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"Jeopardy!" champion Amy Schneider has finally been defeated after a 40-game winning streak.
On Wednesday's episode Schneider, the brainy engineering manager from Oakland, California, lost to Rhone Talsma, a Chicago librarian, just days after becoming the quiz show's second all-time winner Monday.
Schneider trails only Ken Jennings, winner of the game show's 2020 Greatest of All Time tournament and current host of the syndicated quiz show. Jennings holds the record of most consecutive games with 74, which he set in 2004.
Schneider tells USA TODAY she was surprised by her longevity on the quiz show, currently TV's top-rated nonsports program with 11 million viewers. "I'm pretty good at it, and I think if things go well, I could probably win three or four games," she predicted. Now the most successful woman in the show's history, she's earned a place in the quiz show's Hall of Fame and will play in the next Tournament of Champions alongside Matt Amodio, whose 38-day streak Schneider just eclipsed.
"This has been a show that has been part of my life as long as I can remember, that I've loved my whole life," says Schneider. "To know that I'm always going to be associated with it, always going to be part of 'Jeopardy!' history is just a really cool feeling."
This week's episodes were taped last November, so Schneider has kept her run (and its end) under wraps for months.
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Schneider was in the lead at the conclusion of Wednesday's first round with $7,200. Talsma and a third contestant, Janice Hawthorne Timm, trailed with $3,400 and $2,000, respectively. But tides began to turn during "Double Jeopardy!" when Talsma narrowed Schneider's lead thanks to a Daily Double. "And suddenly, this game isn't as out of reach as it seemed a second ago," Jennings remarked.
Schneider tells USA TODAY she began to worry when Talsma doubled his score.
"Rhone and I were both looking for that last Daily Double," she says. "And he, quite rightly, obviously made the decision to bet it all... Once he did that, I knew it was going to come down to 'Final Jeopardy!' I knew that I had been struggling a little bit with 'Final Jeopardy!' recently, and so I knew I was in trouble."
Going into the last round Schneider, with $27,600, was within Talsma's reach after he racked up $17,600. Hawthorne Timm, a music educator from Ukiah, California, sat in third place with $3,200.
Jennings observed the possibility of an upset. "For the first time in what seems like quite a while, 'Final Jeopardy!' is going to be very important today," he said. "So a lot hinges on this category": Countries of the World. The clue: "The only nation in the world whose name in English ends in an H, it's also one of the 10 most populous."
Talsma correctly answered Bangladesh, adding $12,000 to his day's winnings for a total of $29,600. A stumped Schneider couldn't come up with an answer and lost $8,000, dropping her to $19,600.
Talsma grabbed his chest in disbelief. Jennings also commented on the surprising outcome. "Anything could happen on 'Jeopardy!'" he said, encouraging viewers to tune in for Thursday's show.
Talsma spoke of the shock of his victory in a statement released by "Jeopardy!"
“This is my favorite show," he said. "I was so excited to be here, and I just wanted to do my best. I did not expect to be facing a 40-day champion, and I was excited to maybe see someone else slay the giant. I just really didn’t think it was going to be me, so I’m thrilled.”
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Schneider says she was saddened by her loss, even if it was inevitable.
"Being on 'Jeopardy!' has been the most fun thing I've ever done in my whole life, and I didn't want it to be over," she says. "And it was really hard to accept that it was, even though I've known for a while this could happen."
Once Schneider left the stage, she was taken to where contestants were eating a snack, where she tried "to keep it cool." Then she "excused myself to the bathroom and cried for a couple minutes. And then pulled myself together and headed back out."
But she says there are bright spots to ending her run.
"I know that one of the first thoughts I had was, 'Well, I don't have to come up with any more anecdotes" for the small talk between contestants and Jennings. "Beyond that, it had been a lot. It had been a disruption in my life. I haven't been able to spend as much time with my girlfriend and my cat. So there's definitely a part of me that was like, 'I'm glad I can just get back to all that.'"
Nick Adams, GLAAD's director of transgender representation, said Schneider's success on the show as a transgender women woman has provided a "bright spot" of LGBTQ visibility amid the political turmoil of discriminatory legislation being proposed in a number of states, including Schneider's home state of Ohio.
Republicans in the Ohio legislature have recently introduced bills to ban transgender girls from playing on female sports teams, as well as limit the medical care transgender kids receive.
"Amy Schneider has given 'Jeopardy!'s 9 million-plus nightly viewers a historic 40-game run full of masterful gameplay, while her media interviews and Twitter recaps of each game have given fans a glimpse into her life as a smart, charming transgender woman with a girlfriend and a rescue cat named Meep," Adams said in a statement. "Amy's achievement will be celebrated for years to come by 'Jeopardy!' fans and LGBTQ people everywhere."
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Schneider's total winnings – $1,382,800 – put her in fourth place for regular season play, about $135,000 behind Amodio's $1,518,601. James Holzhauer, a professional (and aggressive) bettor, netted $2,462,216 over 32 days and sits in second behind Jennings' winnings of $2,520,700.
To prepare for the Tournament of Champions this fall, Schneider says she'll practice writing down her "Final Jeopardy!" answer while watching the show at home.
"I found that that was really what was adding to my stress levels in 'Final Jeopardy!' was not only having to come up with (the answer), but then I have to make sure I get it written down legibly, in time," she says. "So I need to get past that mentally."
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Contributing: Anna Staver, The Columbus Dispatch
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Jeopardy!' champ Amy Schneider finally loses after 40-game streak