What is $200, Alex?
That’s the slim margin Ken Jennings won by during the first night of Jeopardy!’s The Greatest of All Time tournament, edging out James Holzhauer, $63,400 to $63,200. Lancaster native Brad Rutter finished in a distant third with $10,400.
The hour-long match, hosted by Alex Trebek, was broken up into two 30-minute rounds played back-to-back. Jennings easily won the first round after going all-in on a Daily Double and nailing the correct response: Morgan le Fay, in reference to Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The second round was a much-tighter contest, in part because Rutter uncovered the two Daily Doubles and missed them both.
Despite not winning, Holzhauer had some fun by taunting Rutter after beating him on the buzzer and nailing the answer to a clue asked by radio and TV host Ryan Seacrest: “We both started out as D.J.s, me in Los Angeles and Dick in this city where he first hosted American Bandstand.”
Of course, the answer is a city that’s near and dear to Rutter’s heart: “What is Philadelphia?”
Jennings will take his 1-0 lead into Wednesday’s match, which will air on ABC at 8 p.m. The first contestant to win three matches will be named the show’s “Greatest of All Time,” hence the title. They’ll also walk away with a $1 million prize, while the two runner-ups will each earn $250,000.
Here are some more highlights from Tuesday’s competition:
Rutter’s first loss: The Lancaster native first appeared on Jeopardy! in 2000, and in all that time he’s never lost a match to another contestant. Though Rutter did lose to IBM’s supercomputer Watson in 2011 during the show’s Man vs. Machine battle.
Disney synergy: With this Jeopardy! tournament appearing nationwide on ABC (as opposed to the syndicated show, which appears on different networks), parent-company Disney took the opportunity to cross-promote, including giving ABC World News Tonight host David Muir his own category.
Celebrity guests: Philadelphia native Kevin Hart was among the notable stars to read clues Tuesday night, though it was little more than a promo for the new Jumanji movie. Breaking Bad actor Bryan Cranston (who is not a Phillies fan, despite the rumors) appropriately handled the “Chemists” category. Other special guests included famed TV producer Norman Lear, actor Dax Shepard, and country music singer Luke Bryan.
Purple ribbons: All three contestants wore purple ribbons in honor of Trebek, who has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Triple Rhyme Time: Easily the most entertaining category of the night. My favorite was the correct response to the clue “A flexible and enormous customer,” answered by Jennings: “What is a pliant giant client?”