James Holzhauer’s shocking exit from the Jeopardy! spotlight on Monday was a seismic shift in the game show landscape few were expecting. Holzhauer was a brilliant Jeopardy! contestant, playing the game in a way no one ever has in show history to the tune of more than $2.4 million in 32 games during his run as show champion.
But Emma Boettcher, who literally wrote a thesis about the show’s questions and their complexity, made Holzhauer seem like just an ordinary Jeopardy! contestant on Monday’s episode and had the lead going into Final Jeopardy. What resulted was Holzhauer exiting unceremoniously, and Boettcher getting crowned as the new champion.
The way Boettcher played on the show — a similarly aggressive style to Holzhauer and a similar preparation schedule — made a lot of people wonder if she would go on a similar run as James did. And most of the week it seemed that may be happening — Emma won $97,002 over three episodes and, though she didn’t put up the record-setting numbers we saw out of Holzhauer, she showed a similar zeal for the game and the potential to subdue opponents in a dominant way.
Thursday’s episode of Jeopardy!, however, saw her time on the throne come to an end. Emma trailed Brendan heading into Final Jeopardy — the champ had $19,000, while her top challenger took the lead with $19,200 after nailing the final Double Jeopardy clue. In Final Jeopardy, Emma tripped up, putting an erroneous “A.” between the first and last names of the correct answer, Woody Guthrie. Brendan, meanwhile, bet big and got it right.
The result is a new Jeopardy! champion but, perhaps more notably, this means that Boettcher won’t join the Tournament of Champions and give us a potential rematch against Holzhauer. As strong a player as Emma was, she won’t be back on Jeopardy! anytime soon. James’ return, meanwhile, is only a matter of time.