From 1984 until 2016, if two players ended an episode of Jeopardy! with the same score, they were co-champions. After that, however, the seminal trivia show's producers decided it would make for a punchier, more manageable ending if tied players had to answer one last question to determine the winner. The new rule didn't seem to make much of a difference... until this past Friday!
Though this is the first use of a tiebreaker on a televised episode of the show, the rule has been used often during tournaments, where things can keep moving along only when there is a clear winner.
Jeopardy! explained the slight change of format on their website:
The tiebreaker was first introduced in tournaments. The judges felt that a tiebreaker yielding one winner kept the gameplay brisk and competitive. In the years following the lift of the five-game maximum (the rule that contestants could only win up to five regular games), the judges concluded that it was fitting to bring that same level of competition to the regular games.
As soon as the tie occurred, Trebek dove in with his usual unflappable enthusiasm. The tie-breaking category: "Way Back in 2017." The answer: "Her April decision to call a snap parliamentary election proved less than brilliant on June 8." Laura buzzed in with the correct question, "Who is Theresa May?" Trebek immediately declared her the winner!
It may not have been a big deal for casual viewers, but diehard fans knew they had witnessed Jeopardy! history:
Just watched Jeopardy come down to a sudden death question after a tie after final jeopardy.. what an exhilarating moment— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) March 2, 2018
First time I've ever seen that. The one with the "victory or death" tattoo won. Seems fitting— Lauren Joffe (@thespinzone) March 2, 2018
I think this is a new rule change too, it used to be if there was a tie in a regular (non-tournament) game they both came back as winners. We witnessed history tonight.— Jason G (@notthefakeJPG) March 2, 2018
Not everyone was happy with the new rule:
Not liking the sudden death tie breaker, just bring them both back like it used to be— Bryan Kessler (@KesslerBryan) March 2, 2018
A tie is so rare, you really should've brought them both back for the next game. Not cool.— Rushabh Sanghvi (@rushabh22s) March 2, 2018
Not a big fan of the tiebreaker. Kinda like Ken Jennings against Watson--he knew all the correct questions as well, just couldn't buzz in before a MACHINE. Sarah knew, just got beat on the buzzer. Element of wagering was taken away. I'd have them both come back.— Brian (@Mango_B) March 2, 2018
Some fans merely objected to the format:
I think the tie breaker question shouldn't be a buzzer question, but rather, a write in question...just like Final Jeopardy. It seems a little unfair.— Scott M. (@Turfk1129) March 2, 2018
Not loving the sudden death aspect of it. Should have been the same format as final and the wager should have had an effect. Oh well, that was a crazy ending!!— Maureen (@maurs49) March 2, 2018
And, of course, there were questions:
So wait—what if Laura was wrong? Would the other contestant automatically win? Would she have to at least guess at the right answer?— #RIPTomPetty (@socmediaisdumb) March 2, 2018
I would have gotten the opportunity to ring in. If neither of us knew it, they'd ask another question.— Sarah Norris (@sarahnorris) March 2, 2018
Well u made history Sarah. I know it still sucks but people will be talking about this for years.— #RIPTomPetty (@socmediaisdumb) March 2, 2018
But most fans were like:
This was epic. It all has to do with who has the fastest finger!! Wow!— Penny A. Brannon (@bpennylane) March 2, 2018
Don't feel too bad for the player who snagged second place. She's going home with more cash than Scott.