‘Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time’ tournament resumes tonight; here’s all you need to know

ABC’s “Jeopardy!: Greatest of All Time” tournament resumes Tuesday, as all-time champs Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter battle for bragging rights and a $1 million prize. The tournament has won high ratings, intense interest and more love for host Alex Trebek, 79, who’s battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Have questions? So do we, so see our answers below. 

What’s happened so far in the tournament?

Ken Jennings won two of last week’s three matches, based on combined winnings from the two games played each night.  Holzhauer lost by a slim $200 margin Tuesday, won Wednesday’s contest, but finished well behind Jennings Thursday.

Last episode recap: ‘Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time’ Night 3: We’re inching closer to a winner

We broke the news, and Trebek explains: It’s here: Three top ‘Jeopardy!’ champs face off in ABC’s Greatest of All Time tournament

When will it end?

If Jennings wins Tuesday’s match, it’s over, and he’ll take home the $1 million prize, while the two others will get $250,000. If Holzhauer or Rutter snags a victory, the tournament continues Wednesday and on subsequent nights this week (8 EST/PST), until one player wins three matches.  (The latest possible end date is Friday.)

James Holzhauer, Ken Kennings and Brad Rutter are competing for glory, and a $1 million prize, on ABC's 'Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time" tournament.

When were these games taped?

In early December. Two games (matches?) were taped each day. Trebek says his cancer treatments have left him slightly weakened, and he believes his ad-libbing skills in the tournament were noticeably lessened.  

How many people are watching?

Lots. Tuesday’s debut scored 16.1 million viewers within three days of airing, and the ratings only climbed from there: Wednesday’s show claimed 16.5 million, and Thursday’s grew again. The tournament was last week’s top entertainment program, and ranks as this season’s most-watched TV special, behind only the Golden Globe Awards. 

I’m having a tougher time playing along. Are the questions harder than usual?

Yes, a spokeswoman for the show confirms.  And the players agree: “I feel like the difficulty gets a little harder, the clues get more complex in these tournaments. And that’s got to be fun for the writers,” Jennings told the Television Critics Association last week. In contrast, Trebek says he’s “often been asked, ‘Do you make the material easier than the regular fare when you have celebrities?’ Duh!”

What about all those ABC-specific categories, like David Muir and “American Idol”? Were those paid for?

The network promo push was part of ABC’s deal to air the program, which is produced by Sony. So was a Jan. 2 special in which Michael Strahan interviewed Trebek at home. (Since 1984, when Trebek was named host, “Jeopardy!” has been syndicated to local stations, but it airs on ABC outlets in many top cities.) But Sony also sprinkles clues about its TV shows and movies into the regular edition of the game. 

Can players jump the gun and ring in to answer a question they’ve figured out?

“You’re not allowed to buzz in until the clue is finished reading, but there are times, especially with these difficult word-play categories,” Holzhauer says, “where you don’t have time to figure it all out. You get, like, one or two pieces. You figure, ‘OK, I can get the rest of it maybe in the five seconds I have’ and take your best shot.”

Exactly when to ring in on the signaling device is tricky when you’re up against former champs. “I’m used to just being able to find that sweet spot because I’ve been listening to Alex’s voice my whole life,” Jennings says. “And then I play with these two, and the sweet spot is now, like, one millisecond wide, and it’s a lot harder.”

Alex Trebek interacts with "Jeopardy!" legends (from left to right): James Holzhauer, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. (Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC)

How have Jennings and Rutter adjusted to James Holzhauer’s high-stakes, all-in betting strategy?

“The good thing about this tournament was we all knew going in who the finalists were going to be. So we can look at tape,” Jennings says. “I feel like an offensive coordinator, watching James in slow motion, because you want to figure out how he did that. It’s the most remarkable thing I’ve ever seen on the show.” (And a contrast to what Holzhauer jokingly called Jennings’ “wimpy” strategy of low-risk, smaller wagers.) “But when you’re actually playing against that, once somebody breaks the glass on doubling up, you gotta do it as well.”

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