The celebrity final is set

Rocca joins Nolan, Walter with $1 million for charity on the line

Published January 21, 2024

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

This week’s games featured the end of Second Chance play for this season, the beginning of a new set of Champions Wildcard games, and the final Celebrity Jeopardy! Semifinal. Each heading contains a link to my daily write-up over at The Jeopardy! Fan

Winter 2024 Second Chance, Week 4, Final, Game #2, Monday, Jan. 15

Long Nguyen entered this one with a $36,800 lead over Roy Camara and Rotimi Kukoyi thanks to some gutsy play on Friday. In a game pre-empted in many places by football, this one turned anticlimactic early, with Long finding 2 of the three Daily Doubles, and Roy getting the other one incorrect. It reached a point where Long was out of reach before the halfway point of Double Jeopardy.

“On the Stage” was the category for Final Jeopardy: Paul Robeson said that even as this character “kills, his honor is at stake…the honor of his whole culture is involved.” Unfortunately, none of our players knew that Robeson was well-known for playing Othello, but Long’s strong two-game performance saw him get $35,000 and advance to Champions Wildcard. Roy finished second and earned $20,000, while Rotimi picked up $10,000 for a third-place finish.

Winter 2024 Champions Wildcard, Group 1, Quarterfinal #1, Tuesday, Jan. 16

Both Katie Palumbo and Andy Tirrell started this Champions Wildcard event with a strong Jeopardy round, while Sharon Stone struggled on the buzzer (she was 1-for-11 on her buzzer attempts). A $5,000 Daily Double early in Double Jeopardy was crucial for Andy, as it forced Katie into catch-up mode, which did not end up well for her: seven incorrect responses, including four at the $2,000 level, saw Katie leave the stage before Final Jeopardy as Andy had a strong runaway.

Final Jeopardy was in New Nations: In Sept. 2023 the U.S. recognized 2 new nations in free association with New Zealand: Niue & this archipelago. Putting the capstone on a strong performance, Andy successfully named the Cook Islands and advanced to the semifinals at the end of January.

Quarterfinal #2, Wednesday, Jan. 17

Fresh out of the first Second Chance week in December, where she put up an incredibly convincing win, the Juveria Zaheer steamroller continued in Wednesday’s game; she had 13 correct in the first round, 17 correct in the second, and a shocking True Daily Double midway through Double Jeopardy that essentially put the game out of reach of both Patti Palmer and Devin Lohman.

“19th Century America” was the category in Final Jeopardy: An 1884 article calls this newly completed structure “the highest work of man” & disagrees with those who call it “a great chimney.” Only Juveria came up with the Washington Monument, as she became our second semifinalist.

Quarterfinal #3, Thursday, Jan. 18

Nik Berry, fresh out of the Play-In Round that aired on TuneIn Radio last Friday, was the player getting in on the buzzer most often in this quarterfinal. Unfortunately, he also missed a pair of Daily Doubles for a combined $12,600 in Double Jeopardy—those misses took him out of contention. Nik’s misses turned this into a game between Martha Bath—who went viral in her initial run for being on the Art Fleming version in 1972 and winning on this version in 2022—and Kendra Westerhaus. As it was, Martha had exactly twice Kendra’s score going into Final Jeopardy, which makes the betting very interesting!

Final Jeopardy in this one was in 20th Century History: After the Vietnam War, Vietnam got bogged down in a campaign against this leader whom it managed to overthrow in 1979. Our players stayed in Vietnam with their responses, all venturing Ho Chi Minh, when they should have gone to neighboring Cambodia and Pol Pot. Martha, who had risked a tiebreaker by betting $0 in Final, advanced to the semifinals on the Triple Stumper.

Quarterfinal #4, Friday, Jan. 19

Erin Portman and Rachel Clark—Rachel having won in TuneIn’s Play-In Round last week along with Nik in Thursday’s quarterfinal—got off to the best start in this week’s final game, with Erin leading after 30 clues on the strength of a $3,200 True Daily Double midway through the opening round.

The Daily Doubles kept the score down in Double Jeopardy, as both Erin and Rachel got one incorrect—Erin’s to the tune of $5,000, as she tried to put the game out of reach. That brought Rachel and Bryan White back into the game, with Bryan having a strong time late in this one on the buzzer. (He got in 67% of the time during Double Jeopardy.)  Bryan’s strong buzzer timing meant he led going into a close Final Jeopardy where all three players were over $10,000.

The week-ending Final Jeopardy was in American Artists: In the 1920s he used wire, string & other materials to fabricate “models in motion” for a miniature circus scene. Both Rachel and Erin realized that this described Alexander Calder’s mobiles—fortunately for Erin, Bryan ventured Jasper Johns instead, sending Erin through to the semifinals.

Celebrity Jeopardy!, Semifinal #3, Tuesday, Jan. 16

The last of our Celebrity Jeopardy! semifinals featured Rachel Dratch (Saturday Night Live), Mo Rocca (CBS Sunday Morning), and comedian Heather McMahan.

Rachel immediately found her buzzer timing, starting the game by running the first two categories (Dr. Seuss En Español and Spelling Biz) and jumping out into an early $3,000 lead. While Mo did eventually gain his footing, picking up 9 correct himself in the opening round, Rachel still led thanks to 16 correct responses overall.

Rachel’s strong play continued on the second board, as she picked up another 12 correct responses to Mo’s 10. However, Mo did get one of the two Daily Doubles in the round, and his $3,000 correct response made things close (and very interesting) going into Triple Jeopardy.

Mo’s Daily Double hunting served him even better in Triple Jeopardy: after taking the lead from Rachel on the sixth clue, he found two of the three Daily Doubles back-to-back, cementing his lead with another $5,000. (Later he found the third one too.) 

Despite 38 correct and 0 incorrect responses throughout the game, Rachel was relegated to second place going into a Final Jeopardy in Iconic Designers: Once married to a publishing heir who owned citrus groves, her brightly printed dresses were originally designed to hide juice stains. While Heather got a lot of laughs with her response of “Who can get me some wine?” (And who wouldn’t want an adult beverage after having to face Rachel and Mo?), both Rachel and Mo successfully named Lilly Pulitzer, advancing Mo to the final. For having made the semifinals, Rachel’s charity (City Harvest) and Heather’s charity (City of Refuge) will receive $50,000 each, while Mo’s charity (the Inner-City Scholarship Fund) is still in contention for the $1,000,000 top prize.

Mo will return to our screens in the final on Tuesday, where he faces off against Lisa Ann Walter (Abbott Elementary) and sports commentator Katie Nolan.

Other notes from the week:

  • Over in the U.K., Michael Hutchinson extended his win streak to five games, winning over £30,000, before Emma Laslett defeated him in Friday’s game, winning over £7,000 herself. Emma now gets to try to put together a win streak over the final games of this U.K. series.
  • Next week features the last five quarterfinals of Champions Wildcard Group 1 on the main show, while the Celebrity Jeopardy! finale will air Tuesday night on ABC (8, 7 Central).

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.