Avoiding Daily Doubles for fun and profit

Wildcard bracket-winner takes unusual route to the final

Published October 22, 2023

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

This week in syndication saw the last two semifinals and the two-game total-point final for the Spades bracket in the Champions Wildcard tournament, and then the opening game of the Diamonds bracket. Meanwhile, Celebrity Jeopardy aired quarterfinal #4.

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

Spades Bracket, Semifinal #2 – Monday, Oct. 16

Doing great work for diabetes awareness by openly wearing her insulin pump and glucose monitor on such a big stage, Kendra Blanchette was cruising early in Double Jeopardy until a missed Daily Double brought her opponents back into the game. Dane Reighard got the third one, to hold a slim lead going into Final Jeopardy over Josh Saak and Kendra.

Final Jeopardy was in The Nobel Prize in Physics: Barry Barish, who shared the 2017 Prize for detecting gravitational waves, called his award “a win for” this predecessor. Josh never played a Daily Double in his quarterfinal or semifinal, but as the only player to come up with Albert Einstein, he improbably found himself going through to the finals!

Semifinal #3 – Tuesday, Oct. 17

Tuesday’s third semifinal was the Lucy Ricketts Show. It mattered not that she lost $8,400 on a pair of incorrect Daily Doubles; with 23 correct responses, Lucy was still dominant enough to have a runaway game over Joe Feldmann and Daniel Nguyen.

Lucy was also the only player correct on this Military History Final Jeopardy: A 1918 article titled “Do Not Shoot At” these said hunters were interfering with the U.S. Signal Corps’ training of them. She didn’t need to come up with pigeons to take the third spot in the final, but she did anyway.

Final, Game #1 – Wednesday, Oct. 18

The opening game of the two-day total-point final between Josh, Lucy, and Sam Stapleton was an evenly matched affair early on. Lucy had picked up the $1600 and $2000 clues in “Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,” when she found the Daily Double in the middle row. Unfortunately for her, she lost $4,000 when she appeared to speak too soon.1 Sam picked up $4,000 on his own Daily Double later, but it was Josh—deprived of Daily Doubles yet again—who had a $4,000 lead going into Final Jeopardy.

This Final Jeopardy in Natural Landmarks was straightforward: The Washburn-Langford-Doane expedition happened upon it in 1870 & named it for the regularity of its activity. All three players came up with Old Faithful; Josh had the most aggressive wager, and led after Day 1 with $25,200. Sam sat second at $15,200, while Lucy had $14,200.

Final, Game #2 – Thursday, Oct. 19

Things were still very tense for most of Game 2 of the Finals—mostly because the two Daily Doubles in Double Jeopardy stayed hidden for a very long time. Josh finally found the first one—i.e., his first of the whole tournament—with 10 clues to go, and a correct response put him into a very strong position. Sam got the last chance to make a big move with just five clues to go, but lost $10,000 on that last Daily Double. Josh entered Final Jeopardy in a runaway position thanks to his $22,000 on Day 2. Lucy had $11,600 going into Thursday’s Final, while Sam had just $5,000.

The inconsequential Final Jeopardy, in Names: The name Jennifer is an alteration of this name that in early Welsh literature belonged to the “first lady of the island.” Josh went for a family shout-out, and Sam for a joke, but Lucy successfully named Guinevere. Regardless, Josh Saak takes home $100,000 and a spot in this winter’s Tournament of Champions.

Diamonds Bracket, Quarterfinal #1 – Friday, Oct. 20

One bracket down, three to go—so on Friday, it was on to Diamonds. Kristin Hucek had the run of play early, correct on seven of the first 15, but then Dave Pai took over, landing a True Daily Double just after the interviews. He looked to put the game out of reach early in Double Jeopardy, but lost $5,600 on a Daily Double to make things interesting. Things got even more interesting when Kristin found the last one a few clues later, and took a $4,000 lead, but Dave found his buzzer timing again and beat Kristin by $7,200 over the final 22 clues to hold the lead going into Final Jeopardy.

The final clue of the week was in Languages of Asia: Meaning “palace”, this word in the name of a UNESCO World Heritage site follows Jal & Lal in the names of other historic structures. Dave came up with Mahal, (as did the as-yet-unmentioned William and Dave is the second bracket’s first semi-finalist!

Celebrity Jeopardy! Quarterfinal #4 – Wednesday, Oct. 18

This week’s Celebrity Jeopardy! quarterfinal was a battle between Melissa Fumero (Amy on Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Shane Battier (2-time NBA champion), and Steven Weber (Dr. Dean Archer on Chicago Med). Steven is a longtime veteran of the wars, having taken part in the very first Celebrity Jeopardy competition back in 1992. He lost that day to Cheech Marin; my favorite part of this week’s episode was the first interview segment, where we got to see a flashback to Steven’s 1992 appearance. (He had a lot more hair then!)

The first interview segment also gave me the idea that this was probably going to be a two-player battle between Steven and Shane; while I was hoping Melissa would be Amy Santiago–like in her play, she admitted she struggled playing on the Jeopardy! app and that the game was “going exactly how [she] thought it would go.” (She had minus-$400 at the first break, and finished the game in the red as well.)

Steven led throughout the first two rounds, and, in a move that reminded me of some of the play from last season, found another gear in Triple Jeopardy. Possibly egged on by the audience, he successfully converted an $11,400 True Daily Double early in the round, and made two more five-digit Daily Double bets before it was done. Even though he got the last one incorrect—which at least made the last half-dozen clues more interesting—Steven secured a runaway win.

Everyone – even Melissa, playing with $500 in consolation money – correctly responded to this week’s Final Jeopardy, in Famous Women: She joined the Sisters of Loreto at age 18, then took her good works to Calcutta, where she was called this. Mother Teresa left everyone in good spirits, with the Battier Take Charge Foundation getting $30,000 courtesy of Shane’s performance, and the International Community Foundation supporting This Is About Humanity getting $30,000 thanks to Melissa. Steven advances to the semifinals, where the SAG-AFTRA Foundation still stands to net as much as $1 million.

With how these episodes were taped, I believe that Steven and Katie Nolan (last week’s winner) will be in the same semifinal once that point is reached in the season; unlike last season, all nine quarterfinals will be aired first, then the three semifinals, and then the overall million-dollar final.

Other notes from the week:

  • Apparently last week’s 46 repeated categories were just a warmup; at least 55 this week (out of 60) saw at least one repeated clue. Before the strike, the writers clearly “freshened up” some of the old material—e.g., they added clues about Justin Trudeau, Justin Timberlake, and Justin Bieber to the JUSTIN TIME category that originally ran back in October 2002. However, the writers did return to work well before the Nov. 9 episode, so by my educated guess, we should have about 13 episodes left with massive amounts of repeated clues.
  • Much like last May’s Solzhenitsyn hullabaloo, Monday’s game had more pronunciation difficulties on a clue, this one on a clue about the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. As much as these situations go viral and the show comes under criticism for its strict rulings, I think the criticism is unjustified: it’s no different from, say, accidentally pronouncing a name “Wassington” instead of “Washington” or “Jefferton” instead of “Jefferson.”
  • Next week sees five quarterfinals from the Diamonds bracket and the fifth Celebrity Jeopardy quarterfinal, this one between Oscar winner Mira Sorvino (Rosemary on Shining Vale), Adam Rodriguez (Luke on Criminal Minds), and Peter Schrager (FOX NFL Kickoff and the NFL Network).

  1. The Daily Double clue was: He won the 1984 Best Actor Oscar for a movie named for a different character; Lucy realized she’d spoken too soon when she said most of “Who is Abe Vigoda” instead of the intended “Who is F. Murray Abraham” (winning for Amadeus).

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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