Second Chances, first warning signs

Ambiguous Final clue, strange billing cloud week 1 of writer-struck Jeopardy!

Published September 17, 2023

Welcome to my weekly rundown from the world of Jeopardy!

This week is the first of three Second Chance competitions, all featuring non-champion players from Season 37, with the week’s winner advancing to a Champion’s Wildcard event later this fall. Nine players played in three semifinal matches Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, with the winners advancing to a “two-game total-point affair” final on Thursday and Friday.

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

Semifinal #1 — Monday, Sept. 11:

“Contestants generally under-bet Daily Double and over-bet Final Jeopardy” is a statement I often make when covering the show. This game, the premiere of Season 40, was no exception.

The Jeopardy round saw Derek Allen have the best time on the signaling device, buzzing on 59% of his attempts and giving 10 correct responses to hold the lead at $6,200. In Double Jeopardy, Jill Tucker had the best round, with three correct $2,000 responses and a $4,000 Daily Double that nearly put the game away – but she ended up $1,000 short of a runaway, at $16,200.

This game’s Final Jeopardy clue, in the category BRITISH MONARCHS: The most recent British monarch not to succeed a parent or a sibling was this ruler who succeeded an uncle. Jill shocked everyone by wagering everything from a near-runaway position—as it happens, on the 39th anniversary of Greg Hopkins doing the exact same thing (on that 1984 occasion, all three players ended with $0). The wager worked out for Jill, though, as she correctly responded with Queen Victoria and moved on to the week’s final. Interestingly, this Final Jeopardy clue was incredibly similar to a clue that ran in the semifinals of the 2006 Tournament of Champions.

Semifinal #2 — Tuesday, Sept. 12:

If you thought these players didn’t deserve another chance, I think this game could convince you otherwise.

The Jeopardy round saw the three players combine for $18,000 on 28 correct responses. Susan Schulman finished the round with $7,000, just ahead of Cody Lawrence at $6,800. David Maybury found a True Daily Double with the first selection of Double Jeopardy, but Susan didn’t go quietly, and David needed the third Daily Double to clinch the lead going into Final Jeopardy – $24,800 to Susan’s $18,200 (a score accumulated without finding a Daily Double).

The Final Jeopardy clue in MYTHOLOGICAL PLACES: “Paradise Lost” says it’s “abhorred” & “the flood of deadly hate” & in Dante’s “Inferno” it’s fed by a “gloomy brook.” All three players got the correct response here River Styx, with David advancing to Thursday.

Semifinal #3 — Wednesday, Sept. 13:

Hari Parameswaran got out to the best start in this one, with four of the first five clues correct. But Donna Vorreyer found the Daily Double, and a correct response for $800 there gave her some confidence; she gave 11 correct responses in the Jeopardy round to have $7,000 after 30 clues. Hari sat second at $5,000 and Matt third at $3,000.

Double Jeopardy saw things go very well for Matt Wierman. Not only did Matt buzz successfully 61% of the time, giving 11-of-11 correct responses, but Donna lost $8,000 total on the round’s two Daily Doubles. While Matt didn’t quite have a runaway, he was in a commanding position at $15,000; Donna was in second at $8,200 and Hari third at $7,800.

Final Jeopardy, in the category ARTISTS: On Oct. 26, 1886, he said, “The dream of my life is accomplished… I see the symbol of unity & friendship between 2 nations.” Hari, a national-champion quiz bowler in 2019, pulled the name of Statue of Liberty designer Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi.

Final, Game #1 — Thursday, Sept. 14:

The three winners from earlier in the week—David Maybury, Jill Tucker, and Hari Parameswaran—returned to compete in the two-game final match. The scores from Game 1 get added to the scores from Game 2 to determine the overall winner.

David was a signaling monster in the opening round of the final, successfully buzzing 70% of the time and giving 15 correct responses. David had $9,400 after 30 clues, to Jill’s $2,800 and Hari’s $2,200. Double Jeopardy went better for Jill and Hari, at least in the Daily Double department. Both of them were successful on True Daily Doubles to bring their scores closer to David’s; he finished the round with $17,000, Jill with $13,600, and Hari $9,600.

Final Jeopardy, in the category WORLD CAPITALS: In English, name of 1 of the 2 4-letter capitals with the same first & last letter, one in the N. & one in the S. Hemisphere. Jill interpreted the clue the way the show intended, coming up with “What is Oslo,” the capital of Norway—the other being Apia, Samoa. However, in a situation I fear we’ll be seeing more of as the strike progresses, this clue could have been interpreted to mean “two 4-letter capitals where the two capitals themselves share a first and last letter,” which would send contestants down a path with no correct response. (I suspect Hari fell for the alternate interpretation, as his response was “What is Doha?“) Regardless, Jill had a big lead at the midway point of the two-game final: $19,600, to David’s $6,728 and Hari’s $1,600.

Final, Game #2 — Friday, Sept. 15:

Jill’s lead was large, but not insurmountable. Her lead (what I call in this case an “effective lead”) was $6,436 over David, and $9,000 over Hari.

Being in a distant third did not stop Hari, though. He finished the first round of day two with $6,800, David with $6,400, and Jill with $3,000. While Jill still led the match overall, she was definitely on the ropes.

Double Jeopardy continued to go Hari’s way. Including a pair of nigh-offsetting wrong-and-right Daily Doubles, he outbuzzed the competition to make up the entirety of his Game 1 deficit to Jill and David. Going into Final Jeopardy, his maximum possible score was $40,000, David’s was $36,328, and Jill’s $35,200.

The week’s crucial Final Jeopardy was in ASTRONOMY: The only dwarf planet located in the inner Solar System, it’s named for an ancient deity of planting & harvests. Jill couldn’t pull Ceres, but she bet $0 and her score remained unchanged. Both David and Hari got it right, however—and both made large bets, David doubling his score and Hari betting $16,000. This meant that Hari finished the 2-day match with $36,800 (winning $35,000), David finished with $36,328 (winning $20,000), and Jill finished with $27,400. (they actually won $35,000, $20,000, and $10,000, respectively.) Hari will also return in a few weeks’ time for the Champions Wildcard event.

Other notes from the week:

  • For all of the talk of a potentially significant number of reused clues in these games, there weren’t many reused verbatim. However, the entire THAT’S T-B-D category on Tuesday was recycled verbatim from a fall 2016 episode.
  • I’m concerned about the potential for lower ratings for the show’s opening week—it seems that search engine traffic for the show is down significantly. I also don’t think it’s helped that TV listings are billing this as “Season 37 Second Chance”—it’s a choice that is confusing the viewers into possibly thinking that the show is still in reruns over the WGA strike.

I’ll see you again next week when we recap Week 2 of Second Chance, with nine more players returning for another chance on the Alex Trebek Stage.

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.

2 thoughts on “Second Chances, first warning signs

  1. Tim Phares says:

    These tournaments are nice, but I want to see some new contestants.

  2. Lea Popielinski says:

    Oh, I’m so glad you mentioned the two different ways to interpret Thursday’s Final Jeopardy. I was thrown in the same way Hari was, so of course I didn’t come up with a correct response. I was so sure of my interpretation that I was certain Jill’s response of Oslo was wrong, since I’d considered and then rejected it, having been unable to come up with another capital that starts and ends in O. Really appreciate the fact that you tie that in with the writers’ strike as well.

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