And of course it happened when I was on vacation. Matt Amodio's run as Jeopardy champion ended Monday, October 11. And I didn't know until I was sitting in my wife's cousin's living room on Tuesday, October 12 and the show came on at 7:30 in Centerville, Massachusetts. Matt was not amongst those introduced as that night's contestants. He was history.
Vacation started on Saturday October 9th as we checked into the Hyannis Harbor Hotel in Hyannis, Massachusetts. We've been staying there for the last several years on our annual trip to the Cape to sightsee, shop, and see my wife's cousin and her family.
It seems the latest trend in bed making for some hotels is to arrange as many pillows as they can on the bed for decoration and function. In this case there were eight! pillows stacked in an wedge arrangement that let you see every pillow.
And every time I see this I think there are probably three school-age brothers in Uruguay who go to bed at night sharing a soccer ball as a pillow. My sense of entitlement kicks in, but doesn't last long. Not when I figure that the number of pillows relates to the room rate. Sort of like the $$$ signs posted on the Web for restaurant reviews and how much an average meal might cost.
Thankfully, I had the foresight to program the recording of Jeopardy back home, knowing that we enter a bit of self-imposed blackout from news when we vacation. So when the lights went up on Tuesday's Jeopardy and the contestants were introduced and Matt Amodio was not among them, I knew there had been an upset.
Warner Wolfe used to cry, "Let's go to the video tape," as part of his sportscast. So I knew I'd be going to my DVR recording on Monday's coup when we got back home.
The strategy of going for the highest denomination has the effect of building a war chest if you answer correctly, but also of taking the high dollar amounts off the board from the other contestants if you flub the answer. There is one less high dollar choice left for the others to try and build a nest egg for their pursuit of the Daily Double. It's a smart, aggressive, competitive way to play.
Matt gets off to a bit of stuttering start, but quickly regained momentum and had his usual comfortable lead after the first round; $9,800. to Jessica's $2,400 to Jonathan's $400. All the makings of another Amodio steam rolling job were there.
Definitely a reversal of fortune by the end of the second round. Matt keeps winning the buzzer battle, but starts missing the answers, four in quick succession. He's looking a bit tense, and perhaps distracted. He's in new waters.
Jonathan gets both Daily Doubles, back-to-back, but only answers the second one correctly, and only after making very conservative bets of $2,000 and $3,000 bets. At the end of the Double Round, when the dust settles and the buzzers are put down, Matt is in third place with only $10,600 to Jessica's $14,400 to Jonathan's $14,600.
Matt is hardly in his usual can't lose position. He doesn't have more than two times the amount of money of either of the other contestants. If this were a horse race, it would be three of them across the track inside the sixteenth pole (less than 110 yards to go). It's anybody's race.
Final Jeopardy category: Countries of the World.
Nazi Germany annexed the nation and divided it into regions of the Alps and the Danube; the Allies later divided it into 4 sectors.
Having watched the Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles movie The Third Man several times, I was certain the answer was Austria. Matt bet smartly with $5,000, which would make him the winner if the others failed to answer correctly, and he nailed the answer. But Matt's answer of Poland was an absolute dud. You start to feel Matt's going to lose.
With a correct answer and Jonathan faltering, Jessica will win with the right bet and the right answer. With the right bet and the right answer Jonathan will win no matter what Jessica does. It's going to be a photo finish.
Jessica bets all but a dollar. Double her money will not exceed double Jonathan's money. She does her best with a $14,399 bet and a correct answer, Austria, giving her $28,799.
Jonathan basically needs to bet it all and get the answer right to finish ahead of Jessica. He answers Austria. He bets it all, and therefore finishes with $29,200 and becomes the New Jeopardy Champion.
So, after 38 consecutive wins, second to Ken Jennings, and with $1,518,601 won, third behind Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer, Matt's reign is over.
If Ken, James and Matt were thoroughbreds they would be worth a lot at stud and we'd we seeing their offspring compete within four years. But it works quite a bit differently for us humans. But with Jeopardy's continued popularity there is the chance that a contestant's offspring can qualify for the show and perhaps have as big a winning streak as dads Ken, James and Matt.
And how about Jonathan? Is he a one-hit wonder? Apparently not. He's come through four more times, therefore capping off a perfect week.
Streak champions like Ken, James and Matt don't come around often. But when they do, the rest of the world starts to pay attention, not just the Jeopardy fans. It becomes almost like Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak. Non-baseball fans start asking, "Did he hit one today?" vs. did the Yankees win?