The Final Great Jeopardy! Game

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S1: The following recording may or may not include instances of words being said that the FCC would find me for their long arm could ever reach, hey, do you want to listen to the gist at home on your aleksa? Turns out we at Slate have built a new Aleksa skill, were perfecting it. So what you do is you say Alexa enabled the gist to enable the skill on your Alexa device, and then you begin playing the show and to play it after that you can say, Alexa, play the gist first. Enable them play it just on the Alexa. It’s Thursday, January 9th, twenty twenty from Slate. It’s the gist. I’m Mike PESCA.

S2: Maybe we are leading thinkers on the right came under a misimpression regarding a category error. It concerned the morning of KSM Sue Lamani.

S1: Millions of Iranians stampeding in collective anguish that is mourning an American politician, noting that it may have been a strategic misstep not to have planned out a major escalation in the world’s greatest tinder box. That is not morning. That is just thinking, critically thinking. Still, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley asserted that up, that Dems grieve in their own way.

S3: The only ones that are mourning the loss of Suleimani are our Democrat leadership and our Democratic presidential candidate.

S1: And, you know, if the former representative to the U.N. falls into this regrettable, regrettable category error, I’m sure not based on animus, but just based on an honest misreading of her countrymen. But if she does it well, you know, Doug Collins is going to do it, but worse.

S4: Well, guess what? Surprise, surprise. Nancy Pelosi does it again. And her Democrats fall right in line. One, they are in love with terrorists. We see that they more and Suleimani more than they more and our gold star families who are the ones who suffered under Suleimani. That’s a problem.

S1: Yes. If there is a political figure widely associated with being callous to gold star families, that sure is Nancy Pelosi, not someone else I could think of. Here’s a helpful distinction for Haley and Collins. I’ve been to many funerals when people mourn. They say things like he was a good father. She loved gardening. He always had time for his grandchildren. When she left the room, it was a more joyous place than before she entered. Mourners do not say things like Uncle Jerome’s death, though warranted, will destabilize the region literally. I have never heard that at a funeral. I have never heard the priest say God works in mysterious ways. And when we ask ourselves, why did he take Gladys? The answer is it was justified due to her documented exporting of terrorism. I’ve never heard that. I’ve never heard distraught parishioners.

S5: Well, while it is true he was among the most evil men in the world. We have to think of the second order consequences.

S1: Hey, you know what? I just thought of this when I die. If you’re listening to this, I’ll name you executor right now. If you are the third caller. But when I die, please reach out to Doug Collins and ask him, not speak at my funeral. You know what? Please go so far as to dissuade him from paying a Shiva call. Yes, those are indeed. Those shall be my dying wishes. There is no mourning from any American politician of whom I am aware. No mourning over Sulaimani, if he will be missed, was even uttered once it was by the drone pilot who killed him, experiencing a brief moment of self-doubt. No elected official in American life is writing or thinking of any kind of elegy for the person of Sulaimani. I do hear a eulogy for tactics, strategy and foresight, and that is a different thing and I would say a warranted thing on the show today. I shpiel about all the capable men and women of the administration who should be there being capable, but aren’t because the president just doesn’t care. But first, I mean now this is the important stuff. Jeopardy is having a multi-day tournament pitting their three greatest players of all time against each other. So I assembled a panel of the three greatest game show losers I know of. One was me, by the way. Another was Lizzie O’Leary. She was a loser on Power Player Week. And Justin Peters, who got up to the quarter million dollar question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Let’s just leave it at that. You got up to it. Now, I want you to know that our conversation occurred on Tuesday and they have played a game since maybe two games since, depending on when you listen to this in this conversation. I think we can truly say the category is fun. For the last couple nights on primetime television and extending it to who knows how long Jeopardy has, you know, Jeopardy, it’s a game show.

S6: You answer in the form of question staged the greatest of all time tournament. And I think this is a case where the contestants really do live up to that title. Brad Rutter, the all time winningest contestant in jeopardy history. Ken Jennings, who blazed the trail of glory when they changed the rules to allow people to win for as long as they win. And James holshouser all face off in an interestingly formatted and much harder version of your favorite answer and question show.

S7: Joining me now are returning champions or returning champion Justin Peters, who writes for Slate. He was. Well, I’ll read you the headline of one of my favorite articles he’s ever written. I got a second chance on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Last year, I became one of the biggest losers in game show history. Going back was terrifying. Justin, those game shows. Hello, Justin. It’s me and Lizzie O’Leary, who is the host of Slate’s podcast, What Next? TBD. An old friend of mine and a Jeopardy! Contestant. Hello, Lizzie. Hello, Mike. I’m a Jeopardy contestant, too. You my one. Real Jeopardy! Real Jeopardy! Honest to God, civilian jeopardy. Tell me about your Jeopardy! Ness.

S8: I was on Washington power player Jeopardy! In 2012. That’s a thing. It’s a thing. I don’t know if it’s still a thing, but it was a thing. It’s like celebrity jeopardy. But for politics and media people.

S5: A-ha. So if Washington is like Hollywood, but for ugly people, what’s power player? Jeopardy! Jeopardy! Before I know you were on it. You’re better looking than almost everyone else on Jeopardy! Do this. Where? On television?

S8: Aired on television. Yeah. Yeah, I did. And you play. Who were your opponents? I played against Chris Matthews and Robert Gibbs.

S7: Now, Chris Matthews doesn’t like anyone else to get a word in edgewise. So did that affect gameplay?

S8: I mean, I think it affected the banter with Alex and it getting and GIBBS he a former White House Obama press secretary. Yeah. Press secretary. He’s pretty smart. He seems smart. He is a smart guy. And how did your game go? I want to be clear that going into final jeopardy, I was winning by a lot. Me, too. So if you’re on the the measurements that matter. Yeah, I was you. I may not have the best betting strategy. Fine. Did you get final jeopardy? Right. We all got it wrong. Oh, I had like a slightly more aggressive bet than Robert who like bet very little some dinky Amelle.

S7: No, but that might have been the best betting strategy because you had to cover if he went all in. Right. And he just had to eke past you. So in that case, actually, the person in second place will almost always have the advantage.

S8: I had to cover like what if he goes all in and gets to this point? Okay. And just for like one real I don’t know what horrible footnote. The answer. Well, the question. The question was, who is Bill Cosby? We all whiffed it. Oh, wow. Yeah. And what was the question? You mean the answer? Yeah. I don’t know when this celebrity has won an Emmy, the Mark Twain Prize and the Spingarn Medal. Right. Update today in his Serbian Garren given by the NAACP, we all look like a bunch of really clueless white people, which we were.

S7: Well, if you’re updated for today and is now serving, you know, 10 to 30 in a Philadelphia correctional institution exact on it, that’s almost unfair. And Justin, do you watch Jeopardy all the time? Oh, yeah, as much as I can. Given that I’m a man who doesn’t own a TV, but mine. Too restrictive. Yeah, a little bit. Yeah. Were you guys excited for the show? So exciting. What about it?

S9: It’s just such a good idea. I mean, Jeopardy! Occupies a very unique place in the sort of pantheon of game shows and its champions more so than literally any other game show are sort of known. People know them. James holshouser threw out the first pitch at Wrigley Field last year. So it is just a cool idea to take the three quantifiably most successful players in the show’s history and pit him against each other.

S7: Yeah. And also they do Tournament of Champions, a tournament of all time champions. And you could say it’s like the rock band who keeps claiming that they’re never touring again and then does. But with Alex Trebek having pancreatic cancer, this is going to come to an end. And sadly, it’s going to come to an end fairly soon. So when they say this is the greatest of all time champion, this the greatest of all time, it is. That’s not my situation. They were all wearing purple ribbons. Is that a peacock for him? Yeah. So. Yeah, yeah. Let’s talk a little bit about Alex Trebek. I understand that he I have critiqued him over the years. I think that especially in the Q&A sections, I mean, let’s united Q and A’s. I mean, he’s a game show host. He’s not an interviewer and something he does it comes across that he doesn’t care with his to go to sentiments which are good for you. And oh, I’m not going there, says Alan, a lot. So, yeah, I understand like what he does is a skill and he’s obviously good at it.

S10: But the fact that he is, you know, battled cancer and came back from it and there’s this all this whole outpouring of love. I think it’s deserved. I can’t I can’t find fault in that jeopardy. Fans are loving and miss already missing out. Yeah. No, not at all. I think it’s OK. I’m good with that. Justin, do you think Trebek does a great game show host or host? A great game show.

S11: I mean, he in terms of jeopardy, at least you don’t have much to compare him against right now. Yeah, well I mean before my time. Yeah. But I think Trebek is iconic.

S9: And, you know, I grant you that he is a lackadaisical interviewer of contestants. I would submit, though, that if it were my job to do fifteen no, no interviews, little interviews per day over 40 years, you will probably come to realize that everyone’s story is basically exactly the same. And I would probably have lost interest around the same time that he did.

S7: Now, I don’t know how they did it for power player Jeopardy! But for civilian jeopardy. The producers were really involved in the little anecdotes and they say right up three and we’ll see which Alex likes. Alex, you know, himself picks one. That’s obviously a very important part of their process. How do they do it with you?

S12: Well, did you have a fluffer guy, Jay? Yes. Like a fake Alex who comes out and runs you through how the questions go and how the buzzer works and all that stuff. I didn’t go on the fluffer, but. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was like, oh, man, they don’t bring Alex out until the really important moment. Pretty important.

S8: Yeah. No, we didn’t have to like get our little anecdotes. And I do think that, look, I could be coloring this in my memory, but I’m pretty sure that Chris Matthews went on a little bit. Alex. Okay, great. Thanks.

S7: Maybe you’re sick of every episode of the Chris Matthews show Hardball. No. I don’t know.

S11: Perhaps you’ve heard of me. Television’s Chris Matthews. That’s it. That’s my anecdote.

S8: We did. We all had a gimme category in his was Kennedies mindless yoga. I like to do these those little stories, though.

S9: That is literally the one place in the show where the producers of the show have the opportunity to show some of their own flair. Because you literally cannot sort of rig the outcome of the show, but you can sort of compete against the rest of the producers to show that your contestant, the person you are shepherding on the show, can make a good, interesting television with in the 20 seconds they have available to do it.

S7: I do think the another place the producers can, you know, have an input is the writing of the clues. And this is this might be weird and a little conspiratorial. I think there was a little hashtag resistance in primetime going on. There was a reference to Ukraine was an answer. Debbie Dingell was an answer. Okay. Maybe this was recorded before Dingell. Whether we think because it references everything, John and Debbie, I think, oh, maybe they’re trying to say something. Wow. You think they were secretly planting Amos’s maybe because this is a big red state. Blue state, everyone. United television experience.

S11: Why the crash? The question writers of Jeopardy are going to save America. I think that’s gonna be it. Who saw that coming?

S10: I’m sure it was all written before the whole dingo’s looking up from health kerfuffle. Also probably another another insight or observation into Alex and his importance. He he irked me in the past and I was doing some self-examination and saying, you know, I am going to miss him. Is that just my humanity feeling for the guy? Because he’s going through a hard time with a hard disease. But also, I do think that he represents something which is the monoculture. And in many ways I bemoan the passing of the monoculture. We used to have these shared touchstones and we don’t anymore. But Jeopardy is one of them. And I really do think it crosses a lot of different demographic lines. Okay. Maybe it’s mostly white people and maybe it’s more men than women, although I don’t quite know about that. It’s a little more old than young. But in terms of Republican and Democratic, probably very much crosses lines. And just in terms of everyone knowing Jeopardy and having an opinion about Alex Trebek and it being on the equivalent of primetime net broadcast network, these are all hallmarks of a time from 35 years ago when Jeopardy! Started that we don’t have anymore. So I am a little more and full of that, you know, I understand that.

S8: I mean, it’s like it’s a little Don Draper of you. But also, I don’t think I’ve ever heard from as many random relatives who I know have never read a single story I’ve written or listened to a show or anything like you were on Jeopardy!

S13: Using. Yeah, yeah. No, it does it.

S10: Its tentacles are long after you lost on Jeopardy! Lizzie, did you what did you find it hard to watch Jeopardy!

S8: Because I did it was it was hard to watch, although the thing is we filmed all of ours in a day. So I got to watch the other power player episodes. Like I was like, I want to watch Thomas Friedman go down. Oh, the olive tree and the like. He said he actually cited early on, like I wrote a book called From Beirut to Jerusalem and the other contestants. Really?

S7: And Wolf Blitzer, was that your year? That was not my year. That was some Jeopardy ignominy. He was a legitimate celebrity Jeopardy, though, right?

S5: I just war wasn’t just. Well, he is a he crossed. I mean, he’s boring. He is bald by birth. Like. Let me just acknowledge the shade you just throw on Leslie. No, I mean it. And it’s utterly deserved. I feel like like we’re all friends here. We can all acknowledge that. I have said this before. I wasn’t even a Washington power player.

S8: Like I said, does a magazine like it was totally corporate softball, like, oh, god, we need another check to get her. So, Wolf, Wolf. All I will say is that I worked for CNN at the time and people in the office were like, hey, maybe don’t talk to Wolf about the fact that you’re going on Jeopardy! Because it wasn’t pleasant for him.

S7: Wolf wound up like minus 4000 or something. It became it’s like a legendary meme. Wolf does something online. Someone surfaces that dollar amount or negative dollar.

S5: He has a good sense of humor. It just wasn’t his thing.

S9: There’s a case to be made that Wolf Blitzer is actually the biggest loser in jeopardy history because he didn’t lose any money per say. But the reputational loss he incurred by showing his ass on Jeopardy for the entire world is incalculable.

S13: Maybe he was mad at the buzzer.

S12: Andy Richter had thirty nine thousand dollars at the end of that game. So that also factors in. It’s hard to go up against a buzzsaw like an director.

S5: I mean, he was a cabin boy. He knows things. All right. So coming into this, I’ll tell you what I thought about it. I was excited.

S10: I heard about what the format would be, which is sort of two combined games. And then the winner of each day or each night in prime time would win a match. That seemed cool to me, but I was very much wondering about how hard they would pitch the questions. You know, I kind of wanted it so that I knew I know when in playing regular jeopardy, I don’t know, three or four questions, maybe one or two questions in this single round in three or four or two or three in the double round. I wanted about not to know about half the questions and I was satisfied. I thought they did a great job. What do you think? Listen, the questions were hard.

S8: Yeah, they they were there were these like rhyming ones that I totally missed that Ken Jennings was hitting at the park. And then there was the Shakespeare category where the quotes were like, hello?

S5: And you had to say, what name is Shakespeare? Quote. Hello.

S12: I was sitting with my husband, a theater director, who was like high stage that and committed it to memory. Coriolanus, they said hello. But in Mark Antony.

S1: And so what do you think, Justin? Where the questions. Yes. Well written and well constructed.

S9: Look, when you have someone like Brad Rutter, who is sort of by, you know, just common acclaim, one of the best trivia players in the world and the biggest money winner in jeopardy history had him living on daily devils like that. You know, that’s the idea. Brad, Brad, Brad. I mean, like, it’s satisfying to see these people who would sort of kick my ass in any trivia contests, you know, making what appear to be like mistakes on camera.

S7: Do you guys have a prediction of who’s going to take this thing?

S8: Well, I enjoy. James is like casual style. Like, I like a dude who just, like, rolls in a Henley and going, Ken. Uh-Huh.

S11: Rudder rotters. The best. Come on. Rudder is the best. I’m taking the dark horse here. Rudder is the best. Rudder his beat. Ken Jennings in every single time they’ve met up in tournament play on learned leak. The supersecret online trivia league for trivia works for review dorks. Bingo. Brad Rutter has a better sort of average seasonally than Ken Jennings does. My money’s on Brad.

S7: Does everyone know who Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings are? I mean, do they play as themselves? Oh, yeah. It’s Rutter B in Jennings K, and that’s kind of cool. Are they in the same me terribly vanilla that I’m picking? Well, he’s terrible. He’s more vanilla than you are. So by comparison now, it’s a smart choice. Jennings is like an All-Time. Great. They are. My theory was and you know, we’re recording this, as I said, at the top. And well, we’re recording this only after the first show. And so it would be smart to pick. Ken? He’s a third of the way there, no one else’s. I still think it’s going to be James. I think he’s a little younger. I think that he showed good buzzer skills. I mean, obviously he can flailing on the buzzer a couple times a little bit. And he didn’t get any. He lost by. That’s because Ken bet. Right. But he get any double jeopardy’s and that was that was just random. Essentially, he could have gotten he had plenty of chances. He just didn’t land on double jeopardy. And had he done that. I think he had a strong chance of pulling off game one.

S1: I still think it’s gonna be holshouser. Lizzie O’Leary is the host of What Next TBD here on your Slate stations. Justin Peters writes for Slate dot com. Thank you, guys. Thank you. And now the schpiel. I do not know why Iran shot down that Ukrainian jet. I think they did shoot it down. That’s what the evidence seems to be. But I can’t explain why, except I know this. I’m sure of this, that Twitter is not going to crack the case. Lots of people on Twitter who think they just might. But I suspect they won’t unless the black box has been given to at Empty Wheel or the Gaslight Nation podcast. We will have to wait on that. So let us wait. It’s OK to wait. Really? Let’s wait. But I do know this also that the administration will be able to solve the case, just as I have confidence that the president will have the full advice and support of the brightest members of his administration. I mean, I’m talking about the director of national intelligence, the deputy director of national intelligence, the homeland security secretary, the homeland security deputy secretary. He did ask the head of Border Patrol, the head of ICE, the State Department’s undersecretary of arms control, could help with this. The assistant secretary of state for Europe should certainly be called up to get his or her advice. Possibly the naval secretary could weigh in. Those are all capable, serious, qualified people. Senate confirmation indicates that they are at least unobjectionable. These are no fly by night pikers, no seat fillers. The best and the brightest, we have not got to say at this point. If I were clever or willing to revel in ambiguity, I’d leave it at that. Right. And then later on the just read it page or the gist of the Gist podcast, which is about the gist hosted by Just Superfans. They say, Hey, did you pick that up? Do you know what Mike was doing there? All those positions he listed are unfilled. So I’ll just say it right now and not be cute. All those positions are unfilled. And when we do have filled positions, it’s normally the fifth stringers except no credit to you. Ben Carson, not at HUD. So you’re manoogian, you’re original. Oh, geez. But we have sub replacement level people running the show. We’re having the show run all over them at state defense, the National Security Council. And really importantly, we don’t even have any people at so many of these other important jobs. Yes, we have people filling the position. But as one expert said, they’re like the substitute teachers of international affairs. We don’t have an assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs. We don’t have a coordinator for threat reduction programs. Well, I mean, that jet that was shot down, so many Canadian citizens, at least the president can talk with his ambassador to Canada. Oh, we have no ambassador to Canada. If we go to war, I mean, you know, Trump prizes the military. What about that? Well, we have no assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. OK. But still, our fighting men and women will be ready, right? Well, there is no undersecretary for personnel and readiness. The Washington Post, as an act of public service, partnered with an outfit called the Partnership for Public Service. I don’t know, maybe it was the first hit that came up in Google. But seriously, they have worked together to provide an important accounting of just how unaccountable the administration is, unaccountable and absent. So there are over a thousand Senate confirmed positions. The Post and the Partnership for Public Service looked at 70 to 41, the really important ones, and found that in 168 of these positions, just no nominee and 14 are awaiting nomination and 48 have been formally nominated. This, by the way, is a much worse state than it has been for past presidents at this point in the administration. Or maybe if you’re an anti-government, deep state phobe, I think it’s a better state. Who knows? Who knows how they think or if they think? Because I really think that ignorance is what’s guiding the president. He doesn’t care and he doesn’t know. Trump believes to the extent he thinks about this at all, that it doesn’t matter. Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe he thinks an acting staffer is good as a permanents. Dafur. It’s just not. Let’s take Ukraine, where infamously Trump could never get his act together to successfully oust Marie Jovanovic. She was good, but she should serve at the pleasure of the president. She didn’t please him, but he couldn’t get anyone permanent to take her place. She was experienced and committed. She was replaced by Bill Taylor, remember him from the House hearings. He seemed totally competent and an also honorable. But he was just the acting ambassador didn’t have the full faith of the president. By the way, as of 8 days ago, he’s gone. And now our ambassador to Ukraine is Christina. Kevin, Kevin. Don’t know. That’s the point. I read her bio. She seems to have a very good resumé. No reason to doubt she’s not a serious, experienced, competent person. Has the president ever met her? Has anyone who knows and trusts the president ever met her? Isn’t it better to have a person on the ground who, you know, even if the people who Trump knows aren’t usually the best people? But this is how it’s supposed to work. The president has his charges. They swear an oath to the Constitution and they’re all working as one. The world is complicated and you need to have your bureaucracy functioning. Not freelancing. Thing is, they’re not working as one. Thanks to Trump, many cases they’re not working at all. I mean, it might be tempting to say, well, these substitutes are probably better than whatever Trump approved alternative we would have gotten just by dint of the fact that they’re Trump approved. But to me at least symbolizes and perhaps realizes a great risk, the risk of a power vacuum. And it is a power vacuum borne of neglect ever so troubling when times turned deadly.

S14: And that’s it for today’s show. Daniel Schrader produces the gist. Here’s a question about the daily doubles. Why do they occur three times a show if they’re daily? And how come you could more than double your money if you have less than a thousand bucks? And most importantly, what is Marcel Proust to remembrances of things past the gist?

S15: He traded in a box on the display floor for curtain number two. She had dental floss in her purse. He dressed as a pirate and turned to Zonk into a successful donkey ride industry. Join us as we play. Let’s make a deal. The greatest of all time. The prize. An actual goat.

S14: Rupert adepero to Peru. And thanks for listening.