One word made all the difference Wednesday on “Jeopardy!”
Trivia champion Amy Schneider’s dazzling streak on quiz show is over, broken by a Chicago librarian after 40 straight wins and nearly $1.4 million in prize money.
Schneider’s success placed her in the ranks of Ken Jennings, who serves as a guest host, and the other quiz show all-time greats. She also made Schneider a trans woman, a visible symbol of achievement for people who are often marginalized.
“It’s still a little hard to believe,” he said of his impressive run. “It’s something I’ll be remembered for, and that’s pretty cool.”
The new champion Rhone Talsma had the correct answer at the end “Jeopardy!” track for a winning total of $29,600. Schneider, who found herself in the unusual position of going into the final round without going on a runaway, was second for $19,600.
“I am still in shock,” Talsma said in a statement. “I didn’t expect to face a 40-day champion, and I was excited to see someone else kill the giant. I really didn’t think it was going to be me, so I’m excited.”
Schneider told The Associated Press that Talsma played well and did a “great job of seizing opportunities when they came and putting himself in position to win.”
The answer that perplexed Schneider was about countries in the world: The only nation whose name in English ends in “h” and which is also one of the 10 most populous. (Cue the music from “Jeopardy!” – and the answer is, “What is Bangladesh?”)
Between her immediate reactions when the game ended and her streak: She was sad but also relieved that “I don’t have to make up any more anecdotes,” the stories contestants share during breaks in the game.
Contestants receive their winnings after the final game airs, and Schneider’s spending plans include clothing purchases and especially travel.
Engineering manager and native of Dayton, Ohio, who lives in Oakland, California, Schneider’s regular season play made her No. 2 in consecutive games won, putting her between Jennings with 74 games and Matt Amodio, winner of 38 games in 2021.
Schneider’s total prize money of $1,382,800 puts her fourth on the regular season money list, behind Jennings ($2,520,700), James Holzhauer ($2,462,216) and Amodio ($1,518,601).
Schneider, will be part of the show’s “Tournament of Champions” and is the first trans person to qualify.
She was prepared for her streak to end, she told the AP.
“I had a feeling my time was running out, even though it didn’t look like it on the scores,” Schneider said. The routine of traveling to Los Angeles for the recordings (five shows a day, two days a week) was exhausting and that took its toll.
After surpassing Amodio’s tally of consecutive wins, he added, the prospect of trying to break Jennings’ long-standing record was “hard to imagine.”
Schneider’s depth of knowledge, lightning-fast responses, and friendly yet efficient manner earned him a devoted fan base. Comedy writer Louis Virtel, a former “Jeopardy!” contestant, tweeted earlier this month that Schneider was like a “social worker assigned to every episode, and when she’s done, she grabs her briefcase, nods and leaves.”
She was also admired for her handling of anti-trans trolls, with a measured response that drew a salute from writer and Broadway star Harvey Fierstein.
“The best result of all this will always be the help that I have been able to offer to the trans community,” said Schneider. “I am here because of the sacrifices countless trans people have made, often to the point of risking their lives. Doing my part to advance that cause is really special.”
Schneider has a message for “Jeopardy!” viewers who will miss making it a part of her daily routine: “I realized that I really am very sad for all my fans. … I want to thank you for all your support and tell you it’s okay.”
Schneider and Amodio’s streaks have helped ease “Jeopardy!” beyond the mismanaged replacement for his admired host, the late Alex Trebek. Executive producer Mike Richards was tapped by Sony Pictures Television to replace Trebek last year, but he quickly left the show after old podcasts surfaced that included misogynistic and other demeaning comments about him.
A permanent host has yet to be named, with Mayim Bialik, who was named host of the primetime show “Jeopardy!” specials and the exchange of Jennings this season. Jennings is also a consulting producer for the show.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.