Three Letters Cost One ‘Jeopardy!’ Competitor Their Entire Score In Nail-Biting Finish

The Final Jeopardy round is the climax of America’s favorite game show. It’s arguably the most suspenseful and exciting moment of the show, and that’s because the stakes are so high. Monday’s Final Jeopardy question was a rare triple stumper, meaning no contestants correctly answered in time. However, one contestant arguably suffered a worse fate than her competitors, writing the correct answer just seconds too late.

On Monday, Vermont native Jake DeArruda returned for his second game, playing against attorney Sam Meehan and Ph.D. candidate Sara Howard. DeArruda had a generous lead against the others, however, everything was momentarily in doubt once Ken Jennings announced the Final Jeopardy clue.

“Originally relating to a story of suffering, this word now more commonly refers to strong emotion of any kind,” Jennings read.

Sometimes, Final Jeopardy clues refer to something so specific that if you don’t know it, you know that you don’t know it. However, this was one of those clues that was so vague that it seemed nearly applicable to multiple different answers.

For example, Meehan seemed confident in his guess, betting all of his winnings. However, while “drama” seems like it almost fits, it wasn’t the correct answer. DeArruda seemed less confident in his answer, betting only $800 on the word “mortal.” That also wasn’t the correct answer.

Similarly, Howard initially guessed “intense,” another word that seems semi-appropriate. However, that wasn’t Howard’s final answer. Just seconds before the clock ran out, Howard scratched through “intense” and wrote “pass.” She told Jennings that she was trying to write “passion,” but only managed to jot down the first four letters. She wagered $1,999, bringing her score down to just $1.

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As Jennings revealed, if Howard had just a little more time, she would have guessed correctly. The answer was indeed “passion,” referring to that of Jesus Christ. Of course, today “passion” doesn’t necessarily mean suffering, but rather references any strong emotion.

It must be devastating to know you had the correct answer but were just seconds away from being able to share it. If it’s any consolation, she wouldn’t have been able to beat DeArruda anyways since his final score was $25,197 and she only had $2,000 to wager. The delivery dispatcher won three games and seemed to be barreling towards the Tournament of Champions roster before a surprise loss to Patti Palmer.

It wasn’t a complete loss for Howard, though. When all was said and done, she was still left with $1 while Meehan had $0, meaning she still took home second place and its $2,000 prize. Thankfully, the fluke didn’t affect her ranking, but we are certain it still stings. Here’s hoping she gets invited back for the 2023 Jeopardy! Second Chance Tournament!

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