Game shows have been a television staple for decades. Audiences love playing along and watching lucky people win extravagant prizes, so what’s not to love?
Yet, for many people, another part of the appeal of televised game shows is their formulaic nature. There’s a certain comfort in the familiarity that comes with watching a game that has the same rules, flow, and outcome.
That was not the case, however, during one 2015 episode of Wheel of Fortune. Everybody thought that they knew how the game would go—until the leading contestant did something no one’s ever seen before…
When people are lucky enough to be chosen to be a contestant on a television game show, they’re usually there to win a great deal of money. Their competitive spirit is part of what makes these programs so fun to watch… and what made one Wheel of Fortune contestant’s behavior so unusual.
During Veterans Week in 2015, the producers of Wheel of Fortune honored the armed forces with a special military-themed episode. Every episode that week featured veterans or current servicemen and women.
On Tuesday, November 10, 2015, after a relatively unremarkable Monday episode, host Pat Sajak welcomed three veterans to the stage: Steve, Troy, and Nura. Nobody could have expected what would soon happen!
After just a handful of rounds, it was painfully obvious that Nura would almost certainly win the game. By the second-to-last round, Nura had earned $13,970, while Troy had $4,300 and Steve had nothing.
During the final speed round, everyone assumed they could predict the outcome. Troy guessed a popular consonant—”T”—which resulted in two of that letter being placed on the board. The expectation was for Nura to be similarly successful… until she did something extremely surprising.
Nura confidently asked to put “Z” on the board, which was, of course, an extremely rare letter. The audience was stunned. Even Pat Sajak and the other contestants on stage were baffled by Nura’s odd choice!
“Say that again for me,” Pat asked, to which Nura confidently repeated herself. “Did you say ‘Z?’” he asked again. Yet, Nura seemed to know exactly what she was doing. “As in Zulu,” she confirmed. “Z.”
“You did say ‘Z,’” said the stunned host. “Okay.” Nobody could have been surprised when the board didn’t light up. Pat then turned to Steve, who correctly guessed “R,” before Troy rightly guessed “S.”
When it was Nura’s turn again, instead of guessing another strange letter, this time she remained silent. During her next turn, though, she made another unusual choice: “Q,” she said.
Of course, viewers watching it all unfold at home were in disbelief, expressing their surprise and confusion on Twitter. Wheel of Fortune is an iconic show that has been around for decades, so they knew how unusual it was to witness the game being played in this way. Didn’t Nura want to win?
Mike H. / Twitter
For a show that’s been on the air for so long, even the most casual viewers—not to mention contestants—were familiar with the game’s usual formula. So they knew that Nura wasn’t playing it how she was supposed to.
Smata2 / Wikimedia Commons
Meanwhile, Pat could barely hide how puzzled and frustrated he was. “I wonder what letter Nura will call?” he joked out loud. After Nura said “X” on her next turn, just about everyone was ready to scream at her.
Breanna Sooter / Twitter
Unsurprisingly, this answer yielded no results, nor did her silence during her next and final turn. This was all made even stranger by the fact that earlier, Nura was the game’s undisputed leader.
Finally, Steve won the round with the answer “following footprints,” and he earned $6,400. Despite the fact that he won that particular round, though, Nura wasn’t done surprising the audience…
Pat couldn’t help but ask what was going through Nura’s head, but all she provided was a cryptic “that’s what I saw.” Pat replied with exactly what was on his mind: “That was an unsatisfactory answer, but she’s not under oath.”
Amazingly, despite her strange performance during that round, Nura had still been successful enough throughout the rest of the game to proceed to the next round. Still, the fact that her actions allowed Steve to go home with at least some winnings wasn’t lost on the audience, and soon it became clear what her strategy was all along.
It started to become clear that Nura knew exactly what she was doing when she made those guesses. In an act of solidarity with her fellow veterans, she appeared to be making an attempt to share the wealth.
Throughout social media, viewers expressed their respect for Nura’s selfless actions. Considering how fiercely competitive Wheel of Fortune usually is, nobody had ever seen anything like this before.
This wasn’t just a landmark moment for Wheel of Fortune, but for game shows in general. Usually, the only people acting charitably on these programs are rich and famous celebrities…
Retro Rager / Twitter
Plus, Nura still got another chance to show off her skills in the final round. Unfortunately, however, she missed out on a $33,000 grand prize when she failed to guess the final answer: “by appointment.”
Nonetheless, Nura was thrilled to be going home with a $14,000 prize. “I’m going to Belize!” she exclaimed as she smiled and clapped. “You made us all happy,” Pat told her as the show came to a close.
Pat spoke for just about every viewer and audience member in his sincere show of congratulations. Plus, Nura’s unpredictable personality surely was entertaining.
Nura’s actions were nothing short of inspiring. Hopefully, she still feels good about her decision! Something tells us she does. Enjoy Belize, Nura!