The answer: Tuesday, November 30, 2004. The question: When did Ken Jennings’ winning streak end on Jeopardy!? Yep, it’s the end of an era. After an unprecedented 74-game winning streak — and more than $2.5 million in cash — the computer software engineer from Salt Lake City got tripped up, as many of us do, by the taxman.
The Final Jeopardy answer that tripped him up? ”Most of this firm’s 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year.” Jennings guessed Federal Express, but it was, in fact, tax preparer H&R Block. Ventura, Calif., real estate agent Nancy Zerg guessed correctly, unseating Jennings with a final score of $14,001 to $8,799.
Backstage before the show, Zerg told the AP, she repeated the mantra: ”Someone’s got to beat him sometime, it might as well be me,” she said. ”It was a big relief to me that I lost to someone who played a better game than me,” Jennings told the AP. ”There were no recriminations or remorse.”
The final irony of Jennings’ losing question: David Byers, senior vice president for tax operations for H&R Block, released a statement offering Jennings the tax help he’s sure to require for his newfound wealth. By Byers’ calculations, he’ll have to pay just over $1 million in taxes.