SALT LAKE CITY — “Are your signaling devices working?”
That’s what host Alex Trebek asked two of his contestants during Monday night’s first “Jeopardy! All-Star Games." Because at that point in the round, “Jeopardy!” superstar Ken Jennings had been quick on the buzzer and answering every question that came his way.
“Unfortunately, they are,” contestant Austin Rogers responded.
That moment proved one thing: Although it’s been 15 years since Jennings first appeared on the show — wowing audiences with a 74-game winning streak and walking away with more than $2.5 million — he hasn’t lost his “Jeopardy!” touch.
Trebek noted that Monday night’s game marked 15 years to the day that Jennings came to the studio to tape his first episode. And because of the “All-Star Games'" unique format, fans got to hear what Jennings has been up to. For a few minutes, Jennings chatted with Trebek about his recent book, “Planet Funny,” and how his winnings on the game show bought him more time with his family.
While it’s exciting to see the game show’s best of the best, the “All-Star” format has been confusing for many longtime “Jeopardy!" fans.
Over the course of 10 episodes, the “All-Star Games" pit six teams of three — including a “Jeopardy!” superstar captain — against each other. In Jennings’ match, which airs Feb. 25-27, he plays two games against team captains Rogers — the quirky bartender from New York City — and Julia Collins, the contestant who has the show's second-longest winning streak after Jennings.
Each team member plays only one round of a game, and as team captain, Jennings opted to go first and play the Single Jeopardy round, assigning his other team members, Matt Jackson and Monica Thieu, to play the Double Jeopardy and Final Jeopardy rounds.
That proved to be a wise choice.
During the Single Jeopardy round, Jennings showed knowledge of classic movies, gaining a large lead with questions about the silent comedy star Harold Lloyd in “Safety Last” and the name of the movie — "Bonnie and Clyde" — that features Gene Hackman as Buck Barrow.
Things got even better for Jennings when he selected the round’s only Daily Double. At this early point in the game, he was leading with $4,000. He decided to make it a “true Daily Double” and bet it all.
The clue: “In his heyday, this author was 'The Great Unknown' having published his Waverly novels anonymously.”
Jennings correctly responded with “Sir Walter Scott” and doubled his total to $8,000, gaining an even bigger margin over contestants Ben Ingram (on Collins’ team), who had $2,600, and Rogers, who was $600 in the hole.
Ingram began picking up speed, though, and by the end of the Single Jeopardy round, he was in second with $5,600. Jennings finished the round in first with $9,800 and Rogers was in third with $2,800.1 comment on this story
But that’s just one-third of the game. Tonight, “Jeopardy!" airs the Double Jeopardy and Final Jeopardy rounds, and then on Wednesday, the second game of the match will air. The team with the highest total after two games goes on to the final match, which airs March 4 and 5.
It’s still too early to tell, but if Jennings’ success during the tournament so far is any indication, his team has a good shot at making it to the championship round.
Watch Jennings' team tonight at 6:30 p.m. MST on KJZZ Salt Lake City.