Amy Schneider’s phenomenal Jeopardy! run has come to an end.
Schneider, the top-performing out transgender contestant in the show’s history, lost Wednesday to Rhone Talsma, a librarian from Chicago. He is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community, identifying as queer.
Schneider’s loss came after she won 40 consecutive games, second only to current Jeopardy! host Ken Jennings, who won 74 straight games in 2003. She is in fourth place for all-time regular season cash winnings with $1.382 million, behind Matt Amodio ($1.518 million), James Holzhauer ($2.462 million), and Jennings ($2.52 million). She is the top female winner in Jeopardy! history and the first woman to pass the million-dollar mark.
“It’s really been an honor,” Schneider said in a press release from the show’s production company. “To know that I’m one of the most successful people at a game I’ve loved since I was a kid and to know that I’m a part of its history now, I just don’t know how to process it.”
Talsma’s win was enabled by hitting a Daily Double late in the Double Jeopardy! round, which kept the game competitive going into Final Jeopardy! — Schneider had often built up an insurmountable lead during her streak. He then gave a correct response in Final Jeopardy!, and Schneider did not come up with any response.
“I had thought that Rhone was going to be tough going into it,” said Schneider, a software engineering manager from Oakland, Calif. “I loved hanging out with him, we had great conversation before the taping, but I could tell that he was here to play and that he was going to be good. I still came very close to winning, but I did feel like maybe I was slipping a little bit. And once it was clear that he was fast on the buzzer, I knew it was going to be a battle all the way.”
“I’m still in shock,” Talsma said. “This is my favorite show … I was so excited to be here, and I just wanted to do my best. I did not expect to be facing a 40-day champion, and I was excited to maybe see someone else slay the giant. I just really didn’t think it was going to be me, so I’m thrilled.”
Schneider will be back for the program’s Tournament of Champions this fall, and Amodio will be one of the contestants she faces. She is the first out trans contestant to qualify for the tournament, which pits the season’s top 15 winners against one another.
In a recent Advocate interview, Schneider said that providing positive representation of transgender people was even more valuable to her than the money she had won. “It’s definitely been the most rewarding part of the whole experience,” she said.
Rhone Talsma courtesy Jeopardy Productions
Talsma is a multimedia librarian at the Chicago Ridge Public Library. He has a bachelor’s degree in women’s and gender studies from Chicago’s DePaul University, with minors in LGBTQ studies and graphic design, according to his LinkedIn profile. He has a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
In a 2014 essay for a DePaul journal, he endorsed “queer anarchism” but allowed that remaking society along those lines would take considerable time and effort. “And so we must ask ourselves: how can we create intersectional queer autonomous zones within the context of capitalism and liberal democracy? I contend that the answer lies in how we, as queer people, construct our social worlds; specifically, we are obligated to create queer communities and politics which are truly inclusive and conscious.”
Talsma will face two new contestants Thursday.