Alex Trebek's final Jeopardy!episodes will be ones to remember. On Monday's episode of the Todayshow, executive producer Mike Richards revealed a sweet behind-the-scenes moment from the filming of the late host's last episodes prior to his November death.
"What he did on tonight's show is just a great testament to him," Richards began. "... He usually said something about what was happening in the news or about what game play had been happening. In this very special, unbelievable, final week, he comes out and gives a talk about the importance of togetherness and sticking together and that the world is struggling, but we have to get through it together."
Richards said that the moment left him and the rest of the Jeopardy! crew with "chills."
"There are specific moments in Jeopardy! when you clap and then there are moments when you're quiet. Usually in his monologue, he would come out, give a statement and they would go to the categories," Richards explained. "Well, there's not many people in the studio because of COVID. And we all burst into applause."
"You don't see it on camera, but as he's going to the categories, he sees us start to applaud and he kind of looks at us like, 'What are you guys doing?'" he continued. "We were so moved that we had to applaud."
The filming of the final episodes, all of which will air this week, happened just 10 days before Trebek's death, which came shortly after he was hospitalized amid his battle with pancreatic cancer.
"The week before we taped those episodes he was in the hospital. This man was unbelievable," Richards said. "He calls me and says, 'Mike, I'm going to be fine. I'll be in to tape. I was able to eat Jell-O today.' And I went, 'Alex, that's great, but that doesn't mean you're going to be ready to host five episodes of a game show, which is an enormous amount of effort.' He said, 'Do not cancel. I will be there.'"
And show up he did, giving his all to the show just days before his death.
"He was an absolute warrior," Richards said of Trebek. "What he was able to do by getting himself back to the set... it was herculean. He was in enormous pain. He was 10 days away from passing away. You will not sense that in any of these episodes. He is strong. He sounds great. He's funny. He's amazing."
Showing up to work while ill was nothing new for Trebek, who had been working amid his cancer diagnosis for some time.
"I think a normal person would have said, 'I'm not going to show up' a year and a half before those final episodes. I mean, he was getting chemotherapy once a week, so I think there was a level of professionalism," Richards said. "I think he really understood the importance of the show and what it meant to people."
When ET spoke to Richards in November, the EP praised Trebek's work ethic and character.
"He had just been battling so hard, and then the second that that music started, it was like he'd sit up, the shoulder blades would go back," he said. "... It was very tough to watch him [be in] pain, because we all knew what was going on. It was beyond impressive watching him then pick himself up and deliver the show at the highest level."