by John Walters
After 39 episodes and a little more than $1.5 million in winnings, Yale PhD student Matt Amodio at last succumbed to mediocrity. Amodio, 28, who regularly piled up per-game winnings of $50,000 and for whom Final Jeopardy! was normally little more than an exercise in seeing what total he wanted to shoot for, headed into Final Jeopardy! last night in third place.
The question: What country did the Nazis take over in World War II, and then, with parts including the Danube and the Alps, did the Allies divide into four sectors? Even if you did now know the answer, you’d be likely to guess Austria or Hungary, right? Amodio guessed Poland. The other two contestants correctly chose Austria.
Amodio looked defeated but in a sense almost relieved.
It must be a weird sensation, to win between $30,000 and $88,000 (his top one-day output) per show but after a month or so to just be so tired of having to live in a hotel and to have simply put your real life on hold.
A note: Amodio’s run nearly ended when it was still in the teens. He led by less than double his next-closest competitor and Final Jeopardy!, with the topic being ” ’80s Movies,” referenced a dip that was used to erase characters. Amodio did not know that the correct answer was “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” but, fortunately for him, nether did the woman in second place.
Amodio was dethroned by an actor, also in his twenties, who had the good fortune in Double Jeopardy! to hit two daily doubles in a row. He missed the first, but nailed the second. That’s usually where Amodio distances himself from the pack, finding the daily doubles in the second round. All good things must come to an end. Now what does a PhD student with $1.5 million (before taxes) in his back pocket due for motivation to finish his doctoral thesis?