Final Fiasco

Triple Stumpers, bad wagers mark the week in Final Jeopardy

Published February 11, 2024

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

As we get closer to the Tournament of Champions, the battle for the final spot commences: the final Champions Wildcard event kicked off this week with the first five quarterfinals.

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

Winter 2024 Champions Wildcard, Group 2, Quarterfinal #1, Monday, Feb. 5

Mira Hayward was unfazed by losing $3,000 on a Daily Double midway through the opening round; it only took her until the fourth clue of Double Jeopardy to catch back up to Kate Campolieta. When Jesse Chin got the third Daily Double incorrect, this game became a question of whether Mira’s momentum would carry her to a runaway victory– and the answer was yes, barely, as she got eight of the final nine clues correct.

Final Jeopardy was in World Flags: The flag of this Asian nation features part of a World Heritage Site built in the 12th century. In what I believe to be a first-ever occurrence on the show, all three players stood pat in Final Jeopardy, wagering nothing. But Kate’s correct response of Cambodia was for nought (and in any case, Mira also got it).

This will not be the last time in this column that I comment on Final Jeopardy betting.

Quarterfinal #2, Tuesday, Feb. 6

Deb Bilodeau found the game’s first Daily Double in this one, unfortunately getting it incorrect just before the first commercial break. Matt Harvey, returning after his Second Chance victory a few weeks ago, generally had the best time on the buzzer in this one: he got in on 79% of his attempts in Double Jeopardy. However, Matt did split the Daily Doubles in that round; the $4,000 he lost on the last one meant that Deb was still very much in contention going into Final Jeopardy, with Matt holding a $16,000–$10,700 lead. Crystal Zhao, in third place at $5,200, would need a strategic misstep from the leaders.

That Final Jeopardy was in Literary Characters: A 19021 work says an enigmatic character has a half-English mom & a half-French dad, but this name of his is German for “short.” Unfortunately, none of our players were able to come up with Kurtz (from Heart of Darkness), which made the betting crucial. Deb, realizing that Matt was most likely to bet $5,401, bet $0 to advance to the semifinals.

Quarterfinal #3, Wednesday, Feb. 7

Wednesday’s quarterfinal was mostly a two-way battle between Lisa Sriken and Taylor Clagett, as Justin White struggled throughout on the buzzer. But Taylor managed to keep Lisa from getting in on any of the final 17 clues of Double Jeopardy, taking a lead into Final, $15,600 to Lisa’s $11,000. (Justin had $3,600).

Final Jeopardy took our players back in time, with Wonders of the Ancient World: Achilles Tatius wrote that it “was like a mountain… at the top of this mountain rose a second sun.” Nobody named the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and even worse for Lisa, she bet $9,000. Taylor advanced through to the Round of 9, and Lisa was left to wish she’d bet $0.

Quarterfinal #4, Thursday, Feb. 8

Thursday’s fourth quarterfinal saw another two-way battle, this one between Alex Gordon and Suzanne Goldlust. Surgical resident Alex was fortunate to get a Daily Double in a medical category, doubling his score and jumping into a big lead. While Suzanne got to the third Daily Double, her more conservative bet ($2,500 of her $11,800) left Alex in a commanding position for Final Jeopardy–but shy of a runaway. Thanks to eight wrong responses, play-in game winner Ed Petersen was in third.

That 61st clue was in the category Country Music: “It was kind of a prodding to myself to play it straight,” said Johnny Cash of this 1956 hit. The three players got it wrong, and you might have too: the full song title is “I Walk The Line”; it’s only the movie that dropped the “I.” Suzanne needed to be correct to have a chance of winning, so Alex became the fourth semifinalist.

Quarterfinal #5, Friday, Feb. 9

Patrick Curran rocketed into the lead in the opening round, amassing $11,000 including a $4,000 Daily Double late in the round. Jesse Matheny wasn’t going to go quietly though: he picked up nine correct in both rounds and $4,000 on a Daily Double, so Patrick needed to pick up another $6,000 on the last one in order to lead going into Final Jeopardy. Emma Hill Kepron struggled on the buzzer for most of the game, sitting third.

Final Jeopardy to close out the week was in Novel Characters: It’s this character who’s spoken of in the line “Reader, I forgave him at the moment & on the spot.” For the first time since Monday, we had a correct response in Final Jeopardy: Emma, the librarian, successfully named Mr. Rochester (from Jane Eyre). But Jesse made another very smart (small) wager, keeping Emma behind him as Patrick tumbled down on his incorrect response of Mr. Darcy. Just like that, Jesse became semifinalist number five.

Other notes from the week:

  • Next week will feature the final four quarterfinals, and the first of three semifinals. The Tournament of Champions begins Friday, Feb. 23, with the second Jeopardy! Honors airing online on Feb. 22.

  1. It should be noted that yes, 1902 can be considered correct here. While Heart of Darkness was first serialized in 1899, it was published as a book in 1902.

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.