Following a week of tense drama and speculation, Kelly Ripa finally returned to ‘Live!’ on Tuesday (April 26th) for the first time since her co-host Michael Strahan announced his departure to ‘Good Morning America’.

Walking out hand-in-hand with Strahan in a show of unity that not all viewers thought was entirely convincing, Ripa addressed the potentially awkward situation head on by speaking to the audience before starting the show.

“Guys, guys, guys – our long national nightmare is over,” she quipped to laughs from the studio. “Look, I am fairly certain that there are trained professional snipers with tranquilizer darts in case I drift too far off message.”

Kelly Ripa Michael StrahanKelly Ripa and Michael Strahan

“I want to honestly and sincerely thank you for welcoming me back to the show, the show of support to this bizarre time has been overwhelming,” she continued. “I needed a couple of days to gather my thoughts. After 26 years with this company I earned the right… In that timed I gained some perspective. I always speak from the heart so I didn't want to come out here and say something I regret.”

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Former NFL player Strahan, 44, announced last week that he would be moving within the ABC network structure to permanently take a presenting job on ‘Good Morning America’, bringing to an end a four-year stint on ‘Live! With Kelly and Michael’.

Ripa, 45, was reported to have been incredibly upset and angry with Strahan and the network for how this was all handled, and didn’t show up for recording the next day, forcing ‘SNL’ alum Ana Gasteyer to present alongside Strahan.

However, her speech on Tuesday’s edition seemed to indicate a fresh start. She spoke of ‘Live!’ as a place of “communication, consideration, and most importantly, respect in the workplace.”

“Since we're being honest, I don't consider this just a workplace – this is my second home,” she said. “This is a place that I devoted myself to, not just because of you, our loyal viewers but because of all of the producers and the crew who work on this show. We have an incredible team and we are devoted to one another. We are family.”

More: Kelly Ripa takes “day off” from ‘Live!’ after co-host Michael Strahan announces departure