In the highly-anticipated premiere episode, viewers embarked on a nation-wide journey across Savannah, Georgia; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles, California; and Sunriver, Oregon, where the show's iconic judge auditions surprised audiences with never-before-seen twists. Those auditioning for the coveted ticket to Hollywood include a subway performer from Harlem who gives one of the most emotional auditions in Idol history; a garbage collector with no experience who heads to the streets of Savannah, alongside host Ryan Seacrest, to warm up for his audition; and a hopeless romantic who encounters her own fairy tale twist during her audition as she sings from the heart.
A grand total of 167 televised contestants received a Golden Ticket in Season 18.
During the Sunriver auditions, a fire drill occurred after the judges smelled gas in the auditorium. After everyone was evacuated, the fire department arrived and concluded that there was no danger. Katy Perry presented the firefighters with Golden Tickets as thanks for their work.
This marks the second time a fire drill occurred during the auditions, as one occurred during Jesaiah Baer's audition in Season 12, but it was a false alarm.