Jerry Harvey didn’t know what was about to hit him. The two-day “Jeopardy!” champ had $70,002, and was going for his third victory.
But a software engineer from Salt Lake City was about to take the “Jeopardy!” stage for the first time. And he would end up winning that game. And another game. And another game.
Ken Jennings would end up winning 74 games and amassing $2.52 million during his record-breaking run. On Monday night, “Jeopardy!” fans new and old got to see Jennings’ first “Jeopardy!” game that aired June 2, 2004 — an episode that hasn’t aired since its original broadcast.
Please cheer for me tonight on Jeopardy! Not sure what happens to the space-time continuum if I lose. https://t.co/e7c2sr9P3h— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) May 4, 2020
Here are some highlights from that game.
The opening questions
- The first clue of the game has a surprising relevance nearly 16 years later: “A fast spreading outbreak of a disease.” Harvey came up with the correct answer, “epidemic.”
- The second clue of the game went to Jennings: “A short section at the end of a book.” Jennings came up with “epilogue” and got on the board with $400.
- When Jennings buzzes in for the third time, it takes him a little bit longer to answer the following clue: “The best example of something.” In his book “Brainiac,” Jennings said he didn’t know the answer when he buzzed in but figured he’d probably get it based on his success with the category.
And he did. “What is the epitome?” he said. He now had $1,400.
- Jennings knew his movies. He answered four of the five clues in the “quotable recent movies” category, which in the early 2000s covered “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and “Bruce Almighty.”
Jennings meets Alex Trebek
- After the first commercial break, Jennings and host Alex Trebek had some entertaining banter.
Here’s what Jennings said during his 30-second introduction: “I don’t know if they’re likely to be big ‘Jeopardy!’ watchers, but I’d like to thank Fuzzy the truck driver and the two drunk teenagers, because they were the ones who gave me a ride when I was stranded in the middle of the Nevada desert a few years ago.”
Trebek’s response? “Are you implying that drunk teenagers and truck drivers are not likely to be ‘Jeopardy!’ fans? Is that what you’re telling this national audience?”
“I’m sure they’re your biggest demographic,” Jennings said.
“You bet they are,” Trebek retorted.
At the half, Jennings led with $8,000. Contestant Julia Lazarus was in second with $4,800.
In the Double Jeopardy round, Jennings landed on a Daily Double in a category called “vocabulary” — the only Daily Double he landed on during the game.
Trebek noted that Jennings had gotten off to a good start and had almost twice as much money as Lazarus. Jennings had $10,000 and wagered $2,000.
- The clue: “Prefab metal sheets used to print newspapers gave us this term for standard wording as in contracts.”
- “What is boiler plate?” Jennings said, widening his lead to $12,000.
3 missed questions
Jennings missed three questions during this round. The first came during a category called “senatorial successors.”
- The clue? “2002: Follows North Carolina’s Jesse Helms.”
- Jennings’ incorrectly responded with “Who is John Edwards?” The correct answer, Elizabeth Dole, came from Harvey.
Jennings later missed two questions back-to-back. In a category labeled “country time,” Trebek was looking for the country where violinist Yehudi Menuhin was born. Jennings responded with Israel, but the correct answer, which Harvey got, was the United States.
- Jennings’ last miss of the game: “In April 1939, this country absorbed Albania.”
- None of the contestants came up with the right answer — Italy.
At the end of the half, Jennings led with $20,000. Throughout the game, he seemed visibly impressed by Lazarus, who finished in a close second with $18,600 going into the Final Jeopardy round.
The final question
It all came down to Final Jeopardy. Jennings bet $17,201 on the category, “the 2000 Olympics” — a surprisingly large wager considering he was on his honeymoon during the games and didn’t watch a single event, according to his book “Brainiac.”
- The clue: “She’s the first female track & field athlete to win medals in five different events at a single Olympics.”
- Jennings responded, “Who is Jones?” referencing Marion Jones.
- “We will accept that, in terms of female athletes there aren’t that many,” Trebek said. If that response hadn’t been accepted, though, Jennings would have finished last. But instead, he became a one-day “Jeopardy!” champ.
In a clip that aired before the episode, Jennings said: “I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences on the ‘Jeopardy!’ stage, but none more memorable than the moment at the end of the show when I realized that I was going to be a ‘Jeopardy!’ champion for the rest of my life and nobody could ever take that away from me.”