham, Pie
  2. What name is person carving in the photo: Thomas.
  3. What is printed on US currency? “God Bless America” or “In God We Trust”
  4. Duck Face based on an image of a person taking a selfie of themselves in a duck mask.
  5. Repeat “Diamond, Circle, Square, Triangle” with visual and audio play.
  6. Combine floating/moving fragments to spells lemonade. The clue is a beverage and hit pop album.
  7. Doc is the only member of the seven dwarfs whose name does not end in Y. False. Missed Bashful, ouch!

There’s going to be some nice symmetry here. Stephanie answered a trick question too quickly. Her run had been going great and she actually had built up a decent buffer. Some quick back of the napkin math said she had 23 seconds a question (excluding travel time) for the back six. Running through all seven dwarfs would have definitely been worth it. A slight misstep on an otherwise strong run.

Jameson Thornton

32-year-old electrical engineer. As noted, he’s married to Stephanie Thornton and they’re playing for bragging rights. It appears she went first so he got to observe her run, a definite edge. He claims at home his win rate in various trivia games is about 1/5.

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Sequence Back Order 0 300 289 11
2 Knowledge Toss Up 7 282 269 13
3 Puzzles Wordplay 7 262 252 10
4 Memory Blackout 10 242 183 59
5 Sequence Time Warp 9 174 156 18
6 Knowledge Fact Finder 7 149 137 12
7 Puzzles Mirror Mirror 11 126 105 21
8 Memory Mind Field 7 98 80 18
9 Sequence Alpha Order 11 69 43 26
  1. Put the words “London, Bridge, Falling” in the order they appear in the song “London Bridge”
  2. Fred Flinstone is the father of which child: Bamm Bamm or Pebbles.
  3. Rearrange letters to identify a New York city district: “Wall Street”
  4. How many seconds does Tom Hanks say he’ll be judged on in a clip from the movie Sully (208)
  5. Arrange video game consoles in debut date (early to latest): Atari 2600, Nintendo Game Boy, Microsoft XBox 360
  6. MMA Artists in the UFC compete in what shape of cage: Octogan.
  7. A^2 + B^2 = C^2 chalkboard.
  8. Where is the trophy located? Spot 6
  9. List the Kelly Ripa Co-Hosts alphabetically by first name. Regis, Middle Guy (he doesn’t know his name, neither do I), and Michael.

We get into interesting territory here. Technically Jameson bests his wife by going two more questions than her. However, by spending a full minute on his blackout question, he was in a precarious spot. In fact, by the time his run ended, I can say it was almost impossible for him to win. At 8 seconds, at best, per travel time, he’d need to answer all three of his final questions in 8 seconds or less. Highly unlikely, especially given that some questions take 10-16 seconds at minimum. As I mentioned, a very symetric point. On a multiple choice question, Jameson spent far too long, especially as he’d narrowed the question to two possibilities. Sadly he was downed by Ryan Seacrest!

Leah Khoury

24-year-old accountant. Wants to defy the stereotype that accountants are boring!

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Sequence Alpha Order 0 300 284 16
2 Memory Blackout 8 276 262 14
3 Knowledge Fact Finder 8 254 248 6
4 Puzzles Wordplay 9 239 218 21
5 Memory Pay Attention 10 208 189 19
6 Puzzles Picture Perfect 8 181 161 20
7 Knowledge True Lies 9 152 138 14
8 Sequence Time Warp 8 130 101 29
9 Memory Mind Field 9 92 68 24
  1. List national toy Hall of Fame inductees alphabetically: Dominos, Hoola Hoop, Slinky. In order!
  2. Study image of balloons and duck balloon carefully.
  3. Kanye West and Rihanna released the song “Fourfiveseconds” with which former Beatle? Paul McCartney
  4. Rearrange the letters to spell “Serena Williams”, the clue is “Professional Athlete”
  5. Which makeup was not mentioned in a sound clip? Blush.
  6. Identify the phrase “In one ear, out the other” by an image.
  7. The Letter “O” in the text acronyms “LOL” and “ROFL” stands for the same word. False!
  8. Arrange these fashion brands by their founding date, oldest to newest.
  9. Where is the butterfly balloon located? 1 spot.

The Mind Field strikes again! Leah was starting to get into time trouble but had an otherwise impressive run. The killer Memory tower is brutal.

Matthew Potts

36-year-old Intelligence Officer in the Marine Corps. Has done seven tours of duty and didn’t come here to lose.

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Knowledge Fact Finder 0 300 291 9
2 Sequence Alpha Order 9 282 269 13
3 Memory Pay Attention 9 260 240 20
4 Puzzles Missing Piece 8 232 221 11
5 Memory Echo Chamber 7 214 202 12
6 Sequence Alpha Order 8 194 178 16
7 Knowledge True Lies 7 171 146 25
8 Puzzles Double Crossed 9 137 107 30
9 Sequence Measure Up 7 100 88 12
10 Memory Blackout 9 79 56 23
11 Puzzles Oddball 8 48 30 18
12 Knowledge Toss Up 8 22 14 8
13 Puzzles Missing Piece 0 104 93 11
14 Knowledge Toss Up 9 84 72 12
15 Memory Hear Say 11 61 39 22
16 Sequence Time Warp 10 29 7 22
  1. Which is an image of an alpaca? (Middle one)
  2. Bow, Hay, Pin.
  3. What is there a 2-for-1 sale on? Pickled Peppers.
  4. B
  5. Repeat a pattern of green, yellow, red.
  6. Canoe, Kayak, Yacht. Clue is five letter floating vessels.
  7. Singer Lorde released her hit song “Royals” when she was only 16 years old.
  8. Miami Vice from clues: “NFL Dolphins Home” and “Bad Habbit”
  9. Arrange Eggs in order from smallest to largest: Salmon, Chicken, Ostrict.
  10. What wasn’t visible on an image of a burger (pickles)
  11. C has a larger claw that the other three. He’s a damned wizard.
  12. Which Olympics did the US most recently host. Winter, apparently.
  13. B completes puzzle.
  14. Which blockbuster won the Acadamy Award for best picture? Titanic or Avatar?
  15. What was the second sound played? Owl
  16. Place songs: Ice Ice Baby, Baby Got Back, Baby One more Time, Baby in order they hit top 10 on the charts.

True story: Ice Ice Baby was the first cassette I ever owned. Matthew puts up an amazing run and falls just short on a gap in musical knowledge. To be fair, I didn’t realize there was only a two-year delay between Ice Ice Baby and Back Got Back. Can’t wait to see Matthew back on in the finale.

Andrew Ames

35-year-old professional dancer, who has danced with some major names. He’s also scared of heights!

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Puzzles Picture Perfect 0 300 0 300
  1. Identify the Two-Word phrase represented by an eye in a candy wrapper.

Andrew has some fun records for a televised contestant. He’s the first contestant to spend the full five minutes on a question. Also, as he notes, since he didn’t answer the question, he’s also the only contestant to not get a question wrong or right! Good to be in the record books I guess.

Marlena Gasper

39-year-old Director of Academics. Lost her mother to HIV/AIDS at 15. Dropped out of school to help her mother, but went back and now has six degrees!

# Category Subcategory Travel Time Start Time End Time Answer time
1 Knowledge Snap Shot 0 300 291 9
2 Sequence Alpha Order 7 284 247 37
3 Memory Echo Chamber 10 237 224 13
4 Puzzles Wordplay 8 216 207 9
5 Sequence Time Warp 7 200 178 22
6 Knowledge Factfinder 9 169 157 12
7 Puzzles Oddball 10 147 121 26
8 Memory Pay Attention 11 110 90 20
9 Sequence Striking Distance 9 81 68 13
10 Memory Blackout 9 59 46 13
11 Knowledge Special Equation 12 34 0 34
  1. Identify the Two-Word phrase represented by an eye in a candy wrapper.
  2. What Vegas duo is represented by a picture of a Pen and a Teller?
  3. List One, Two, Three, in alphabetical order!
  4. Repeat: “Blonde, Burnette, Blonde, Redhead”
  5. Rearrange the letters to identify a famous dog: Snoopy.
  6. Arrange US Holidays by when the fall in the year, earliest to latest: New Year’s Day, Halloween, New Year’s Eve.
  7. Who played Batman opposite Heath Ledger’s Joker? Christian Bale.
  8. B is missing a ring.
  9. The burger on the soundbite is made of tofu.
  10. Arrange these doctors by body party they specialize in from head to toe.
  11. What was the painting on the wall of? Sailboat.
  12. 99 Red Balloon and 99 Problems from Jay-Z combine for 198.

A very strong run sunk by a gap in musical knowledge. Must be a theme this week. Marlena had already gotten into time trouble by question 11, and was sunk when there was no real way to guess he way through it quickly. Otherwise a great run.


I’ll be back next week with more box scores! Today’s fun meta-analysis fact: of the televised contestants that answered at least 10 questions correctly, we’ve yet to see one fall to the Puzzles tower. Also, we’ve yet to see a contestant fall on question 14. We’ll see if next week changes that!

-Dre