‘Jeopardy!’ GOAT Ken Jennings Explains the Botched Response That Ended His 74-Game Winning Streak

Ken Jennings is scheduled to take over the Jeopardy! lectern after Mayim Bialik’s stint and fans are gearing up to see the game show GOAT in action. Though he’ll be moderating the clues rather than responding to them, Jennings remains a Jeopardy! master regardless of where he is on stage. Earning his claim to fame via his 74-game winning streak in 2004, viewers still wonder how the quiz whiz lost on such an “easy” question.

Ken Jennings wins 'Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time' Tournament
Ken Jennings of ‘Jeopardy!’ | Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images

The streak-ending ‘Jeopardy!’ clue

On November 30, 2004, Jennings was competing in his 75th Jeopardy! game and had amassed a record-breaking $2.5 million. Then came the clue in Final Jeopardy!:

Most of this firm’s 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year. (Cue iconic Jeopardy! music)

Final ‘Jeopardy!‘ 11/30/04

Jennings appeared confident in his response and quickly jotted down his answer. His fellow contestant, Nancy Zerg with $10,000 going into the final round, was a bit more hesitant. Zerg came up with the correct response of “H&R Block”. For the first time in his tenure, Jennings lost the game after writing down “FedEx”. The loss still stings for Jeopardy! GOAT.

“Many people have been kind enough to tell me how easy they thought my final question was,” he revealed, according to his website KenJennings.com. The Jeopardy! alum compared the last query to a famous 1994 film. “It’s true, this was the kind of question that many people, millions of people, would know instantly. I lost on the humanizingly easy, ‘Can you believe he doesn’t know this one?’ question, just like John Turturro (‘Don’t make me lose on Marty!’) did in Quiz Show.”

‘Jeopardy!’ GOAT wasn’t thinking of taxes

While hindsight is 20/20, Jennings revealed he probably would’ve given the same response if he was given the clue today due to how the question was framed.

“Quite honestly, I could have thought about this question all day and not come up with the right answer,” he remarked. “For some reason, tax season never even occurred to me. I assumed the answer would have something to do with summer or the holiday season. That’s what I get for always doing my own taxes, I guess.”

Jennings explained that while the clue seemed destined to help him clinch the win, playing under pressure can throw you off your game.

“I also suspect that many of the people who gave me a hard time for missing this answer (I lamely guessed ‘Who is FedEx?’) wouldn’t have gotten the right answer either,” the Jeopardy! alum shared. “They read the answer in news articles and thought, in hindsight, ‘H&R Block? I’ve heard of that. That’s not so hard.’ Which is a little different than actually producing the right answer under the gun.”


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Ken Jennings cashed in on his ‘Jeopardy!’ loss

Though his epic run ended on Jeopardy!, Jennings was given some lucrative opportunities related to the fateful clue.

“One silver lining to that final question was that it led to gigs doing publicity for both FedEx and H&R Block,” Jennings said. “So the moral of the story is, if you’re going to lose on Jeopardy!, lose on the corporate question.”

He added, “If your final answer is ‘Who was Herodotus?’ or ‘What is Paraguay’ you’re not getting jack as far as endorsements go.”