It might sound impossible, but it’s been done: Discover the surprising ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant that left with $1 to his name.
When reading up on “America’s Game Show,” chances are this isn’t a headline you’d expect. Or perhaps you’ve been watching long enough to remember this incredible episode. Regardless, it’s true: a contestant once left ‘Jeopardy!’ with their total winnings at $1 U.S. dollar.
The contestant? U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Darryl Scott. The episode, which hit televisions January 19. 1993, left Scott remarkably stumped. An obviously-intelligent man who rose through the ranks of America’s prestigious Air Force, Scott must’ve been having one terrible, horrible, no good very bad day (as the famous children’s book puts it).
Yet that’s not even the most surprising aspect of this episode. Lt. Scott managed to win his first episode with this $1! He would go on to win his second episode with $13,401 – bringing his 2-episode winnings to ta toal of $13,402.
According to ‘Jeopardy!’ archiving site J-Archive, this made Scott a 2-time champion in Season 9. All in all, the Washington, D.C. native will forever be responsible for “the lowest winning score in the history of ‘Jeopardy!'” as a result.
‘Jeopardy!’: $1… or $566,400!?
Winning $1 feels even more impossible upon learning the maximum amount a contestant can win in a single episode. That total is $566,400. To do so, however, would be just as remarkable as leaving with $1. A player would have to sweep both boards in total, find every single Daily Double and max out their wager, and then bet it all in Final Jeopardy to hit this precipice.
Keep in mind: this number is nigh-impossible to achieve. In fact, the record for the highest earnings in a single episode is $131,127. This record was set by James Holzhauer in 2019. One of the previous record holders was none other than Ken Jennings.
Jennings’ previous record was $75,000. He would go on to be crowned the “greatest to ever play the game,” though, so we’re sure the interim host is fine with this outcome. Or is he?
And if this entire “$1” mess sounds oddly familiar to classic television fans, that’s because ‘Mama’s Family lead character Thelma Harper once did just that on her 1988 episode titled ‘Mama on Jeopardy!’. But Thelma doesn’t take her $1 as champion, however. In the reality-meshing storyline, Thelma is the runner-up – though she does bag a trip to Hawaii in the process. And Mrs. Harper isn’t the only beloved sitcom character to make an appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’, either.