That's a lot to take in, and so was the actual tournament, which took place over four nights, starting January 7, with the first person to get to three wins taking home the whole thing, the whole thing being one million dollars and a cool trophy (instead of dollars during the game, the players competed for points); the two runners-up would both receive $250,000. It was the first time in 30 years that Jeopardy! has aired at primetime -- that's 8 p.m., baby, and for a whole hour, instead of Jeopardy!'s usual half-hour slot. That meant that every episode featured two regular-sized Jeopardy!s for the price of one, each made up of the classic Jeopardy, Double Jeopardy, and Final Jeopardy rounds we're all familiar with, the difficulty of the clues jacked way up. During the first round of the first game, host Alex Trebek announced, with a demure grin, that not one of the contestants had gotten an answer wrong.
There's something about watching a bunch of normal-looking dudes stand at podiums and answer impossible questions correctly that is so exhilarating. It has a lot to do with how comfortable Holzhauer, Jennings, and Rutter clearly are on the Jeopardy! soundstage, each having walked its floors more times than any other contestant. And it was such fun to see all three of them interact -- before this tournament, I'd never seen Jeopardy! contestants touch each other, let alone create little in-jokes and jabs to make the audience crack up. Holzhauer and Jennings were lined up next to each other, and every now and then you'd see Holzhauer clapping his competition on the shoulder every time Jennings tried a risky wager.
They even began groaning in sympathy every time Rutter got a Daily Double -- which just kept happening, poor guy. By the fourth, decisive night, everyone had loosened up a little. When the second game started and each players' point scores were temporarily erased (points from the first game get added to the second to determine the night's overall winner), Rutter's screen said "$0," which happened to also be his total from game one. Holzhauer pointed to Rutter's screen and quipped, "Hey, Brad's score is still on there."