Okay, Some of Them Deserved Their Second Chance
My Post-Game on the First Week of the Jeopardy Second Chance Tournament, Part 1
Your humble scribe and Jeopardy expert spent nearly five thousand words last week explaining why he had so many problems with the Second Chance Tournament going on now — from the concept of the idea to the level of many of the contestants to all the conceivable flaws. I left myself one minor opening to recant: that it depended on the competition in the tournament.
Well friends and neighbors, at least when it comes to this week, I must confess that, as one Jeopardy clue put it on Wednesday ‘consume a corvid’ or as James Fraser (who I spent a lot of time in my article saying was poor choice) knew ‘eat crow. (Yes, the devil can quote Jeopardy responses when it suits his purpose.) Because having watched the first week of the competition and the first game of the finals, it really looks like most of these players clearly deserved their second chance.
I may have had some questions as to the wisdom of it in the first semi-final match as Jessica Stephens more or less made mincemeat of Aaron Gulyas and Cindy Zhang — though to be fair, all three did play well and there were some interesting categories. But the second match more than made up for it as Molly Karol managed a remarkable battle against Erica Weiner-Amachi that ended with her winning due to savvy wagering when it came for Final Jeopardy, a tough one that no one (including your author) could get correct. And while I may have had the most difficulty dealing with James Fraser being invited back to this tournament for no reason I could discern, he more than demonstrated how good a player he was, finding the Daily Double on his first clue and developing a personality when it came to wagers on Daily Double that remind one of James Holzhauer’s approach to Final Jeopardy and seem to be leaving a pro like Ken Jennings somewhat flummoxed. (How would you react if a player wagered $3,699? If your Ken Jennings: “That exactly what I thought you were going to say. That’s so weird. He’s clearly growing into this. He also managed to get Final Jeopardy on an AMERICAN HISTORY by which I was absolutely baffled. So at this point, at least three of these players have earned their second chance.
On Thursday, the ‘two-day total point affair’ as Alex was so fond of calling them, began with James and Jessica doing battle in the early stages of the Jeopardy round. Jessica defused the Daily Double early in SOUTHERN CITIES which was found on the third clue: “This largest Kentucky city was named for a King of France.” She knew it was Louisville. She would build up a lead by running the category PHOBIAS (who knew dendrophobia was fear of trees?) but it was a fierce back and forth fight. The round ended with Jessica clinging to the slimmest of leads with $7600 to James’ $7000. Molly had struggled a little and had only $2800.
Double Jeopardy began with a stumble on the $1600 in THERE’S A SEQUEL. “This 2011 ‘Part 2’ was the eighth film in a series. James thought this referred to Hunger Games, Molly to Twilight and Jessica wasn’t willing to gamble to come up with the last movie in the Harry Potter series: The Deathly Hollows. It was uphill from there as James would find the first Daily Double not long after in HISTORIC WEAR: “In 1921, he ditched Western suits for a show and a loincloth called a dhoti.” James knew this referred to Gandhi and added $4699 to his total.
James got five of the next six clues correct and it looked like he was turning the first game into a runway. Then he found the second Daily Double in POETS AND POETRY. This one didn’t go as well for him: “It begins, ‘Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought death into the world.” James had no idea this referred to Paradise Lost and it cost him $2569. (James clearly likes making the scorekeepers earn their money.)
The game shifted after this: James recovered slightly but both Jessica and Molly began to make their move. (Indeed James would get just two clues correct in the second half of the round.) By the end of Double Jeopardy all three players had managed impressive score: James had $19,930, Jessica was at $15,600 and Molly had moved up very nicely to $10,400.
The category for Final Jeopardy for Game 1 was INTERNATIONAL BORDERS: “2 of the 3 countries that share land borders with Russia and China.” All three players had some variation on an acceptable correct response: Molly and James both wrote down: “What are Mongolia and North Korea?” and Jessica wrote down: “What are Mongolia and Kazakhstan?” Molly bet $5200 Jessica bet bigger, wagering $13,000. And James, continuing to give the scorekeepers headaches, bet $10,999.
At the end of Game 1, James had a small lead with $30,929 to Jessica’s $28,600. Molly’s further behind with $15,600, but there is room to make up ground and anything can happen in a second game. (Though not as often as Alex tried to reassure so many third place contestants in situations like this in all his years on Jeopardy.)
I don’t know how the second game will end up going but I have to say, having witness dozens of tournaments over the years, it is exceedingly rare to see any of them with all three players having scores this high going into the second game — including quite a few Tournament of Champions finals. At this point, it’s hard to not argue that the Second Chance Tournament has justified its existence and that all nine players have more than demonstrated how good they are. Does this mean the winner of this final will have earned his spot to compete in the Tournament of Champions just a week away? Stay tuned until tomorrow when I revealed by thoughts when the winner of this first set is revealed.