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Brad Rutter’s bad night, and what happened in ‘Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time’

‘Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time’
James Holzhauer, left, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings.
(Eric McCandless / ABC)

Let’s say it together, viewers of Wednesday night’s installment of “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time”: Poor Brad.

Sure, after just the second meeting of the top “Jeopardy!” champions, Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter, there are still a lot of questions to be answered — wait: scratch that, reverse it (more on “Willy Wonka” in a moment). But with Tuesday’s match resulting in a narrow victory for Jennings, and Wednesday going to Holzhauer by close to 30,000 points in a comparative rout, Rutter is now the odd one out of the three champions, one of whom will be crowned the show’s GOAT by becoming the first to three wins.

But that only scratches the surface of Rutter’s tough night. More on him and the other standout moments below:

All hail Brad, the Vanilla Ice of ‘Jeopardy: GOAT’

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Too cruel? To be fair, this was Rutter’s own admission after a correct guess in the second round’s final question, which centered on one of pop music’s more ridiculous figures, whose career topped out with two hits. “Quite appropriate!” Brad laughed after his answer lifted his total to minus $3,600.

Alex Trebek discusses “Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time,” his cancer treatments, his legacy and more at the Television Critics’ Assn. press tour in Pasadena.

This not only meant he was well off the pace, it also meant he sat out the game’s Final Jeopardy round, which saw Holzhauer defeat Jennings with a question on James Madison and Napoleon, two short-in-stature 19th century leaders.

Rutter fared better in the night’s first game, which yielded him $14,400, which was still far behind the leaders, a trend that host Alex Trebek couldn’t help notice during some between-game banter.

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“So far, you have been in third place almost all the time,” Trebek said with a grim dip in his voice. “Do nerves affect you? Or do you just not worry about it.”

Rutter answered it was mostly the latter, and it’s hard to argue given that he holds the show’s record for winnings. Still, he has some catching up to do Thursday night and beyond.

Nothing for ‘Willy Wonka’? Seriously?

For one brief, shining moment, every pop culture-addled fan of 1971’s “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” was a “Jeopardy!” champion.

Part of the fun in watching “Jeopardy! GOAT” is trembling in awe at some of the quickfire intellect on display, which in the case of Wednesday’s show could encompass knowledge of 20-letter words and the two distinct genuses of goats. And yet, during a “Movie Quotes” category, all three champions fell silent when asked to remember the next line by Gene Wilder from the film in a $2,000 clue: “‘You stole fizzy lifting drinks, so you get nothing. You lose’” — this three-word farewell.”

(All together now: “What is ‘Good day, sir!’”)

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“Oh, right,” Rutter said sheepishly. Trebek couldn’t resist: “Thank you for agreeing, Brad.” The guy really had a tough night.

Jennings goes all in — and pays tribute to Holzhauer

Rutter’s struggles aside, part of the pleasure of “Jeopardy! GOAT” is watching these masters at work. With Jennings and Holzhauer the clear front-runners thus far, the two champions have matched wits with the back-and-forth intensity of a U.S. Open tennis match. At multiple points, Holzhauer opened up big leads, with Jennings methodically closing the gap with question after question.

One of Holzhauer’s strategies is to poke around the lower half of the board in search of one of the game’s prized Daily Doubles, which he often uses to bet all in and double his winnings. Rutter, in an microcosm of his night, was knocked back to zero as he tried to emulate this strategy in the night’s second game, but Jennings fared better in the first.

“Jeopardy’s” top earners of all time — Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer, Brad Rutter — faced off in their first match Tuesday. One was the clear-cut victor.

Coming shortly after one of Holzhauer’s big bets in the first round, which came with a theatrical push of his imaginary pot to the center as he placed his Daily Double wager, Jennings let it all ride. “I gotta do it, and I can do it with a clear conscience: 8,400, Alex,” Jennings said.

“But can you do it — ” Trebek teased, before Jennings offered his own all-in gesture.

“Has James copyrighted this?” asked Jennings, looking to Holzhauer.

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“One-time use only, you’re good,” a grinning Holzhauer answered.

Jennings then correctly answered the question involving the German developer of calculus (Liebnitz — I mean, of course), earning an encouraging clap on the shoulder from Holzhauer. “It works!” Jennings said.

But Holzhauer had the last laugh this night. We’ll see where the competition goes from here.


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