Friday’s new episode of Jeopardy! has started to air in select markets, so we should go ahead and warn you that there are spoilers within.
Let’s start with the contestant side of things: A professor named Jim Gilligan became the new champion at the end of the episode, thanks in part to coming up with the right question: “What is an isotope?”. He was able to defeat reigning champion Yoshie Hill, who entered the episode with more than $30,000 to her name.
On a typical day, this result would not be all that much of a surprise — it’s something that we’ve seen thousands of times over the years, and a part of the show’s simplistic beauty comes in seeing champions overthrown and that tension as to what’s going to happen. What made this one powerful is that it was Alex Trebek’s final episode. There was no way Gilligan could have known that when he made his dream come true of getting on the show. Meanwhile, neither Trebek nor the producers were considering the episode as such. It was meant to be an installment airing on Christmas Day that would have a special holiday greeting in the end.
Now, Gilligan will move forward and defend his title presumably with a new episode guest-hosted by Ken Jennings. The cycle does continue, and that is likely what Alex himself would have wanted.
For those who watched through the end of the episode, there was an emotional tribute to Trebek that looked back at all of years hosting the show. There are some funny moments in here, and above all else this serves to remind us all of the tremendous presence he was. He always felt the show was something more than him, but we’ll never got the show because of him. He casts a long shadow, but the series will move on. We’re just not sure that we are ready for it.
Our thoughts and condolences continue to go out to everyone who loved Trebek. Feel free to share your thoughts on the final episode, and also the tribute to Alex, at the bottom of this article. (Photo: Sony Pictures TV.)