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'Jeopardy!' premiere: Matt Amodio continues winning streak, as ousted Mike Richards hosts

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"Jeopardy!" returned for its 38th season Monday with a contestant who continued to make history and a host who's now history.

From what has been newly renamed "The Alex Trebek Stage" in honor of the series' longtime host, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in November, Mike Richards was welcomed by announcer Johnny Gilbert as "the host of 'Jeopardy!'" But his brief reign will end with Friday's episode.

After being announced as Trebek's permanent replacement and taping this week's episodes, Richards, 46, stepped down following an uproar over past offensive comments. Late last month, Sony Pictures Television announced Richards had also been ousted as executive producer of "Jeopardy!"

Mayim Bialik, who will also tackle "Jeopardy!" primetime specials and tournaments, returns as guest host for at least three weeks, from Sept. 20 to Oct. 8. Additional guest hosts will be announced later, until a new permanent emcee is named.

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Mike Richards was selected as the permanent syndicated host of "Jeopardy!," but stepped down after controversy.
Mike Richards was selected as the permanent syndicated host of "Jeopardy!," but stepped down after controversy.

In Monday's episode Richards made no remarks about being the new host. Instead, it was returning contestant Matt Amodio who stole the show. After winning 18 games last season, Amodio racked up a pot of $574,801, putting him in third place for highest winnings in regular games. Two "Jeopardy!" icons have quite the lead on Amodio, a Yale computer science Ph.D. student, originally from Medina, Ohio. Ken Jennings tops the list with $2,520,700, and James Holzhauer sits in second place with $2,462,216.

Monday, Amodio faced challengers Amdé Mengistu, a legal recruiter from the New York City borough of Brooklyn, and Gabbie Kim, a doula living in Pittsburgh.

Amodio first made a play for the $1,000 clues in the categories till he lost control to Kim. He was able to create a large lead by finding the first Daily Double and wagering his entire earnings ($5,400), winning $10,800. He ended the first round on top with $14,800 and left his opponents far behind.

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Amodio bet conservatively when he found back-to-back Daily Doubles during Double Jeopardy. Going into Final Jeopardy, the reigning champ had amassed $42,800, nearly six times Kim's total. The Final Jeopardy! category was the 13 Colonies: "Founded by an advocate of religious freedom, it was the site of America's first Baptist church (and) oldest synagogue." (Scroll down for the correct response.)

Mengistu answered incorrectly, dropping his earnings to nothing. Kim raised her pot to $8,999 with the correct response, but Amodio was too far gone. Answering correctly, he brought his daily total to $67,800 and his 19-day winning streak to $642,601.

Amodio explained how he amassed a breadth of knowledge in an interview with The Associated Press published last month. "I like to read," he said. "So on a regular basis, I just fall into a rabbit hole of Wikipedia links, (and) every article opens up 20 more things that I have questions about it. This is just how how I spend my day, or my nights when I'm done working."

The correct response to Final Jeopardy!: "What is Rhode Island?"

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Contributing: Hannah Yasharoff and Elise Brisco

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Jeopardy!' winner Matt Amodio continues streak, Mike Richards hosts