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‘I had chills’: ‘Jeopardy!’ exec on taping Alex Trebek’s final games

“Jeopardy!” taped Monday night’s episode in late October — 10 days before Trebek’s death

FILE - this Oct. 22, 2007 file photo shows game show host Alex Trebek at the 17th annual Broacasting and Cable Hall of Fame awards dinner in New York. Trebek remains in a Los Angeles hospital recovering from a mild heart attack. But Sony Pictures Televisi
This Oct. 22, 2007 file photo shows game show host Alex Trebek at the 17th annual Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame awards dinner in New York. In Monday night’s pre-taped “Jeopardy!” episode — filmed just 10 days before Trebek’s death — the host delivered a powerful message on COVID-19.
Peter Kramer, KRAPE

In one of his final “Jeopardy!” games, host Alex Trebek called on fans to help “build a gentler, kinder society.

“You’ll recall that about a month ago, I asked all of you to take a moment to give thanks for all of the blessings that you enjoy in your lives,” Trebek said at the start of Monday night’s pre-taped episode. “Now, today, a different kind of message. This is the season of giving. I know you want to be generous with your family, your friends, your loved ones.

“But today, I’d like you to go one step further. I’d like you to open up your hands and open up your heart to those who are still suffering because of COVID-19,” he continued. “People who are suffering through no fault of their own. We’re trying to build a gentler, kinder society and if we all pitch in — just a little bit — we’re gonna get there.”

According to “Jeopardy!” Executive Producer Mike Richards, the show had no idea Trebek was going to deliver that powerful message.

“He just walked out and did it,” Richards recently told Entertainment Weekly. “And you’ll see in the episode, we all started to clap, and there’s points in ‘Jeopardy!’ where you clap and there’s points in ‘Jeopardy!’ where you don’t; that’s not a normal spot. You can see (Trebek) kind of look over at us as he was crossing to reveal the categories: ‘What are you guys clapping about?’”

“Jeopardy!” taped that episode in late October — 10 days before Trebek’s death, according to the Deseret News. The longtime host, who had advanced pancreatic cancer, was 11 days out of intestinal surgery when he filmed that episode, Today reported.

Richards was worried about Trebek returning to the studio so soon. But Trebek called him up and assured him he’d be fine — after all, he had successfully managed to eat Jello that day, he told Richards.

“And I went, ‘Alex, that’s great, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be ready to host five episodes of a game show,’” Richards told Today. “And he said, ‘Do not cancel, I will be there.’”

In his brief interview with Today, Richards called Trebek “an absolute warrior” and described the host’s final moments on the show as “Herculean.”

“I had chills throughout the first taping on that Monday, because I was watching him, going, ‘How is he doing this?’” Richards told Entertainment Weekly. “He came in at a higher level than normal, and his normal was excellent.”

Trebek’s final episode — which includes a “special goodbye” — airs on Friday, according to the Deseret News. Richards said “Jeopardy!” did not know these would be Trebek’s final episodes.

“We didn’t know it was going to be his final episodes and neither did he,” Richards told Today. “He was in enormous pain. … You will not sense any of that in these episodes. He is strong, he sounds great, he’s funny and he’s amazing.”

The show moves forward on Jan. 11, with “Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time” champion Ken Jennings taking on the role of interim guest host. “Jeopardy!” is not announcing an official host at this time.