As for the crowd, they were with Oprah all the way, but none so much as the winners on the floor. Those people were hyper coming in, but they could barely contain themselves now. They were fidgeting like a box of rats, laughing hard at jokes they hadn't even heard, reacting solely to visual stimuli by hour two. In the media campaign running up to the final episode, there had been hints of one last big giveaway, and through the show Oprah had been giving gifts of increasing value to the non-winners. That's what got the winners so excited. They weren't dummies. They knew what that essay question was really about. The one thing that would make their lives complete, the form said. Of course they fudged their answers a bit, but what's one teensy lie? God, it was hot down there. And the seats, they were so close together.
With 15 minutes left in the show, Oprah lowered the lights. "Thank you so much, ladies and gentlemen! Summer's almost here. Can you feel it? Can you feel it?" The crowd cheered. "Well, let me just say that my producers pleaded with me today not to do this. But I said, what's the name of this show? It's the Oprah show!" The crowd howled. Oprah paused for effect. She could feel the heat of their breath on her face. She could smell it. "It's my last favorite thing!"
Whatever sense of decorum governed the behavior of the winners up until then dissolved into a great and terrifying collective shriek. They were jumping up and down on chairs, high-fiving and grabbing at one another. "Okay, okay," said Oprah. "That guy over there in the orange shirt — who came with his wife? He has no idea what's going on. He's like, 'Uhhh, what is going on?' " She grinned. "Okay, okay," she said. "Calm down. Caaaalm down."
But they wouldn't have it. Oprah had given out all those cars once, and that was just a regular show. This was the last show ever. The winners struggled to comprehend the scale of the favorite thing that was coming their way. The screams grew louder, frightening Gayle's sugar baby, frightening even Gayle, and Gayle had seen it all. She wanted to leave that place at that moment, to get a ticket somewhere, Borneo, Costa Rica. Fuck, anywhere but LA. But at the same time, she was riveted. And as she looked down at the stage she noticed something. Oprah was growing larger, she was swelling, but at the same time, she seemed to be achieving a sort of lightness. Her feet were barely touching the floor. "Now those seats you're sitting on right there," Oprah told the people on the floor. "They're sort of special." What could it be? The chairs weren't big, so it could be a check, or a pile of money, or a deed to an island! "When I give the signal," Oprah grinned, scanning the humanity before her, "my producer is going to hit a button, and it's going to unlock those special seats. So when I give the sign, I want you to stand up and lift up the cushions. Are you ready?"