Indiana University freshman Julian Batts seemed to be on a roll on his appearance on “Wheel of Fortune,” until a series of unfortunate answers torpedoed his chance for a car, a trip to Jamaica and a shot at million dollars.
Batts filled in the letters to practically solve the puzzle “Mythological Hero Achilles,” but he mispronounced the hero’s name, saying instead: “A-chill-is.”
It cost him potentially $1 million.
In an interview with “Good Morning America,” Batts explained what was going through his mind when he realized what had slipped through his fingers in the episode, which aired Friday during the show’s College Week.
“It just kind of hit me like a train and I really didn’t know how to react to it – the game continued on and [another contestant from] Texas A&M, she solved it and it hit me right then and there that it was Achilles,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I made a mistake but I feel like I solved the puzzle entirely and all I had to do was read it and I just went for it and I did my best.”
In a statement to ABC News, “Wheel of Fortune” said: “When a contestant tries to solve a puzzle, they must pronounce it using the generally accepted pronunciation.”
His misfortune wasn’t over. In the Person category, with just one letter missing from the phrase “The World’s Fastest _a_,” Batts chose a letter “C.” There was no “C.”
Another contestant solved correctly: “The World’s Fastest Man.”
And in another puzzle-solving misstep, Batts said, “On the Spot Dice Spin” instead of ‘On the Spot Decision.”
Even though Batts went on to win the game, his major mistakes cost him big money.
“I don’t think anyone has ever taken a more circuitous route to victory, but the important thing is you’re here and you’ve got $11,700 dollars and we’re pleased about that,” the show’s host, Pat Sajak, said during the episode.
So how does Batts feel about the experience?
“It was a dream and it was one of the greatest experiences I’ve accomplished so far,” he said.
Batts isn’t the first “Wheel” contestant to have lost at a potential prize over the pronunciation of a word.
Paul Atkinson was on the way last year to living the dream: the “Wheel of Fortune” contestant had landed on the million-dollar wedge, which would have put him one spin closer to the coveted prize.
All he had to do was solve the clue, and there was only one letter missing from the three-word phrase, “Corner Curio Cabinet.”
Atkinson had never before seen the word “Curio,” and he mispronounced it. When he read the phrase, it came out sounding more like “Corno Curro Cabinet,” and the answer was not accepted.
In another instance of a pronunciation frustrating a player’s success, contestant Renee Durette was on a roll toward thousands of dollars on the game show in her 2012 appearance. She had the winning answer to the word puzzle “Seven Swans a Swimming,” or so she thought.
Durette, a Navy intelligence specialist from Merritt Island, Fla., dropped the “g,” pronouncing “swimming” as “swimmin’.”
Host Pat Sajak had to backtrack and said he couldn’t accept her answer, costing her the $3,850 she had accumulated.
Judges said the answer violated the rules because it was spoken in vernacular.
The decision sparked outrage on Twitter and even the other contestant who was handed the win couldn’t believe it.