"I may be available for supermarket openings and charity auctions," she joked at the hour's close before going on to mention her interviews of the powerful and famous on her specials and then on to her many years as the unmistakeable head of the table on The View, on which she'll remain executive producer.
This had been billed, somewhat delicately, as Walters's farewell to daytime television, but her summing up sounded very much like a pronounced "I'm outta here!"
It was a quiet sendoff compared to Thursday's show, which brought back all the women who’ve appeared as her View cohosts, including Meredith Vieira, Rosie O'Donnell and Debbie Matenopoulos. This was something I had not expected to see in my lifetime.
My guess is the big ammo is being reserved for Friday night's two-hour special, Barbara Walters: Her Story (ABC, 9 p.m. ET/PT).
The highlight of the finale – which included visits from Michael Douglas and Hillary Clinton, both with warm memories to share and new projects to plug – came when Oprah Winfrey welcomed a long and varied parade of other newswomen, including Diane Sawyer, Connie Chung and Kathie Lee Gifford. They lined up single file like fans at a book-signing as Walters waited to to bestow kisses.
"This is my legacy," said Walters, gesturing to them all. "These are my legacy."
That legacy also includes Oprah, of course, who is Barbara Walters multiplied exponentially.
Oprah introduced a clip from Her Story in which Walters discussed her miserable time as the first female co-anchor with the inhospitable Harry Reasoner. But that failure drove Walters on to her greatest achievement – and the thing that saved her career, she said: Her long, long string of interview specials, which allowed her to develop (and institutionalize) a gauzy but shrewd technique that lured anyone with serious power or celebrity down to the pop-culture river and immersed them and baptized them.
The finale also included a very funny segment of Walters in an interview with former Saturday Night Live star Cheri Oteri doing her impeccable Walters impersonation.
Launching into a celebrity-peppered anecdote, Oteri-Walters remembered the time "I was in a hot tub with Burt Bacharach, Henry Kissinger, the Captain and Tennille and that irrepressible funny man, Shecky Greene. We drank mai tais and speculated about the Vietnam War…”
And on from there. She was more like the real Walters than the real Walters is.
Walters is and was, just as she has always said of her interview subjects, a fascinating personality, and there's plenty to be said about such a long and prosperous career. But the most fitting way to end here (and she would agree) is to insert a last plug for her special, Barbara Walters: Her Story, Friday on ABC, 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Photo Illustration by Tiffany Hagler-Geard; Photos Provided by Getty