‘Jeopardy!’ Fans Call Big Wager Blunder ‘Modern Day Cliff Clavin’

Karen Morris competing on 'Jeopardy!' on March 22, 2023
Jeopardy!, Inc.

The March 22, 2023 episode of Jeopardy! featured a wager so large and so risky, fans are calling it the “modern day Cliff Clavin.”

The line is in reference to the episode of Cheers in which Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger) competes on the game show (featuring Alex Trebek!) and blunders all of his winnings on a comically bad Final Jeopardy gamble.

Even if he got the answer wrong (which naturally, he did), all Cliff had to do was make sure he didn’t make a wager that would bring him from $22,000 to under $400, the second place mark. He bet it all, lost it all, and the rest is TV comedy history, but tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! was far from comedy.

Veterinary student Karen Morris from Christiansburg, Virginia had a massive lead throughout the game, poising herself to unseat returning champion Melissa Klapper, a professor from Merion Station, Pennsylvania. Morris gave herself a $6,000 boost with her correct answer to the “Plateaus” Daily Double in the second round. Just a few moments later, she found another Daily Double in the “Hans, Solo” category, this time wagering a hefty $10,000.

At this point, she had a huge lead at $21,800 compared to Melissa’s $7,800 and Zach Wissner-Gross’s (a vice president of math curriculum from Roslyn Heights, New York) $6,400. Upping the ante on her recent bold move, Morris wagered $10,000. The clue: “This artist the younger was working on yet another portrait of Henry VIII when he died in 1543.” The answer: “Who was Hans Holbein?

Unable to produce any response, Morris’s total dropped down to $11,800. From that point on, it was anyone’s game.

In Final Jeopardy, Morris still had the lead with $11,400. Klapper was in second with $8,700, and Wissner-Gross was in third with $7,200. The category was “American Novelists,” the clue being, “He served with an airman named Yohannan in World War II & despite what readers might think, he said he enjoyed his service.” The correct response was, “Who was Heller?”

Wissner-Gross gambled nothing, but answered correctly, remaining at $7,200. Klapper was also correct, wagering $8,000 and bringing her to $16,700. Morris answered incorrectly, wagering $6,001, taking her from first to last place after dominating for most of the game. Host Ken Jennings made note of her risky Daily Double bet before reading her answer.

“Karen Morris had a big lead before tangoing with that final Daily Double,” he said. “She needs to get Joseph Heller here. She wrote down Hunter S. Thompson.” Wrapping up the episode, Jennings congratulated now three-day champion, saying, “Melissa Klapper, you survived a scare.” Her three-day winnings total comes out to $59,100.

Fans on Twitter and Reddit couldn’t believe what they saw in Morris’s Daily Double fumble.

“Did… did I just witness a modern day Cliff Clavin blunder on today’s Jeopardy??” one viewer tweeted, then adding, “Omgggg it happened. It actually happened. Literally was shouting ‘WHY? WWHHYYYYY?!’ Damn that was painful to watch.”

“That lady threw away a runaway win with that daily double wager. I bet she’s been kicking herself ever since,” tweeted another.

“A total Cliff Clavin moment on #jeopardy today,” said another user. See more of the reactions on Twitter below.

The Cliff Clavin references continued on Reddit.

“I would like to know what Karen was thinking with her last DD bet?” one user posted on the game show’s Reddit page. “She had the game wrap up no reason to go big there bet $5.00 and call it a day.”

“Literal Cliff [Clavin] moment. I was nearly yelling at the TV, so heart breaking,” another fan replied.

It certainly would have been thrilling had Morris got the $10,000 answer right. Sadly, her risk reaped no reward this time around.

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