Oprah Winfrey Kickstarts Her Final Season Premiere with a Lavish Splash

The daytime TV queen gifts her studio audience with an eight-day trip to Australia on Monday's show

Kicking off the 25th and final season of The Oprah Winfrey Show on Monday, the talk-show queen sprung one of her famous surprises:  inviting all 300 audience members on an eight-day trip to Australia, and tossed in new water-resistant smart phones for good measure.

Grand gestures have become Winfrey's signature move, and the premiere was a fine showcase of everything her show promises to highlight over the coming months: big stunners, revelations and insights from everyday people, all mixed in with splashes of celebrity.

On the star end, Oprah welcomed John Travolta, who as a pilot will fly the guests to their whirlwind vacation; Paul Simon, who sang a version of the song he wrote for her 10th season show; and Don Johnson, who she had tried to book as her very first guest but he didn't show up because of his commitments to the It show of the era, Miami Vice.

Instead of trying to get another high-profile guest, Winfrey focused her first show on regular people and everyday folks once again took the spotlight Monday because, as Winfrey told the audience, "We owe it all to you."

Winfrey was in top form as she showed clips of her inviting loyal viewers to the premiere in a variety of creative ways: providing a car for a group of friends to make a road trip from Boston, the women thought they were driving into a hotel parking garage (the crew had transformed part of Harpo Studios in Chicago, where the show is taped, into a realistic-looking garage) but actually pulled right onto Oprah's set; delivering an invite to a fan via NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson; and popping in via video to a teacher who as a 9-year-old on the show in 1993 said she wanted to be a talk-show host herself.

Watching the beginning of the end is tough for Oprah diehards who can't get enough, but all is not lost. The daytime diva in January launches the Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN, which will replace the Discovery Health channel. No announcement has yet been made as to how or when Oprah will appear on the network, but she "will be with us every day," according to her Web site.

Well, that's a relief. How else will people be able to live their best lives if they don't get a  daily Oprah fix? I just wish I could have been in the audience today so I could have spent eight whole days traipsing around Sydney and Melbourne with the doyenne of daytime. Oh well, watching the highlights of the adventure on a future episode will have to suffice. Maybe I'll even be inspired to plan a trip of my own. I know Oprah would like that.

Are you sad to see The Oprah Winfrey Show come to an end? Chime in below!

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