Cherry Hill resident makes her return to game shows on Jeopardy!

Mary Caruso competed on the Jan. 16 episode of Jeopardy! about 25 years after being a three-time champion on Wheel of Fortune.

When Cherry Hill registered nurse Mary Caruso took the stage to compete on the television quiz show, Jeopardy! in 2016, it was actually a continuation of her game show career.

In 1991, Caruso had appeared on another game show, Wheel of Fortune.

“That was back in the day where you could be on up to three times,” Caruso said.

“I was a three-time undefeated champion.”

Caruso decided to try to continue her undefeated game show run on Jeopardy! She competed on an episode taped in late September that aired last Monday.

Caruso has been a Jeopardy! fan for many years. She always enjoyed playing the game from home, answering many of the clues from her living room.

“I’ve always been a fan of Jeopardy!,” Caruso said. “I had watched it since I was a little girl.”

On Jeopardy!, contestants answer clues in a variety of categories. There are two rounds, each featuring six categories. In the last round, called Final Jeopardy, contestants wager their winnings from the first two rounds on one final clue. The winner of each game is named Jeopardy! champion and gets to continue playing on the show until he or she loses.

Last year, Caruso decided to take the Jeopardy! online test, the first step for any prospective contestant trying to get on the show. A short time after taking the test, Caruso received an email saying she was invited to Washington, D.C., to participate in an in-person audition.

The audition consisted of a number of steps. Everyone invited had to take another written test. Caruso also participated in a mock game against two other people and had to go through an interview.

It wasn’t until the end of August when Caruso found out she had been chosen to appear on the show.

Caruso only had three weeks between when she found out she would be on the show and the episode’s taping. She didn’t do any homework prior to the episode.

“I didn’t really study or prepare,” Caruso said. “I just sort of figured I know what I know.”

Caruso admitted she felt nervous during the episode, though many of her friends told her after the episode aired she didn’t look nervous at all.

After watching the episode, Caruso realized there were a lot of details she forgot about the show.

“I have very little recollection of the categories,” Caruso said. “When you’re there, it’s such a surreal experience.”

Caruso played in a very close game against fellow challenger John Avila of Arlington, Va., and Eli Nehus of Fayetteville, Ark. After finishing the opening round with $1,400, Caruso rallied to increase her score to $7,000 at the end of round two, just $1,400 behind the leader Nehus.

Caruso came very close to winning, getting the Final Jeopardy answer correct to increase her score to $13,950. Avila also got the answer correct and wagered just enough to beat Caruso by $51.

Caruso said she wasn’t disappointed about losing, saying she was pleased she played in such a close game.

“I am happier that it was close than if it had been a complete blowout,” Caruso said.

Caruso said the experience was something she will always remember. She spoke favorably of the production staff and everyone involved with the show.

“The people that work on the show are tremendously nice people,” she said. “They treat you very nicely.”