The Streak Is Over For Jeopardy's Second-Biggest Winner Julia Collins discusses her winning streak, which was the longest ever for a female contestant on the Jeopardy! game show.


And the streak has ended for Jeopardy Julia, the 31-year-old Chicagoan woman who won 20 games in a row on "Jeopardy," making her the game's longest winning female contestant ever. Julia Collins lost last night after accumulating more than $400,000 in winnings. The question that took her down was this - Winning for 1999, this New England writer is the last person to win an Oscar for adapting his own novel.


ALEX TREBEK: We come to Julia Collins now, our champion. And her response was Michael Shaven - is incorrect. So it's going to cost you everything you had as we go to Brian Loughnane.

He had the lead at $12,600 and he wrote down the correct response. John Irving, the author of "Cider House Rules." And he is our new champion with $22,600...

HOBSON: Well, Julia Collins joins us from NPR's New York studios. Julia, welcome to HERE AND NOW and congratulations.

JULIA COLLINS: Thank you. And thank you for having me.

HOBSON: Well, you were doing so well last night. What happened there?

COLLINS: You know, it just takes a couple questions that you get wrong or somebody else gets right and the balance of the game shifts. It can happen in a snap. And that's kind of what happened.

HOBSON: Did you worry about putting so much up there for the Final Jeopardy question?

COLLINS: If I had to do it again, I might not have bet quite so much. But, you know, I'd never been in second place going into Final Jeopardy before. The 20 games before that, I'd been in first place. And so this was kind of new territory for me.

And I know there's the right ways and the wrong ways to wager in that kind of situation, and I picked what I think a lot of people would consider the wrong way. I think of it as the Ricky Bobby, "Talladega Nights" approach - if you're not first, you're last.

But, you know, I went into Final Jeopardy every day thinking, I'm going to get the question right. I'm going to know the right response. And yesterday was no different. And, you know, some days I did and some days I didn't.

And, you know, unfortunately for me I didn't know the answer. And then Brian, who is the new champion, he did. And, you know, it kind of didn't matter that I bet it all because he was going to win with the right answer regardless. He was in first place. He bet to win. He bet to have more than double my money. And that was kind of what I expected him to do. You know, congratulations to him. That's how it goes.

HOBSON: Now, unlike Arthur Chu, who had an 11-game winning streak, you did not use the kind of controversial tactics that he did. One of the things he did was to jump around the board looking for the Daily Double. He told us back in February why he did that.

BRIDGID CHU: The main thing is that if you get the Daily Doubles early, those are the points in the game where the game can swing really heavily one way or another. Getting the Daily Double is so important because it's not just a chance for you to double up the money that you have, if you don't know the daily double, it's a chance for you to bet small and take away an opponent's chance to double up their money.

HOBSON: Now, why didn't you use a strategy like that? I guess you didn't need to in the end. But why did you decide not to go the route that Arthur Chu did?

COLLINS: I just didn't think it was that important. I'd be curious to know how many Daily Doubles he found, percentage wise, compared to how many I found. I would be surprised if it was a huge difference, although I could be wrong about that.

My strategy was to hit the buzzer first and get the answer right. If you're in control of the board, you're in control of the board, no matter how you go about it.

HOBSON: Well, and you certainly did that through a long stretch of shows. Let's listen to you here on your 18th show.


TREBEK: In the 17th century this country's East India Company took over the Moluccas and controlled the world clove trade. Julia?

COLLINS: What are the Netherlands? History for 800.

TREBEK: From 1901 to 1904 William Howard Taft served as governor general of this former Spanish possession. Julia?

COLLINS: What are the Philippines?

TREBEK: Right.

COLLINS: History for a thousand.

TREBEK: Built for the Emperor Shah Jahan, this throne named for a bird was stolen in 1739 by the Persians who then lost it. Julia?

COLLINS: What is the Peacock Throne?

TREBEK: You are correct.

HOBSON: What was the most difficult question for you throughout the entire stretch?

COLLINS: The ones that caused me the most trouble, I think, were the Daily Doubles that it didn't know and the Final Jeopardy clues that I didn't know. I didn't stress out too much about the clues. I wasn't compelled to answer what I didn't know the answers to.

HOBSON: Do you remember one, though, that you kind of had a wing and a prayer on the answer and you weren't quite sure but then you got to right?

COLLINS: I don't remember what the category was, but the clue was about a Walt Whitman poem. It said it had 52 stanzas. And I thought, you know, I can think of two different Walt Whitman poems - "Oh Captain My Captain" and "Song Of Myself." And I had never read all of "Song Of Myself." I kind of know it exists.

And so I said that as my response to the clue. And lucky for me it was right. But if that hadn't been, I had no other ideas.

HOBSON: Did you study for this?

COLLINS: I did. I did. I had about five weeks between the time I was invited to be a contestant and when I taped my first show. And so I tried to focus on reviewing things that I knew I learned before because I thought I'll really kick myself if I thought, I know this and I can't remember it.

So I reviewed some of my old high school textbooks, things like that. And then I also tried to focus on areas that I know "Jeopardy" asks about frequently that I don't know as well - things like opera, Shakespeare. I feel like there are a lot of questions about the space program, although I didn't really get any.

I knew I was going to be on an April, so I thought, well, what happens in April? The anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, which there was a question about the week before I was on - rock 'n roll Hall of Fame inductions, baseball Hall of Fame inductions. I ended up googling the line, April is the coolest month, to find out what poem it was from. I ended up having a clue about that in a category called April, and I knew it was "The Waste Land" because I had googled it.

So some of the studying paid off and some was just now stuff I know. But it made me feel more in control of the situation going in. It made me feel more confident, and even though most of what I studied never came up.

HOBSON: Now, you do go into the "Jeopardy" history books in part because you have the longest "Jeopardy" streak ever for a woman. What does that feel like?

COLLINS: It's pretty exciting. Although, I think I am a lot more excited about being in second place, being second to Ken Jennings' 74 games is no sorry second-place. So I think I'm more excited about that.

HOBSON: Are you going to take on Watson?

COLLINS: I would if I had the chance.

HOBSON: You think you could beat him? Because Ken Jennings couldn't.

COLLINS: You know, people talk a lot about buzzer speed, and buzzer - you know, acuity with the buzzer being really critical. And Watson has that down. So I don't know.

You know, it would have to be times when Watson gets a question about the U.S. city and answers with something with Canada, which I know is what happened when Watson played Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. So it would have to be a scenario like that I think.

HOBSON: Julia Collins just ended her 20-game "Jeopardy" winning streak last night, making her the second winningest player in the game's history. Julia, thanks so much and congratulations once again.

COLLINS: Thank you. Thank you for having.

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