Raymond Goslow does not remember a moment in his life without Peril! When he was little, his father recorded the quiz night for the family to watch, he said.
“It’s been a part of my life for my whole life,” Goslow said. “I’m the type of person who likes to suck up all kinds of knowledge and trivia and cling to it, so it seemed only natural that one day, somehow, I would be on the show.”
Now he has. Goslow, a senior majoring in geospatial science at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, is a finalist for this year’s annual meeting. Peril! University championship, organized by Mayim Bialik. So far he has won over $20,000. Tonight he is competing with two other students for the winning title and the top prize of $250,000.
Goslow is one of more than 26,000 hopeful university students from more than 4,000 institutions who have applied to be on Peril! this year, according to the announcer at the start of the show. To be considered, students had to pass an initial 15-minute online test of more than 50 different clues, answering each in 15 seconds or faster.
Another candidate, Matt Downing, a senior marketing and applied math student at the University of Notre Dame, took the initial test in October 2020 after seeing an advertisement. He passed it, passed a follow-up test, and then had an interview. In January 2021, he participated in a live acting audition via Zoom. Ten months later, in October, he finally learned that he was one of 36 undergraduates selected for this year’s competition.
“It was surprising,” said Downing, who placed third in his quarter-final match on February 10. “Honestly, I didn’t really expect it. I remember I made a mistake during the live audition, and I did well other than that. But once I messed up, I I was like, ‘That’s it. I’m screwed’, so that was really surprising.
The 36 chosen students were flown to Los Angeles to film the show in November. In groups of three, they played 12 quarter-final matches, which began airing on February 8. The winners of these have faced each other in four semi-final matches, and the tournament concludes with tonight’s final two-game match.
Although Goslow could not disclose spoilers, he said that the final game of Peril! was intense.
“I had the best time of my life up there in the final,” Goslow said. “Just being up there and representing my school has been an amazing experience.”
Even if Goslow doesn’t win the title, he still comes out on top: second place wins $100,000 and third place wins $50,000. But the 36 students receive a cash prize: the eight semi-finalists win $20,000 each and the 24 quarter-finalists win $10,000.
Goslow said he didn’t give much thought to what he would do with the money.
“My biggest concern right now with the prize money is actually just the taxes and the sorting, because you have to pay the California tax and the federal tax,” Goslow said. “So it’s nothing fancy, just the annoying stuff to make sure I report it correctly so I don’t get accosted by the IRS.”
Like Goslow, Jaskaran Singh regularly watched Peril! with his growing family. He even took the test to become a contestant for the show’s annual Teen Tournament when he was around 13, but he didn’t make it, which “stung”, he said.
Now studying finance and economics at the University of Texas at Austin, Singh tried to compete in this year’s annual national championship after being pushed by his mother.
“I tried once and I was like, ‘Never mind, I didn’t make it,'” Singh said. “And then my mum encouraged me to try again. She said, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ and I finished on Peril!”
Singh won his quarterfinal match against students from Brown University and the University of Southern California, then won his semifinal match on Friday. Tonight, he will face Northeastern University’s Goslow and Liz Feltner for the title.
Claire Jackson, a sophomore in English and Spanish at Spelman College, applied on a whim to be a candidate after receiving an email from her university about the tournament.
“Honestly, I thought it would be just fun enough to take the test, like a little prank with my family,” said Jackson, who placed second in her quarterfinal match. “And then when I got the email that I was asked to do an encore, that’s when I was like, ‘OK, so maybe this could become a real thing. “”
Students took different approaches to prepare for the competition. Jeric Brual, who is now a graduate of New York University but was a senior film and television student while filming the show, read two books to refine his strategy for the show: The secrets of the buzzer by Fritz Holznagel, winner of the 1995 prize Peril! Tournament of Champions and Answers in the form of questions by Claire McNear, a collection of testimonies from the past Peril! competitors.
Brual said his experience while recording mirrored the stories in McNear’s book.
“It’s all true. Everyone I interacted with who works on the show was so nice and so friendly,” said Brual, who placed third in his quarterfinal match. “They made us feel welcome, at home, and made us feel like celebrities in a way. I was so honored to be there.
In contrast, neither Jackson nor Goslow prepared much for the match. Jackson said she trusted her knowledge and didn’t want to pile up or get confused before the game; Goslow said his life watching Peril! served as sufficient preparation.
“I thought to myself that somehow I was preparing for Peril! my whole life just learning things and watching the show,” Goslow said. “So I thought I didn’t want to stress myself out or overdo it trying to fit in and study.”
Since their episodes aired, some students have reported being recognized in public. Singh said a group of strangers approached him at a restaurant last week when he was waiting for food.
“Some people noticed me and said, ‘Hey, are you sure? Peril!?’” Singh said. “It was really fun. And it was really nice – a few of them said congratulations. It was the first time it had happened.
Downing was surprised by his newfound stardom. He has given interviews to local and university news outlets and said many more students on campus know his name now.
For tonight’s final game, Singh said, he will watch with his parents in Dallas. He agreed with Goslow’s assessment that the game was intense.
“It was nerve-wracking, considering at that point there was as much pressure as there was going to be,” Singh said. “As it was a two-game final, it was a particularly long record, but we got through it in the end.”
Goslow will attend a watch party hosted by Kennesaw State, where members of the campus community are invited to come cheer him on. Goslow said he also invites family members to the party. Regardless of the outcome, he remains grateful for the experience.
“Getting to know all the other contestants was really special, because it’s all these students who are into the same cheesy things that I was interested in,” Goslow said. “So even putting the game aside, the whole experience itself was amazing.”