Jeopardy! is a wonderful show, but it almost always features contestants who can politely be described as “bookish.” The program carries a sober tone, and host Alex Trebek keeps the antics to a minimum, even during the contestants’ mid-round anecdotes (the worst part of each episode). Then, Austin Rogers came along.
I don’t particularly hate or love this guy, but his commitment to the bit is impressive. Rogers, a bartender from New York City, is naturally wacky (or “naturally wacky”) and stands out especially in contrast to his competitors. He’s having fun with the game, even if the game has financial consequences. He has interesting hair, by the standards of Jeopardy!. He does a lot of stuff with his hands. He’s also won $309,600 over eight victories, which ranks him fifth on the regular-season all-time winners list. The athlete equivalent that comes to mind is Brock Lesnar: not in love with but excellent at the task at hand, and easy to loathe.
Rogers claims he’s not a genius, that he’s merely watched a lot of episodes and figured out patterns. He shared one example during an interview Thursday on Good Morning America:
I’m not going to say there’s a system or a code, but if you watch enough, you’ll start seeing things repeat. Like, if it ever says “sculptor,” it’s probably gonna be Auguste Rodin. If it ever says “American sculptor,” it’ll probably be Alexander Calder. If it ever says “Romanian poet,” it’ll be [Eugène] Ionesco. I have no idea who Ionesco is, but I’ve seen that come up three times in episodes across the decades.
That’s a smart observation, but it can’t be the only reason why Rogers is winning; he still has to survive the Final Jeopardy round, which occurs only once per episode and likely has less of an overlap. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working, as he’s going for his ninth consecutive win tonight. Even if his streak ends, this surely won’t be the last we see of him.