Colleen Zenk Pinter

Major Spoiler Alert! We don't need to decipher the writings of Nostradamus to find out how the World will come to an end — TV Guide Magazine has the exclusive scoop from As the World Turns exec producer Chris Goutman! Look for lots of love and happy endings before the CBS soap concludes its run September 17, including two big weddings, some major romantic reconciliations and a final episode — featuring pretty much the entire cast — that's all about new beginnings.

"We're trying to bring a 54-year-old show to a satisfactory and emotional wrap-up and to call it difficult would be the understatement of the century," says Goutman. "The loss of this show is tremendous — not just to those of us who make it and for the fans who love it, but for the entire daytime drama industry. Right to the end we will put out the message that life goes on. Long after ATWT is off the air, we want our characters to still be living their lives in the imaginations of the viewers."

So who's getting hitched? "Barbara and Henry will finally make it to the altar," reveals Goutman. "They are very flawed people but they know there's no other way to complete themselves other than being with each other. Their wedding will help heal the incredibly dysfunctional Ryan family and expunge the ghost of James Stenbeck once and for all. Once that ghost is put to rest, Emily and Paul will be able to see through all their mishigas and finally realize they are meant for each other. They are going to raise Eliza together and be a family."

Carly and Jack will also wed. "I think it's imperative we bring those two together even though they have never been able to get it right," Goutman notes. "We've watched them go through so much, often to the point of viewer frustration. But odds be damned and differences be damned, these two belong together."

Prepare for a tragic, yet heroic, twist to the Luke-Reid romance — one that'll set the stage for a potential rapprochement for Luke and Noah. "Without giving too much away, I do think Luke and Noah will always have a deep and abiding relationship," Goutman says. "Reid came along and challenged that love and his presence made Luke and Noah grow up. Their relationship will endure." That said, Goutman admits that if ATWT had not been cancelled, Luke and Reid could well have been a couple for the ages. "Their connection was immediate and they are dynamic together," says the boss. "Soon after Reid's arrival, we had a lot of diehard Luke and Noah fans suddenly rooting for Luke and Reid. It was the best of what soap opera can be."

The relatively new Katie-Chris attraction is hitting a massive roadblock — Chris is suffering from a dire heart condition — but Goutman hints that they, too, will end on a blissful note. "We couldn't wrap things up with Katie still in a state of mourning over Brad's death, Nancy's death and Chris' illness," the exec says. "She's the sweetheart of our show and she deserves a little happiness after all she's been through."

Goutman adds that Chris' parents, the legendary Bob and Kim, "will elect to go on to the next stage of their lives" and their long-brewing argument — should Bob retire as chief of staff and spend more time with his wife? — will be resolved in the final episode. Meanwhile Tom and Margo, who currently have the longest-running marriage in soaps, will go out as a team. No surprise there, but Goutman says "there's an interesting little twist in store for them and they will end the show as empty-nesters."

But what to do about Holden and Lily? Though ATWT's premiere couple since the Reagan era, the duo has been estranged for quite some time now and Holden was all set to marry Molly last week. The writers didn't let that happen but not so Holden and Lily could walk down the aisle instead. "We made the choice not to marry them at the end of the show but we will leave them in a place where we know they will always be intertwined," Goutman says. "Holden and Lily are no longer the kids in the hayloft like they were in the '80s. These characters must move beyond that and evolve. They must grow up if they are to be with each other for the rest of their lives."

Lily's buttinsky mom, Lucinda, also has some love in store — she and her ex-husband, Dr. John Dixon, will reunite when John comes back to Oakdale to try to save Chris' life. For lots more on that development, check out my interview with the ballsy and incomparable Elizabeth Hubbard later this week!

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