And we’ve reached the finale! A reminder of how Mental Samurai works. Contestants are strapped into a metal gyroscope called Ava. They have five minutes to answer twelve questions from four categories (three of each type. The order is random). During the regular season if they bested these twelve questions, they’d advance to the round of Samurai where they’d have 90 seconds plus whatever time they had from the first round to answer four questions (one from each category). Besting the first round earned them $10,000. Each question in the second round was worth $25,000 for up to a total of $100,000.
In the regular season each contestant got their own set of questions. In the finale, the 11 competitors that managed to make the Circle of Samurai all went through the same course. The top three, regardless of if they bested the course advanced to the Circle of Samurai. Whichever of the three did best in the second round won $250,000.
Given the number of competitors this show had more editing and as such my normal box score tracking doesn’t work for all competitors. I’ll do a quick breakdown of the twelve questions in the first round, and then a grid of how each competitor got knocked out.
Here’s the question all contestants were asked.
- Knowledge (Toss Up) Curling is an Olympic sport played on ice or grass?
- Sequence (Back Order) What order to the words “Season, Holly, Jolly” appear in “Deck the Halls?”
- Memory (Chatt Atack) How many words ended in “ing” in a text about the Hokey Pokey?
- Puzzles (Wornado) Form “Spaghetti” from word fragments. The clue is popular pasta.
- Sequence (Alpha Order) List “Asia, Europe, South America” in order.
- Knowledge (Factfinder) Which TV show is set in Pawnee, Indiana – Park and Rec. Rob Lowe was on this!
- Puzzles (Oddball) Which ice cream sign is not like the others? B has an extra cone rim.
- Memory (Blackout) What comes out of the creatures pouch in a movie clip? Jewelry.
- Sequence (Time Warp) Arrange “Portia and Ellen”, “Amal and George”, and “Meghan and Harry” by marriage date, earliest to latest.
- Memory (Pay Attention) What passenger was called to reclaim a passport? Harrison.
- Knowledge (Reality Check) Which is the real US quarter? A is a mirror image. Tricky!
- Puzzles (Picture Perfect) Which two-word phrase is represented by a rat in a gym?
The timer at the end of each question either correct or eliminated. Since this was a montage-heavy episode, many of the players have sparse entries. Also, there’s a link to each contestants qualifying run if you want to see that and their biography information.
The two questions that tripped up most players were listing continents in order and identifying a fake quarter. I’ll say the continent question was difficult as Africa and South America look slightly similar and it’s easy to confuse them, especially in a stressful moment. The quarter question is definitely amusing as it was just a mirror image. Traditionally on the show Picture Perfect challenges have glaring things sticking out, so this was especially tricky. Kevin and Matt both fell to the pop culture trap having a gap in knowledge. The most surprising was that Dr. Jackie missed the “gimme” first question. To be fair, curling does sound like a form of weight lifting event.
The most shocking aspect was Sam, Heather, and Chris’ tie for 2nd place. They used how fast the contestants correctly answered questions as the tiebreaker. Sam, Heather, and Chris were all within 2 seconds of each other! The official timer was Chris beat Sam by three-tenths of a second! As Chris Yeh’s podcast revealed, the editing changed the order a little. It actually went in order of regular season success, with Dr. Jackie, Ben, and Nathan going the last three. So Ryan, Heather, and Chris were all worried they’d be kicked.
Onto the medal round!
Circle of Samurai
- Puzzles (Double Crossed) Across: “The Hoosier State”, Down: “Catherine Zeta”, Clue: Movie Character. Indiana Jones.
- Knowledge (Initial Impression) Tom Arnold, Tina Turner, and Ozzy Osborne. The clue is “type of artist.”
- Memory (Name Dropper) Matt the Tiger. Very last image on the right.
- Sequence (Striking Distance) List locations of “Empire, Grey’s Anatomy, and Breaking Bad” from West to East.
Heather “fails” by thinking Empire takes place in Los Angeles. I guessed New York, but it’s actually Chicago! It doesn’t matter as she took down Chris, and Ryan doesn’t come close. Chris fell arguably by being too quick. He lists the animals and names of the image out but does it quick enough to go back to the beginning. Had he been slightly slower, “Matt-Tiger” would have been the last thing he said before the image came up. Ryan is unable to recognize Tom Arnold and “ttoo” is a hard clue to fill in. On Chris’ podcast, Ryan says he realized the answer right when he was done. Sadly, it wouldn’t have mattered, he could not have matched Chris or Heather’s time at that point.
Amazing performance by Heather! I’ll also say that I really enjoyed the format of a knock out room watching contestants watch others try and beat them. I don’t know if Mental Samurai will get a second season, but following that method might add even more tension to regular episodes. I might be back with more advanced stats or analysis. And here’s hoping to a second season!