Update from Game 4: Read the thrilling results of the fourth game here.
The first game was mostly notable for how celebrity-ridden it was. Conan O’Brien appeared in the first round to offer this clue (with an accompanying photo): “Strange but true: This comedian from Worcester, Massachusetts, is my cousin, and when he came on my show, he told me he’s often mistaken for other celebrities like Willem Dafoe and Jane Lynch.” Holzhauer, who ended the first round ahead with 7,600 points, correctly answered, “Who is Denis Leary?”
Glenn Close, meanwhile, appeared for the second night in a row — twice. Both arrived in the second round of the first game, and both involved her former roles. The first clue: “I kept the costumes from the first time I performed on Broadway in ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ and I brought them back with me when I returned to play this iconic role in the 2017 revival.” Rutter, trailing with zero points at the time, got back into the game by answering, “Who is Norma Desmond?” The second clue: “Thirty-five years before ‘The Greatest Showman,’ I sang down the house as Chairy, the wife of this man, but I did it for hundreds of performances on Broadway” (P.T. Barnum).
The most pivotal moment of the game — and, ultimately the night — came when Jennings, trailing by a mere 400 points, doubled his 9,200 points by knowing which 1832-1833 “crisis ended when South Carolina backed down from its efforts to void federal law” (nullification). That padding helped him reach 51,200 points when he, along with the other two contestants, wrote down the “two now-defunct parties" that “each gave the U.S. four presidents in the 19th century” (Democratic-Republican and Whig). Holzhauer and Rutter concluded the first game with 27,200 and 17,600, respectively.
Holzhauer jumped to a 5,000-point to 0 to 0 lead early in the second game, only to lose it all in a Daily Double with the clue concerning the birthstone “used in abrasives for polishing and grinding” whose “color pairs with gold as an official one for Florida State” (garnet). He incorrectly answered, “What is diamond?” after a long pause.
Oh, and speaking of celebrities, Christopher Plummer offered every clue in a category aptly named “Christopher Plummer Pudding” during the first round, which Jennings won.
Jennings went on to dominate for the rest of the evening. However, Holzhauer got the final laugh, literally, when he didn’t know the final Final Jeopardy answer and instead wrote, “Who is the GHOST? (Greatest host of syndicated TV)
Pat Saj Alex Trebek.” Rutter also didn’t know the answer and wrote a confusing joke and a shout-out to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Update from Game 2: James Holzhauer handily beat Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in the second night of “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time,” earning 82,414 points to the latter’s 57,000 and 14,000, respectively. To win the tournament, a player must be victorious on three separate nights. Since Jennings won on the first night, the tournament will continue for at least two more games, scheduled for Thursday and this coming Tuesday.
The first game Wednesday found Holzhauer up by less than 5,000 points, accumulating 44,314 to Jennings’s clean 40,000. The two remained fairly neck-and-neck during the first half of the evening, with both wagering everything they had in the second round on a pair of Daily Doubles. Holzhauer bet 13,600, which he doubled by knowing the second-largest port in France that once had a longer name including “de grâce” (Le Havre), while Jennings doubled 8,400 by knowing a German who developed calculus “independent of another wise guy” (Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz).
The first game also featured a famous classic movie lines category, leading the duo to offer a few battling impressions. We think Jennings’s re-creation of Dustin Hoffman’s famous “Hey, I’m walkin’ here!” from “Midnight Cowboy” (which found him slamming his hands on the lectern) slightly surpassed Holzhauer’s breathy imitation of Renée Zellweger’s “You had me at hello” from “Jerry Maguire.”
The first round of the second game ended with Holzhauer trailing Jennings by 400 points, with 6,400 to the latter’s 6,800. He quickly took back the lead in the second round, thanks to a Daily Double in which he doubled his 8,400 for knowing which capital city features rhino tracking at the Mokolodi Nature Reserve (Gaborone). Rutter had worse luck, losing his 3,600 in a Daily Double early on when he didn’t know how many pairs of autosomes humans have (22).
A few celebrities also appeared in the second game. Jimmy Kimmel showed up in a video clue that involved his love of fly-fishing at a Montana River near Bozeman, where much of “A River Runs Through It” was filmed, but no one knew he was referring to the Gallatin River. Glenn Close also appeared and discussed that she had “this, my full set of chromosomes, sequenced.” Holzhauer correctly answered, “What is a genome?”
Holzhauer was leading when the game went into the second Final Jeopardy, where he secured his victory by knowing that Joel Barlow carried messages between James Madison and Napoleon Bonaparte.
Original post from Game 1:
In a surprisingly thrilling hour of television Tuesday night, Ken Jennings squeaked past James Holzhauer and thoroughly crushed Brad Rutter to win the first night of ABC’s prime-time competition “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time.”
The multiple-night event, which pits the show’s three most successful players against one another, will continue until one player wins three matches. In this series, a “match” means two consecutive games in one hour-long episode, and the person with the highest total winnings is the victor. The winner gets $1 million and will be crowned the “greatest of all time”; the two runners-up receive $250,000.
For the first night, a wildly entertaining battle of the buzzer that went by at lightning-speed, Jennings won with a combined total of 63,400 points; Holzhauer was just behind him with 63,200. And poor Rutter, who lost all his money multiple times in Daily Double situations, bet everything and got the Final Jeopardy question wrong in the last game, which left him with only 10,400 from the previous game.
The series could end quickly if Jennings keeps winning — although ABC has set aside the 8 p.m. hour this Wednesday and Thursday and next Tuesday through Friday to air episodes, if necessary. After his performance Tuesday, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Jennings took home the prize.
Jennings, who holds the longest winning streak in “Jeopardy!” history with 74 games after a stunning run in 2004, answered the most questions correctly of any player throughout the two games. Jennings has become a beloved online celebrity since his playing days, and his name became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter.
Ken Jennings separating himself from the other Jeopardy champions... putting on an absolute show— Mike Golic (@espngolic) January 8, 2020
Still, Holzhauer and Rutter will prove tough competition. Holzhauer was the phenom who helped launch “Jeopardy!” back into the headlines last year by raking up an astonishing amount of money over 33 games; he averaged about $77,000 a night, and holds all 15 of the top single-day winnings records. (His highest was $131,127.) Jennings holds the record for most money won in regular season games with $2,520,700 — Holzhauer came this close to leaping over those winnings, but fell about $58,000 shy when he finally lost a game in June.
Holzhauer’s aggressive game play was on display again Tuesday, going for the highest clue amounts and wagering everything in Final Jeopardy. He had more money than Jennings at the end of the second game, though of course he landed just short of winning it all.
At the beginning of the episode, Jennings joked that he has plenty of experience losing to Rutter in tournaments. Rutter first competed in 2000, when there was a five-night cap on winning streaks. He quickly made up for that by dominating tournaments and is currently the highest-earning player ever, with more than $4 million in prize money. In fact, before Tuesday, he had never lost a game to a human opponent. His only loss came in 2011, when he and Jennings competed against (and were defeated by) a computer, Watson.
However, this time, Rutter struggled to find his rhythm until the Double Jeopardy round of the second game, when he correctly answered the most questions of anyone. But Daily Doubles ultimately brought him down. Rutter landed on the first Daily Double on his first question in the jazz category, and bet 3,800 points, everything he had. The clue: “Born in New Orleans, Louis Armstrong performed songs named for two local ‘B’ streets.”
Rutter paused for a long time. “What are Bourbon and Beale?” he asked.
“I thought you’d say that,” host Alex Trebek said sadly. “That’s incorrect. It’s basin. ‘Basin Street Blues.’"
A few minutes later, the Daily Double tripped him up again, as he wagered all his money on the philosophers category, but didn’t know “the double first-name philosopher born in 1842″ who said “the value of a concept is in its practical consequences.”
“It’s not Jean-Paul Sartre, but I’ll say who is Jean-Paul Sartre?” Rutter offered. Nope — it was William James.
Meanwhile, we must pay respect to all three contestants for the delightful and insane “Triple Rhyme Time” category in the first round of the second game, as they immediately answered every single one correctly:
“A congenial game bird under glass given as a gift.” Jennings: “What is a pleasant pheasant present?”
“A flexible and enormous customer.” Jennings: “What is a pliant giant client?”
“In Papeete and the rest of the isle, a signed agreement to quit spray painting.” Holzhauer: “What is a Tahiti graffiti treaty?”
“A sedate date tree that’s the subject of a biblical poem.” Rutter: “What is a calm psalm palm?”
“Sacred place for your most exceptional bottle of Bordeaux.” Jennings: “What is a fine wine shrine?”
So that’s what we’re dealing with here. For reference, here’s where all the players stood before this championship series:
Brad Rutter: Oct. 30-Nov. 3, 2000
Streak: 5 games
Winnings (including tournaments): $4,688,436
Ken Jennings: June 2-Nov. 30, 2004
Streak: 74 games
James Holzhauer: April 4-June 3, 2019
Streak: 32 games
The “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” tournament uses points instead of dollars. All references to dollars in the recaps of the first two nights of the tournament have been updated to points.