Through two nights, the Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time Tournament has given us scintilating action and two different winners. The first night was taken by Ken Jennings, who came out guns blazing and was able to topple longtime foe Brad Rutter and recent thorn in his side James Holzhauer. The second night gave us a new winner, as Holzhauer was able to take care of business and draw level with Jennings on the scorecard.
Night three ended up being a huge one for Jennings, as it put him within arm’s reach of the $1 million purse and the title of being the Jeopardy! GOAT. He got out to a comfortable lead after the first game, took care of business in the second, and came out on top at the end of the evening. In the race to three wins, Jennings now sits at two, while Holzhauer has one and Rutter is bringing up the rear with zero.
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After a little prodding around the board with Jennings early on in the night’s first game, Holzhauer was able to find the Daily Double in the 1,000-point question in The Alps. He was able to double up his score, but it didn’t lead to a gigantic boost for his point total — Holzhauer tuned 1,400 into 2,800 for knowing the mummified man discovered in 1991 was given the name Ötzi. Holzhauer and Jennings, as they have done for much of the tournament, battled, with the former sitting at 7,600 and the latter coming in at 6,000 heading into Double Jeopardy. Rutter, meanwhile, sat at 3,400 points.
Rutter did get a potential boost in Double Jeopardy when he found the first Daily Double on his first try at the board, turning to the 1,600-point answer in Word Origins. It didn’t work particularly well, though, as he bet it all but could not identify the medical condition melancholia. Soon after, Jennings found the second Daily Double in the 1,600-point answer for Government in Crisis. He, too, decided to bet it all, and after thinking for a moment about the name of the 1832-33 crisis involving South Carolina, Jennings correctly got Nullification and jumped up to 18,400.
It was quite the lead, but there was still drama heading into Final Jeopardy due to Holzhauer doing just enough to close out the round. Jennings went into the last round with 25,600, while Holzhauer had 13,600 and Rutter had 8,800. The clue was U.S. Political History, and all three could name the two now-defunct political parties that each gave America four presidents in the 19th century (Whig and Democratic-Republican). In a fun twist, each player doubled their scores, putting Jennings at 51,200, Holzhauer at 27,200, and Rutter at 17,600 heading into the second game of the evening.
Holzhauer started the second game on fire, navigating the board perfectly and getting every question right until he found the Daily Double in Gemstones! Meet the Gemstones! Sitting at 5,000 points, and his opponents both sitting at 0, Holzhauer bet it all, but quickly joined his counterparts as he could not name the gemstone garnet. Jennings pounced on the error and ended up sitting in first after this game: he had 6,000 points, Holzhauer was in second with 4,200, and Rutter had a mere 600.
As an added bonus for Jennings, he got to hit Alex Trebek with an “ok boomer.” He wasn’t being mean, he was just answering a question, although he was really excited to do this.
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Jennings and Holzhauer sparred at the start of the second Double Jeopardy, too, with the show’s veteran getting the upper hand more frequently on the relative newcomer. Things were tough for Rutter, but he was thrown a pair of potential lifesavers, getting both Daily Doubles. Even better for Rutter, he nailed both — one in The Dam Bill where he turned 1,000 into 3,000 thanks to the game’s rules by knowing the Grand Coulee Dam, one in Music & Legend that let him turn 3,000 into 6,000 by identifying Samuel Barber’s ballet Medea.
This, however, helped Jennings more than it helped Rutter, as the latter even gave an unprompted “you’re welcome” for keeping that lucrative clue away from Holzhauer. As such, once all the smoke settled on the round, Jennings was as close to a lock to win on the night as he could be, and all Holzhauer could do was laugh.
Jennings entered the second Final Jeopardy with 17,600, while Rutter had 10,000 and Holzhauer brought up the rear with 7,400. The final clue on the evening came from 21st Century Oscar Winners, with Trebek wanting to know the two foreign-born directors who have each won a pair of Academy Awards for Best Director. The caveat, though, was that none of their films had ever won best picture.
This tripped up Holzhauer and Rutter, who had some fun, instead. Holzhauer put down “Who is the GHOST (Greatest Host of Syndicated TV) Pat Saj Alex Trebek?,” while Rutter said “Kenes El Hombre / Eagles Super Bowl LII Champs.” Jennings gave it a try, guessing Ang Lee (correct) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (incorrect, they were looking for Alfonso Cuarón). All three lost, but with 67,600 points, Jennings’ evening was better than that of Holzhauer (33,692) or Rutter (23,467). Now, the tournament will pause until Tuesday evening, when Jennings will get the chance to make history.