When Jeff and Vicki Fields made it to the final round of “Wheel of Fortune,” surprise colored their faces. So much so, in fact, that host Pat Sajak commented on it moments before Vicki would spin the wheel one last time.
“So they seemed surprised that they won and I said, off camera, ‘Do you expect to bomb out’? And you said…” Sajak began. Jeff quickly answered with a laugh, “Yes.”
The moment is representative of a long journey to and through the show, which began when the couple started watching it over a decade ago. The episode, which was recorded in August 2016, was broadcast last Thursday.
It took nearly three years for the couple to earn a slot.
Jeff Fields in particular tried three or four times, before being asked to send in an audition video. Six months later, he heard back.
“It was something I didn’t give up on,” Jeff, a lifelong men’s sportswear sales representative, said.
The chance to play “Wheel of Fortune” marked a once in a lifetime opportunity for them. The Great Neck couple, married for 45 years, made a tradition of watching “Jeopardy,” “Wheel of Fortune” and “The Price is Right.”
“It’s a one shot deal,” Jeff said.
The couple then recalled what the Wheel of Fortune team told them: “If she walks in with you, she’s going to have to play.”
“[With] virtually every couple, when you’re two people that are doing it, it’s one person that really, really, really, really wanted to be there, and the other person’s along for the ride,” said Vicki Fields, a volunteer at the Adventures in Learning after-school program.
Vicki described herself as the latter.
But she said it was still fun playing and seeing what went on behind the scenes. Before filming, they filled out paperwork, got advice on how to play the game, met the show’s hosts and saw the other games being filmed for that week.
“They take very good care of you … They want you to win,” Vicki Fields said.
The two also said they had quite a few lucky breaks. One came when the couple before them said “taking a trip to the airport,” instead of “taking a taxi to the airport” when there were already letters in the word “taxi.”
“Don’t predispose a word, because it gets stuck in your brain even though you can see [others],” Vicki said, gesturing to the television screen as that mistake was made.
This got them to the final round, with a chance to win $34,000. However, the two couldn’t guess the game-winning phrase: “Choose wisely,” which Vicki joked she wished they had.
Still though, the couple said, what mattered was that they earned a trip for themselves and their four grandsons, Benjamin, Jeremy, Justin and Jarrett, to Disneyland in California, as well as about $12,000.
“There was no focus on the money,” Vicki said.
As for the grandsons, Jeff said, they’re very excited about the trip because of where they’ll be instead of school.
“They’re going nuts,” Jeff said.