ABC’s battle of the brains continued on Thursday with Night 3 of Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time.
The primetime special brings back the long-running quiz show’s three all-time top earners: Ken Jennings, who still holds the record with his famous 74-day winning streak (total winnings: $3,370,700); Brad Rutter, who amassed the show’s top money total with $4,688,436 — and has never lost a Jeopardy! game to a human opponent — and James Holzhauer, who set multiple records last year on his way to setting the mark for the top single-day winnings in show history (total winnings: $2,712,216).
Those three will face off in a tournament of primetime matches, with the first to win three nights earning the $1 million grand prize and the title of Jeopardy!‘s “Greatest of All Time.” (The two runners-up will receive a consolation prize of $250,000 each.) The episodes are a full hour long, as opposed to Jeopardy!‘s usual half-hour format, and of course, longtime host Alex Trebek is on hand to supply the questions… er, answers, that is.
As revealed during Tuesday’s tournament premiere, the three contestants are competing for points instead of dollars in each episode, and each installment includes two Jeopardy! games instead of one. Whomever has the highest combined point total after two games is named that night’s winner, and going into Thursday’s episode, Jennings and Holzhauer were tied with one win apiece.
This brings us to Night 3… But before we get to the results, let’s talk about how the players prepared for this momentous showdown. Rutter weighed in first, explaining that he revisits things like world capitals and the works of Shakespeare — even though he admits, “All of that didn’t do me too well the other day.” Getting even more candid, Rutter added, “I should have worked more on the buzzer.” Jennings and Holzhauer’s answers were slightly more ridiculous. Jennings told Trebek, “For me, it’s all about the rhythms of your voice,” while Holzhauer confessed to “scouting the opposition” ahead of time.
Jennings and Holzhauer were evenly matched as Thursday’s episode got underway, but a clutch answer about South Carolina’s political history gave Jennings a substantial edge, sending him into Final Jeopardy with a 12,000-point lead over his opponents. And speaking of political history, that ended up being the night’s first Final Jeopardy category! (Spoiler alert: Things went very well for Jennings.)
“These two now-defunct parties each gave the U.S. four presidents in the 19th century,” read the clue. All three contestants correctly responded with the Democratic-Republican and Whig parties, and all three managed to double their scores. Jennings ended the night’s first game with 51,200 points, followed by Holzhauer with 27,200 and Rutter with 17,600.
Holzhauer entered Thursday’s second game with revenge on his mind, though his overzealous approach cost him an early 5,000-point lead when a Daily Double opportunity didn’t turn out as he hoped. Either way, the second game was beginning to look like a Jennings-versus-Holzhauer situation, with Rutter merely looking on from the best seat in the house.
“These two foreign-born directors have each won two Best Director Oscar, but none of their films has won Best Picture,” read the second Final Jeopardy clue. The answer was Ang Lee and Alfonso Cuaron, though no one managed to write those names down. (For what it’s worth, none of the players had much faith in the category, making relatively low wagers all around.)
After both games’ scores had been tallied, Jennings emerged as the night’s big winner (67,600 points), followed by Holzhauer in second (33,692) and Rutter in third (23,467).
For those keeping score at home — and aren’t we all? — Jennings is now officially in the lead with two wins, followed by Holzhauer with one. And then there’s Rutter.
The tournament continues on Tuesday, Jan. 14 (8/7c).What did you think of Thursday’s episode? Drop your thoughts in a comment below.