SALT LAKE CITY — It was clear as soon as Ken Jennings entered Wednesday night’s “Jeopardy!” match that the other two teams didn’t stand much of a chance.
Jennings, who 15 years ago had a 74-game winning streak and walked away from “Jeopardy!” with more than $2.5 million, looked right at home during the “Jeopardy! All-Star Games" tournament.
He was also unstoppable on the buzzer.
In the unique “All-Star Games” format, teams of three — including a “Jeopardy!” superstar captain like Jennings — compete against each other in two games, with every team member playing one round of each game. As team captain, Jennings chose to play the Double Jeopardy round of Wednesday night’s game.
That choice secured his team’s victory.
Until the Double Jeopardy round, the other teams seemed to have a fighting chance. Jennings’ teammate Monica Thieu, who won the 2012 “Jeopardy! College Championship” when she was 18, went first and played the Single Jeopardy round.
Thieu started off slow but eventually warmed up and got on the board, finishing the round in third with $2,800. Julia Collins’ (who holds the second-longest “Jeopardy!” winning streak after Jennings) team led the round in first with $5,400 and Austin Rogers’ (the quirky bartender from New York City) team was slightly behind with $4,800.
And along came Jennings.
Competing against fellow team captains Collins and Rogers, Jennings couldn’t be beat.
He rapidly flew through questions referencing “crossword clues that start with V” and showed his knowledge about obscure dates in history, all the while widening his lead.
Having nonstop control of the board, Jennings eventually landed on the first Daily Double question of the round. At this point, Jennings was already in a great position with $16,400, while Rogers trailed with $7,200 and Collins with $7,000. Jennings wagered $3,600.
The clue: "In 1504, (painter) Durer tried to show perfect human forms in this pair, each holding a tree branch."
Jennings correctly responded with “Adam and Eve,” bringing his total to an even $20,000. Immediately after, he landed on the second — and final — Double Jeopardy question of the round. This time, he wagered $5,000.
The clue: "The self-proclaimed Saharan Arab Democratic Republic disputes the territory of Western Sahara with this nation."
Jennings correctly answered with “Morocco” and brought his total to $25,000 — a staggering $17,800 separating him from Rogers in second place. Rogers did manage to gain some momentum, bringing his total to $13,600 going into the Final Jeopardy round while Collins remained in third with $7,800. But like the previous game, which aired Feb. 25-26, Jennings’ team couldn’t be caught.
Wednesday night’s game was a runaway, as Jennings’ team had $30,200 going into the Final Jeopardy round. But Jennings’ teammate Matt Jackson, who holds the fourth-longest winning streak in the game show’s history, still opted to wager $538.
The clue: "Interpreting for Vaclav Havel, future ambassador Rita Klimova gave us this phrase for a smooth change of government."5 comments on this story
Jackson came up with the correct answer — “Velvet Revolution” — bringing Team Jennings’ game two total to $30,738. Adding the team's previous game total to that, an astonishing $40,003, brought Jennings’ team’s overall total to $70,741 — far beyond Team Rogers’ two-day total of $21,600 and Team Collins’ two-day total of $15,600.
Not much has changed in 15 years — at least when it comes to “Jeopardy!” and Jennings.
Jennings' team will compete for the $1 million prize during the “Jeopardy! All-Star Games” finals on March 4 and 5, 6:30 p.m. MST, on KJZZ Salt Lake City.