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2 returning 'Jeopardy!' champions face off in rare contest

There’s a Double Jeopardy, double champions joke in here somewhere.
Two returning "Jeopardy!" champions, Zach Newkirk and Brian Chang, faced each other in an episode that aired on Thursday.
Two returning "Jeopardy!" champions, Zach Newkirk and Brian Chang, faced each other in an episode that aired on Thursday.Jeopardy!
/ Source: TODAY

It’s not every day you see two returning “Jeopardy!” champs face each other but then again, the past year has been anything but ordinary.

Thursday’s episode of “Jeopardy!” featured two returning champions, Zach Newkirk and Brian Chang.

Chang had won seven games in a row when he faced off against Newkirk, who hadn’t been able to get back to Los Angeles after winning two games at the end of the previous season.

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Ken Jennings, who is currently guest hosting “Jeopardy!” explained the situation at the beginning of the show.

“You probably noticed something a little unusual during Johnny’s introduction,” he said. “Brian, of course, the returning champion you remember from winning yesterday’s show. Zach Newkirk was our returning champion at the end of our previous season who was unable to return this season due to COVID travel restrictions.”

The two returning champs were also joined by Jill Tucker, a show newcomer.

(Warning: Spoiler alert!)

The three made quick work of the board and in the end, Newkirk took home the win.

Chang, Jennings explained, was too late this season to be eligible for the "Tournament of Champions" but will be next season.

It's unclear how frequently a previous champion is brought back, however, the show has detailed at least one occasion in its blog when, in 2018, Ryan Fenster got another chance at the podium after one of his answers was retroactively deemed acceptable.

The show later shared a video on Twitter of Newkirk talking about his experience on the show with both the late Alex Trebek, who died in November, and Jennings as host.

“I guess I’ll be one of only a few people to have both Alex and Ken as the host,” he said in a clip. “I’m just lucky and thankful, really.”

“It’s like he never left!” the show tweeted. “We’ll see you tomorrow, Zach.”