The lights glare in the ABC studio in February 2022, and the audience is hushed. Bree Yokouchi has made her way to the bonus round of long-running TV game show Wheel of Fortune and host Pat Sajak is posing the final puzzle. Then something happens that is extraordinary, and the audience goes wild.
Sajak is astonished. This cannot be happening! It’s unprecedented in the show’s long history. For once, the loquacious game show host is lost for words. He throws down the card he has just opened and marches straight off the stage. The crowd are stunned. What an amazing turn of events!
You’d have thought that Sajak had seen it all. After all, he’s been the host of Wheel of Fortune for more than four decades. And he’s really good at it: he’s scored three Daytime Emmys out of 19 nominations, reflecting how beloved he is. It’s a long way from his previous job as a DJ in Vietnam, where he entertained U.S. forces.
Guess to win
If you’re not familiar with the program, it works on a similar principle to the game of hangman. Players guess puzzles with missing letters to win prizes. Those prizes are decided by making a huge wheel spin. It’s hugely popular: in fact, there’s no game show that’s had as long a life.
The wheel in question looks something like the one used in roulette, except it’s sliced into 24 segments. Most of the slices have amounts in dollars inside them, with the top amount rising with each round. Players can also win prizes, including holidays abroad. The last section of the game is the bonus round, where the leading player can try to win a huge cash prize, which is fixed by the spin of a smaller wheel.