11 Memorable ‘Jeopardy!’ Moments — Including That Solo Final Jeopardy! (VIDEO)
Jeopardy! was back in the news recently after just one contestant made it to the Final Jeopardy round for the first time in five years. But the Alex Trebek-hosted game show has also made other headlines throughout its 36 years on television. In fact, one of the 10 highlights below dates back to Trebek’s second-ever show.
Here are the Jeopardy! moments—the happy, the sad, the maddening, and the astonishing—that we won’t forget anytime soon.
Three-way tie for last place
In 1984, Alex Trebek’s second-ever episode ended without a winner after all three contestants bet it all… and lost. “I’m at a loss for words,” Trebek said. “Hey folks, easy come, easy go.”
Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak’s big switch
For an April Fool’s prank in 1997, Trebek and Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak surprised viewers by trading spots. On Jeopardy!, Sajak introduced some familiar-sounding categories, including Buy a Vowel, Lose a Turn, and Say “Jack.”
Alex Trebek without pants
Amid the Ultimate Tournament of Champions in 2005, Trebek provided comedic relief, stepping out onto the Jeopardy! stage wearing his jacket, tie, knee-high socks, and shoes… but no trousers.
Watson’s victory over Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter
IBM’s computer system Watson bested two legendary Jeopardy! contestants, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, in 2011, earning $1 million for charity. (“I for one welcome our new computer overlords,” Jennings wrote in his Final Jeopardy reply.)
Double Daily Double
In 2011’s Tournament of Champions, contestant Roger Craig quadrupled his winnings across two questions by nailing back-to-back Daily Doubles.
Thomas Hurley III’s Final Jeopardy error
Social media fans cried foul in 2013 when the Jeopardy! judges rejected the Final Jeopardy answer of 12-year-old Thomas Hurley III, who had misspelled “Emancipation Proclamation” by adding an extra “t.” One Facebook user wrote, “I used to love Jeopardy, but how Alex treated that kid and embarrassed him was uncalled for.”
MC Alex Trebek
Trebek gamely tried to recite rap lyrics in a 2014 episode. But in the words of one BuzzFeed writer, “File under: the whitest human being alive.”
The Love Ballad of Turd Ferguson
Trebek didn’t seem to catch the SNL reference in 2015 when one contestant answered the Final Jeopardy question with the name Norm Macdonald’s Burt Reynolds gave himself on the sketch comedy show’s celebrity Jeopardy! spoofs: Turd Ferguson.
Cindy Stowell’s posthumous winning streak
Later in 2015, contestant Cindy Stowell died just over a week before her six-episode run on Jeopardy! started airing. The 41-year-old was battling stage IV colon cancer while filming her episodes, and she vowed to donate her winnings—which ultimately totaled $123,000—to cancer research.
Sudden death tiebreaker
One 2018 episode culminated with two contestants tying for first place at $6,799, meaning they had to duke it out with a “sudden death” match, according to a Jeopardy! rule that had gone into effect just a few years prior.
A “lonely” Final Jeopardy
“The stage looks like a very lonely place right now,” Trebek told viewers in a 2020 episode after Kevin Walsh was the only contestant left standing. “I cannot recall the last time we only had one player.” (Luckily for Walsh, he got the Final Jeopardy question right.)