Jeopardy! has found its latest star contestant in Matt Amodio, a Yale Ph.D. student who won his 28th game on Friday night. He also made history as only the third contestant ever to reach $1 million, following in the footsteps of Ken Jennigs and James Holzhauer. Amodio's success helps Jeopardy! divert attention away from the show's hosting controversy.
Friday night's episode began with Amodio's total standing at $955,201. The Final Jeopardy! clue was "Saying he ignored warnings of enemy vessels, the British Admiralty sought to blame William Turner, this ship's last captain in 1915." The correct response was, "What is the Lusitania?" Amodio and fellow contestant Troy Pozirekides both got the correct response, but Amodio was so far ahead that it didn't matter. He gambled $17,000, bringing his total for the game to $48,800, notes The Jeopardy Fan. That brought Amodio's 28-day total to an astonishing $1,004,001.
Amodio has been noted for not being a risky Jeopardy! player, which is why it took him longer to reach $1 million than Holzhauer, who reached the milestone in just 14 games. At the end of his 33-game winning streak in 2019, Holzhaur won $2,464,216. Jennings won $2,522,700 during his original 75-game run on Jeopardy!. Amodio filmed his episodes last month, so it is possible his streak could be over, but fans will not know until his last episode airs.
Amodio's streak comes after a rough summer for Jeopardy!. Following the 2020-2021 celebrity guest host season, Sony Pictures Television named executive producer Mike Richards as the permanent replacement for the late Alex Trebek. The move was met with overwhelming backlash, but Sony was going ahead with the plan until The Ringer uncovered offensive comments Richards made during a 2013-2014 podcast series he hosted. After only one day of filming (or five episodes), Richards stepped down on Aug. 20. On Aug. 31, Sony also fired Richards as executive producer for Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.
Former The Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik, who was previously hired to just host primetime specials, was hired to replace Richards temporarily. She will continue hosting until November, when she will split time with Jennings based on their schedules. Bialik recently told Glamour she wants to host Jeopardy! full-time.
Amodio hasn't been without controversy himself, although for a reason that only irks die-hard Jeopardy! fans. He always begins a response with "what," even if the correct response is a person. It's part of his strategy to have one less thing to think about when trying to answer before other contestants. "I have a strategy where I form all of my questions with a 'what's' at the beginning - then, I can focus on the rest of the clue," Amodio recently told Yale. "Other people have been very upset about me being robotic instead of forming a question differently each time. I was glad that Jeopardy! said this was perfectly within the rules. I've watched Jeopardy! every day of my life, so I knew it was OK."