Ken Jennings currently has the guest hosting duties on Jeopardy! and thankfully he’s uniquely qualified to get geeked out about what happened on Friday’s episode. Final Jeopardy wasn’t enough to decide a very competitive game that actually ended with two contestants with identical big paydays, which meant the game came down to a tiebreaker question for just the third time in the show’s history.
The Jeopardy! GOAT has experienced a lot of things as a contestant on the show’s stage over the years, but a tiebreaker is not on the list for him as a contestant. Hosting a show with a tiebreaker, though, seemed to be just as exciting as he got to be part of a rare bit of history for the syndicated trivia game show.
Jack and returning champion Brian went into what’s usually the night’s final question tied with $18,800. The category was Statues, and the question was this: “Statues honoring this man who was killed in 1779 can be found in Waimea, Kauai & in Whitby, England.” Our third contestant, Maggie, was wrong. But both Jack and Brian were correct, and though Jennings called it a “very tricky wagering scenario” with their identical scores they both made the right choice: betting it all to double their totals to $37,600.
If you’re not sure the rules of a Jeopardy! tiebreaker, well, they rarely happen so that’s understandable. But it’s as sudden death as it gets: There’s one question, in one category, and the first person to ring in and get it right wins and gets to come back. Here’s what it looked like.
Brian, the returning champion, rang in and answered “Lenin” to win the match. Jennings sounded more exited than the contestants, which is understandable for Jack, who went from a potential $37,600 payday to the second place prize of $2,000.
“That was some finish,” Jennings said after the game. “I’ve never seen one of those and I’ve been here like 100 times.”
The post-match talk included in the video is fascinating, as Jennings geeked out about the tie but also revealed some information about what the host can see from contestants when they answer Final Jeopardy! questions. Apparently hosts can see what contestants write down in real time, giving them a bit of insight to allow them to prepare for how the game will turn out. It’s a bit of a spoiler, as we now know that Jennings (and Alex Trebek in the past) isn’t finding out the result with the audience, but it’s a nice Easter Egg to get confirmed here.
Still, it was nice to see that Jennings appreciated the moment as much as many longtime fans who had seen just two tiebreakers in show history until Friday. It was really cool to see a host truly eager to be part of a bit of Jeopardy! history, and it certainly further endeared Jennings to longtime Jeopardy! fans who are very eager to see who the show picks as its next full-time host.