Echoes of Giant-Killings

The week brings bittersweet memories for Schneider, Jennings fans

Published December 3, 2023

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

Champions Wildcard continued this week, featuring the Clubs bracket finals and the first three quarterfinals of the (final) Hearts bracket. Meanwhile, quarterfinal #8 of Celebrity Jeopardy featured Cynthia Nixon, Cedric the Entertainer, and Heather McMahan.

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

Champions Wildcard, Clubs Bracket, Final, Game #1, Monday, Nov. 27:

All of our finalists – Jen Jazwinski, Dennis Chase, and Nick Cascone – played a Daily Double in the opening game of the final. Unfortunately for Dennis, losing $7,000 on his put him in third place going into Final Jeopardy, while Nick picked up $6,000 to secure the lead.

A portent of deja vu to come, “British Cities” was the Final Jeopardy category: Over the motto “Fortis est Veritas,” the coat of arms of this city features a beast of burden crossing over some water. None of our players could recognize the visual pun in Oxford’s coat of arms (Nick came closest with Hereford), and everyone was still tightly bunched up going into Day 2: Nick led at $9,300, Jen had $5,600, while Dennis had $3,000.

Final, Game #2, Tuesday, Nov. 28:

Dennis struggled uncharacteristically on the buzzer in Game 1, getting in just 38% of the time, but reverted to form early in Game 2, jumping out to an early lead. But his chances of a comeback were hampered by Jen finding both Daily Doubles in the second round (she got the second one wrong, sending her to third for Final Jeopardy).

The crucial clencher in “Literary Geography”: This state university’s Writers Workshop has had famous alumni who wrote about the state, like Jane Smiley & W.P. Kinsella. Both Jen and Nick successfully named Iowa, as Nick—who referred to himself online this week as “the Rodney Dangerfield of Jeopardy!” after most online commenters (and this episode recap) focused on his opponents—won $100,000 and a berth in the Tournament of Champions.

Hearts Bracket, Quarterfinal #1, Wednesday, Nov. 29:

A new bracket of 27 players returned to the Alex Trebek Stage on Wednesday, with Rhone Talsma, Nell Klugman, and Henry Baer the first trio of quarterfinalists. While Rhone (famous for ending Amy Schneider’s 40-game win streak) had the best time on the buzzer, Nell led going into Final Jeopardy on the strength of a $5,600 Daily Double early in the second round.

The fourth bracket’s first Final Jeopardy took us back to Albion, with “A Bit of Britain”: In disarray, it was sold at auction in 1915 to a local Wiltshire man, who would donate it to the British government 3 years later. None of our players connected the information to Stonehenge, so third-place Henry advanced to the semifinals thanks to a savvy conservative bet.

Quarterfinal #2, Thursday, Nov. 30:

While Ciara Donegan had the best time on the buzzer, getting in on 75% of her chances, it was Marine Tyler Vandenberg, currently serving in Stuttgart, Germany, who led after 60 clues on the strength of some high-valued responses in Double Jeopardy. 2021 Professors Tournament finalist Alisa Hove sat in third place, still in contention.

Returning to the Land of Liberty for Final Jeopardy, American History was the category: Established in 1963, this group had its conclusions questioned in books, reports & a special 1970s Congressional committee. Tyler the Marine was the only player to successfully name the Warren Commission, and his emphatic all-in bet from the lead cemented his spot in the semifinals.

Quarterfinal #3, Friday, Dec. 1:

Garrett Marcotte got off to the best start in this one, having a $5,000 lead after the Jeopardy Round over Bryce Hwang and Brianne Barker. Double Jeopardy also went very well for Garrett, who found both Daily Doubles and cemented a runaway game by picking up a combined $8,000 on the two of them. While all three players were over $10,000, it was no match for Garrett’s $27,400 through two rounds.

After all the Atlantic-hopping, the last Final Jeopardy of the week was fittingly in Bodies of Water: The Goshute, a Western people, called this vast body of water Teittse Pat, meaning “bad water.” Bryce and Garrett successfully named the Great Salt Lake, with Bryce also getting a shout-out to his late grandfather, a Jeopardy! fan who died just a week before this episode taped. Kudos to him for playing so well in such trying circumstances!

Celebrity Jeopardy!, Quarterfinal #8, Wednesday, Nov. 29:

This week’s quarterfinal featured comedians Heather McMahan and Cedric the Entertainer, and actor/former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this one, but I was pleasantly surprised: All three players were very good, with some excellent gets!

This one started with an amusing moment, when Heather referred to the board game Operation as “The Doctor Game.” Ken Jennings mined that for some excellent callback jokes – at one point referring to Jenga as “The Blocks Game.” But Heather took things in stride, and rebounded very well from that setback.

In fact, Double Jeopardy saw Heather jump into the lead, after going 3/5 in Skin Care, while Cynthia responded by going 3/5 herself in This Is Jeo-Purr-Dy! and Poems About Poetry to hold a slim lead after two.

Cynthia’s betting got slightly more aggressive in Triple Jeopardy, and her $2,500 and $2,000 Daily Double bets were enough to hold a lead over Heather going into Final. In an interesting twist, Cynthia’s $19,700 score was exactly equal to Heather’s ($15,600) plus Cedric’s ($4,100).

The celebs faced a Final Jeopardy in Unique Buildings: Despite 17.5 miles of hallways, you can walk anywhere in this Virginia building within about 5 minutes, due to its concentric layout. Cedric and Heather currently identified The Pentagon, but Cynthia could not—so Heather advanced to the semifinals! Cedric’s and Cynthia’s charities, the SSM Health Foundation and the SAG-AFTRA Foundation get $30,000 each, which Heather’s charity, City of Refuge, is still in the running for the million-dollar prize.

Other notes from the week:

  • I know I said last week that I would stop tracking the repeated clues, but I had to mention one amusingly coincidental piece of scheduling: the Hats category in Thursday’s game played on the 19th anniversary of its original playing – which was the day Ken Jennings was defeated. Ken said, “I thought it was tough too” after the cloche hat fell for a Triple Stumper—crucially, he missed a Daily Double on that clue in 2004, leading to his defeat.
  • Next week features quarterfinals #4 through #8 of the Hearts bracket in the Champions Wildcard, while Celebrity Jeopardy features both the last quarterfinal and the last new episode before the holiday break – it’s almost like they planned it that way – between Kyra Sedgwick, Mo Rocca, and Amanda Seales. In the new year, the climactic episodes will air on Tuesdays: Jan. 2, 9, 16, and 23.

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.