How “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak said goodbye on his final episode

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The TV veteran, who's had the job since 1981, sends love to his longtime cohost, Vanna White.

Pat Sajak has hosted his final episode of Wheel of Fortune.

Much of the episode went on as usual, save for a clip of what appeared to be Sajak's first introduction in 1981, and a quick goodbye to him from announcer Jim Thornton, who joined the show in 2011.

The biggest change: Sajak told the contestants early on that he would be cutting the game short to say a few words. He made it up to them by giving them each $5,000.

When it came time for the speech, Sajak again thanked the audience, the rest of his WOF family and his actual family, which includes son Patrick, his wife of 35 years, Lesly Brown, and his daughter Maggie Sajak, who is the show's social media correspondent. He said working alongside his daughter and watching her "grow in her role and as a person" had been "the best part of the last couple of years."

Sajak then turned to his cohost, Vanna White, who's been by his side since 1982.

"Like me, she takes the show very seriously, but not herself. I shudder to think what these 40-plus years might have been like had they brought someone in all full of themselves, playing the prima donna role," Sajak said. "Vanna is as sweet and unassuming as she seems. We've seen a lot of changes in each other's lives over the years but we've always been there for each other."

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<p>Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty</p> Pat Sajak says goodbye as host of "Wheel of Fortune."

Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty

Pat Sajak says goodbye as host of "Wheel of Fortune."

Related: Ryan Seacrest shares Wheel of Fortune hosting plans after Pat Sajak's departure: 'I'm a kid in a candy store'

Sajak thanked White for her "lovely goodbye" to him, which she delivered in an emotional video on Thursday, but noted that it's not forever.

"While I’ll very much miss working with her, I take solace in the fact that we live about five miles apart, so we'll see plenty of each other," he said. "But I will miss our nightly closes and her laughter and her good nature. She's a very special woman. And I know you’re all pleased to know that she’ll be back next season."

In her message, White said, "As much fun as we had on camera, those memories, milestones, and life events we shared with our families outside the studio are my favorite," she said. "We've watched our children grow up together. We've traveled all over the world. We've eaten hundreds of meals together. We've laughed, we've cried, we've celebrated."

She nearly cried, adding, "Oh gosh. What an incredible and unforgettable journey we've had, and I've enjoyed every minute of it with you."

Related: Vanna White says leaving Wheel of Fortune with Pat Sajak crossed her mind: 'How can I stay without you?'

Sajak announced in June 2023 that he would retire after the next season, the show's 41st, and Friday was the finale.

White has since explained that she considered following Sajak out the door. Ultimately, she finalized a contract to stay through the 2025-2026 season.

"It was a very hard decision for me to make," she told PEOPLE in October 2023.

So when WOF returns with new episodes in the fall, they will be hosted by Ryan Seacrest, who was named as Sajak's replacement within weeks of him stepping down. The American Idol veteran will be accompanied by White.

Related: Pat Sajak lines up his first post–Wheel of Fortune gig in play that inspired Columbo

Sajak has looked back on decades of WOF this week in a series of interviews with his daughter.

"Somewhere along the line," he said in one of them, "we became more than a popular show. We became part of the popular culture."

He knows they have touched people.

"People come up to us almost every day, sometimes in tears, saying, 'I used to watch the show with my grandmother. Now I'm watching it with my kids,' or 'My kids learned the alphabet from your show.' Or, 'My mom came from the Philippines and learned to speak English.' We didn't intend any of that. And yet we've become this sort of cohesive bond between people and generations and families and friends. That's been awfully gratifying."

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.