‘Jeopardy!’ Tournament of Champions Semifinalist as Shocked as Fans by ‘Upset of the Year’


[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the February 26 episode of Jeopardy!]

Even the player advancing to the semifinals at the end of the second quarterfinal of Jeopardy!‘s 2024 Tournament of Champions asked, “What is even happening right now?” which echoed fan sentiments.

Competing in this game and hoping to advance to the semifinals were three-time winner Jared Watson, a quality control specialist from Greenville, Texas; five-time winner Ben Goldstein, a director of content marketing from Dexter, Michigan; and 21-time winner Cris Pannullo, a customer success operations manager from Ocean City, New Jersey.

While Cris was leading at the first break in the Jeopardy! round, Jared was able to tie him after a true Daily Double, and both had $8,800 heading into Double Jeopardy! (Ben had $1,200). Jared then got the first three questions right and soon after picked the second Daily Double of the game, at which point host Ken Jennings remarked, “You have just pulled off an unlikely $6,000 lead on Cris Pannullo.” That was how much Jared wagered, and he answered correctly. He also picked the third and final Daily Double clue, with Jennings telling him he had a “very interesting choice” to make since he had such a large lead at the time ($22,000 to Cris’ $8,800 to Ben’s $3,600). Jared bet $5,000 and once again was correct.

Jared was in the lead heading into Final Jeopardy!, with $32,200 (to Cris’ $14,000 and Ben’s $4,400). Once again, Jennings commented on the surprising outcome: “Jared Watson, just a three-game winner, but boy, on the strength of those two Daily Doubles, he had a big lead going into Final.” Jared was also the only one to be correct in Final Jeopardy! (he bet nothing). Ben was in second with $100 and Cris in last with $0. When it was announced he’d be moving on to the semifinals, that’s when he asked, “What is even happening right now?”

'Jeopardy!' Tournament of Champions

Courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Then, after the episode, Jared posted a long message on the thread for the game on Reddit. “To all of those that are shocked that this happened, NONE of you are more shocked than me! Make no mistake, I prepared harder for this than anything I’ve ever done, and I wanted to play the best I possibly could, but still, I never expected this,” he wrote.

He admitted that “playing Cris was my nightmare scenario going in. … So, when they announced the matchup right before I went on stage, it really felt like any aspirations I had for making the next round died right then and there.” He went on to say that he remembered things that other champions said: Jesse Chin, to Jared that “I was as good as anybody else in this tournament, and that I deserved to be there,” and Juveria Zaheer, “that in any one game ‘anybody can beat anybody.’” As a result, he explained, “I had nothing to lose, and the pressure was off, because nobody expected me to win.”

Jared also shared that following the game, Jennings asked if “The ’70s Totally Rocked” category was his “turning point”—he got the first three correct in the Double Jeopardy! round—and the semifinalist agreed.

“After the match, and for the rest of the week, Cris was nothing but gracious and supportive of me going forward. I am so thankful that we got time outside of competition to get to know each other. He is just a class act through and through, and I would be absolutely gobsmacked if this is the last time you see him on the Jeopardy! stage,” he continued in his Reddit post, going on to talk about the time he spent with Ben Goldstein as well and saying he “took the result like the champion he is.” He ended his post with “sorry about all your brackets,” since many expected Cris to win.

Jeopardy! fans were shocked by the turn of events. “Welcome to the Tournament of Chaos, everybody,” one wrote on Reddit. Another also used the same word, noting, “At the end of the day, you can’t spell champions without chaos. For real though, talk about the shock of the century (in my opinion).”

As one fan pointed out, “THIS is why I love the ToC. It is not to see one of our greatest all-time competitors go out in the quarterfinals. It is a reminder that anything can happen and nobody enters the ToC with the competition on lock.” Another called it “the upset of the year” while congratulating Jared on his game, adding, “my jaw is still on the floor after that game. Did anyone see this coming??”

One fan noted that Jared secured his “massive upset” by taking advantage of a miss from Cris, though thought that the now-semifinalist was “too conservative” with his bets for the Daily Doubles in the Double Jeopardy! round. Other comments from viewers called Jared “a giant killer” and praised his “commanding performance.”

What did you think of the second quarterfinal of the 2024 Tournament of Champions? Let us know in the comments below.

Jeopardy!, Weekdays, check local listings

Originally published here.

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