I know it's very James Holzhauer of me, but I've got a feeling about Ken Jennings, the Edmonds-born Jeopardy record holder for most games won, bringing home the bacon.
The Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time (GOAT) tournament has been going since Tuesday and pits Jennings (who won 74 games in a row—"it took a whole summer," Jennings said in an episode this week) against Brad Rutter, who has won the most money in Jeopardy history ($4,688,436), and James Holzhauer, a professional sports better who had an explosive winning streak last year that broke the record for most money won in a single game ($131,127—the former highest single-game total was $77,000).
The tournament will end once one contestant wins three games. Jennings and Holzhauer were tied before last night's game, one win to one win. But, Jennings pulled ahead. He won last night's game handily. It was sexy.
This isn't your grandma's game of Jeopardy. Each episode lumps two Jeopardy games in one hour of television, in part for the spectacle and in part because the three contestants decimate the game board at record speed. The tempo of the Final Jeopardy theme (played by what sounds like a live symphony?!???) even seems faster to match their pace. On the first night of the game, Jennings remarked that playing two back-to-back games is tiring and out of the ordinary for the contestants. (He obviously never watched four episodes of Jeopardy in one sitting with his college roommates like I did. Which makes me wonder... Have I... been training for the Jeopardy GOAT tournament my whole life??)
(Okay, while I'm talking about this format, I just really need to mention something that is getting my goat about the GOAT tournament. I am loving the extra gameplay but I have some qualms with what seems like attempts to make the run-time longer. Yes, I'm looking at you, incessant video categories with celebrity cameos. No one needs to hear Christopher Plummer read a clue two times slower than it takes me to read the clue!)
Anyway. The games have all been close with Jennings and Holzhauer finishing the first match with only a $200 difference. Rutter, on the other hand, is having a tough showing. He's finished pretty much last in every game. Last night's episode was the first time he's even been in the running for second place. Rutter, the guy who's won the most money ever in game show history, did so poorly in the second game that he couldn't participate in Final Jeopardy:
do u think last night brad, who was so in the red he couldn't even play final jeopardy against ken and james, cried in the bathtub? i think he cried in the bathtub.
— rachel syme (@rachsyme) January 9, 2020
Last night, he self-deprecatingly said he wished he had practiced more on buzzing than memorization. Oookay, Rutter. What's that saying about a workman blaming his tools? But, for real, a common refrain from contestants is that the signaling device is a tricky thing to master. One of my most favorite parts of these type of champion-of-champions competitions is when a player buzzes in but doesn't know the answer because half the battle is just buzzing in first. Jennings has a practice signaling device rigged up at his house that he practices on.
Jennings and Holzhauer, however, have been neck and neck. They've been razzing each other. Holzhauer joked that he prepped by reading Jenning's books in a "know your competition" sort of way. Jennings said he studied the cadence of Alex Trebek's voice. Maybe that's the way to go.
Jennings's lead was pretty much uncatchable from the beginning of the game. He screwed up his face in a concentrated grimace when he got a tough question and exhaled in relief when he got it right. (Did you know that another word for scar is cicatrice? I didn't. Jennings did.) "I never want to do that again," Jennings breathed after narrowly getting a Daily Double about state succession right. But I know it's all false modesty.
I see you, Ken. You are Seattle's champion. You are my champion. Do us proud. End this thing.
The next episode of Jeopardy!'s GOAT tournament airs Tuesday, January 14 at 8 p.m. local time.