'Wheel of Fortune' Fans Welcome Pat Sajak Back With Big Standing Ovation

Pat Sajak was greeted with a standing ovation as he returned to Wheel of Fortune Monday night. The longtime game show host had been forced to step away from his hosting duties due to a medical emergency that required surgery, finally returning during the Jan. 13 episode after Vanna White temporarily stepped in to fill his role.

As Sajak finally returned to the stage, the audience rose to their feet and erupted into applause, with the game show host jokingly commenting, "I don't know whether you're happy to see me or if you're leaving because Vanna's not hosting."

During Monday night's episode, Sajak also thanked White, who has been a staple on the game show since 1982, for taking over.

"You were great," he said. "It's a very tough thing to step into that… you were terrific."

Sajak went on to comment on the presence of his daughter, Maggie Sajak, who had filled in as a guest letter-turner for a week as White continued to host. "You two made a very nice team," Sajak said. "And I was a little nervous about how good you two were together, but that's all right."

Sajak had been forced to miss three weeks of taping and go on medical leave after he underwent emergency surgery in early November for a blocked intestine. In his absence, White stepped in to fill his spot, spinning the wheel instead of her typical job of revealing the letters.

"Our taping on Thursday was canceled because host Pat Sajak underwent successful emergency surgery to correct a blocked intestine," a statement from the Wheel of Fortune producers read. "He is resting comfortably and looking forward to getting back to work. Taping resumed today as scheduled and Vanna White has stepped in as host."

Speaking with Good Morning America, Sajak had detailed the scary experience, explaining that his "blood pressure had fallen dramatically" and that doctors "had to wait till it lifted a bit so they could do the surgery."

0comments

"You couldn't do anything. I was in [a] fetal position, lying on the bed," he explained. "They try to give you various drugs for the pain. And none of it – none – was working. And then they gave me something, I couldn't even tell you the name of it, but suddenly, I wasn't thinking about the pain. I just had these beautiful pastels and lovely faces coming out of it."

Sajack has been hosting Wheel of Fortune since December 1981, making him the longest-tenured game show host in history. He is currently contracted through 2022.