“ELLEN’S GAME OF GAMES” — NBC, Feb. 12, 7 p.m. MST
SALT LAKE CITY — For a shot at $100,000, Brenna and Brian Rea had to win a game of telephone.
It’s a children’s game almost everyone knows, but few have played it the way Ellen DeGeneres likes to play it — with earplugs and large headphones blaring “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”
That’s the version the Reas had to play — called “Say Whaaaat?” — when they appeared on “Ellen’s Game of Games.” Before stepping into the spotlight, the couple, who live in Lehi, warmed up by playing several rounds of telephone offstage. But it didn’t take long for them to realize that practicing short phrases like “That apple looks delicious” could never prepare them for the show’s chaos.
On the show, the phrases are much, much longer — and much more complex. (DeGeneres gave contestants on an episode last season the tongue-twister “Jimmy Fallon fell into prison with fellow foul felons.”) And with a hoedown loudly beating in the contestants’ ears, the sentences aren’t easy to grasp. Luckily, players have two tries to pass the phrase on to the next person in line.
“We’re each just yelling the phrase to each other — yelling so loud,” Brenna Rea, 25, told the Deseret News. “We’re trying to make big movements with our mouths so they can read our lips. That part was hilarious.”
People have a chance to find out how the Reas and their three teammates — and friends from Utah — did on Tuesday, Feb. 12, when NBC airs the episode. And while the Reas weren’t able to reveal the game’s outcome, they did say it was an entertaining nail-biter.
To win, the Reas and their friends had to get more words in their phrase correct than the group they were up against. According to Brenna Rea, getting any words right used to be a near-impossible feat on the show, as last season, every person playing the game had to wear earplugs and headphones.
“People won from getting one word, (and) that was the word ‘the,’" she said. “So when we found out we were playing that (game), we (thought), ‘There’s just no way we’re going to win. This game is so hard.'”
But the couple was pleased to learn that the show, now in its second season, had altered the rules so that the first person DeGeneres told the phrase to didn’t have to wear earplugs or headphones. That way, at least one person could get the phrase (mostly) right.
With that rule change, Brenna Rea got to play the game without headphones. But for Brian Rea, 29, things weren’t as easy. When his wife approached him with the phrase, it was hard for Brian Rea to concentrate on anything but the repetitive lyrics to "Cotton-Eyed Joe.”
“(Brenna) was going on for so long that I’m (thinking), ‘Oh (no), she’s now said it a second time and I still have no idea what she’s saying,’” he recalled.
But despite the challenges, the Reas are glad they ended up playing “Say Whaaaat?” on “Ellen’s Game of Games.” The TV show rotates through about 20 games, and a handful are featured on each episode. Of all the games, the Reas believe “Say Whaaaat?” is probably one of the tamer ones — especially compared to Mount St. Ellen, where contestants climb up a tilting, vibrating mountain mischievously controlled by DeGeneres, or “Aw Snap,” where two contestants rush to move five apples into a basket using only their teeth, while joined together by a bungee cord.
“We would love to play those games for fun because it looks hilarious, but not when $100,000 is on the line,” Brenna Rea said with a laugh.
The Reas can’t divulge whether they won, but they knew before going on the show that they would want to put part of their winnings toward Operation Underground Railroad and the rest toward small businesses they each run on the side.Comment on this story
The couple has done some pretty exciting things during their six years of marriage — living in Japan and having a daughter are two big highlights — but being on DeGeneres’ game show has made it into their Top 3. And getting to meet DeGeneres made it all the more special.
“How she is on the show is exactly how she is in real life as well, which was really cool,” Brian Rea said. “She is super nice and down to earth.”
“It just made us love her a million times more,” Brenna Rea added. “Win or lose, this has been so much fun. (Even) if we lost, we still had the time of our lives.”