Cheers rang through the bar as Mattea Roach’s headline-grabbing run on Jeopardy! came to end Friday.
“We’re happy with how things turned out,” said Phil Roach, Mattea’s father. “She came out with an incredible experience and a lot of great friends and memories for a lifetime.”
Roach and other family members gathered at Halifax Sports Bar to watch Mattea compete in the semifinal match of the Tournament of Champions.
Mattea, 24, rose to fame in Nova Scotia after a 23-game wining streak on Jeopardy! in April and May. That stint earned her approximately $750,000, making her the fifth highest earner in the game’s history.
The family didn’t know what to expect at the start.
“All we wanted at that time was for them to be nice to her and for her to have a nice time,” said Patti MacKinnon, Mattea’s mother.
Mattea moved to Toronto for her undergraduate studies. In Halifax, her parents hosted a watch party in their family home each time she was on Jeopardy!
“One of the things we love about it is how much it’s brought people together,” MacKinnon said. “We see so much more family, hearing from people that we haven’t heard from in decades, it seemed to be impacting so many people.”
As one of the Top 3 earners of Season 38, Roach automatically qualified for the Tournament of Champions semifinal. On Tuesday, her family watched her win an exhibition game against the other two top earners.
MacKinnon said they couldn’t watch Friday’s episode at home because it was preempted by a football game, so that’s how they ended up at a downtown Halifax bar.
Emma Roach sat at the crowded table near the giant screen to watch her cousin compete.
“I think it’s been a little nerve wracking coming up to this, knowing how well she did in the first run,” said Emma Roach, before the show began. “I just want her to feel happy. That’s all that matters. I hope she’s happy with the outcome.”
As the Jeopardy! theme music started, a hush fell over the crowd. Cheers erupted when Mattea was introduced.
There was no clear lead at the end of the first round. During commercial breaks, Roach’s family and friends switched their attention to each other, chatting and sharing life updates.
During Double Jeopardy, Andrew He of California pulled ahead. With his US$23,800 lead, it was clear to everyone at the table that it was a runaway game and Mattea had lost.
Her parents knew the outcome all along. Throughout their daughter’s first run on the show, they spoke with her every night, offering support while under strict confidentiality. For Mattea’s return, they were in California for the taping.
Keeping the secret wasn’t much of a burden, said Phil Roach.
“At the end of the run, though, that’s when it’s a little bit more difficult,” he said. “You have this sense that everyone wants it to continue, but when you know it’s not going to continue you don’t want them to be disappointed.”
The crowd cheered for Mattea’s loss just as they had cheered for all of her wins.
“She had a fantastic run,” said Phil Roach, “and most importantly she had so much fun playing.”
What’s next for Mattea Roach remains unclear. She continues her tenure as the host of The Backbench podcast. Her parents say she may pursue law school, which she put on hold when she started her run on Jeopardy!, but opportunities keep coming her way.
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