What is: “Can we have a couple of tissues, please?”
An emotional moment unfolded on an episode of “Jeopardy!” Monday night when Brown University student Dhruv Gaur used his final answer in his Tournament of Champions semifinal game as an opportunity to show support and appreciation for longtime host Alex Trebek, who recently announced he must undergo additional chemotherapy to treat pancreatic cancer.
The answer to the episode’s category, “Famous Phrases,” was, ‘‘In the title of a groundbreaking 1890 exposé of poverty in New York City slums, these three words follow ‘How the.’ ”
When the camera panned to Gaur, 20, the college junior’s response popped up on the screen.
“‘What is: we love you, Alex!” it read, substituting a small heart in place of the word “love.”
The unanticipated note seemed to stun the unflappable Trebek, who earlier this year revealed to fans of the quiz show that he’s been in treatment for Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
“That’s very kind,” Trebek said to Gaur, as he seemed to process the unexpected sentiment. “Thank you.’’
The audience let out an audible “awww.”
Trebek’s voice then cracked slightly as he tried to keep his composure and move on with the show. He pointed out that the incorrect answer had cost Gaur $1,995 — leaving him with just $5 to spare.
But that didn’t seem to matter to Gaur, a Gainesville, Ga., native who entered the final round in a distant third place. And the caring note earned a different reward: broad agreement across social media that, indeed, Trebek is well-loved and appreciated — especially during this difficult time. According to the Washington Post, ‘‘We love you Alex’’ quickly started trending on Twitter.
Gaur was not immediately available for comment Tuesday, but he shared on Twitter some background on how the decision to honor Trebek during the show’s taping came to be.
Gaur, who won the show’s 2018 College Tournament of Champions, after auditioning for the show in Boston, said Trebek had just shared with contestants during the show’s taping that he was reentering treatment.
“We were all hurting for him so badly,” Gaur wrote. “When Final Jeopardy came up, I could’ve tried to puzzle it together, but really, just kept thinking about Alex, and thought he should know.”
When Final Jeopardy came up, I could’ve tried to puzzle it together, but really, just kept thinking about Alex, and thought he should know. 3/n— Dhruv Gaur (@dhruvg_) November 12, 2019
Gaur, who was eliminated Monday in the semifinals of the Tournament of Champions, said he was grateful he got the chance to say what everyone has been thinking.
“Sending all the love,” he said in a follow-up tweet, which was later shared from the official “Jeopardy!” account.
The quiz show also tweeted a screenshot of the message Monday night, writing, “Couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Dhruv!”
Swati Gaur, Dhruv’s mother, was there for the live taping. She said in a telephone interview with the Globe that the family was moved by their son’s decision to write a Final Jeopardy! answer that ended up uniting many people across the country.
She said they were unaware of what Gaur, who she called a “well-read kid,” was going to do at the time. During the taping, he quickly wrote down an answer and then looked over at his family in the audience and smiled.
“We felt that he had something special,” she said. “When he revealed the answer, it was obviously very emotional for all of us.”
While his actions came as a surprise to even his family, it falls in line with her son’s character, his mother said.
“Since he has been a child, he does something that is nice and good, and what he feels good about,” she said. “It’s just a very proud moment and incredible to see. To be able to be under so much stress and come up with that grace under pressure.”
Seeing the responses to the viral clip of her bowtie-wearing son since it aired on television has been “lovely,” Swati Gaur said, and she is thrilled that something “so simple and heartfelt” has been able to bring together a nation that at times can feel so divided — even if for a brief moment.
“It was just a moment that everyone felt,” she said. “If we can get behind a simple emotion of love, then there is hope for our country, our people, and people around us.”