How Did Tonight’s Jeopardy Result Not Leak Sooner?

James Holzhauer’s spoiler-worthy performance took place nearly three months ago.

James Holzhauer on a Jeopardy episode that aired in April (Jeopardy Productions)

This story reveals the outcome of tonight’s Jeopardy episode.

Like many other articles on the internet today, this piece contains a spoiler about James Holzhauer, the Jeopardy contestant who has been winning money at a rate the show has never seen before.

If you’d rather not know how Holzhauer does on tonight’s episode, you should stop reading now.

The spoiler, as you may have guessed: Holzhauer’s winning streak is over. News of his loss started circulating over the weekend, and The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other outlets piled on Monday morning. Their coy headlines—the Times’ was “What Is a Spoiler? This Story About ‘Jeopardy!’ Phenom James Holzhauer”—ostensibly hid the outcome of tonight’s show, but their use of the word spoiler no doubt indicated to some readers that Holzhauer’s 32-game streak had ended.

Of course, spoiler could also have been hinting at a Holzhauer win, seeing as tonight had the potential to be a milestone for him. Going into this game, he had cumulative winnings of $2,462,216 on the show—only about $60,000 short of what Ken Jennings had won during his 74-game streak in 2004. Had Holzhauer won tonight, it’s likely that he would have broken Jennings’s record, given that Holzhauer had been averaging about $75,000 in winnings a night.

The leak of tonight’s result reveals the quirks of taping a TV show such as Jeopardy in advance. Andy Saunders, who runs the blog The Jeopardy! Fan, told me that each night’s episode of the show is typically distributed to local TV stations the weekday before—meaning that tonight’s episode would have been in the hands of countless producers by last Friday evening. So, Saunders guesses, it was an employee of a local station who put the entirety of the episode online this weekend. (Jeopardy did not respond to a request for details about how the show is distributed and might have been leaked.)

Holzhauer’s loss actually took place well before Friday evening—it was taped on March 12. Even though the episode’s result came to light before being aired, it’s impressive that producers, contestants, audience members, and (presumably) their loved ones all kept quiet for months. Jeopardy wouldn’t tell me anything about the protocols it has in place to prevent leaks, but Saunders said the show has contestants sign nondisclosure agreements, and asks members of the studio audience not to blab. They usually don’t, he said, out of “respect for the show and the process.”

Holzhauer’s departure will probably restore some normalcy to Jeopardy: Fewer games will be settled before the program’s final round, scores will be lower, and, in all likelihood, fewer people will care if the results are leaked.