Wheel of Fortune left its viewers spinning on Tuesday when a contestant was denied her grand prize (a new Audi!) in the final round, despite correctly solving the puzzle.
Here’s what happened to poor Charlene: The category of her final puzzle was “What Are You Doing,” and the correct answer was “Choosing the right word.” Factoring in the usual letters every contestant is given for a puzzle, combined with her own guesses, she started out with “-h–sing the right –rd.”
“Choosing the right… card?” she guessed. And understandably so, given that the holiday season is upon us. Unfortunately, that was incorrect. So she started again with “Choosing the right…” before taking several seconds to think. And she indeed blurted out “word!” before the clock ran out. So why isn’t Charlene headbanging to “All I Want for Christmas Is You” in her brand-new Audi as we speak?
“This one’s tough because you said all the right words, including the word ‘word,’ but as you know, it’s got to be more or less continuous,” host Pat Sajak told her. “We’ll allow for a little pause, but not four or five seconds. I’m sorry. You did a good job in getting it, but we can’t give you the prize and it was the Audi.”
That’s right — even though Charlene said all the right words in order, the pause between “right” and “word” was considered too long, essentially splitting her single guess into two.
Even Alex Jacob, the winner of Jeopardy!‘s 2015 Tournament of Champions, chimed in with his displeasure: “Come on @WheelofFortune, the woman literally chose the right word. Give her the car,” he tweeted, later adding, “I understand rules are rules but this seems like a particularly dumb rule. C’mon Wheel, it’s Christmas.”
Watch Charlene’s controversial Wheel moment via Jacob’s tweet below:
— Alex Jacob (@whoisalexjacob) December 22, 2021
And while many viewers tweeted their disappointment with the outcome, one previous Wheel winner (a true historian!) provided context about how the strictness of this particular rule has changed over the years:
Here is a comparison of other Wheel of Fortune Bonus Rounds with pauses. Although they were stricter about it back in 2013, it seems they now draw the line at 3 or 4 seconds. A 2.7s pause was okay, but a 4.9-5.0s pause is not. #WheelofFortune #ChoosingTheRightWord #Audi pic.twitter.com/4Fgs8JrqqO
— WheelRob (@WheelRob10) December 22, 2021
Where do you stand on this polarizing Wheel rule? Drop a comment with your thoughts below, including whether Charlene deserves that Audi.