‘Jeopardy!’ Tournament of Champions Contestant Reveals Why It’s ‘Bittersweet’ Appearing on Competition

by Madison Miller

This year there’s one major difference in the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions.

That is, there’s sadly no Alex Trebek standing next to the “Jeopardy!” board and joking with the contestants in between questions. The beloved game show host passed away in November from pancreatic cancer.

‘Jeopardy!’ Tournament Without Alex Trebek

Since then, there has really been a massive hole where the host used to fill TV screens consistently all across the country every night. The show has been using famous guest hosts to fill in this season of “Jeopardy!” But there’s no replacing someone with as long of a history as Trebek had with the show.

While the show and viewers see the difference, so do returning contestants on “Jeopardy!”

Jennifer Quail is a returning champion who returned to compete on the studio stage at the Tournament of Champions. She was on the show in 2019 and won eight games. In the process, she walked away $250,000 richer. Quail returned to compete on the show in April after a few delays.

She explained the feeling of walking onto a stage with no Alex Trebek and what that meant for all the contestants.

“We were all Alex’s champions, we all played just under him. Our gameplay – a lot of it – had to do with his voice and his timing. So it was, ‘Okay, who’s the host going to be? What’s it going to be like with this person? It’s bittersweet because it’s great being there and then realizing, ‘Okay, this is it,’ but on the other hand, your first game can be your last. So it’s just like you have live in the moment and realize, ‘I’m playing Jeopardy, it’s all good.’ Anything beyond that is gravy,” Quail said to WSBT.

Future Of The Tournament Of Champions

It doesn’t seem to have impacted Quail’s gameplay that much, however. She was the winner of Wednesday’s game and is now moving on to the semi-finals of the tournament. Besides any future tournament appearances, this could be her last appearance on the “Jeopardy!” stage.

As of now, Ryan Bilger and Karen Farrell are the other two champions also moving on to the semi-finals. There are still several more empty slots to fill before the next round of the tournament begins next week. Buzzy Cohen, a former contestant on the show, is currently the guest host.

His appearance as a guest host makes him ineligible to ever hold that prized buzzer again.“I had some pangs about not being able to hold the buzzer again. I was joking with Ken Jenning right when I got the call. It’s my moment like Moonlight Graham in Field of Dreams, when he walks across the rocks and turns into the doctor. It’s like: It’s over,” Cohen said to The Ringer.

The two-day finals will begin on May 27. The champion will walk away with $250,000 and will likely be invited back for future tournaments. Additionally, the show is donating $250,000 to the Hope of the Valley Trebek Center for the Homeless in Alex Trebek’s honor.

Sadly, this is also the third consecutive Tournament of Champions in which a qualifying contestant passed away before getting to compete in the tournament.