WHEEL OF FORTUNE: THE COMPLETE SAGA, our contestant audition experience, the epic finale

Welcome back to WHEEL WEDNESDAY (actually on Wednesday this week)!

On February 15, 2012, my wife and I appeared on Wheel of Fortune during their valentine’s couples’ week. I am writing a detailed account (in parts) for those interested (and because in the months before our show we read as many blogs as possible from former contestants).

You are about to embark on the FIFTH and FINAL leg of our journey together.

If you have not already embarked on the first four legs, you are four steps behind (story of your life, right?). You may start this journey here. Just follow the links at the end of each post to continue this epic journey. Happy embarking.


Once the taping began, we were able to watch each show from our designated seats on the right hand side of the crowd area. We didn’t have any friends in the audience, but most of the contestants did. We were all instructed to not communicate with them in any way, shape, or form. Any acknowledgement, even a simple wave of the hand, could be seen as cheating and would require immediate disqualification. They also demanded that we not discuss the show in any way with our neighbors, as something might be overheard which would require a game reset. It took us all a few games to get used to this one. It was tough not to lean over to Kristi and whisper the answers in her ear. But they threatened disqualification for that, too, so we quickly learned to keep our mouths shut.

The first time the show began, it was as if I was watching a huge TV screen. Pat and Vanna walked out, took their positions, and the show began. What immediately struck me was how soft spoken Pat was. I thought he’d be shouting at us, since we’d been told over and over and over and over again to shout everything. But he came out and spoke in a low, conversational tone the entire time. Thankfully, they put his mic through the house speakers or the crowd would have never heard him.

The initial snag came just a few minutes into the first show. There was a scoring error. One couple had earned $1000, but only $500 showed up on their board. They bought two vowels, and Pat then instructed them to spin since they had no money left. The show quickly came to a halt, and they made the contestants stare at the back wall for about 10 minutes while they tried to sort out the situation.

During that small misstep, Vanna grabbed a mic and took questions from the crowd. One young man asked “how young of a guy would you date, and would you date me?” She politely declined. She was very warm and friendly through the whole thing, and very open with every question.

Over the first two games, I was impressed with Pat’s quick wit. He constantly had very clever comments and quips to throw out. When the show started back up after the miscue, he chimed in by saying, “And now, if you’d all pose your answers in the form of a question….” I thought that was brilliant. He had given those in the audience an inside joke, pointing out that the show didn’t always have everything quite right, but also let the TV audience have a good laugh though they would have no clue what had just transpired.


Soon, our moment came. The first two shows were over, and it was our turn. They have you stand on hydraulic platforms that can be adjusted up and down. I was thankful for this, because I was right next to a rather gargantuan man, and if we had been on an even level, I would have looked miniscule. So, they hoisted our platform up to make the playing field a bit more even.

You’ll notice that contestants often look to the left side of the puzzle board during a show. Hanging high and to the left of the board is a flat screen television that shows which letters have and have not been called. The contestants’ total winnings and current in-game cash are shown just in front of the wheel. You’ll notice Pat often checking those screens throughout any given episode, as well.

The whole show passed by in a heartbeat. They took breaks for commercials, and when they did, we had to step off the platforms and face the back wall while the contestant supervisors worked on our makeup, checked our clothes, and kept us pumped up and excited. Between takes, Pat would speak to us. One couple next to us called a couple letters that had already been used and he tried to reassure them by telling them it happened all the time. After the show, though, they were fighting pretty badly. I’m sure they made up on their trip to the Caribbean, though.

We had determined in advance that Kristi would call out the letters and I would spin. This worked well, except for the one time we landed on the Sandals Resort trip. I was thinking in my head, “call a T. Call a T!” She called an “S.” There was no “S.” I immediately leaned over and whispered, “I would’ve called a ‘T.’”

The game was exhilarating. People who’ve seen the episode thought I was nervous and my wife sparkled. I knew Kristi would shine, and I had no problem letting her shine. She was the player, I was a mere wheel-spinner in the shadow of her sparkle. And shine she did, to the tune of $7500. Kristi solved three puzzles, all by herself, literally. I did nothing. She solved two of the toss up puzzles, and one regular puzzle.

When the final puzzle came, all three couples were within $1000 of each other. It was literally anyone’s game. We had a chance or two to solve, but just couldn’t eek out the correct answer. The couple to our right (captain gargantuan) won and made it to the final round. They solved the bonus round puzzle and left with over $40,000! And then, just like that, it was over.

We were very happy with our result, but as we pulled out of the studio, we were both mad, and could not figure out why. We concluded that it was the only emotion we had left. The long day had been FILLED with emotions, and this was the only emotion that we could eek out afterward. Of course, the moment quickly passed as we celebrated our winnings.


We recorded the show on October 29th. The show didn’t air until February 15th. During the limbo, we told NO ONE of the outcome. The Wheel crew didn’t threaten us with any sort of punishment for talking, but they did strongly suggest we keep quiet. We mainly kept it all secret just so our friends could enjoy the actual show that much more. And because no one knew the outcome, the viewing party was a blast! Everyone was super excited to watch and see what happened. The room was electric while everyone watched. There was lots of cheering, clapping, and yelling at the screen.

The Viewing Party!

We didn’t make it to the final round, but we didn’t do anything stupid, either. Unfortunately you have to wait 120 days AFTER AIRING OF THE SHOW to receive your winnings. Our check just came in LAST WEEK (6/14/12).

You do have to pay taxes on all your earnings, and they simply send you a 1099 to claim in the year you receive your winnings. They also supposedly take out some sort of CA tax before you get the check. If you don’t live in CA, I’ve been told you can get that refunded when you claim it. The check came for $6975, so they took out $525 for CA tax.

Bringing in the cheese


Looking back on it all, we are nothing but thankful. 2011 was one of the worst years of our lives. We had several medical issues and surgeries with our children, a horrible tornado came through our town, and countless other stressful situations took place. And in the midst of all that, God gave us a little break, and enabled us to fulfill a lifelong dream. It was as if God said “I see where you are. I know what you’re going through. Take a breather for a few days, on me. Oh, and let me take care of those medical bills, too, while I’m at it.”

And, lo and behold, our winnings were just enough to cover the cost of our trip to LA for the recording, and the backed up medical bills that had accrued. God provided miraculously for us! He didn’t make us rich, but he certainly provided.

So, what’s your dilemma? Are you overwhelmed by debt? Troubled by heartache? Tortured by tears? Overcome by fear or anxiety? God sees where you are. He knows what you’re going through. And if he’ll send us to Wheel of Fortune to relieve our anxieties and our financial burdens, I’m willing to bet he’ll do even more for you. Give him a chance, and see what happens. You never know what tomorrow might hold.

So, my prayer now goes something like this:

 God, you didn’t make me rich, at least not financially. But I see the riches you have provided me in my beautiful wife, my beautiful children, and my beautiful life. Thank you for knowing my situation. Thank you for supplying a much-needed break in the midst of our heartache and stress. Thank you for providing for our needs in a surreal and miraculous way. Thank you for being God. Thank you for knowing and providing for our every need. You always have been, and always will be, surprisingly faithful.”

This concludes Wheel Wednesday. I will miss it dearly (tear). I’m sure you will, as well. But, you can always return to these 5 posts when you feel the yearning in your heart. So don’t cry for me. As long as the Internet exists, we’ll have Wheel Wednesday. Wheely, we will.

Time to run to the bank and cash this check!

Hey, anybody know when Jeopardy’s coming to town?

(If you are a future contestant and have any questions, feel free to hit us up. You can find how to contact us on the ABOUT page. Godspeed!)

 A brief description of our experience was published in a local magazine. Check it out:
Gameshow Theology: Confessions of a Devoted Husband

7 thoughts on “WHEEL OF FORTUNE: THE COMPLETE SAGA, our contestant audition experience, the epic finale

  1. Big Wheel fan here (and hopefully future contestant). Very detailed articles. Now I know how everything will play out! I went to a Wheelmobile event last month. My name was never drawn, but there’s still hope and plenty more opportunities.

    I don’t get why they had to throw out that round on Monday’s show. They couldn’t just add the missing $500 after they noticed it was missing?

    Congratulations on your show even though you didn’t win. By the way, in case any friends of yours missed your show, tell them it should be rerunning on June 27.

    Thanks for the informative read, Darren!

    • They didn’t throw out the entire round on Monday’s show. I had originally included a few more details on that, but I deleted them in the end. The dilemma was that the couple had stopped buying vowels because Pat informed them they were out of money. If I recall properly, since they were out of money, they spun, and either called a wrong letter or lost a turn. That’s when the show stopped, because if the score had been correct, they could have continued buying vowels. After several minutes of deliberation, the couple informed the producers that even if they’d had the money, they would have stopped buying vowels at that point anyway. So, in the end, they just added the extra money to their score and continued with the next couple’s turn. (Again, that’s if I remember it all correctly.)

      Sorry to hear you missed a shot at the Wheelmobile. I do hope your turn comes around soon. And thanks for the rerun information. We had no clue. Several friends missed the show, so we’ll be glad to let them know they can watch again!

      Oh, one more thing…I was reading the recap of our show on your forum, and noticed how many people recognized my blown solve on the final round. I knew I didn’t know (that’s an odd phrase) the final puzzle, but we had been informed that if one of us was in the middle of a solve and the solve was incorrect, but our spouse chimed in to correct it before we stopped talking, the solve could still be counted. So, although I knew I had no clue (there it is again) what the puzzle was, I was trying to extend our brief solving time in hopes of my wife chiming in with the right answer before I was finished talking. I was just hoping to give her an extra second to figure it out. We were so close! I realize it made me look clueless on national television, but there was some strategy involved! (Just trying to salvage some dignity, if that’s possible!) :)

      • Been thinking about it some more…I don’t think the next couple had started spinning yet. I think the show stopped simply because Pat told them they could not buy any more vowels, so they spun instead, when in fact, they could have kept buying vowels. Since they said they would spin anyway, they just gave them the money and let them continue their turn. They started recording again with them spinning. It’s all a little fuzzy, but this sounds closer…

  2. Hi! Thanks for blogging your Wheel of Fortune experience. I had my audition last week and I made the first cut! Probably because I was so excited I could barely stay in my seat! I’m just praying I get my letter next week. Your blog is definitely the most entertaining of those I’ve read. I also really liked your blog on why you stayed with your church.

    I was so excited to read how committed to God you are. I’m taking that as confirmation that’s my prayers will be answered too! Thanks Again. God Bless!

  3. I really enjoyed reading your blog Darren! It was very interesting and informative. Hoping to get the chance to play on the Wheel too. I have participated in the Wheel Mobile event but never got my name drawn (boohoo). Thanks for giving God the Glory too!

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