Into the Wild
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
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."
Watch what Lisa did next
"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."
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."
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