Oprah's Farewell Season Premiere
To start the festivities, Oprah dances onto the stage with one of her all-time favorite guests, John Travolta. "There is really no one on earth I'd rather be with in this moment than you," she says. "Twenty-five years later, you still make my heart go pitter-patter."
John has appeared on The Oprah Show 11 times and says that being on Oprah's stage feels like coming home. "If I may be so bold as to speak for the public, speak for the world, you have this rare ability to inject knowledge, help, hope, love and art into the culture," he says. "Oprah, there's only one of you, and there will never be another one. You are our queen, and we thank you for allowing us to be part of your life. And we're lucky to be a part of your life."
Look back at some of our favorite moments with John
Oprah is also joined by an audience of 300 of her biggest fans. "You are all so loyal, we call you the 'ultimate,'" she says. "You have all been on this wild ride with me every step of the way, and for that I have deep, heartfelt gratitude to you all. To those of you in this audience and those of you in the audience at home."
Though the show was filled with spectacular surprises, Linda says John's heartfelt toast to Oprah is the moment that stuck with her. In his toast, John said:
"To the most wonderful person in the world, Oprah Winfrey, our friend. And it's not just because you went out of your way to make sure that 50,000 underprivileged children in South Africa had their first Christmas gift or that you want to put schools throughout that country, but also because you inject the spirit into our society of life. You care. Your intelligence, your inspiration, and you do it all without judging, and because you treat everyone equally important, and this makes you a great American hero. You represent the best of our country and what's possible in our country. But, more importantly, you are a citizen of the world, and you are a hero to mankind. So we are better for knowing you, Oprah. We are. And to boot, you are beautiful. You are sexy. You're talented, and we love you so much we can't take it."
Linda says she watched that episode again and again. "Every time I watch it, it brings tears to my eyes," she says. "I just thought it was a powerful toast to have your friend say, 'The world is a better place with you in it.' I would love it if someone could toast me and tell me I'm a hero."
After raising enough money to buy a piece of land, Linda worked with other volunteers to build a house for a group of orphans. "Now I feel I have a purpose," Linda says. "It just brings joy in my life to know that I have made a difference in their lives. I am this person today because of those words that were spoken. I've become a better person because of it."
Six years after giving his memorable toast, John steps off Oprah's stage to embrace Linda and commend her for her work. "That's unbelievable," Oprah says. "You just never know the moment that somebody hears something and it resonates with them."
Oprah's team tried to lure Don to Chicago by sending him cases of Dom Pérignon champagne and a special pair of rhinestone sunglasses that were all the rage (remember—it was 1986), but he still turned down the offer. Without a big-name celebrity, Oprah decided to focus her first show on everyday men and women.
"And you know what?" Oprah says. "Doing a show about everyday people was the right call, and it's still what we do 25 years later."
"For clarity, I was shooting about 18, 20 hours a day at the time, and it's not that I didn't want to come," Don says. "They wouldn't let me come!"
To give these besties the ultimate surprise, Oprah's own best friend, Gayle King, strolls into Zachery's Diner in the middle of their weekly brunch! "I just happened to be in the neighborhood," she jokes.
Gayle heard that Cathy's all-time favorite episode is Oprah and Gayle's Big Adventure, which featured footage from Oprah and Gayle's hilarious cross-country road trip. "You know, Oprah and I went on a road trip in a red Chevy," she says.
Now it's Cathy's turn to get behind the wheel and embark on her own road trip! Gayle takes these six friends outside to hand over the keys to a new red Chevy that they can drive from Boston to Chicago for The Oprah Show's farewell season premiere!
Watch behind-the-scenes footage of the road trip.
The women are told that a driver is going to park the car in a hotel garage. "What they don't know is that their driver is pulling them straight into this building," Oprah says. "Our design department has really outdone themselves. Over the past few days, they have transformed our loading dock and the back half of this building into a parking garage—it looks so real, cars were actually trying to pull in to park there!"
The driver—who is in on the surprise—drives them straight through the studio...and right onto the Oprah Show stage. "Welcome to the season premiere!" Oprah says.
Watch the ultimate road trip surprise!
Cathy and her friends are completely shocked. After catching their breath, they take seats in the front row to watch the rest of the show.
Larry is an ex-marine, a fisherman, a hunter, a dedicated NASCAR fan and a die-hard Oprah Show viewer. "Oprah is definitely the other woman in our father's life," says Ronda, Larry's daughter.
Every afternoon, Larry settles into a barber chair in his garage and watches the show. He'll even dole out Oprah's advice to his kids. "[He'll say], 'Well, today on Oprah she said to wear bell-bottom jeans and stilettos,'" Ronda says. "It's funny to hear your 65-year-old dad tell you what the trend is."
After years of watching her from his "man cave," it's time for Larry to see Oprah up close. To deliver the news, Oprah sent along another one of Larry's favorite people, NASCAR superstar Jimmie Johnson. "I think you have a DVD we need to watch," he says.
Oprah recorded a special invitation just for Larry. "Since it's my final season, Larry, will you and your chair please come to Chicago for the season premiere?"
Crystal's now 26 years old and teaches at Heskett Middle School, just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. "Ms. Brooks is the greatest, friendliest teacher ever," one student says.
She may not have become a talk show host, but Oprah still wants to see how her old friend is doing. One afternoon, she surprised Crystal and her students with a video message. "I couldn't imagine kicking off our 25th season without one of my original, youngest Ultimate Viewers," Oprah said. "Ms. Brooks, there is a car waiting outside right now to bring you to the airport to come to Chicago for our season premiere!"
At school, she says she uses the video of her first visit as incentive for her students. "If they do well, I'll show it to them," she says. "But now they've all seen it!"
Leading up to her final season premiere, Oprah says she spent a lot of time racking her brains, thinking of a way to top all those cheesesteaks. "[I thought], ''Would it be another trip to Philly? Or maybe New York or L.A.?,'" she says. "And then I thought: 'Gee, maybe I ought to think bigger. Because, after all, this really is my 25th season, and this is really my last chance to do something big.'"
"Maybe I should take all of you with me to the other side of the world. You're going to Australia!" Oprah says.
The screaming, the hugging, the crying—watch the audience's reaction!
The nose of a plane drives right onto the stage—and out of the cockpit walks Capt. John Travolta! "John is a real Qantas Airlines pilot," Oprah says. "He's flown there many times, and we have been secretly plotting and planning this trip of a lifetime for almost a year with everyone at Tourism Australia. They are ready to roll out the red carpet for all 300 of us."
Learn more about Oprah's Ultimate Australian Adventure.
From the gorgeous beaches to the spectacular vineyards, the awe-inspiring Great Barrier Reef to the legendary Sydney Harbor, Oprah's lucky audience will experience it all. To culminate the end of this ultimate eight-day adventure, a once-in-a-lifetime Oprah Show will tape at the Sydney Opera House—and just for the occasion, Tourism Australia is renaming it the Sydney Oprah House!
Oprah has no idea, but one of her favorite singers has been waiting in the wings—Paul Simon!
"Many years ago, I wrote a song for Oprah's 10th season, and I'd like to sing that again with a few lyrical changes to commemorate your farewell season here," Paul says.
Watch Paul Simon surprise Oprah with a performance of "25 Years."
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