Ken Jennings Didn’t Know His ‘Jeopardy!’ Return Would Air on Anniversary of Alex Trebek’s Passing

JEOPARDY, host Alex Trebek, Ken Jennings, 'Ultimate Tournament of Champions', (2005), 1984-. © Sony
Everett Collection

Longtime Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings returned for another guest host stint on the iconic quiz show on November 8, the first anniversary of original host Alex Trebek’s passing. However, Jennings wasn’t aware his first episode back would coincide with the special date, making his return all the more bittersweet.

“Apparently, everyone was aware that we were going to air [my first episode] on the anniversary and nobody told me,” Jennings said in an interview with USA Today. “They didn’t want to put that in my head. So, I was not told until after that it was the Nov. 8 show.”

Because of this, the episode did not mention the date’s significance, given its advanced filming, but did end with a special credits message similar to that of previous episodes, reading “Forever in our Hearts. Always our Inspiration.”

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The show's beloved host died on November 8 last year.

Despite being left in the dark on his first episode’s air date, Jennings felt Trebek’s presence while filming the episode, as he wore a pair of the host’s cuff links gifted to him by his wife, Jean. He described receiving the gift in a video on the show’s social media networks, saying, “The first day I came in to guest host was just a few weeks after Alex had passed and it was a really rough time. I got to the studio and one of the producers handed me a little box and Alex’s wife Jean had given me a pair of his cuff links that he had worn on the show.”

Jennings was the first in a long lineup of guest hosts following Trebek’s final episodes, and he certainly felt the pressure of filling in the legendary host’s shoes. “I knew that it was going to be a very difficult task … much less the idea that you’re trying to step into the shoes of Alex Trebek, which is impossible. This time, we’re kind of a year removed or more from all that, so I’ve had every possible emotion now related to ‘Jeopardy!’”

He and frequent guest host Mayim Bialik will continue to trade off hosting duties through the end of the year as the search for a permanent host continues.

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