The Loop

Jeopardy GOAT Day 4: Ken Jennings beats James Holzhauer in the most stunning way imaginable

January 15, 2020

In a week that included four NFL playoff games and an NCAA National Championship between two undefeated teams, Jeopardy GOAT provided the most dramatic conclusion to an athletic competition. What? They're standing. And buzzing.

Seriously, whether you count Jeopardy as a sport or not, this tournament featuring the game's three biggest legends more than lived up to the hype. It was a brainiac battle pitting Goliath vs. Goliath vs. Goli—well, David. Brad Rutter had a tough time out there. But even he provided some great moments on Tuesday night, including the best response in Final Jeopardy.

Yes, Alex Trebek is the best, and the longtime Jeopardy host who was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer last year, made no announcement regarding his future. As for who deserves the Greatest of All Time title for playing the popular game show, though, another clear winner emerged in Ken Jennings. But James Holzhauer sure didn't make it easy with a late rally that set up one of the most dramatic reveals in TV history.

Let's quickly back up to the beginning of what turned out to be the final episode of this special event. Jennings, who led two matches (each episode consists of one match comprised of two cumulative games) to one over Holzhauer entering Day 4, looked like he had things wrapped up with his staggering all-in bet ("I want royalties!" Holzhauer exclaimed when Jennings mimicked his chip-shoving move) in the Final Jeopardy of Game 1 to take a commanding lead of more than 30,000 points.

I'll take runaways for $1,200, Alex, right? Wrong.

Jeopardy James wasn't finished. He clawed his way back in Game 2 then gave himself a golden opportunity with a late Daily Double in Double Jeopardy. Suddenly, his fate was in his hands. Double up again, and he'd tie up the first-to-three-matches tournament at two apiece. Get Final Jeopardy wrong, and go home. Here's how the drama unfolded:

Absolutely riveting. Absolutely stunning. I thought for sure James had that one judging by his reaction, but it wasn't meant to be. To put it in sports terms for this Vegas sports gambler, he had a wide open 3-pointer for the win to send this to a deciding game. . . and missed. To put in perspective how rare this was, Holzhauer only missed one Final Jeopardy during his incredible 32-game winning streak last year. That's 97 percent. So forget the 3-pointer analogy, this was a bigger lock than a Steph Curry free throw. Like I said, stunning.

That one prior miss didn't come when he finally lost to librarian Emma Boettcher, but there was an unusual connection. The Final Jeopardy category that night? Shakespeare's Time. The final category last night? Shakespeare's Tragedies. In other words, this is the real Shakespeare Curse.

When it was all over, Jennings, who seemed as shocked as anyone, heaped praise on his two competitors.

Seriously, I joke about Rutter getting run off the podium in this event, but his amazing record speaks for himself. It's just weird how outclassed he was in these four matches. To the point where he became the butt of many jokes, including this savage dagger from James during the final episode:

Good lord, that was brutal. But Jeopardy James handled defeat with class, congratulating Ken and, yes, Brad on Twitter after:

Which, unfortunately, means I'm going to have to make another video since this one isn't accurate anymore. . .

Amazingly, this was the first Jeopardy tournament Jennings has ever won despite his Joe DiMaggioesque 74-game winning streak in 2004. To keep the sports analogies going, he had similar regular season/postseason splits to Clayton Kershaw. But now he has won a big one. Check that, the big one. No one can ever question Ken's clutchness again, and he won $1 million for his efforts while Holzhauer and Rutter each took home $250,000.

It sure does, Ken. Of course, this competition was about a lot more than the money. What an exciting contest. Who knew learning stuff could be so much fun?! Anyway, it's too bad it ended before it had to (ABC must be upset too considering the incredible TV ratings), but viewers certainly got a deserving champ:

As Jennings said after, "And may Alex Trebek host 1,000 years!" Amen, Ken. But when Trebek does step aside, it would be hard to think of a better replacement than the Jeopardy GOAT himself.