Long Live the Ken

Jeopardy week closes with surprise announcement

Published December 17, 2023

Welcome back to my weekly rundown from the world of Jeopardy!—it has certainly been an eventful one!

The week’s biggest news dropped very late on Friday afternoon: Mayim Bialik announced, “Sony has informed me that I will no longer be hosting the syndicated version of Jeopardy!“, making the statement on her social media channels. A later post by Jeopardy! explained, “We made the decision to have one host for the syndicated show next season to maintain continuity for our viewers, and Ken Jennings will be the sole host for syndicated Jeopardy! We are truly grateful for all of Mayim’s contributions to Jeopardy!, and we hope to continue to work with her on primetime specials.” I, for one, would like to wish Mayim the best of luck in her future endeavors.

In this week’s games, we saw the last full week of strike replacement programming, with the last quarterfinal, three semifinals, and first game of the final from Fall 2023’s Champions Wildcard Hearts Bracket. Each heading contains a link to my daily write-up over at The Jeopardy! Fan

Champions Wildcard, Hearts Bracket, Quarterfinal #9, Monday, Dec. 11 

Emma Saltzberg wasn’t able to signal once over the first 15 clues; meanwhile, Amal Dorai got the first seven correct, punctuated by picking up a Daily Double, jumping out to a $7,600 lead. But Amal missed a Daily Double in Double Jeopardy to put Donesh Olyaie in the lead. Emma eventually found her buzzer timing, and giving no incorrect responses, she took a lead into Final Jeopardy over Amal and Donesh Olyaie.

That Final Jeopardy was in 20th Century Literature: Thomas Pynchon wrote that this novelist “in 1948 understood that despite the Axis defeat… fascism had not gone away.” Emma knew to flip the digits in 1948 to get 1984, leading right to George Orwell, and went through to the semifinals.

Semifinal #1, Tuesday, Dec. 12

Chemistry professor Gary Hollis dug himself into a small early hole with four incorrect responses. But his skill on the buzzer—successfully ringing in 71% of the time in Double Jeopardy—was more than enough to pull him out. Julia Markham Cameron made a valiant attempt to catch up midway through Double Jeopardy, but an incorrect Daily Double took her out of contention; Henry Baer wasn’t quite able to keep Gary from securing a runaway win.

A purely academic Final Jeopardy in American LITERATURE: Chapter 100 of this novel introduces the one-armed Captain Boomer of the Samuel Enderby. All three contestants garnered some pride by successfully naming Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, as Gary became the first finalist.

Semifinal #2, Wednesday, Dec. 13

Both Tyler Vandenberg and Ed Coulson had their strong categories early in this one: Ed went 4/5 on Sherlock Holmes, and Tyler did the same on carmakers. But Tyler gained a big advantage, nailing five of the six $1,600 Double Jeopardy clues, and got an assist when Ed missed a $6,000 Daily Double. While Emma Saltzberg played well enough to block the runaway, Tyler was in excellent position.

Movie Musicals was the final category: Of the musicals to win an Oscar for Best Picture, 1 of the 2 with one-word titles based on & named for literary characters. Ed was able to name oneGigi—while Tyler and Emma named the otherOliver!. However, active Marine Tyler then shocked everyone: Only needing to make a standard cover bet of $2,801, Tyler bet his entire score $18,400 from the lead—a very risky move for the second time in the tournament (he did the same in the quarterfinals). However, the bet worked out for him this time, as his correct response put him in the final.

Semifinal #3, Thursday, Dec. 14

For the second time this week, a player went the entire first segment without ringing in. Today, it was Andrew Chaikin. For the second time this week, that player found themself in the lead going into Final Jeopardy; Andrew found his buzzer timing to pick up $12,600 on Daily Doubles. Yungsheng Wang played well enough to get $18,600 without a Daily Double, keeping Andrew from a runaway, while Garrett Marcotte struggled after an early Daily Double miss and sat third.

An old Jeopardy! favorite—Business—was the Final Jeopardy category today: Of the Big 4 U.S. airlines, the 4 that each have over 15% of the domestic market, it’s the youngest. Only Yungsheng could correctly name the youngest of the Big 4—Southwest—and claimed his second come-from-behind victory of the tournament, becoming the last of the three finalists. 

Final, Game #1, Friday, Dec. 15

Gary Hollis hogged all the Daily Doubles in Game 1 of the two-day total-point final—neither Yungsheng Wang nor Tyler Vandenberg has played a Daily Double the entire event—but only got two of them correct, meaning that Yungsheng held the lead going into Final. Gary sat second, while Tyler—struggling on the buzzer in this one, getting in only 38% of the time—sat in third place.

The Wild West was the setting of the last clue of the week: In 1888’s “Ranch Life & the Hunting-Trail,” Teddy Roosevelt wrote his 2 ranch hands were “able to travel” like this animal. Only third-placed Tyler got “bull moose.” As if on cue, he went all-in for the third consecutive game, securing the lead at $17,600. Yungsheng and Gary lost over $8,000 apiece, leaving Yungsheng at $8,000 and Gary at $6,000 heading into Monday’s finale. It’s still anybody’s game, and I can’t wait to see what happens on Monday.

Other notes from the week:

  • Next week features the final game of strike replacement programming with the conclusion of the final from Friday. We then move onto the Season 39 postseason games, starting with Second Chance. One interesting development that became known this week: they’re currently planning an untelevised play-in round for the Champions Wildcard event that follows Second Chance.
  • The premiere date of U.K. Jeopardy! has also been announced: the show will air on ITV beginning Jan. 1.

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.