Mayim Bialik as the host of Jeopardy!
Credit: Courtesy of CBS

As a defending champion on Jeopardy!, viewers were worried when Ben Chan wasn’t on the show on April 17, 2023. What happened to Ben Chan on Jeopardy! and why did he leave so suddenly? Keep reading to find out.

Jeopardy! is the long-running quiz game show that is notable for reversing the question-and-answer format. Contestants are provided with general knowledge clues in the form of answers, then they must identify the person, place, thing or idea that the clue describes, and their final answer must be in the form of a question. Each game consists of three rounds: Jeopardy!, Double Jeopardy! and Final Jeopardy! Actress Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory and Call Me Kat) teamed up with Ken Jennings (a former contestant) to co-host Season 38. Bialik also hosted primetime episodes of Celebrity Jeopardy!. Each episode follows the same format; two new contestants are introduced who battle the defending champion, a contestant who has won the show at least once. But this didn’t happen on April 17, 2023.

When Ben Chan, the assistant professor of philosophy at St. Norbert College was absent from the April 17, 2023 episode, it was an unprecedented situation. He competed and won the game show on Wednesday, April 12, as well as the latter two episodes on April 13 and 14. So why did Ben Chan leave Jeopardy!? Read on to learn everything we know and if he is coming back.

What happened to Ben Chan on Jeopardy!?

Jeopardy! game show

What happened to Ben Chan on Jeopardy!? When Ben Chan was not on the Monday, April 17, episode like previously planned, host Ken Jennings addressed the strange circumstances at the beginning of the show. “Astute Jeopardy! viewers will have already noticed that Johnny Gilbert, when he introduced our players, did not mention a returning champion and their winnings. Astute and loyal Jeopardy! viewers will remember that the Friday, April 14, show ended with Ben Chan clinching his third runaway win,” Jennings said, according to TV Insider.

Jenning’s continued: “How do we solve this riddle? Well, as has happened only a few times in Jeopardy! history, the returning champ found themselves unable to travel this week. What that means is, never fear, we’ll have Ben back on at a later date,” he continued. “But it means that Toni, Daniel, and Madeleine are taking the stage all for the first time today. It’s a fresh start. No intimidating returning champ to deal with.”

Instead, the episode featured three new contestants: Attorney Madeleine McKenna, Writer Daniel Ciarrocchi and Retired Systems Analyst Toni van Kampen.

Why did Ben Chan leave Jeopardy!?

“I never thought about what it would be like to win because I was really focused on having fun and preparing well, so it was kind of a relief/surprise but it was great,” Chan told FOX 11. His students also told the outlet that they knew their professor would do a good job. “He was supposed to be gone for one day, then came back two days later, and we were just like hmm… maybe something happened,” said student Jaden Young to FOX 11.  

Why did Ben Chan leave Jeopardy!? Ben Chan left the game show after testing positive for COVID. “Before yesterday’s episode taped, I had tested positive for COVID; it was a very mild case, as you can see, I’m fine, most importantly, my buzzer finger is fine, so I’m excited to watch what happens over the next few weeks, see who I’ll be competing against on May 15th,” Chan told Good Day Wisconsin on April 18, 2023.

As a result, Chan’s next appearance on Jeopardy! will be on Monday, May 15, 2023, if all goes well with his COVID recovery. He’s currently sitting on winnings totaling $69,001, which he’ll have when he returns to the show in a few weeks. The professor previously said he would spend his winnings on his two rescue dogs, but he could be dealing with a much bigger prize than he originally thought.

Chan also noted that he was anxious about all the attention he would receive on the show, but found that people have been really encouraging and excited for him. “I just felt completely comfortable up there. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more in my element,” he explained to Good Day Wisconsin.

For more on primetime shows, check out our photo gallery on the best nighttime soaps ranked