"Nancy, you wrote down your response rather quickly, I thought. I hope it's correct," Trebek told someone apparently named Nancy, who appears to be Jennings's only opponent by the Final Jeopardy round, meaning his other competitor already had flamed out in red ink.
"What is H&R Block," Nancy had written. She got it right. Nancy had wagered $4,401. She now had $14,401, giving her a $1 lead over Jennings, who went into the Final Jeopardy round with a puny $14,400, which has to be a worst-ever for him. According to the Web site, that's because Jennings bet big on both Double Jeopardy rounds and got both wrong.
Ken Jennings (right, with host Alex Trebek) topped the $1 million mark in winnings in July.
(Sony Pictures Television Via AP)
And, yes, it appears that this giant among game show contestants -- a man who knows things like that, in the Nibelungenlied, Siegfried is the hero who twice defeats the dwarf Alberich and takes his cloak of invisibility -- gets taken down by some chick named Nancy Sounds-Like-Zerg who went into the Final Jeopardy round with a pathetic $10,000 in her kitty. It's just like those Greek tragedies you read about in high school.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Back to Trebek:
Trebek: "And his final response is . . . "
(Much gasping and groaning appeared to come from the audience.)
"FedEx," Trebek read. "His wager was $5,601; he winds up in second place with $8,799."
Thus the brainiest man in TV game show history, the one who knew that the English monarch at the time the Union Jack was first used was James I, was toppled because he didn't know from H&R Block.
Trebek's long Ken Jennings nightmare was finally over. He was once again star of "Jeopardy!"
"Nancy [Sounds-Like Zerg], congratulations, you are indeed a giant killer!" Trebek said, and even on a crummy audio clip you could hear his joy.
"All good things have to come to an end, don't they," Trebek continued giddily. "Well, too bad for Ken, but he's going home with a lot of money -- 2 1/2 million dollars. Congratulations, young man."
Even skeptics started to take that September spoiler seriously when King World took Jennings off for two weeks early in the November ratings sweeps in favor of the 2004 "Jeopardy!" College Championship. Jennings has been a major ratings boon for the long-running syndicated game show. Industry wags speculated that producers must not have had enough Jennings episodes to get through the sweeps and wanted to make sure his final appearance coincided with its end tomorrow night.
No one involved on the show, which is produced by Sony Pictures Television and distributed by King World, would comment on the audio clip on Kottke.org.
Interestingly, however, Jennings is scheduled to be a guest on tonight's "Late Show With David Letterman," which airs on CBS, which is owned by Viacom, which also owns King World.
And, in another of those incredible coincidences, "Nightline" -- which airs on ABC, many of whose stations carry "Jeopardy!" -- will this very night devote its entire broadcast to that show. ABC News correspondent Judy Muller will interview Jennings and show creator Merv Griffin, a "Nightline" rep told The Washington Post's TV Team, while emphasizing that the show is about "a day in the life of 'Jeopardy!,' " as opposed to, say, a show about Ken Jennings losing. Because they want to make sure we get word to you that Jennings is on "Nightline" tonight, but they don't want to be accused of letting the cat out of the bag about Jennings losing. I'm just guessing here that the "Nightline" folks do not even realize the episode is going to air during the November sweeps.