‘Jeopardy!’ Aired Ken Jennings’ First Winning Game From 2004 and The First Answer Made Jaws Drop

Since it has had to stop filming due to coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns, Jeopardy! for the next two weeks will be airing older games.

Alex Trebek and Ken Jennings on the set of 'Jeopardy!'
Alex Trebek and Ken Jennings on the set of ‘Jeopardy!’ in 2004| Jeopardy Productions via Getty Images

Last night, the 2004 episode that introduced the greatest Jeopardy! contestant of all time, Ken Jennings, was aired, and shocked viewers with its first answer of the game.

Ken Jennings’ very first episode aired

Due to the coronavirus halting filming of the game show, ABC decided to air older games to entertain viewers. Starting last night and over the next two weeks, Jeopardy! will be airing select games from Greatest Player of All Time Ken Jennings’ run on the show.

Last night’s episode was Jennings’ first ever appearance on the show, and interesting to watch in that it was from 2004, Alex’s hair wasn’t as white, and viewers got to see a Jeopardy! champion in his game show infancy.

Over the next two weeks, according to the show’s website, Jeopardy! will air the ‘Greatest of All Time’ tournament for the nights of May 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, and 14. Then on May 15, it will return to 2004 for Jennings’ final appearance on his historic run.

Jennings’ audition experience for the show

Jennings was asked by Vulture this week what it was like to go from being a mild-mannered software engineer in his 20s to a Jeopardy! contestant.

“I was 29,” he recalled. “The year before, I was down in Los Angeles with a friend of mine on a short vacation, and we always talked about trying out for Jeopardy! since our days on a college quiz-bowl team. We called Sony and found out that there were no auditions that week, and it was actually a few days after we were planning to leave.”

“We were super bummed, but finally said, “You know what? Let’s just come back. Why not?” We drove back home and came back. . . and we both passed the test at the Radisson on a Tuesday morning. It was great.”

Jennings recalled his shock at realizing he was actually going to be on the show.

“But a year goes by,” he said. “I totally forgot about it, and suddenly I’m sitting at my boring job and a guy from Jeopardy! calls me. He was basically like, ‘Hey, you’re going to be on the show in three weeks.’ I panicked.”

Twitter’s response to that first answer on last night’s ‘Jeopardy!’

Aside from the trip back in time to 2004, the other more shocking part of last night’s game was its first answer, which was “A fast-spreading outbreak of a disease.”

Alex Trebek

Jeopardy! viewers on Twitter were quick to express their shock at the timeliness of that particular answer and a twinge of sadness that we couldn’t get away from reminders of our current pandemic even on a 2004 episode of a game show.

One person tweeted, “@Jeopardy tonight is a re-run from 2004 and the first answer was “epidemic”…. during a global pandemic 16 years later?”

Another aptly said, “I realize we are not going through an *epi*demic, but when the answer to the first question on the #Jeopardy! replay of Ken Jennings’ first win is that, you have to laugh a little. And maybe cry a little.”