An Anatomy of the Worst Game in ‘Jeopardy!’ History
October 19, 2017 5:41 PM   Subscribe

"...yet still nothing could have prepared us for Tuesday night: the worst game in Jeopardy! history. That, my friends, is the moment that then–two-day winner Manny Abell became a three-day winner with a sum of one (1) dollar, besting his opponents’ combined total of zero (0) dollars. ... Our boy Manny, who entered Final Jeopardy in third, is responsible for the greatest abomination in the long history of Jeopardy!dom. And he will get to come back for more."
posted by Evilspork (44 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Can y'all talk more here about why it is the worst?
posted by crysflame at 6:00 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


Ruff.
posted by mannequito at 6:00 PM on October 19


And the question! None of the three contestants knew where that country is?!
posted by gubo at 6:04 PM on October 19 [3 favorites]


I hear from other contestants I know that it is much harder under the lights
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:08 PM on October 19 [6 favorites]


Ah, c'mon. That was a great game. It was especially fun coming on the heels of the NYC bartender who racked-up the fourth largest winnings in Jeopardy history.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:10 PM on October 19 [2 favorites]


It is very strange that the winner of that day's battle walked away with $999 and $1999 less than the losers...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 6:11 PM on October 19 [27 favorites]


TIL that a Jeopardy! game ended with all 3 contestants ending at $0. I guess it had to happen but it just seems like bad strategy all around.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:26 PM on October 19 [2 favorites]


I was just on Jeopardy! a week and a half ago (lost to Austin the bartender, but I at least gave him a run for his money and was competitive). While I didn't actually miss any questions, I was terrified of having a really stupid answer. When you know you are being filmed and are in a studio on the Sony lot and there are all the lights and people coming up to you every break to touch up your makeup and your hands are sweaty and you are thinking about buzzer timing - well, it is much less natural than sitting on your couch at home and far more nerve-wracking. I can easily see how someone could blank on an easy question or come up with a dumb answer. You don't have the luxury of thinking about it much because you have to make sure you buzz in first.

Granted, you have more time during Final Jeopardy, but even then if your brain locks in on something you know is probably wrong and you can't think of anything better, you just write down what you can. I missed my Final Jeopardy even though I "knew" the answer. My brain didn't make the right connection fast enough, but the correct answer popped in my head a minute or so too late (I still would have lost even if I got it right, which is a form of comfort).
posted by Falconetti at 6:27 PM on October 19 [139 favorites]


I had two friends appear within a few weeks of each other. One was in second place and had the correct answer, but so did the person slightly ahead of him who bet it all. One was in first place, and even though all three got it wrong the bets just didn't work out in her favor. But for the subtlest of factors, either one could've been a champion.

Jeopardy! is not for lightweights. You think you're good at trivia? Great, do it while also playing poker and under spotlights and with a buzzer that punishes you for clicking it too early. And don't forget to phrase things as a question, because sadism.

Love that show.
posted by Riki tiki at 6:27 PM on October 19 [15 favorites]


Never Get Involved in a Land Quiz in Asia

That subject heading made me laugh aloud.

None of this would have happened, of course, had any contestant gotten the correct answer to the Final Jeopardy clue: It’s the only country that borders both the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. The answer is Iran, which nobody knew; Carlos went for Azerbaijan, while Fran went for Tibet, which is approximately the landlockedest place on Earth. Manny—god damn it, Manny—chose Iraq, which is less wrong than the answers of his compatriots, but still wrong, and not enough to redeem his dismal performance.

So close, and yet so far.
posted by zarq at 6:29 PM on October 19 [5 favorites]


Worst game? It is that sort of freak outcome that makes Jeopardy so fun in the first place! Also, I question any serious discussion of strategy in the game unless it was written by Ken Jennings (or perhaps Austin Rogers, who was a blast to watch). For example, while it makes sense to use the Daily Doubles to get as much money as you can, if it is a category you feel weak in, just wager what you feel comfortable with and take comfort in the fact that you denied the DD to the others. On the other hand, I have never understood why the 3rd place person didn't just risk everything in Final Jeopardy. Of course, having only played by yelling at the TV (although in the 1980s I wrote a Mac Basic program to allow myself to keep score with the TV game) my opinions are as random as anyone else's.
posted by TedW at 6:35 PM on October 19 [5 favorites]


Persian Gulf there's a clue right there in the answer! I mean, I had to mentally picture the middle east and remember that the Red Sea is not the Persian Gulf, but I worked out Iran quite easily after that. It's kind of amazing that none of the contestants could.

But given that the two leaders were tied going into the last round, it kind of makes sense that they both wagered everything (no real value in 2nd place). And Manny wagered $999; given that he entered with a $1000 this is probably a smart-ish play, since it accomplishes the dual goal of (1) leaving him with a dollar, a sort of face-saving gesture and (2) possibly winning if the other two wager full and also are wrong, which the full-amount wager was already likely.
posted by axiom at 6:36 PM on October 19 [2 favorites]


I host trivia nights, and we do a final question that functions exactly like the Final Jeopardy question - you can wager as many points as you have, so every team (even if they are in last place) could theoretically win the game if everyone else misses the question (and wagers too much). As part of my spiel, I used to always say "the winning team will win a (varies, but usually $25) gift card to the bar, everyone else will get nothing - and remember, if everyone wagers everything, and everyone misses it, every team finishes with zero points - and I win a $25 gift card to the bar!"

So far, I have won the gift card exactly once, but that one time was very satisfying.
posted by yhbc at 7:09 PM on October 19 [20 favorites]


It is very strange that the winner of that day's battle walked away with $999 and $1999 less than the losers..
The rules nit in me is very concerned about this actually. Both of the other players ended up with the same amount. Ordinarily they would break the tie by looking at their total before the Final Jeopardy question, but they were tied then too. Do they both get second place money? Is there another secret tiebreaker? I really want to know this. I hope that they both got $1,999 more than the winner.
posted by Lame_username at 7:16 PM on October 19 [5 favorites]


The rules nit in me is very concerned about this actually. Both of the other players ended up with the same amount. Ordinarily they would break the tie by looking at their total before the Final Jeopardy question, but they were tied then too. Do they both get second place money? Is there another secret tiebreaker? I really want to know this. I hope that they both got $1,999 more than the winner.

There is some explanation here (and some other scenarios here)
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:40 PM on October 19 [4 favorites]


Haha, what IS Tibet? At least some good questions were raised.

"Looks like you guys struggled a lot!" I love how Trebek rubs it in.
posted by karmachameleon at 7:46 PM on October 19 [4 favorites]


I hear from other contestants I know that it is much harder under the lights.

Yeah, if I had a dollar for every time someone told me I should be on Jeopardy I wouldn't need to be on Jeopardy. There's no way I wouldn't melt under the lights. I've seen what TV sets look like and they're weird and often oddly terrible.
posted by loquacious at 7:47 PM on October 19 [4 favorites]


I thought Manny's bet was brilliant. The other two, being tied, had to bet it all. Betting all but one dollar, and losing because the other guy bet it all, would be 10000% worse. Manny's only chance to win was to leave himself a dollar in the worst case, because the other two had to bet it all, and if they were wrong....
posted by COD at 7:48 PM on October 19 [6 favorites]


Bob Harris wrote a great book about being on Jeopardy! called Prisoner of Trebekistan, which I love a lot. Part of his training to be on the show involved creating his own buzzer, which he called the Jeopardy! Weapon. It is probably easy than constructing your own lightsaber.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:19 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


And then there's this 3-way tie (before final Jeopardy, there was a tie for second place, and the player in first place purposely bet the amount that would cause the 3-way tie if the other two players wagered all their money and answered correctly)

And I think Manny should have bet $0.
posted by ShooBoo at 8:20 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


This game *was* infuriating. A high number of triple stumpers, several clues left on the board in both rounds, and a frankly easy final jeopardy that was also a triple stumper. It's the Persian gulf after all. Then, the infuriating ending where the dullest and weakest jeopardy champ in a while somehow pulls it off with a wrong answer even though he's in the goddamn navy and should damn well know near-eastern geography. I was rooting for you Fran.
posted by dis_integration at 8:23 PM on October 19 [6 favorites]


Yeah, all three of these bets were rational. (The two tied players had a choice of all-in or nothing; the only rule the third had to follow was "don't bet it all.")

(Note, incidentally, that the 3-way tie scenario is now out of play; thanks to the increasing popularity of Keith Williams' bet-to-tie strategy, the Powers That Be have abolished the all-tied-players-come-back rule, adding a tiebreaker question when needed.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 8:27 PM on October 19


Fran and Carlos, Carlos and Fran, our intrepid, better-at-trivia, and utterly doomed contestants, entered Final Jeopardy in a tie. Surely, they both thought as they prepared to wager, the other wouldn’t be so bold as to risk everything.

Ha, whut no. I didn't watch the game, but just going by the numbers, if you're tied at the end, there's a somewhat decent chance that the person you're tied with is approximately as good as you are at trivia. If second place "only" gets you $2000, it doesn't seem like anyone in their situation would do anything other than bet it all. And if you're in third place and you think both players are going to bet it all, the only way to win is to bet such that you have at least $1 left at the end.

But if you're that far behind the co-leaders-who-are-so-much-better-than-you, what are the chances that they're both going to get the question wrong AND you're going to get it right? Like, you're probably going to get it wrong, too. Manny should've bet $0, but betting everything-but-$1 is a fine bet, too.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:55 PM on October 19


the correct answer to the Final Jeopardy clue: It’s the only country that borders both the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. The answer is Iran, which nobody knew; Carlos went for Azerbaijan, while Fran went for Tibet, which is approximately the landlockedest place on Earth. Manny—god damn it, Manny—chose Iraq, which is less wrong than the answers of his compatriots, but still wrong,

Mitt Romney once said that Iran had to be allies with Syria because Syria was Iran's "route to the sea". see map

I remember, because I was watching, and I lolled.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:02 PM on October 19 [7 favorites]


Apropos of the Jeopardy Weapon, if you go to a Jeopardy! tryout, you'll get a fabulous Jeopardy clicker pen that is just the right shape to practice ringing in at home, standing up of course.
posted by mogget at 9:39 PM on October 19 [2 favorites]




>>It’s the only country that borders both the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf.
>What is Tibet?

Jesus wept. Is Jeopardy! just taking the rejects from Wheel of Fortune now, or what?

As for the US Navy guy incorrectly guessing Iraq... Well, the hot takes just write themselves, don't they?

In all honesty, though, that we're talking about Jeopardy! at all makes me more than a little suspicious that this might be a planned publicity stunt. You know what the maximum fine is for rigging a game show? I looked it up after that awfully suspicious Showcase Showdown bonanza on The Price is Right a few weeks back, and was kinda surprised to find that it's been the same since the Quiz Show clause (47 U.S. Code § 509) was added to the FCC rules in the early sixties. The maximum fine for rigging a game show, with all zeros present and accounted for, is a mere $10,000. Ten thousand dollars. Maximum. (And/or up to a year in prison, as if.) And that's only if the FCC is somehow pursuaded into pretending to give a shit, which has happened approximately zero times since the events that prompted the rules in the first place. The penalty was even laughable when the law was first drafted: One of those instigating events involved a program called The $64,000 Question, for heaven's sake.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:34 PM on October 19 [2 favorites]


That's numberwang!
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:50 PM on October 19 [14 favorites]


As for the US Navy guy incorrectly guessing Iraq... Well, the hot takes just write themselves, don't they?

Yes.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:21 PM on October 19 [7 favorites]


This is why you shouldn't hire Jon Bois to write your Jeopardy episodes.
posted by NMcCoy at 11:23 PM on October 19 [7 favorites]


In all honesty, though, that we're talking about Jeopardy! at all makes me more than a little suspicious that this might be a planned publicity stunt.

In all honesty you obviously have no idea what you're talking about.
posted by edeezy at 1:06 AM on October 20 [9 favorites]


"Well, the hot takes just write themselves, don't they?"

"Yes."


Someone needs to change the $999 to $2.3 trillion though.
posted by mikeand1 at 1:14 AM on October 20 [2 favorites]


Okay, it's a tangent, but all this is reminding me that I was on a game show about fifteen years ago. (I'd say "You've probably never heard of it", but this is MetaFilter...) During the meet-the-contestants bit at the top of the show, the host made a thinly-veiled "funny" crack about my weight.

I proceeded to destroy the other two contestants and win a week-long trip for two to fucking Hawaii from that smarmy little asshole.

The moral? If you're running a trivia-based game show, don't piss off the guy who looks like he does quizzes for fun.

The only question I didn't answer correctly was the one I deliberately tanked because I didn't want a year's supply of Yoo-Hoo. Bleah.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:40 AM on October 20 [14 favorites]


Is it common to wear military uniforms on game shows in the US?
posted by hawthorne at 4:42 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]


Worst game? It still sounds better than any tedious episode of Celebrity Jeopardy.
posted by Flashman at 4:47 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]


Is it common to wear military uniforms on game shows in the US?

Yes - I suspect they may trade wearing the uniform for it being considered work (doing PR for the military) so they don't have to burn up their PTO days to be on the show.
posted by COD at 5:25 AM on October 20 [2 favorites]


Worst game? It still sounds better than any tedious episode of Celebrity Jeopardy.
Come on, we need Celebrity Jeopardy.
posted by xyzzy at 6:03 AM on October 20 [2 favorites]


Hardly the worst, while I haven't seen it, I've always enjoyed the $1 winner episodes. In fact, back when you were limited to five wins (and a car) I always wanted to see someone win with just a dollar five days straight. For no other reason than they would then be introduced in the Tournament of Champions with a grand total winnings of $5. Alas, it never happened.
posted by zinon at 6:23 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile on the other end of the spectrum, the article mentions Roger Craig, who set one of the daily records. One of my favorite all-time Learned League forum threads involves him semi-covertly downplaying how impressive that was (and also has a link to a video of the stacked daily doubles that made it possible).
posted by range at 6:24 AM on October 20 [4 favorites]


Is it common to wear military uniforms on game shows in the US?

Yes, at least on Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 7:43 AM on October 20


Yes, at least on Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.

This is also the case on The Price is Right, although the frequency of military contestants has decreased over the past few seasons.
posted by DRoll at 10:28 AM on October 20


Yes, at least on Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.

This is also the case on The Price is Right, although the frequency of military contestants has decreased over the past few seasons.


In the case of the Price is Right, contestants aren't pre-arranged but rather selected from interviews of the people waiting to be in the audience for the taping of the show. Wearing the uniform is a way of standing out in the crowd so to speak.
posted by mmascolino at 7:05 AM on October 23


Late to the comments (& didnt RTFA), but I think that was the night I felt like the questions seemed much harder than usual. So I gave props to the two challengers, and tweeted @Jeopardy afterward they need a special runners-up tournament just for folks like these.

(Of course, twitter that night had some sh*t comments about one of the competitors, while mine was: "This is the future that liberals want.")
posted by NorthernLite at 1:13 PM on October 23


fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit: "Bob Harris wrote a great book about being on Jeopardy! called Prisoner of Trebekistan, which I love a lot. "

Interesting, I didn't like that book at all. I thought Harris came off as more than a little creepy.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:27 PM on October 23


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