Josh Radnor and Alyson Hannigan
Is it finally happening? Will How I Met Your Mother actually reveal Ted's future wife on Monday's Season 8 finale?
That's what a new promo would have you believe (watch below), which urges you to "get ready for the mother of all secrets." Naturally, co-creator and executive producer Carter Bays remains typically coy about the episode's possible unveiling. But with one more season left and two big finale reveals the past two years — Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) getting married and Robin (Cobie Smulders) being his bride, respectively — surely they have something major up their sleeves, right?
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"There's a few cliff-hangers for a few different characters actually," Bays tells TVGuide.com. "It's kind of a crowded cliff."
Indeed, Bays characterizes the finale (8/7c, CBS) as a "buildup" to Barney and Robin's wedding — aka the place where Ted (Josh Radnor) sees The Mother (they meet on the train platform that night) — and declines to say if they will actually swap "I do's" in the episode. (Yes, they do end up married.) Instead, the episode will consist of three story lines: Marshall (Jason Segel) bringing baby Marvin to Minnesota for one last visit before he and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) move to Rome; Barney and Robin running into an obnoxious couple (Casey Wilson and Keegan-Michael Key) at dinner; and Lily seeing Ted's newly renovated house.
It's in Ted's humble abode where he, seemingly for the 1,000th time, tells Lily that he doesn't feel comfortable around Barney and Robin and thinks it's time for a change of pace. "Ted's decision comes on the heels of [that] pretty charged moment he shares with Robin in [last week's] episode, although obviously those feelings have been building up for a while," Bays says, referring to the two holding hands after Ted tells cold feet-stricken Robin that she knows what she wants deep down. "I can't say how and when he lets go of Robin — only that he does, obviously."
That ought to occur soon, given what we know about the ninth and final season, which will reset the series. As if the show doesn't play with time enough, co-creator and executive producer Craig Thomas previously shared that the final 24 episodes will "take some risks with time" and will be "so distinct that you'll always be able to recognize a Season 9 episode." Theories abound that Season 9 will play out in real time, a la 24, on the day of Barney and Robin's wedding. "I am not at liberty to say at this time," Bays says of the speculation.
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Whatever is in the duo's playbook hasn't changed since they drafted two plans more than a year ago depending on if there would be a Season 9 — a renewal that didn't become official until January.
"We played it dangerously tight with our schedule, so luckily didn't really have to retrofit much of anything after our 'drop-dead' episode, 'The Final Page' [in December in which Barney and Robin got engaged]," Bays says. "I think 'Band or DJ' and 'Ring Up' were both conceived when everything was still up in the air, but beyond that, everything else was written after Season 9 was green-lit. One of the rare cases where getting way behind on scripts worked to our advantage!
"The fun thing about going into a ninth season is that nothing is schmuck bait," he continues. "Marshall and Lily can go to Italy, and they can live there the rest of their lives if we so choose. And I'm pretty sure we picked Rome solely because we wanted to dress Marshall up like Don Fanucci from The Godfather Part II."
While Bays is staying mum on the structure of Season 9, he does promise that it will provide ample closure on loose ends big and small. "Season 9 is the year we settle all accounts, which means definitely some more slaps, a few long-anticipated returns from faces we haven't seen in a while, and a few surprises we've been waiting a long time to reveal," he says. "But I'm fairly certain the pineapple stays a mystery."
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And how does it feel to be on the final lap to the finish line, not to mention close to blowing the lid on TV's best-kept secret?
"It's terrifying," Bays says. "We've been doing this for eight years — two college careers back to back. It's so much more than a job at this point — I feel like it's my entire identity as a writer. The idea of what's next for Craig and I beyond HIMYM is just a swirling black cloud of uncertainty, but luckily we have more pressing matters to attend to, like taking advantage of this tremendous opportunity we've been given to end this series on our own terms. For that we're very grateful."
How I Met Your Mother airs Mondays at 8/7c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by a joint venture between Lionsgate and CBS.)