I Give Yet Another Chance to The Jeopardy Second Chance Tournament (Sigh)
Second Chance Week 1 Recap
Those of you who read my article on this subject last week (and by my count there were quite a bit of you) might very well wonder why, having spend so much time and energy burying both the concept and the contestants in the Second Chance Tournament that has begun Jeopardy’s new season why I am choosing this week to review it for my blog.
This is more the sense of obligation a hometown sportswriter must fulfill even as his beloved franchise continues to make moves that seem to be sending its team in the wrong direction. (I am from New York so for the last few months that analogy is one I am inclined to seize on.) As I said, I don’t agree one bit with the Second Chance Tournament or the contestants who were invited back. The opening of the new season seemed to make it clear that the eventual winners of this tournament will end up merely earning space in the upcoming Wild Card Tournament later this year. (I have issues with that as well, but one problem at a time.) That still doesn’t make any part of this is a horrible idea and one that really makes me wonder what the producers are thinking.
But because I feel an obligation to my readers to update them on any aspect of the show’s play that will influence the upcoming Tournament of Champions I feel a duty that I must do so. The fact that the first week’s matches, including the two-game final, were all thrilling from beginning to end with plenty of twists and turns has not changed my overall opinion one iota. The fact that the contestants might very well have proven worthy of the second chances they got has done nothing to change the fact that this is an alteration to the format that is offensive not merely to Jeopardy, but to the entire idea of a game show. One can enjoy the individual games and still be repelled by the concept.
Another ‘major controversy’ has caused many fans to boycott the new season. Because of the WGA strike, Jeopardy has been using ‘recycled clues’. To repeat, this has been a pure and utter canard because the show has been recycling clues almost from the beginning of its run forty years ago. I have been very aware of this fact well before the strike began and I accept it as a fact of life. I don’t know why the producers chose to use this term (as I mentioned they haven’t exactly been covering themselves with glory the last few months) but it changes nothing. I watched the first week of the show. It is possible there were some clues that were reworded to give the same answer: that may have been true in a category involving 15-LETTER WORDS this past week. But if you’re the kind of person who is actually determined to point out where these clues have been pulled from and when, you possess a level of fanaticism to Jeopardy that even I do not. In which you should probably be boycotting this show for the idea of the Second Chance Tournament in the first place, but that starts an endless cycle that I think none of us want to go down, certainly not me. Just to be clear even if you think some of the clues are being recycled, that will still be happening when the strike is resolved. Get over it.
Anyway let’s get started with week one:
The first semi-final between Jill Tucker, Gabriel Ostler and Derek Allen was one of those games that seemed to be going in one direction at the end of the Jeopardy round and began to spin a different way in Double Jeopardy. Derek got off to a fast start in the Jeopardy round, Jill lost everything when she found the Daily Double and by the end of the round Derek had a comfortable lead with $6200, more than his two opponents combined.
The shift began on the first clue of Double Jeopardy when Derek and Gabriel both got a $2000 clue in STARTS WITH ‘G’ wrong and Jill got it right. The shift continued as Gabriel and Derek each got a clue wrong in RENAISSANCE LITERATURE wrong at which point Gabriel found the first Daily Double and lost $2600. Not long after Jill found the other Daily Double and added $4000 to her total and it took a major run by Derek to stop her from running away with the game.
The Final Jeopardy category for Game 1 was BRITISH MONARCHS: “The most recent British monarch not to succeed a parent or sibling was this ruler who succeeded an uncle.” Jill knew the correct answer: “Who is Queen Victoria?” She became the first finalist.
The second game between Susan Schulman, David Maybury and Cody Lawrence was far more exciting. Cody and Susan went back and forth for the lead in the Jeopardy round which ended with Susan ahead with $7000 to Cody’s $6800 and David’s $4200.
David found the first Daily Double on the very first clue of Double Jeopardy bet everything and went into the lead for the first time. David would go back and forth with Susan for awhile but the second Daily Double added $4000 to his total and put him in the lead for good. But he couldn’t shake either opponent. He finished Double Jeopardy with a whopping $24,800 but Susan had an impressive $18,2000 and Cody (who had not rung in until the nineteenth clue of the round) finished with $10,800. All three players played exceptionally: combined they gave 55 correct responses and only had two incorrect answers between them.
Final Jeopardy dealt with MYTHOLOGICAL PLACES: Paradise Lost says it’s ‘abhorred’ & ‘the flood of deadly hate’ and in Dante’s Inferno it’s fed by a gloomy brook. All three players knew this referred to the River Styx and David wagered the most to win.
In the last semi-final between Matt Wierman, Donna Vorreyer and Hari Parameswaran, Donna got off to fast start and was in the lead for the entire Jeopardy round. However in Double Jeopardy Donna truly hurt himself when she found both Daily Doubles and lost a combined $8000 on them. Matt had built up a considerable lead and had $15,000 at the end of Double Jeopardy, but not quite a runaway as Hari had $7800 and Donna still had $8200.
The Final Jeopardy category was ARTISTS: “On October 26, 1886 he said, “The dream of my life is accomplished…I see the symbol of unity and friendship between 2 nations.” All three players knew this referred to the designed of the Statue of Liberty (Donna earned the biggest laugh when she wrote down: “Who is Statue of Liberty Guy?”) but only Hari knew the clue referred to Bartholdi. Hari had not had a good Double Jeopardy round but he made the most impressive comeback of the three finalists in his win.
In Game 1 of the Final, David got off to the fastest start in the Jeopardy round. He had $6800 by the first break and finished the round with $9400, despite Jill finding the Daily Double ahead of him. His margin was considerable: Jill had $2600. Hari $2200.
Hari began to mount a comeback when he found the first Daily Double on the second clue of Double Jeopardy in ALLITERATIVE GEOGRAPHY. With little choice he bet the $2200 he had:
“Called Stingray Harbour by James Cook in 1770, it was renamed for the abundance of new plants found there.” Hari knew it was Botany Bay and doubled his score.
For the first eight correct responses of the round, Hari and David divided them evenly before Jill could finally ring in. She found the other Daily Double on the very next clue in POP CULTURE. By this point she was in a distant third, so she bet the $4800 she had:
“John Ford directed the Oscar winning 1942 documentary ‘Battle of’ this locale at which Ford himself was wounded. Jill knew it was Midway, doubled her score and the battle was on. However despite their efforts neither Hari nor Jill could catch David: the Double Jeopardy round ended with David at $17,000, Jill at $13,600 and Hari at $9600.
Things would shift radically after Final Jeopardy. The category was an old favorite: WORLD CAPITALS. The clue involved wordplay: “In English, name of 1 of the 2 4 letter capitals with the same first and last letter, one in the Northern and one in the Southern Hemisphere.” Jill was the only player who could come up with one: “What is Oslo?” (The other, for the record, is Apia the capital of Samoa.) All three players had bet big: Jill gained $6000, Hari lost $8000 and David lost $10,272. At the end of Game 1, Jill was in the lead with $19,600 to David’s $6728 and Hari’s $1600. An advantage to be sure, but one that could be quickly erased.
The tone of Game 2 was set early in the Jeopardy round and when David found the first Daily Double and took the lead away from Hari. For most of the round the two of them battled for the lead and it ended with Hari leading by a whisker with $6800 to David’s $6400. Jill was behind with $3000.
Early in Double Jeopardy Hari had built up a considerable lead and was at $15,600 when he found the first Daily Double in TRAP. Considering his deficit at the end of Game 1, he gambled and bet $5000:
“In World War I the ‘Lost Battalion’ lacked food & medical supplies while trapped behind enemy lines in this forest.” Hari pondered before guessing the Ardennes when it was the Argonne. He dropped to $10,600.
He found the other Daily Double on the very next clue in THIRST (as Alex would have said: “the writers were having fun’. This time he bet $3000:
“Excessive thirst may be a symptom of high blood sugar, also known by this 13-letter name.” It took Hari a moment to come up with hyperglycemia and he got much of his money back. It was fairly evenly divided the rest of the way, but Hari was still in the lead at the end of Double Jeopardy with $19,200 to David’s $14,800 and Jill’s $7800. It was anybody’s game to win.
The Final Jeopardy for Game 2 was ASTRONOMY: “The only dwarf planet located in the inner solar system, it’s named for an ancient deity of planting and harvests.”
Jill thought it was Demeter, which was wrong. However she had bet nothing and her two day total was $2,7400. David wrote down the correct answer: “What is Ceres?” (Demeter is the Greek deity of planting harvests; the asteroid is named for the Roman one.) David bet everything which gave him $29,600 for Game 2. His 2 day total was $36,328.
It was all on Hari. He wrote down Ceres. His wager was $16,000 which put him at $35,200. His two day total was $36,800 and by a narrow margin (though not as narrow as many of these finals turn out to be) he won $35,000 and advanced to Wild Card tournament.
To be clear, the first week of this tournament was everything you can expect from the best Jeopardy Tournaments. None of the players played badly, every kind of match was played including a remarkable final that left fans at the edge of their seats. My opinion, however, has not significantly changed about this than when I wrote my article last week. Yes Hari was a superb player who had to overcome significant obstacles to win both his semi-final and his spot in the Tournament. It does not change the fact that the only reason he earned his invitation to this tournament was he got Final Jeopardy incorrect in his original appearance. Getting Final Jeopardy right is almost critical in making a great Jeopardy champion, and if you can’t get it right the first time that doesn’t mean you deserve another chance to come back and get it wrong again. Did he earn his second chance? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean that he — or any of the other contenders in this tournament — deserved it in the first place.
I will withhold further criticism until Week 2 of this Tournament ends this weekend. Suffice to say I’m still not sure this whole tournament deserves another chance.