Austin Rogers returns to 'Jeopardy!': In it to win it

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Austin Rogers (Photo: Jeopardy!)

On Monday night, the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions entered its semifinalist stage, bringing back its big money winners, which meant that the buzzer with the most personality, New York bartender Austin Rogers, was back to render host Alex Trebek speechless. The young man’s opponents were two familiar returning faces: Lilly Chin, who delivers the show’s patented question-answers (“What is ‘Corona’?”) with the remorselessness of a machine gun, and Andrew Pau, the Contestant Most Likely to Do a Tony Randall Impersonation. Rogers did not disappoint.

After the first commercial break, when Trebek engages the contestants in a bit of conversation, Rogers was asked what he planned to do with some of his winnings. He said he was going to buy a certain make of Mercedes-Benz station wagon and “circumnavigate the globe,” launching into a rapid-fire litany of all the countries he would hit before returning home. Trebek was nonplussed; the studio audience broke into happy applause. Like so much of what Rogers does, it was a momentary rupture in the Jeopardy! scheme of things — more a knowing exaggeration of its format than a rebellion against it. What’s clear by now is that Rogers really respects the game, in an ironic way.

The game itself was hard-fought. Pau was very fast with the buzzer and frequently made difficult categories seem effortless (“Add a Letter” was surprisingly tough), while Chin, although often in third place throughout the half-hour, was always ready to pick up the slack when Rogers faltered. Fortunately for Rogers, in Double Jeopardy he knew most of the “90s TV” category (nice NewsRadio knowledge, pal), and thank goodness he continued his habit of betting big in Final Jeopardy, enabling him to move up to finalist status. Stay tuned: Our man may out-pantomime and out-strategize his way to a quarter-million bucks later this week.

Jeopardy! airs weeknights. Check your local listings.

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