Returning champion Manny Abell didn’t have much of a shot to win at the end of his third “Jeopardy!” episode — but it turns out all he needed was a single dollar.
The naval officer from Lacey, Washington, went into the final round Tuesday night with a mere $1,000 to his competitors’ totals of $12,300 apiece.
The clue — “it’s the only country that borders the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf” — was a three-way stumper, with contestants Fran Fried, who had been leading for much of the game, and Carlos Nobleza Posas also losing all of their earnings on incorrect answers.
Abell answered incorrectly, too, but chose to wager just $999 instead of his full pot. (The answer, if you’re curious, was Iran.)
“You win the game with a dollar,” host Alex Trebek told Abell. “The smallest win in many, many, many years.” The contestant’s three-day total earnings are $42,799.
Abell told HuffPost in an email that he assumed going into the final question that his time on the show was over.
“There was no way I was going to win that thing,” he said, adding that his leftover dollar was a bit of a joke.
“When I watch at home, I always get a chuckle when someone bets all but a dollar and loses it, leaving them with that single, lonely ‘$1’ on the podium,” Abell said. “This was my chance to be that guy and laugh at myself.”
Abell said he was drawing a blank for the Final Jeopardy! question, though.
“I just trying to fight the pressure and remind myself of the maps I’ve been looking at my whole life, but I moved the Caspian Sea to the southwest a bit,” he said.
According to the show’s website, only one other contestant in its history has won with just $1: Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Darryl Scott, in 1993.
Fans reacted to the surprising finish on Twitter.
Abell told HuffPost he doesn’t remember much about the winning moment.
“It was kind of like that shellshock scene at the beginning of ‘Saving Private Ryan,‘” he said. “Things move slow, sound is muffled. I seem to remember the words ‘still alive’ being uttered, but that’s about it.”
Even though Abell’s run on the game show ended Wednesday night — “I know I could have bet smaller. But, I guess I just figured that after the last game, I had sort of earned the right to act a little recklessly,” he said — he enjoyed his time on TV.
“I just want to say that the experience was amazing,” he said. “All of the competitors, to a person, were some of the most interesting, intelligent and downright likable people I have had the pleasure to know even if it was briefly.”
Plus, he only needs to remember one thing ...
This post has been updated throughout with Abell’s comments.