Episcopal priest ‘in shock’ after winning ‘Jeopardy!’ episode, defends title

By David Paulsen
Posted Sep 27, 2022
Ken Jennings and David Sibley

“Jeopardy!” host Ken Jennings poses for a photo with the Rev. David Sibley, who will appear on the Sept. 23 episode of the long-running game show. Photo: Jeopardy! Productions

Editor’s note: The Rev. David Sibley’s “Jeopardy!” success continued all week, with four wins through Sept. 29. His four-day winnings totaled more than of $78,000. You can watch the highlights of the Sept. 29 episode in this YouTube video

[Episcopal News Service] After the Sept. 26 episode of “Jeopardy!” your one-day champion, with cash winnings totaling $21,800, is the “Episcopal priest from Walla Walla, Washington.”

That means that the Rev. David Sibley, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Spokane, survives to play another day. (Check your local listings to watch Sibley defend his title.)

“You seem like you’re in shock,” host Ken Jennings said after the show, in an “Overheard on Set” video.

“I am in shock, yes,” Sibley responded, his hands fidgeting.

In his first appearance on the show, Sibley built an early lead and continued to expand it, so that he went into the “Final Jeopardy!” round as the presumptive winner – with a “runaway” score in the lingo of fans. Sibley got the final question wrong, but he didn’t lose any money because he wagered zero dollars.

Afterward, 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. That time, he made it as far as inclusion in the potential pool of contestants, but he never got the call. This time, when he finally got the invitation to compete, he traveled to Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California, for the taping in August.

For the Sept. 26 episode, he previously told ENS he had planned to watch it air on the East Coast with some friends via Zoom and then join an in-person watch party in Walla Walla, at an eatery called Wingman Birdz and Brewz.

Some of the episode’s highlights also were posted to the “Jeopardy!” Facebook page. See Sibley zero in on the “spiny creature” that is associated with England’s “tight rows of bushes.”

“What is a hedgehog?” Sibley correctly responded for his first of two Daily Doubles.

Now that Sibley is a winner, he has his own “Jeopardy!” statistics page at the fan website thejeopardyfan.com. The site shows that Sibley got 20 out of 21 questions correct, and he was first to buzz in 26% of the time.

Friends and parishioners will be tuning in Sept. 27 to see if Sibley can repeat his success. As long as he continues ending up on top after “Final Jeopardy!” he will continue returning to defend his title, but he has a long way to go to rival Jennings. Though now one of the show’s hosts, Jennings is best known for winning a record $2.52 million in an unmatched streak of 74 straight wins in 2004.

But even Jennings had to start with a first win. Sibley now has his.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.