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Episcopal priest’s ‘Jeopardy!’ win streak ends in the fifth game

“Jeopardy!” host Ken Jennings, left, poses with the Rev. David Sibley, who appeared on the show in September. Photo/Jeopardy! Productions

The Rev. David Sibley, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Walla Walla, Wash., came up short in his fifth “Jeopardy!” game, broadcast Sept. 30, losing to fellow contestants Pam Warren and Cris Pannullo.

Sibley ended the game with $4,003, but as third runner-up, can keep $1,000, for a five-day total of $79,098. In a tweet, Sibley said he will be tithing 10% of his winnings to his church. Pannullo won with $29, 579 and advances to the next game, to be broadcast on Oct. 3.

Before the contestants swung into the Final Jeopardy! category, host Ken Jennings told Sibley, “Pastor, it’s been good having you with us.”

In the fourth game, “religion” was a category and, not surprisingly, Sibley did well in that category — and others. For this game, he wore his clerical collar and Jennings kidded him that he was “bringing out the big guns.”

Sibley told Jennings that he intends to put his winnings toward a college fund for his 11-month-old daughter.

The proprietor of a “Jeopardy!” fan site noted that Sibley “appears to be one of the kindest and most genuinely affirming people I have met in my years covering the program. He went as far yesterday to write a Twitter thread, worried that members of the LGBTQIA+ community might be triggered by his occupation as an Episcopal priest, explicitly stated, ‘This priest loves you. But more than that? God loves you. Exactly as you are.’ And that was excellent and very affirming to see from a Jeopardy! contestant.”

In the third game, unlike the first two games, when he led from the start, Sibley fell behind early, missing a couple of questions and even landing in the minus column. He then surged back, battling contestant Emily Hackbath and trading the lead, until he pulled ahead by a commanding amount.

During the Sept. 29 game, on a break to introduce the contestants, Jennings asked about an odd incident that happened at Sibley’s church in April 2021. “We were closed due to COVID, and someone left about a ton of candles at the church. I guess they thought we could use them,” Sibley said, adding that it was many more candles than any church could use in years. “That’s about as high church as you could be,” Jennings remarked.

In the Sept. 27 broadcast, host Ken Jennings kicked off the game by remarking, “‘In the beginning,’ as you would say in your profession,” referring to Sibley’s presumed use of the Book of Genesis.

After winning the game broadcast on Sept. 26, Jennings told Sibley, “You seem like you’re in shock.” In an an “Overheard on Set” video, Sibley replies, “I am in shock, yes.”

Afterward, as Episcopal News Service reported, Jennings asked Sibley if the pressure of leading worship services as a priest might have prepared him for the pressure of being a game show contestant. “It’s mainly watching my mouth in certain situations to make sure I’m not saying something inexorably stupid,” Sibley said, “I guess there is some relevance to what we’re doing here.”

He also joked: “I use a buzzer in my sermon every week.”

In an interview last week with Episcopal News Service, Sibley, 37, said he had applied to be a contestant on “Jeopardy!” once before, in 2007 when he was a college student studying chemistry. 

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