Second Chance shocker

Contestant leads two-game final in historic fashion

Published January 14, 2024

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

This week was slightly busier—Second Chance saw Week 3 finish up and Week 4 start, while next week’s Champions Wild Card had the field finalized for the first group. Over on Celebrity Jeopardy!, contestants vied for the second spot in the finals.

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

Winter 2024 Second Chance, Week 3, Final, Game #2, Monday, Jan. 8

Matt Harvey and Michael Cavaliere finished Game 1 just $3,400 apart, and were still first and second after a closely contested opening round. Double Jeopardy was where the fireworks started, as both contenders successfully converted True Daily Doubles—Michael’s for a significantly higher $13,200—as Michael held the lead and the advantage going into Final Jeopardy. Randall Rayford was locked into third place at this point.

A crucial Final Jeopardy in State Capitals: The 2 closest state capitals, at about 40 miles apart, one was founded by someone no longer allowed in the other. Matt ended up with a home turf advantage here, hailing from Providence, R.I.—for him, it’s an easy drive to the second answer, Boston. (Rhode Island founder Roger Williams had been banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.) The banishment angle made Michael think of Salt Lake City, Utah, and so Matt Harvey won $35,000 and a spot in the Champions Wildcard. Michael took second place and $20,000, while Randall earned $10,000 for third.

Week 4, Semifinal #1, Tuesday, Jan. 9

Rotimi Kukoyi was in third place for most of the first half of this game, until he successfully converted a True Daily Double early in Double Jeopardy. Pam Warren had an opportunity to put the game away late, but her incorrect Daily Double dropped her into third place. Pam made a bit of a comeback, but April Marquet, who never hit a Daily Double at all, took a lead into Final Jeopardy.

In the category “The Ancient World”: This text helped the soul, or ka, navigate a journey into a region called Amenti. This led to more Final Jeopardy heartbreak for April – who lost in her initial appearance due to locking in the wrong Final wager – as both Rotimi and Pam named The Book of the Dead. Winning from second, Rotimi advances to the final.

Semifinal #2, Wednesday, Jan. 10

This semifinal was the Roy Camara show; he dominated on the buzzer, getting in 70 percent of the time and finding all three Daily Doubles (including the last two back-to-back). Unfortunately, an incorrect response on the first of those meant that he couldn’t build enough money to take a runaway into Final, as Denise Carlon pulled some impressive high-valued clues. Michael Vallely sat in a distant third, out of contention.

This Final Jeopardy was in Space: Since it has caused spacecraft to malfunction, a region called the South Atlantic Anomaly is known as this area “of space.” The term “The Bermuda Triangle of Space” has come into being just recently, and both Denise and Roy knew it, and so Roy became the second finalist.

Semifinal #3, Thursday, Jan. 11

John Guszkowski rocketed out to the best start, picking up 17 correct and the Daily Double to rack up $14,200 in the opening round. Then Allison Strekal began her charge, climbing all the way to the lead (by $800 over John) after back-to-back Daily Doubles for a combined $10,800. But Long Nguyen remained a factor, as a number of high-valued correct responses brought his score to $15,000.

The fireworks culminated in a Final Jeopardy in Brand Names: Originally called Fruit Scones, the name of this food brand introduced in 1964 was influenced by an art movement of that time. Only Long knew that the name Pop Tarts was influenced by the pop art movement, and that made him the third finalist.

Final, Game #1, Friday, Jan. 12

Long Nguyen struggled early in the two-game final, with minus-$2,200 midway through the opening round; he managed to get his score back to $0 by the end of the round. Roy Camara, however, got the first Daily Double early and rode it to the lead, with Rotimi Kukoyi in a strong second.

Everything changed in Double Jeopardy: first, Roy whiffed on a $10,600 True Daily Double, putting Long (who’d picked up a trio of $2,000 clues) into the lead. Then, Long successfully converted a $9,200 True Daily Double of his own. Going into Final, Long had $18,400, while Rotimi and Roy were well behind, at $4,600 and $1,600 respectively.

Long was apparently very happy to see Rivers as the Final category (he’d run Former Names of Capital Cities the day before). The clue: A European capital got its name as a consequence of flooding on this river. Only Long was able to name the Amstel river (home of Amsterdam). Incredibly, all three players went all-in, so Long had a dream finish of $36,800–$0–$0 going into Game 2. Someone will need a very strong game to even have a hope of catching him on Monday.

Champions Wildcard Play-In Games, Friday, Jan. 12

As there were more champions in Season 39 than could fit in two brackets for Champions Wildcard, a play-in round was run, with the audio-only games airing on TuneIn Radio. Two of them aired this week, with the winners advancing to next week’s quarterfinals:

Play-In Game #1:

Anji Nyquist $400 – $400 = $0

Julie Sisson $1,600 – $1,598 = $2

Nik Berry $17,200 – $1 = $17,199

In Double Jeopardy, Nik’s True Daily Double worked, while Julie’s didn’t; Nik advances in runaway fashion.

Play-In Game #2:

Daniel Ciarrocchi $4,800 – $3,199 = $1,601

Matthew Ott $8,800 – $8,800 = $0

Rachel Clark $22,300 – $0 = $22,300

A True Daily Double from Matthew wasn’t enough to stop Rachel from advancing via runaway, on the strength of 23 correct responses.

Celebrity Jeopardy!, Semifinal #2, Tuesday, Jan. 9

The second spot in the Celebrity Jeopardy! finals was up for grabs on Tuesday evening, as Steven Weber (Wings), sports commentator Katie Nolan, and Dulé Hill (The Wonder Years) took to the stage. This one very early became a battle between Steven and Katie, with Steven rocketing into the lead on the back of a pair of True Daily Doubles.

The turning point came shortly after Steven ran a category on New York Times obituaries: after Steven admitted to reading the obituary pages, Katie immediately jumped in with “Are you looking for your friends?” in a line that shocked both Steven and the audience. That seemed to give Katie new life: by the sixth clue of Triple Jeopardy, Katie had reeled in Steven to take the lead; she held on through the rest of the Triple Jeopardy round, and even extended it to $9,000 thanks to the last Daily Double. Dulé did as well as he could, but Steven and Katie were the strongest two players in this one.

A crucial Final Jeopardy here was in Television History: According to the BBC, this 1953 event “did more than any other to make television a mainstream medium.” Unfortunately, none of our three players could come up with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, which meant that this one came down to the wagering. Thankfully for Katie, Steven and Dulé both went all in, which meant that Katie – who, unlike in the quarterfinals, made a cover bet – became the second finalist.

Other notes from the week:

  • Over in the U.K., Keshava Guha’s win streak ended at 4 games; something to potentially watch next week is Friday’s new champion Michael Hutchinson. Michael is known in U.K. circles for a strong performance on the University of Reading’s University Challenge squad in 2021–22; we’ll see if that can translate over to Jeopardy!
  • The show was in the news this week after Oscar winner Emma Stone admitted that she has been trying to get on the regular show for years, and would prefer not to be relegated to the Celebrity edition.
  • Next week features the final Second Chance game, which seems likely to serve as a coronation for Long Nguyen; following that, we’ll see the first four Champions Wildcard quarterfinals. Then, Tuesday evening will see the final Celebrity Jeopardy! semifinal, featuring Rachel Dratch (Saturday Night Live), Mo Rocca (CBS Sunday Morning), and comedian Heather McMahan.

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.