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This week’s Jeopardy! college contestants are there thanks to crazy rules

Say what you will about Jeopardy!, at least it’s a meritocracy. Contestants have roughly 22 minutes to prove their mettle, via two rounds of categories and a final question that combines smarts and a sense of calculating number bets that will either put you on top or send you home with a nice array of complimentary Sunny Delight bottles. Only, it turns out that’s not really the case when you get down to brass question-asking tacks. Thanks to an insanely close competition this year, this week’s college Jeopardy! contestants were selected according to a ridiculously arcane series of rules.

Now normally, the people chosen to go to the semi-final rounds are the five winners of the games from the first week, plus the four highest point-earners from every game. (The semi-final rounds are from Monday to Wednesday, meaning five winners—plus four others—equals the total contestants required for three days.) This isn’t an issue for Ziad Ali and Sarah Dubnik, who were the highest point earners after the winners. But thanks to some awkward numbers, the remaining two contestants got chosen by some arcane-ass rules that royally screwed someone. There were three players who were tied at 14,400 points apiece after Final Jeopardy!, which meant the show had to make a call on which collegiates would join the other semifinalists. Apparently, rules get really random here, because according to Alex Trebek (hallowed be his name, forever and ever, amen), the producers then turn to whoever had the highest point count going into Final Jeopardy! In this case, that meant Hannah Norem earned a pass to the semifinals.

But, in another absurdist twist, the other two contestants eligible were tied going into Final Jeopardy!, so the show went back even further, meaning that whoever led after the Jeopardy! round would advance to the semifinals. Frankly, that seems like a huge pile of bullshit, because the first round is just there for people to get their bearings, but we’re relatively certain Kate Laubscher of Northeastern University isn’t complaining, since that rule sent her through to the next round. You can see which of these possibly undeserving people make it to the finals today, based on LJT, short for “Local Jeopardy! Time.”

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