One for the Ages

Our columnist calls Wednesday’s game of one of Jeopardy’s best - and he would know

Published December 24, 2023

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

This week featured the end of the strike replacement programming, with the final game of Fall 2023’s Champions Wildcard on Monday. Then some Season 39 returnees graced the screen Tuesday through Friday, with the first four games of their Second Chance event.

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

Fall 2023 Champions Wildcard, Hearts Bracket, Final, Game #2, Monday, Dec. 18

In the final game with reused material, Game 1 leader Tyler Vandenberg struggled on the buzzer early, letting Yungsheng Wang nearly make up Tyler’s entire first-game advantage. Gary Hollis’s missed Daily Double just before the interviews made his battle back more difficult.

But this one was decided in Double Jeopardy. Yungsheng picked up a combined $17,000 on the two Daily Doubles, en route to a $33,800 score going into Final Jeopardy. Coupled with his $8,000 from Friday, it gave him a slim runaway lead over Tyler (max score $40,100) and Gary (max score $35,600).

Final Jeopardy took us to National Monuments, and a clue that LearnedLeague coincidentally asked about the previous Wednesday: Designated in 2016, a New York City monument named for this place of business includes nearby Christopher Park. Yungsheng didn’t need to answer Stonewall to make it to the Tournament of Champions. But he was nonetheless the only one who did. Gary bet a bit too big, yielding second place (and an extra $25,000) to Tyler.

Winter 2024 Second Chance, Week 1, Semifinal #1, Tuesday, Dec. 19

The new material debuted on Tuesday, with the beginning of the Second Chance competition for Season 39 contestants. The opening semifinal saw its turning point midway through Double Jeopardy: Mike Elliott, just $200 off Jason Carpenter’s lead, went all-in on a Daily Double… and missed. Eva Thomas wasn’t quite able to break Jason’s runaway going into Final Jeopardy, meaning we had a purely academic final round for the second straight game.

Inventions was the category for Tuesday’s Final: Invented in 1816, it takes its name from the Greek for “chest” & “observe.” While Mike went for a thank-you note, both Eva and Jason correctly named the stethoscope, and Jason moved on to the final.

Semifinal #2, Wednesday, Dec. 20

In a game that saw only two Triple Stumpers the whole evening, Sam Claussen jumped out to the early advantage: He got the first Daily Double correct, and had more than $10,000 after 30 clues. However, opera expert Juveria Zaheer found the Daily Double in her favored category and took full advantage, nabbing a season-high $15,200 on one clue. Not to be outdone, Jake Garrett found the last one six clues later, and brought himself back into contention with a near-True Daily Double of his own. (He was $100 shy of a true True Daily Double, and in fact wound up $100 behind Sam for second place after Double Jeopardy). Juveria didn’t quite have a runaway, but she was over $30,000, and all players combined for an impressive $68,300 in regular play.

The Final Jeopardy in Countries: Of the 14 countries that border China, it’s the only monarchy & the only one with a population under 1 million. All three players impressed me by coming up with Bhutan, as Juveria advanced to the final from one of the best games in Jeopardy! history.

Semifinal #3, Thursday, Dec. 21

In a game that saw six ties and ten lead changes, Karen Morris picked up 17 correct responses to hold a small lead going into Final Jeopardy over Iris Masucci, who successfully converted the game’s second Daily Double with a correct response at the last possible moment. Canadian Michael Vaz sat third at the end of Double Jeopardy, after his own True Daily Double attempt ran into too much Americana for someone north of the 49th parallel.

Final Jeopardy took us From Page to Stage: The opera based on this 1993 memoir was staged at a prison for the first time in 2023, at Sing Sing with a chorus of 14 inmates. None of the three players could even venture a guess, not realizing that Sister Helen Prejean’s Dead Man Walking was made into an opera. Iris, who over-bet Final Jeopardy her first time out, learned some betting strategy in the interim: her bet was correct to the dollar, giving her a $1 win over Karen and putting her into the final.

Final, Game #1, Friday, Dec. 22

If Juveria Zaheer’s semifinal on Wednesday was one of the best games of all time, Game #1 of the final on Friday was one of the most dominant. Leading wire-to-wire, Juveria picked up 32 correct responses and added a staggering $20,000 on a pair of Daily Doubles in Double Jeopardy; the Canadian psychiatrist amassed $45,600 and a $35,000 lead over Jason Carpenter. Iris Masucci sat third at just $6,400.

Final Jeopardy, in The 20th Century: On July 19, 1940, Hitler called this man a warmonger & wrongly predicted he would flee to Canada. Iris guessed Stalin and ended Day 1 with $2,400, while Juveria and Jason correctly named Winston Churchill and made identical $5,600 bets. Juveria reached the midway point with a stunning $51,200, while Jason had $16,200 in second place. Juveria’s lead is surmountable, but Jason has a steep uphill climb in Monday’s Game 2; in fact, he would need the largest Day 2 comeback ever.

Other notes from the week:

  • Next week features the conclusion of Week 1’s final, and the first four games from Week 2. Those returnees feature Raquel Matta, who came agonizingly close to defeating eight-day champion Hannah Wilson this past spring (she just needed to bet more in Final Jeopardy). Monday’s game will likely be preempted in several markets due to holiday or sports programming; check your local listings!

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.