'Giant Killer' Drew Basile on Why He Bid Only $118 in Win Against 15-Day Champ (Exclusive): From Survivor to Jeopardy!

The late Alex Trebek used to end Jeopardy! episodes with, “We have a giant killer,” if a new contestant defeated a champ on a winning streak

Published Time: 21.06.2024 - 03:31:18 Modified Time: 21.06.2024 - 03:31:18

The late Alex Trebek used to end Jeopardy! episodes with, “We have a giant killer,” if a new contestant defeated a champ on a winning streak.

Current Jeopardy! host Ken Jennings quoted his predecessor on the June 19 episode after Survivor alum Drew Basile defeated 15-day champ Adriana Harmeyer, who has the 11th longest streak in the show’s history.

The latest “giant killer” — a 23-year-old who turned in his master’s thesis for English Literature to Oxford University on the same day his debut episode aired — is the first Survivor player to appear on the quiz show.

Below, the Survivor season 45 alum tells PEOPLE how he plans to spend his Jeopardy! winnings, the sweet reason why he bid $118 in the final Jeopardy round on June 19, which Survivor contestants he wants to see play on the quiz show next and which players he wants to compete with if he returned for Survivor‘s 50th season of all-returnees.

PEOPLE: After final Jeopardy!, host Ken Jennings said, “As Alex Trebek used to say, ‘We have a giant killer.’ But rarely one so giant as this.” How does that make you feel? 

Drew Basile: It's a funny joke. ’cause I gotta tell you, I am very tall. I'm 6’6”, so I really stand out. So it's giant in physical stature, but I hope to continue on with some great games to qualify for the Tournament of Champions and they call me a giant in Jeopardy! stature, a trivia giant taking out Adriana Harmeyer, obviously an extremely competent player with 15 wins — it's a good start. I see big things in my Jeopardy! future. I hope to become a giant myself, hopefully one that does not get slayed. 

You won your debut episode with $23,482. How do you plan to spend this money and any future winnings? 

Oh, I'm going to spend it lavishly, bottle service, champagne, trips to the coast. laughs I mean, I've been studying for my master's degree in English, a degree that doesn’t produce great amount of wages, great net income. So seriously, it's probably gonna be saved. I'm probably gonna stockpile. We'll see how much more I win. But, yeah, a little bit of splurging. I'm gonna take my girlfriend on vacation, but nothing too fancy.

Where do you both want to go?

She says, “Fiji.” Her name is Mary Grace Meredith. Her birthday is January 18, and $118 was my final Jeopardy! bid. I always figured that if I ever, by some miracle, locked up a game on Jeopardy!, if the money didn't matter, that my final bid would be be a shout-out to one of my biggest supporters. We've been together for four years. 

Which other Survivor contestants would you want to see play Jeopardy! next? 

If you're looking for a Survivor contestant to play Jeopardy! you gotta look at Omar Zaheer, right? His sister Juveria Zaheer came on and absolutely annihilated. And the apple's not far from the tree. Omar is a really smart guy. He proved that on Survivor, and I think he could come on Jeopardy! and tap into some of that familial brain power and do quite well.

You once said your Survivor idols were Jonathan Penner and John Cochran. How fun do you think it would be to go up against them in Jeopardy!?

Cochran and Penner are both smart guys, let's not deny it, but they're in the entertainment world. They'll get the TV shows, they'll get the movies. It will be a pleasure to meet them, but I think it would be a slaughter. I don't know if they'd stand up to me. But I think they're much better Survivor players, and so they would kill me out there in Fiji. laughs

I noticed you already updated your Instagram to include “Jeopardy champ.” Would you ever want to return to Survivor to try to add “Survivor champ” to your bio?

Survivor is one of -

the most intense and exciting experiences that people who play ever have, right? It's lightning in a bottle, and there's always this dream that you can come back and perfect it. You can finish. For me, I'm so content with my experience, but I would love the chance to play again, especially for a season like 50. … I'm not holding out for anything. I'm always open to returning if that is something the fans want. 

If you did come back for Survivor’s 50the season of all-returnees, who else from any season would you want to play with? 

I loved Charlie Davis from season 46. What a smart guy, Charlie Davis. He did everything I wanted to do but better. So he's somebody who I have a lot of admiration for. Just such a smart guy. He always keeps it cool. I got kind of, you know, I, I blew up. I had a little bit of a temper, but he was just such a cool customer. I have to admire that. I would love to see him out there. And of course, how can we forget my ride-or-die Austin Li Coon,just a triple threat in every capacity. I think if there's anyone who was underestimated, and given the chance to come back and earn the million dollars, it’s that guy.

Which Survivor castmates supported you before, during and after the episode? 

I've gotten so much support from Survivor people, from every level of the show. It’s really a family, and Jeopardy! I threw a watch party at Garage Fishtown in Philadelphia, and I was fortunate enough to be graced by the presence of Emily Flippen, Brandon Donlon and Sean Edwards, all from season 45 —and some figures from the future we'll have to see in the fall. But they all came through. And that really means the world.

People often talk about Survivor bucket list items, but what’s on your Jeopardy bucket list?

My Jeopardy! bucket list begins and ends with the Tournament of Champions. I would love to go on a winning streak. … I want to prove myself at the highest level of competition. I've already beat probably the number one seed, so that's gotta be worth something. Tournament of Champions, my eye is certainly on it.

You got 21 questions right in your Jeopardy! debut. What was the hardest clue you had to answer? 

Hardest clue has got to be that Daily Double, right? Drew bid $10,000, and the clue was: "The world's largest aircraft carrier for 10 years. It was built starting in October 1943 & named for a battle 16 months before." Because I am playing an absolute competitor, Adriana, you know, she's a beast. And it goes through my mind, like, maybe I can make a conservative wager, you know, get a lead, but keep myself in the game. Then, I thought to myself, listen, this is like a one-time only thing. You've got one chance, so go all in. The question rolls down, and it's military history. … I certainly don't know about aircraft carriers. So immediately there was like a real mental hit. I'm like, “Oh, dear God, like, this is over.” … But Midway hops into my mind. … My dreams are on the balance. So it was very stressful, and I felt like my mind really blanked under the pressure. So I'm fortunate to have been able to turn back with the right answer.

You could see the relief in your face when you got it right.

Oh, yeah. My legs went weak. 

Anything else you would like to add? 

Being out on that Jeopardy! stage is magical. Very different than Survivor but equally rewarding. I'm really grateful to have had the opportunity.

Never miss a story — sign up forPEOPLE's free daily newsletterto stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Jeopardy! airs weeknights on ABC (check local listings), and Survivor can be streamed on Paramount+.

Follow Us