Meeting in Sheri's office

In the final season of The Oprah Winfrey Show, producers are taking Oprah and Gayle somewhere they've never been before—camping at Yosemite National Park in California. "Oprah hated the road trip. However, it rated through the roof," executive producer Sheri says. "When we approached her with Yosemite, I thought, 'I'm kind of torn. On one hand, it's my job to fulfill Oprah's vision. On the other hand, we need some numbers, people!'"

Heading up the expedition is supervising senior producer Lisa and her team. Lisa says the show was inspired to head west after receiving a letter from park ranger Shelton Johnson, who wrote to Oprah because he's concerned by the low number of African-Americans who visit the national parks each year. Out of the 280 million tourists who come, just 1 percent are African-American. "He would like to up that number and he needs her help," Lisa says.

Still, not even the magic of television can disguise one key aspect of this shoot. "Oprah and Gayle are really not campers," Lisa says. "Don't be fooled one second thinking it's like any ordinary camper trip."

Watch Oprah call to invite Gayle on the trip 

Lisa at Yosemite

Three days before Oprah arrives in Yosemite, the team sets out on a scouting trip to set up the shoot. "It's really important before we get out in the field with Oprah to start setting up the entire trip, basically," Lisa says. "We're planning moments to happen that will be funny and interesting on TV."

One moment the team is counting on is when Oprah and Gayle surprise Shelton in person. Lisa has led Shelton to believe she's bringing six African-American viewers to the park. "We threw him off by telling him that six African-American viewers are coming," Lisa says. "He was a little disappointed that Oprah wasn't coming herself but we think he's in for a big surprise."

When Lisa meets with the park's public relations officer, he assures her that Shelton will be shocked. "I'm just worried that Shelton heard that Oprah's coming," she says. "Once one person knows, they tell somebody and they tell somebody and that's how word gets out."

Lisa and the mule guides

To protect her secret, Lisa has been referring to Oprah and Gayle as 'Karen and Sally.' But while consulting with a mule guide for a shoot, Lisa lets Oprah's name slip. "We've worked on this for so long, so to have that happen, it's bad," senior associate producer Kristin says. "It will spread faster than a wildfire in California."

Watch what Lisa did next 

Oprah and Gayle at REI

After days of preparation, Oprah and Gayle finally land in Fresno. When Lisa asks Oprah to record a stand-up interview, Oprah says she'd prefer a more organic experience. "You should just embed your camera, let things happen naturally," Oprah says.

"That's the way things are starting and I'm just hoping for the rest of the day we have the same vision and it all goes smoothly," Lisa says.

The first stop is a trip to REI for camping gear. Oprah and Gayle were only supposed to buy five items—until they set their sights on a tent. Lisa had set them up to sleep in a pop-up camper instead. "Oprah and Gayle ended up leaving REI with both the tent and the camper," Lisa says. "We're just going to have to see what we go with because you never know with Oprah."

Oprah and Gayle surprise Shelton

As Gayle and Oprah drive to Yosemite, Lisa and her team follow in the car behind and plot Shelton's big surprise over walkie-talkies. "Park ranger Shelton, he's a very thoughtful kind of guy to sit down and write that letter about America's park system," Oprah says. "He is terrific. I think that's really great."

When time comes for Shelton's big surprise, the crew is disappointed to see he has no reaction. "He didn't even say, 'Hi, Oprah and Gayle,'" Lisa says. "I would say that was probably one of the worst reactions I have ever seen."

Watch what happened

Oprah disagrees. "Everybody seems to be disappointed in park ranger Shelton's reaction but me," Oprah says. "The kind of guy who would write you that letter is not the kind of guy who's going to show up on The Price Is Right with a couple balloons wrapped around his head and do the shimmy when he sees you. I thought he was exactly what he needed to be in that moment."

Tunnel View

After the surprise, Shelton takes Oprah and Gayle to one of Yosemite's most awe-inpsiring viewpoints, Tunnel View. 

When Oprah, Gayle, Shelton and the crew arrive, they are shocked to find three tour buses of visitors. "There are people coming out of the woodwork and I'm not even thinking about the show or the shots," Lisa says. "I just want to make sure [Oprah's] fine and OK."

Watch Lisa's team try to control the crowd 

Meanwhile in Chicago, Jon Stewart has gone missing and it's up to producer Jack's team to find him. Start the search for Jon Stewart 


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