Every year at this time, your favorite shows pull out all the stops to wrap up some big stories, steer others in new directions, and launch brand-new sagas to unspool come fall. ( Check out our Finale Preview for more coverage!) Which Hero will power down, and for good? Who on Lost will lose their life? What unexpected news awaits a Desperate Housewife? We've got your guide to those season-ending twists and many, many more.
Heroes (April 27, NBC)
Not content to merely impersonate Sen. Nathan Petrelli, Sylar shape-shifts his way ever-closer to the president as the heroes — including the Petrelli brothers and their mother — work together to take him down. At least one person dies — sort of — and we find out whether the rumors are true that Volume 5 is indeed called "Redemption." One thing we do know: Season 3 went a long ways toward redeeming the series — and the finale holds many of its finest moments.
Private Practice (April 30, ABC)
As the Grey's spin-off sews up its second season, Addison's professional and personal worlds collide at the worst possible moment, Violet chooses between Pete and Sheldon, a confession steers Sam and Naomi in a new direction, and an Oceanside faithful betrays their buds. It's the finale's final scene, though, that is sure to have the watercooler bubbling the next morning. Josh Hopkins, who plays Noah, tells us that when he first read the script for it, "I was like, 'What?! Holy....' I simply couldn't believe it."
Scrubs (May 6, ABC)
ABC intel seems to indicate that this episode will in fact be the series finale. It's J.D.'s last day at Sacred Heart. As Zach Braff makes his long-announced departure from the show, will J.D. get a hug from Dr. Cox or learn The Janitor's name? Signs point to no, but get this — more than 50 former guest stars are checking in to send him off, including Colin Hay, Amy Smart, Tom Cavanagh, guest-star extraordinaire Kathryn Joosten and MadTV alums Nicole Sullivan and Michael McDonald.
Lost (May 13, ABC)
Charles Widmore told John Locke that a war would take place on the island, and that if John didn't return, the wrong side was going to win. We're still a little unclear on who — and when — the sides will be (Hostiles vs. Dharma; Oceanic 6 vs. creepy Ajira survivors; Smokey vs. everyone), but it's clear that tensions are mounting all over, and will probably culminate in at least one shocking season-ending death. Other intriguing tidbits: The finale will introduce us to Jacob, the island's spiritual leader, and we'll see a wedding that takes place off-island. Thump!
CSI (May 14, CBS)
Det. Ray Langston (Laurence Fishburne) has to use deadly force for the first time in his CSI career while investigating a series of murders tied to a scam involving poker chips from a dearly departed casino. Lost's Cynthia Watros and Jericho's Gerald McRaney guest star. Wallace Langham (Hodges) promises "no major changes to the team" — a relief to fans still grieving the loss of Grissom. And after two season-ending cliff-hangers in a row, fans won't have to bite their nails all summer: "It actually is self-contained," Langham adds, "a really good standalone episode."
CSI: NY (May 20UPDATED: May 14, CBS)
Danny and Lindsay's baby drama takes a back seat to actual life-and-death issues as the CBS procedural wraps up its fifth season. What you may have heard: One member of Mac's team will be murdered within the episode's first 10 minutes. What you may not know: The finale's cliff-hanger will place a second major character in jeopardy, with his or her fate left up in the air until the fall's Season 6 premiere.
Grey's Anatomy (May 14, ABC)
Series creator Shonda Rhimes reportedly told her cast that "life-changing things" are in store for every major Seattle Gracer. Now, Shonda being Shonda, details are scarce. What we do know is that the two-hour finale's guest-star roster includes Debra Mooney (Everwood) and Liza Weil (Gilmore Girls), respectively playing Owen's mother and a cancer patient who bonds with Izzie. Among the twists you can count on are a reveal that paves the way for T.R. Knight's possible exit, and a surprising declaration from one of the interns.
The Office (May 14, NBC)
On the show's 100th episode, Dunder Mifflin sponsors an "eventful" company picnic, at which guest stars (and Wire vets) Amy Ryan and Idris Elba will no doubt charm and torture Michael Scott, respectively. What's that? You were hoping to see Jim and Pam's nuptials by the end of the season? Well, pick up the shattered pieces of your life and move on, because it ain't going to happen. We're hearing that the honour of our presence will instead be requested for a fall wedding.
Saturday Night Live (May 16, NBC)
How does one trump Justin Timberlake, who will serve as guest host the week prior? NBC's venerable sketch series will turn to a beloved alum, Will Ferrell, to lord over its 34th season finale, with Green Day as musical guest. Our one request: More cowbell!
Desperate Housewives (May 17, ABC)
Flashing forward, backward and sideways is so yesterday, so Housewives will have to stoop to tried-and-true plot twists to wow the Wisteria Lane faithful. Right? Wrong. Using words such as "killer" and "fantastic" to sum up the two-hour finale, Neal McDonough (who plays Edie's murderous hubby, Dave) told us, "What [series creator] Marc Cherry has come up with is amazing. The fans are going to love it." But will a certain Housewife love the surprising news her doctor has for her?
24 (May 18, Fox)
What do you do on a typical day from 6 to 8 am? Because Jack Bauer is spending those two morning hours wrapping up his latest day from hell. Will Jack, who has taken an especially hard licking — addled by a lethal pathogen and what not — keep on ticking? And who else from this season will survive another harrowing 120 minutes and partake in the Fox series' next "day" to be set in New York City? Tune in and keep your eyes on the clock.
Dancing with the Stars (May 19, ABC)
We don't know how Dancing goes down, but here's our best guess: The Bachelor's Melissa makes it to the final four. So do Lil Kim and her new sis, Shawn Johnson, who is trying to repeat Kristi Yamaguchi's gold-medal finish in Season 6. But holding it down for the fellas is Sex and the City's Gilles Marini. Also: Don't be surprised if previously ousted contestants turn up for one last dance. (Steve-O, for one, has already said he wants to dance a finale fox trot.) Who takes it all? Even if we knew, we wouldn't spoil your fun.
NCIS (May 19, CBS)
Executive producer Shane Brennan suspects that he will catch some heat — as he did a year ago, when he killed Jenny Shepard and brought in Leon Vance — for the season-ending shocker he has planned this time around. "It will come at you from left field," he tells us, "but it will be a fun ride." As such, his advice to fans apes that from last spring: "Buckle up, and hang in there until September." As for talk that Gibbs' team will be downsized by one in the finale, Brennan says, "That's not correct ... but it's not wrong either. People are just going to have to watch."
90210 (May 19, CW)
OMG, it's time for the prom, which is totally fun, unless you're newly engaged Adrianna, who is, like, nine-and-a-half months pregnant and ready to pop. Then your mind might be more focused on, say, labor, into which she goes during this episode. Conveniently, baby-wanting Brenda (Shannen Doherty) is on the scene as well. Also: Teasy moles say that decisions are made that have "life-and-death consequences." What could that mean for Ethan (Dustin Milligan), who was recently cut from the cast roster?
American Idol (May 20, Fox)
Adam Lambert is the new American Idol! Or at least that's what our psychic hotline/bookie told us. Seriously though, Simon Cowell & Co. will crown Season 8's champ with much fanfare, which will include, if past finales are any guide, celebrity duets, confetti and at least one fake frozen smile. If rumors are to be believed, it might also be judge Paula Abdul's last show. Dawg.
Breaking Bad (May 31, AMC)
Walter White's slow transformation from sad-sack teacher to drug kingpin takes another step forward as he realizes it's about to become much harder for him to maintain his secrecy. His unexplained absences and long list of excuses — starting with Jesse being just his marijuana dealer, not partner in meth cooking — blow up in his face as Skyler's frustration finally crystallizes. Meanwhile, Jesse self-destructs after a personal crisis, and Walt comes to his aid. Hope he has an excuse for that one.
Which finale is on your must-watch list?
For more coverage of your favorite shows' endings, check out our Finale Preview, which includes finale dates, photo galleries, and the best of everything this past season had to offer.
Crave scoop on your favorite TV shows? E-mail senior editors Matt, Mickey and Tim at email@example.com.