For so long, Friday the 13th has been a day where superstitions run rampant and erratic behavior is considered the norm. One might not expect Jeopardy! to fall victim to such myths, especially since it tapes months ahead of time, but the July 13 episode was quite irregular indeed, thanks to a problematic Final Jeopardy clue. As a result of the discrepancy, Jeopardy! producers have invited back swear-happy contestant Vincent Valenzuela, who would have won the episode had his answer been accepted. So what happened?
An Illinois resident, Vincent Valenzuela was having some troubles throughout the episode, but came up big in the final minutes thanks to a timely Daily Double, making the Final Jeopardy a more interesting scenario. But while all three contestants had first written down the correct answer of "Tree Hugger," Valenzuela actually crossed it out and guessed "Carl Sagan" instead, which ended up being incorrect. It seemed like such a bizarre mistake, and Valenzuela's explanation that he read the clue wrong was also weird. As it turns out, though, the contestants apparently had a slightly different clue in front of them that skewed Valenzuela's perception.
Though Alex Trebek started off reading the clue the way viewers saw it at home -- "This slang term for an environmentalist..." -- Vincent Valenzuela told the Chicago Tribune that the clue posted for contestants read "His slang term for an environmentalist..." which is obviously quite different. Here's how the now-returning hopeful put it.
That completely changes it when you re-read it. It sounds like they're looking for a person's name and so I just grabbed a person who was big in the environment and who would have been a contemporary in the '70s, and so I came up with Carl Sagan. It was very devastating, but they realized that a mistake had been made.
Had the "Carl Sagan" response been accepted, Vincent Valenzuela had bet enough money to become the new champion, but because he was initially deemed incorrect, the episode ended with returning champ Michelle Cabral winning her second game. For what it's worth, Valenzuela says that he'll be better prepared for his follow-up episode now that he knows what to expect.
Of course, everyone who watched that episode knew that Vincent Valenzuela was already heading for Internet infamy after he let a certain four-letter word drop in Double Jeopardy after botching one answer. Here's hoping he doesn't have a repeat "shit" storm whenever he returns. (Or wait, maybe we DO want to see that.)
Jeopardy! airs weekdays in syndication, so be sure to check your local listings to see when and where to find it. And in the meantime, head to our summer premiere schedule to see what's coming to primetime soon.