Jonathan Adler ’07 (’09 MS), a contestant on reality show “King of the Nerds,” lied to this writer. Or at least lied by omission. Under contractual obligation by TBS—though taping ended last summer—he could not reveal at the time of our last chat that he actually won the nerd-competition series, and its $100,000 prize. But the WPI alum did—and lying became a necessary way of life for quite a while.
“I had to lie to a lot of people for a long time,” he said. “People would ask me, ‘Did you win?’ I’d say, ‘I could tell you, but you have to pay my lawyer fees when I get sued,’” he said.
Adler competed in a series of STEM-related challenges while living in a Los Angeles house with his 12 competitors in Season 3 of the nerd-centric show. When it came right down to the final challenge, which aired March 14, it was Adler—a WPI graduate and Arizona-based advanced analytics consultant—pitted against Ben Tully, a 29-year-old postdoctoral research associate studying deep-sea marine biology. But Adler is far from claiming he blew him out of the water.
“Ben’s a good gamer … it was very close,” Adler said.
All is fair
The finale involved the contestants playing seven games. The person to win four games first is crowned King of the Nerds and wins the cash prize. When it came right down to it, it was a 3-to-3 tie and one game left to name the winner.
Adler talks about his final challenge on message boards online. “I had done a ton of Picross puzzles [logic puzzles where you fill in squares in a grid to make a picture] before (and I love them),” he wrote. “I didn’t think I had it in the bag though, just that my odds were maybe 80 percent.”
After the show, it was revealed that a “secret six” alliance strategy helped a core group—which included Adler and Tully—vote others off the show.
When the finale aired, his co-workers were also watching at home, and Adler’s inbox was flooded with happy emails. Though he’d been back at work, he kept his secret from colleagues, too, day in, day out. “They had no idea,” he said. “They said, ‘I’m going to be more careful when I do a project with you,’” as it appeared Adler was scheming in the final episode, he said.
Adler is the first male to win the crown. Celeste Anderson of Ontario won Season 1, and Kayla LaFrance of Washington State won Season 2.
All contestants met up again at the premiere party in Los Angeles, said Adler. “We all keep in touch. I would like to think we’re pretty friendly.” Adler regularly met up with show contestant Amanda Liston—who lives 20 minutes away from him in Gilbert, Ariz.—and her husband, Chad, to watch episodes together.
As for what he’ll do with the $100,000?
His original plan—thinking his chances of winning were slim—was to buy a Tesla electric vehicle. But now that he’s won, he feels he should do something more responsible with the money. But, “I think it’s important I do something nerdy with it.”