#ThrowbackThursday – A Brief History Of Returning To Jeopardy!


Update: This post has inspired a new area of the Statistics section of TJF – which will aim to list every case of a player being invited to return to Jeopardy! after being disadvantaged.

In case you missed the ending of Tuesday’s show, Ashley Wilson is coming back to Jeopardy! tonight. The show felt that the wording of her Final Jeopardy! clue was ambiguous (and I agree!), and they elected to bring her back.

As best as I can tell, in the six-year history of The Jeopardy! Fan, only one contestant has been brought back under our watch: Scott Wells, on the premiere episode of Season 27. His fellow challenger that day? You may have heard of him. Scott’s original appearance in 2009 was marred by a Final Jeopardy (CLASSIC SONGS FROM MOVIES: 6-word title of the song that says, “For the house fell on her head & the coroner pronounced her dead”) where it was contended that the song was not necessarily referred to by that title. The show agreed, and brought Scott back for another opportunity.

It’s not often, though, that a contestant comes back nearly immediately. The last time that happened was in 2008, with Tom Morris. As J-Archive writes,

As the returning champion, Tom lost to Paul Thomas in game #5454, aired 2008-05-01, but because Alex Trebek gave Paul a little extra time to write down his winning Final Jeopardy! response on the backup paper card after Paul had trouble using the electronic tablet, it was determined that Tom may have been disadvantaged and should return. In #5455, aired 2008-05-02, Tom was again at the champion’s podium and Paul took the middle podium. In that game, Tom defeated Paul and went on to play again.

Obviously, a story about returning to Jeopardy would be incomplete without Jeff Kirby. Once again, as J! Archive so wonderfully put,

Jeff returned to the show in 2009 without explanation after appearing as a challenger almost a decade prior. In his second appearance in 2009, he wore the same tie as he wore in his first appearance in 1999. Jeopardy! fans and archivists with the J! Archive discovered the fact that Jeff had reappeared ineligibly by comparing pictures of Kirby from his two appearances. On 2009-10-14, Jeopardy! producers released a statement saying that they “relied on information provided to us by Mr. Kirby. He did not disclose that he had previously been on Jeopardy! His having been on the show before made Mr. Kirby ineligible as a contestant and therefore ineligible to receive any prizes from the show.” A 2009-10-16 New York Post article on the story reported that when he was “[r]eached at home, Kirby declined to comment”.

At the time of his second appearance, Jeff was a fifth-grade teacher at Pine Grove Elementary School in Orcutt, California. A 2009-09-05 news article in the Santa Maria Times that featured Jeff stated he had been teaching in the “Orcutt Union School District for 15 years, ever since graduating from Cal Poly, with most of that time as a fifth-grade teacher”.

Jeff Kirby’s 1999 game
Jeff Kirby’s 2009 game

It must have been a whirlwind few hours on tape day for Ashley and quite a rollercoaster of emotions! I wonder how she’ll do tonight!


2 Comments on "#ThrowbackThursday – A Brief History Of Returning To Jeopardy!"

  1. Technically, Priscilla Ball and (eventually) Claudia Corriere returned to Jeopardy, but it was different circumstances from the above (most of whom were asked to due to faulty wording). However, since these women (and Jeff Kirby, who is profiled in this article) won’t be in the “invited back” section of the stats this is more reason to put them in here.

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