"Wheel of Fortune" contestant loses chance at $1 million in unspeakable fashion

This video is almost too brutal to watch

By Prachi Gupta
Published April 14, 2014 12:38PM (EDT)

In what has to be one of the most tragicomic moments in game show television history, on Friday's college edition of "Wheel of Fortune," Indiana University freshman Julian Batts lost many, many things: A chance to win $1 million, a chance to redeem himself, and above all else, his pride.

It seemed that Batts had solved the puzzle, "Mythological Hero Achilles," but when asked for an answer, he said, "Mythological Hero A-chill-ess."

Yes, A-chill-ess. Sounds like: H.L.S.

After a brief pause, a mystified Pat Sajak said, "We can't accept that." Texas A&M student Shelby swooped in for solve, correctly pronouncing the word. Sajak attempted to explain what just happened. "The letters are up there because you have to solve it, which is what you did," he told Shelby, without looking once at Batts. "You have to say it, and you said it."

It looks like Batts' achilles' heel is creating fake words (sorry, not sorry), because in another solve, he guessed, "On-The-Spot Dicespin." The correct answer was, "On-The-Spot Decision," which is just as wonderfully ironic.

Batts appeared on "Good Morning America" to explain the inexplicable on Monday. “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.”

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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