Even though Ken Jennings only recently stepped in to host Jeopardy!, he has a long-standing history with the show. After winning 74 consecutive games in 2004, the trivia connoisseur would frequently return to the signature deep blue set for some good, old-fashioned fun in the form of a question.
After Alek Trebek passed away in 2020, Jennings became an obvious choice to step in as host, which he will continue to do throughout season 39 alongside Mayim Bialik. Of course, this is a very hard legacy to continue, as nobody is quite as pure as Alex Trebek. It’s a wonder they kept the show going anyway! But they did, and Jennings recently revealed that he has a small but sentimental gift from Trebek on his person when he’s on set.
Jennings was given a small gift from Trebek’s wife Jean as a surprise which turned out to be a very heartwarming gesture. “I showed up at the morning writer’s meeting where we went over all the day’s clues and responses,” Jennings recently told Vulture. “One of the producers motioned to a little box that was sitting in front of me. I opened it and it was a little jewelry box with Alex’s cufflinks and a very kind note from Jean Trebek offering support. It must have been a super hard time for her, and she was thinking about the poor schmuck trying to do her late husband’s old job. That was such a lovely gesture.”
The current Jeopardy! host confirmed that he wears “The Alex Cufflinks” whenever he sports a specific shirt while filming. “And I’m in his dressing room, so I’m thinking about him anyway,” he added. He did not confirm if the cufflinks contained some secret Trebek power, or if they light up when someone is about to say a wrong answer. But still! It’s cool! “Alex and I had a professional relationship. We weren’t, say, hanging out and going camping together, but every time I saw him, we got along well. It sure seemed like [Jean] was trying to give a sense of continuity to Jeopardy!, even after her loss and our loss as viewers.”
Jennings added that even though he is the one reading the clues, there is still some signature Trebek energy on set. “It’s hard not to feel his presence there. He was there for almost four decades. You do kind of feel like he must be in the building. It’s not quite the same as a spectral form peering around a corner and saying, ‘No, no, what is Bucharest? Bucharest, Romania.’ [Laughs.] But it’s nice to feel like he’s still there and part of the show.” Even though he’s not around, it’s still nice to remember that one time when he hosted the show without pants. But hopefully, Jennings will not continue that legacy.