All Aboard the Katie Train

Wild Celebrity ride highlights a fun week in Jeopardy!

Published October 15, 2023

Welcome back to my weekly rundown from the world of Jeopardy!

This week saw the continuation of the “Spades” bracket in Champions Wildcard, with the last four quarterfinals and the first semifinal on the syndicated show; primetime Celebrity Jeopardy saw its third quarterfinal.

Each heading contains a link to my daily write-up over at The Jeopardy! Fan

Quarterfinal #6 – Monday, Oct. 9

No. 1 seed Lucy Ricketts proved in this one that the three games and nearly $80,000 she won in 2021 were no fluke, picking up over $10,000 after the opening round and cruising to a runaway victory after Phil Hoffman’s $5,000 attempt on a Daily Double came up empty1.

Neither Phil nor Camron Connors came up with a correct response to Final Jeopardy in Woman Authors: In “A Room of One’s Own,” the “four famous names” are Austen, 2 Brontës & this author who died closest to Virginia Woolf’s own time. But Lucy correctly named George Eliot; she later tweeted that she has “read A Room of One’s Own a thousand times” and has “a print of the Milton Glaser book cover on [her] bedroom wall.” Lucy advances to next Tuesday’s semifinal.

Quarterfinal #7 – Tuesday, Oct. 10

Morgan Briles jumped out to the early lead on Tuesday, helped by going 4/5 in NASCAR Geography, 3/5 in Heraldry, and getting in 67% of the time on the buzzer in the opening round. Unfortunately for her, her buzz-in percentage dropped to 38% in Double Jeopardy, which was enough for Joe Velasco and LEGO tie- and pocket square–clad Robert Kaine to get the Daily Doubles and keep Morgan from a runaway.

In the Final Jeopardy category of New Zealand: Christchurch is the largest city in this New Zealand region that shares its name with an English city known for a church begun in the 6th century. Only Joe could successfully name Canterbury as he advanced to the semis!

Quarterfinal #8 – Wednesday, Oct. 11

What was shaping up to be a close match between Sam Stapleton and Robert Won was decided by the two Daily Doubles in Double Jeopardy; Sam picked up $7,000 on his2, while Robert missed one for $8,0003. By the time the dust settled, Karla Fossett sat in between them in second, but Sam had a commanding runaway with more than $30,000 going into Final Jeopardy.

Robert and Sam bet $0 in Final and didn’t make attempts; only Karla took a stab at this Final Jeopardy clue in Fine Art: An early owner of this 1889 painting full of blue & green noted how well the artist “understood the exquisite nature of flowers!” Karla could not come up with Irises (by Vincent Van Gogh) and dropped to third place, with Robert finishing second and Sam advancing to the semifinals.

It should be noted that in these quarter-finals, everyone eliminated received $5,000. Players eliminated in the semifinal received $10,000.

Quarterfinal #9 – Thursday, Oct. 12

In a game that saw a double-digit number of lead changes,4 Steve Clarke and Josh Saak (best known for being just $400 behind Matt Amodio in Matt’s first game in July 2021) exchanged blows until Steve found the last Daily Double, taking a lead he would keep for the remainder of Double Jeopardy. Valerie Castelo had a faint hope of a victory, but finished the round in a distant third.

This Final Jeopardy was in the historically diabolical Word Origins category, but seemed straightforward: Though it meant “seasickness” in Latin, this 6-letter word now refers to a more general feeling of sickness. Valerie and Josh came up with nausea, but not Steve; Josh, not Steve, went on to Monday’s semifinal. I got the sense that many fans and Jeopardy! greats alike felt bad for Steve after this one.

Semifinal #1 – Friday, Oct. 13

Lawrence Long jumped out to the early advantage this one, assisted by a True Daily Double on clue no. 9,5 but everyone was within $2,000 through 30 clues. Third-placed Sam Stapleton used the first Double Jeopardy pick to great use, immediately finding the first Daily Double and doubling his score.6 Joe Velasco’s finding the last Daily Double meant that Sam couldn’t get into runaway territory over second-place Lawrence by the end of the round.

As Sam recounted on Reddit afterward, this Final Jeopardy took a lengthy tape stoppage to judge. In the category ROYALTY: Before his death in 2005, he said he was “probably the last head of state to be able to recognize all his compatriots on the street.” In a heartbreaking situation, Lawrence’s response of King Rainier was (correctly) ruled incorrect by the judges—unfortunately for him, Monaco is a principality, ruled by a prince, not a kingdom.7 Because of this, Sam moves on to the final next Wednesday and Thursday.

Celebrity Jeopardy! Quarterfinal #3 – Wednesday, Oct. 11

This week’s Celebrity Jeopardy! episode featured sports commentator Katie Nolan, daytime talk show host Sherri Shepherd, and actor Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU). Knowing that Christopher has Celebrity Jeopardy experience (a win in 2006 and a loss in 2009), I expected him to have the upper hand. But I did not realize just how much of a Jeopardy! fan Katie Nolan was. She was correct on 12 of the first 15 clues, and after she talked about being a big Sam Buttrey fan at the first interview, I was fully on the Katie bandwagon and hoping to see her put up Andy Richter-type numbers.

However, as the game wore on, Katie became increasingly (and more visibly) nervous, especially on the Daily Doubles; at one point, she said “Here’s the thing: when I’m at home, I’m like “Bet it all!”, and now I’m like “$2 please, Ken.” Even though Katie had more than four times Christopher’s score after Double Jeopardy, she whiffed on two of Triple Jeopardy’s three Daily Doubles. Christopher got the third to block Katie’s runaway – despite 36 total correct responses to Christopher’s 23. The scores going into Final Jeopardy saw Katie at $14,100, Christopher at $8,800, and Sherri at $900. (On Thursday’s talk show, Sherri admitted that to do well on Jeopardy! you have to know “a little bit about a lot of stuff,” whereas she knows “a lot of stuff about a little bit.”)

Final Jeopardy was in Rallying Cries. Don’t mess with Texas: Sam Houston’s troops shouted this 3-word battle cry while attacking Santa Anna’s army at San Jacinto. Both Christopher and Katie came up with “Remember the Alamo”—and here’s where things got very interesting! At home, we knew something was up when Katie said, “I made a mistake.” Instead of betting $3,501 to pass Christopher’s doubled score by $1, Katie bet just $3,500. We had a tie at $17,600, and we’re off to the first-ever Celebrity tiebreaker (and 15th tiebreaker round in the history of the show).8

The tiebreaker clue was in French History: Drink up! A famous New Orleans street is named after this dynasty that ruled France for most of the 17th & 18th centuries. After all that drama, Katie rang in with “What is Bourbon?” and will move on in the tournament. As for the stars’ chosen charities, Christopher’s Global Lyme Alliance, Sherri’s Move-In Day Mafia Initiative at Project Dreamlight, and Katie’s Association for Women in Sports Media will collect at least $110,000 in all, with the latter still having a shot at $1,000,000.

One other Celebrity scheduling note: ABC’s press site labeled this week’s episode as Episode 205, so Katie will likely be in a different semifinal from previous winners Lisa Ann Walter and Utkarsh Ambudkar.

Other notes from the week:

  • The number of repeated categories keeps increasing week-over-week; this week’s boards saw at least 46 of the 60 categories with one or more repeated clues. Again, I’d expect the repeated clues to continue in abundance until early November, and then taper off significantly after that. The writers returned to work on Oct. 2, and will likely replace the old material with freshly written clues.
  • Next week’s syndicated games will see the remaining two semifinals for Champions Wildcard Spades, the two-game final (with $100,000 and a Tournament of Champions spot on the line), and the first quarterfinal for Champions Wildcard Diamonds. In primetime, Celebrity Jeopardy features Melissa Fumero (Amy on Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Shane Battier (2-time NBA champion), and Steven Weber (Dr. Dean Archer on Chicago Med). Steven is an alumnus of the very first Celebrity tournament; he famously had a spirited battle in ’92 before losing to Cheech Marin.

  1. CANDLE IN THE WIND $1600: From Latin for “barely connected,” this solid white substance is water-insoluble & can precede “oil.” The best Phil could come up with was “What is albinus?”; the correct response—what is paraffin?
  2. OTHER RED, WHITE & BLUE FLAGS $800: Samoa’s flag includes stars that represent this constellation. Sam correctly responded with “What is the Southern Cross?”
  3. BOOK CLUB $1200: A 1989 bestseller begins, “My father has asked me to be the fourth corner at” this. Robert guessed “What is the baseball diamond?”; the correct response was “What is The Joy Luck Club“?
  4. Credit going out to Champions Wildcard competitor Daniel Nguyen, who suggested last week that I begin tracking the number of lead changes a game has.
  5. WHO SAID THIS? $600: In a 1974 national TV address he conveyed, “Our long national nightmare is over…” — Lawrence correctly said “Who is Gerald Ford?”
  6. LANDLOCKED COUNTRIES $1600: Ouagadougou, the capital of this country, is about 500 miles from the seacoast; Sam was correct with “What is Burkina Faso?”
  7. In an even more heartbreaking twist, Ken relayed afterward to the players that the show would have ruled just “Who is Rainier?” as correct; Lawrence’s inclusion of the incorrect title made the response incorrect.
  8. Credit goes out to Matt Carberry who saved me from having to go to J! Archive myself and look.

Andy Saunders covers Jeopardy! daily as site administrator for The Jeopardy! Fan. He is also a founding archivist of The J! Archive. His weekly recap appears at Questionist every Sunday.

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