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Amy Schneider's historic 'Jeopardy!' streak comes to an end after 40 wins

Schneider, the first transgender contestant to make it to the Tournament of Champions, won close to $1.4 million in the second-longest winning streak in the quiz show’s history.
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Long-running “Jeopardy!” champion Amy Schneider lost in an episode that aired Wednesday, ending the second-longest winning streak in the quiz show's history.

Schneider, an engineering manager from Oakland, California, was defeated by Rhone Talsma, a librarian from Chicago, who raked in $29,600 in the latest game, besting Schneider, at $19,600.

She left the show with nearly $1.4 million in winnings and had no regrets about the streak's end.

"I got about $1.2 million more than my best case scenario in my imagination," a smiling Schneider said moments after the stunning defeat.

Almost all of Schneider's wins had been in 2-to-1 blowouts going into Final Jeopardy, meaning the final questions figured only in how much prize money she would score.

But Wednesday's game was unusually close. Schneider led Talsma by $27,600 to $17,600 heading into the last question, under the category "Countries of the World."

The show wanted to know which is the only nation that ends its English spelling with an "h" and is also among the world's top 10 most populous countries.

Talsma correctly asked, “What is Bangladesh?” while Schneider came up blank. His winning bet of $12,000 and her losing wager of $8,000 meant a new champion was suddenly crowned.

“It’s really been an honor,” Schneider said. “To know that I’m one of the most successful people at a game I’ve loved since I was a kid and to know that I’m a part of its history now, I just don’t know how to process it.”

Talsma's quick trigger was key to his staying close throughout the game, Schneider said.

“I had thought that Rhone was going to be tough going into it,” she said in a statement released by the show.

“I loved hanging out with him, we had great conversation before the taping, but I could tell that he was here to play and that he was going to be good. I still came very close to winning, but I did feel like maybe I was slipping a little bit. And once it was clear that he was fast on the buzzer, I knew it was going to be a battle all the way.”

Rhone Talsma, a librarian from Chicago, finished in first place with a score of $29,600.
Rhone Talsma, a librarian from Chicago, finished in first place with $29,600.Casey Durkin / Sony Pictures Television

For much of the Double Jeopardy round, it looked as though Schneider would cruise to another easy win. At one point, she was up by $24,400 to $5,800 over Talsma.

But then Talsma nailed a late Daily Double, correctly naming the Greek goddesses of vengeance, the Furies. He doubled up from $7,800 to $15,600 and put himself in position to overtake Schneider in Final Jeopardy.

Just after the game, Schneider praised Talsma for taking the huge gamble on that Daily Double.

"It's the right thing to do but I've seen several contestant not be able to pull the trigger on that," she told the winner.

With nothing to lose, Talsma said he didn't think twice.

"I'm just playing for fun, I was just going to go big. Wow," he said.

When Talsma, sporting distinctive neon-framed glasses, took the "Jeopardy!" stage in Culver City, California, he had no idea he'd be facing down one of the winningest contestants in the show's history. 

“I’m still in shock,” Talsma said of his victory. “This is my favorite show. ... 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.”

Schneider's success was particularly celebrated by the transgender community, as she became the first transgender contestant to make it to Tournament of Champions, which will be played this fall, and is now the highest-earning female competitor in "Jeopardy!" history.

Schneider's 40-game streak is second only to Ken Jennings' record streak of 74 wins.

She won $1,382,800, good for No. 4 all time in regular season play, trailing only Jennings ($2.5 million), James Holzhauer ($2.4 million) and Matt Amodio ($1.5 million).

Coincidentally, Holzhauer's run on the show was also ended by a Chicago bookworm as he was ousted by University of Chicago librarian Emma Boettcher in 2019.

Jennings, who splits "Jeopardy!" hosting duties with former "Blossom" and "Big Bang Theory" actor Mayim Bialik, presided over Schneider's winning streak.

"It was just so amazing to watch; like I couldn't believe what I was seeing," Jennings told Schneider on stage after the game. "It was an honor to be here."