Why you’ll see three new contestants on ‘Jeopardy!’ Sept. 14

By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links

When quiz show “Jeopardy!” returns for its 37th season Sept. 14, 2020, fans will notice it’s kicking off with three new contestants.

That’s because  Zach Newkirk, a lawyer from the Washington, D.C. area, was unable to travel to Culver City, California, where “Jeopardy!” tapes.

Host Alex Trebek announced the reason for Newkirk’s absence while also overviewing changes made to the set for COVID-19 safety.

That said, it’s not clear if Newkirk’s absence was directly related to travel issues due to coronavirus — but it’s worth noting the shows airing the week of Sept. 14 were taped over the summer.

Newkirk will return in the coming weeks to pick up his three day winning streak that aired back in June.

“Jeopardy!” typically tapes a week’s worth of shows — five episodes — on Thursdays and Fridays, though that schedule may have been altered due to COVID.

Either way, however, it’s easy to see how the show could quickly get many episodes in the can before even starting its season (depending on the exact taping schedule used, it could have as many as 10 weeks (50 shows) of episodes done already.

“Jeopardy!” rarely starts regular play games with all new contestants — typically the only reason this is done is if no one ends a game with more than $0.

That last happened in January 2016 and the following day’s episode started with three new contestants.

“Jeopardy!” rules require players to have $1 or more to play “Final Jeopardy!” If no player has more than $0 at the end of “Double Jeopardy!” then “Final” is skipped altogether.

According to published reports, the team who help coordinate contestants often remind players that everyone could end up with an incorrect “Final” response and, if everyone wagers everything, no one will return.

That’s why you often see players wagering everything but $1. Another fairly common phenomenon is when contestants risk everything but $2 in hopes of still winning.

Players can and have won the game with just $1 — it happened in 2017 and 1993. Two celebrity contestants won with $1 in 1997 and 2001 (though “Jeopardy!” typically has a guaranteed minimum for celeb players, who are playing for charity).

Regular game contestants who win a game with $1 do in fact get to keep that — or add it to their winnings either before or after the low win.

There have been other occasions when “Jeopardy!” starts out with three new contestants when a contestant, like Newkirk, couldn’t make it back for a taping.

Under a normal taping schedule, a champion could very well end his or her run in under a few days (if a contestant won on the first show taped on a Thursday, he or she could win 10 consecutive games and only have to stay overnight once).

That said, the timing of a win could mean a constant wins late on a day just before the show goes on a break for several weeks — meaning a constant’s circumstances could change during that elapsed time.