Beyond brief but intense displays of elation and disappointment after a particularly intense Daily Double clue or Final Jeopardy! round, there’s not much emotion on the Jeopardy! stage. That’s why Monday’s episode, which featured an unexpected display of deeply felt emotion, was such an outlier.
The show is currently airing episodes from its Tournament of Champions, an annual event that features past winners, harder clues, and bigger paydays. Going into Final Jeopardy, Dhruv Gaur, this year’s college tournament champion, didn’t have much of a shot. His $2,000 total was dwarfed by Emma Boettcher‘s $19,200 and Kyle Jones’s $14,800.
As the famous music ended, Trebek remarked, “Dhruv, you’re smiling. I like that.” Trebek then read what the former champion wrote: “We (heart) you, Alex!” as Gaur continued to smile.
“That’s very kind, thank you,” Trebek said as he grimaced and inhaled, clearly emotional, while the audience reacted to the moment. Ever the professional, he quickly moved on to Gaur’s wager, though he was clearly still choked up after the unexpected act of appreciation.
Trebek announced that he had pancreatic cancer in March, and that he would undergo treatment. Amazingly, he returned to work in September for the 36th season of Jeopardy!, but according to Gaur, he informed the contestants that he’d resumed treatment after some discouraging test results.
While Guar won’t be moving on to the final round of the Tournament of Champions, it’s clear that he created a memorable moment for himself, his fellow contestants, the millions of people watching, and, most importantly, for Alex Trebek himself.