Why A Recent ‘Jeopardy!’ Champ Was Allowed To Return Despite Rule Banning Contestants From Playing Again

Jeopardy! is not a very forgiving game. If a contestant feels that their run on the show ended prematurely, there’s a strict rule barring them from returning. However, a former contestant recently took advantage of a loophole in the system allowing her to compete again.

Martha Bath First Competed In 1972

Last week, Martha Bath got a chance to return to the Jeopardy! podiums. She first appeared on the first iteration of the show in 1972. In those days, creator Art Fleming hosted the daytime game show. Since then, the show has undergone multiple revivals. It wasn’t until 1984 that Alex Trebek took the helm, marking the transition to the Jeopardy! we all know and love today.

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In 1972, Bath lost her first round, taking home only $40 and a set of encyclopedias. Accounting for inflation, her $40 would be about $283 today. These days, even the third-place contestants can take home thousands of dollars. There’s no one who would reasonably protest giving Bath a second go at the prize money fifty years later.

With that being said, some fans pointed out a glaring deviation from the show’s age-old rulebook: Contestants who suffered a loss on the regular weekly broadcast do not get to return. As it turns out, no rule was broken. Let’s take a look at the fine print.

A Note On ‘Jeopardy!’ Eligibility

As prospective competitors have revealed, the eligibility guidelines concerning repeat appearances are as follows: “You cannot appear on Jeopardy! if you have previously appeared on Jeopardy! from 1984–2022.” So, according to the show’s rules, there wasn’t anything barring Bath—and any other contestants from before 1984, for that matter—from throwing her hat into the ring one more time.

Prior to 1984, the show’s multiple syndications were hosted by Art Fleming. While few remember a time when Jeopardy! wasn’t on TV, there was actually a five-year period between 1979 and 1984 when the show was not airing. When Jeopardy! was revived in 1984 with Alex Trebek at the helm, it marked the transition to a new era in more ways than one.

So, it makes sense that contestants from Jeopardy! who competed from 1964 to 1979 wouldn’t be barred from returning. It’s unclear if Bath is the first of Fleming’s contestants to return, but after seeing her glorious comeback, we would love to see more competitors from the classic Jeopardy! test out their trivia knowledge one more time!

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