The wheel of fortune is an ancient motif, recurring in many cultures over many centuries. Once known to the Romans as Rota Fortunae, the symbol represents the capricious nature of man’s lot in life, all of us helpless subjects strapped to a wheel spun by the goddess Fate, herself blindfolded and dumb.
It is also a reality show where you can win a Jet Ski for knowing how to read. And last night’s episode of Wheel of Fortune was giving extreme “blindfolded and powerless to intervene in the chaotic ebbs of the universe” vibes. In a clip that has since gone viral, three contestants faced with the letters “ANOTHER FEATHER _N YO_R _A_” cannot for the life of them puzzle out which common phrase they could possibly spell. The main players are confident Laura, hopeless Christopher, and unlucky Thomas. For those who can’t bear to watch, here’s the play-by-play:
— Laura comes in hot with “another feather in your HAT.” This is by far the closest she will get to the answer. It’s a tease.
— Christopher shouts out “G!” What did he think the final word was? Gag? Bag? Gal? … Vag?
— Thomas is bankrupted by the pagan goddess Fate, depicted here as a colorful wheel with numbers and lights.
— Laura, ever the showboater, goes for the whole phrase again, guessing “another feather in your LAP.” Pat Sajak says, “The feather is moving around,” joking through invisible tears.
— Christopher sticks to his single-letter strategy: a D. Oh how we wish there could have been another feather in his dad and left it at that.
— Thomas spins the wheel again, and while he narrowly avoids the “Bankrupt” space, he lands on “Skip a turn.” The dramatic irony here is it seems he may be the one contestant who actually knows the phrase.
— Laura, her hubris taken down a few notches, opts only for a letter, correctly guessing P. This temporarily unfreezes Vanna White as she’s finally allowed to go put something on the board. Sajak asks Laura if she wants to guess the phrase. Surely, she’ll get it now, you think. She’s got two out of three letters. And then she guesses “MAP.”
— Christopher lands on “Bankrupt,” sparing us from another helping of nonsensical word stew.
— Thomas finally has a turn and gives us a “C” for “CAP.” That’s good enough for me. Sweet release.
Only long after the episode ended, Rota Fortunae kept turning, making the clip go viral and causing Papa Pat to weigh in today in defense of his fine feather-challenged friends.
“It always pains me when nice people come on our show to play a game and win some money and maybe fulfill a lifelong dream, and are then subject to online ridicule when they make a mistake or something goes awry,” Sajak tweeted as the start to a thread. He goes on to say that “feather in your hat” is also a correct phrase, just not the one the show had decided on that day, and the answer being wrong threw the contestants a curveball, confusing them.
Sajak admits it’s okay to laugh good-naturedly at a funny clip, but “mocking them online and calling them names?” “These are good people in a bad situation under a kind of stress that you can’t begin to appreciate from the comfort of your couch,” he tweeted. Although he makes tapings of Wheel of Fortune sound like the ravages of war, he has a point. Then he closes with a harrowing, ominous gut punch. “After all, you may be there one day,” he warned. “And no one wants to be trending on Twitter.”
Truer words, king.