Well, Jeopardy! fans, Season 38 is officially over, meaning the excruciating wait for Season 39 has just begun. As we all know, Jeopardy! doesn’t leave its fans empty-handed. Reruns will play in the scheduled time slot until the start of the new season in September (not to mention the new Pluto TV channel that airs reruns 24/7).
However, rewatching old episodes simply doesn’t hold the same excitement of tuning in for a fresh game. Without a new nightly episode to discuss, what’s a Jeopardy! fan to do?
Rehash past episodes, of course. How does the latest season compare to those prior? Who are the best contestants? The worst? And the newest question: are you Team Mayim or Team Ken?
Then there are the heated discussions surrounding the game’s countless clues and occasional blunders. Which triple stumper was most egregious? Which mistake was the most shocking?
For Jeopardy!‘s dedicated fanbase, the latter question is easy to answer. It’s a mistake so outrageous, it’s seared into their memories forever. And that, of course, is the infamous Harriet Tubman fiasco.
The Harriet Tubman Fiasco
Though frustrating for both viewers and contestants, an occasional slip-up on Jeopardy! is inevitable. No one is perfect, and even the impossibly knowledgeable judges and hosts of Jeopardy! are bound to make a mistake now and then.
And typically, these mistakes are acknowledged and corrected within the same episode they’re made. If a host incorrectly deems an answer incorrect, it’s the judges’ job to overturn the decision and award the contestant with the points they deserve.
So for most fans, the Harriet Tubman fiasco is infamous not because of the mistake itself but because of the show’s refusal to acknowledge it to this day.
For those unfamiliar, it all started during Final Jeopardy on the June 20 episode. Mayim Bialik read out the clue: “Congratulating her on the 1869 release of her biography, Frederick Douglas wrote, ‘I have wrought in the day – you in the night.”
Contestant Sadie wrote “Harriet Tubman,” the correct answer. The problem was that her handwriting was borderline illegible and it appeared she didn’t quite finish writing “Tubman.”
Mayim Bialik gave Sadie’s response a thumbs down, causing her to lose to fellow contestant Megan Wachpress. “I don’t see how they can judge that as incorrect so quickly,” one fan wrote on Twitter at the time. “I’ve been watching Jeopardy! a long time, and this is the most suspicious outcome I’ve ever seen.”
‘Jeopardy!’ Fans Slam Show for Refusing to Admit ‘Painful’ Mistake
Unsurprisingly, countless fans expressed the same opinion. Sadie’s admittedly slapdash response was more than legible enough for fans to read it, so why couldn’t the host?
And furthermore, why didn’t the judges overturn the unfair ruling before the end of the game? It wouldn’t be the first time a hastily written response was accepted.
To this day, Jeopardy! has never acknowledged the mistake that many fans call the “most painful loss” of Season 38 – and fans are still mad about it.
“Sadie [should be in the Second Chance Tournament],” one fan wrote in a recent Reddit thread. “But [it’s] hard to see an invite back for her. That’s effectively Jeopardy! acknowledging they screwed up or that the rule isn’t good as it’s written.”
“Sadie basically got the one time judges decided to be particularly hard on handwriting,” another said. “[Other] contestants got away with far worse penmanship or answers before and after her episode,” added a third.