Sophia Bush and Chad Michael Murray by Fred Norris/The CW Sophia Bush and Chad Michael Murray by Fred Norris/The CW

This Monday at 9 pm/ET, the CW's One Tree Hill kicks off its sixth season with, yes, the actual official and bona fide resolution to the great "Who Did Lucas Call?" mystery. But the outcome of that (and whether the resulting couple is a keeper or not) is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the drama ahead for the entire Tree Hill gang. "This season is a bit complex and adventurous, and not in a Jump the Shark sort of way," says series creator Mark Schwahn. "This is a brave season for us. I haven't said that to anyone else, but that's a great way of putting it."

Schwahn spoke at length with me about what to expect. Here, in Part 1 of 3, he reflects on last season's time-jump, assesses the state of the "love rectangle," and details the stories in play for Lucas, Peyton and Brooke. - Matt Mitovich

TVGuide.com: How did the four-year flash-forward wind up working for you? Did it accomplish everything you hoped it would?
Mark Schwahn:
It was better than expected, actually. It invigorated the show in a really great way, and it invigorated the cast and the writers. When you're in a fifth season and you see your ratings go up, that's great. I'm happy to have time-stamped [the plot device] for Desperate Housewives and whoever else is doing it now. [ Laughs]

TVGuide.com: There are fans on the Internet who claim to have the Lucas cliffhanger all figured out. Apparently there are, like, long-lens photos of someone who looks like Chad Michael Murray with his arm around someone who may or may not be so-and-so - at least according to one extra's friend's hairdresser.
Schwahn:
In the age of the Internet, you can't hide any of that stuff anyway. If I could, I would. And if I could have shot who shows up at the airport with all three actresses - which I considered doing because I knew there'd be a lot of extras - I would have. But we're like eight episodes ahead, so I was like, "What are we going to do shoot all three storylines for eight episodes?!" [ Laughs] If you want to get spoilers, you'll find them. Everybody can watch it the way they want to watch it, but I designed it to surprise the fans, and a lot of that goes away when you're only watching to see how it plays out. I don't know how shows that are really based on mystery do it.

TVGuide.com: Very, very, very closed sets.
Schwahn:
Yeah. Once in a while, if I have a big scene with a big reveal, I'll actually write it on set with two actors, because I know there are no extras, I know there are no sides [audition scripts]. When I type up the sides to hire a new guest star, from the time they leave my hand to the time they're on the Internet is always less than an hour. It's amazing. But some fans want to watch the show that way.

TVGuide.com: I understand that there is a flash-forward to show what Lucas' life is like, a year down the road, with the girl he chooses?
Schwahn:
Yes, that's accurate. It's a way of keeping the mystery alive, to shake up the world without jumping the viewers [permanently ahead in time] again, which would be a little demanding.

TVGuide.com: Do you see this triangle lasting until the very end of the series?
Schwahn:
In different ways. Not romantically, I don't think. As the characters get older and more complex, how you love someone and what they mean to your life, that changes a bit. I think romantically, playing the love triangle actually it's a rectangle, between Brooke and Lucas and Peyton and Lindsey is probably done. Never say never on our show. They'll always all be in each other's lives in some major way.

TVGuide.com: You got Michaela McManus to stick around as Lindsey?
Schwahn:
Dick Wolf and his organization were nice about allowing her to continue with us. [ Over the summer, McManus joined the cast of Law & Order: SVU .] It's going to be for more than one episode. I had wanted her to be a series regular - I wanted her to get to a place of that success - so it's all worked out really well. We'll see Lindsey throughout the year. If Lucas were to pick her, who's to say she's going to pick him back? And if she does, who's to say it's going to work out? That [uncertainty] is a staple of Tree Hill. A lot of people have eliminated her as a candidate because they know a lot about show biz, but I'm like, "Well, hold on a second...."

TVGuide.com: Will Lucas' suspension get lifted this season?
Schwahn:
I think so. Whether that will last is part of the story. I think we'll see [the suspension lifted], but it might not play out exactly how the fans think it will. We're also going to look at Lucas and the publishing of his second book.

TVGuide.com: Taking the other characters one by one, starting with Peyton (played by Hilarie Burton): Is her biological dad going to surface?
Schwahn:
The person that Mia met, who said they knew Ellie, is going to surface. All bets are on that it's her biological father. His name is Mick Wolf and he's played by John Doe from [the punk band] X. John's done a great job in playing this distant guy who is tight-fisted with his information. If he is her father and he has shown up, I'd say he's reaching out to her. But why show up and not admit you're her father? That's what we're going to play.

TVGuide.com: Has Brooke (Sophia Bush) moved on from her maternal longings? Will she emerge from the dark place she went to?
Schwahn:
Um... no. [ Laughs] I don't think so, and especially if she is with Lucas, she is going to want to have a kid. We have seen the seeds planted for Brooke's journey what makes a family? And can she have a family, seeing as her parents were fairly antagonistic and anonymous in her life? Whether or not [her desire to be a mother] includes a romantic component is obviously the big question. If it's not Lucas, will it be someone else? And if it is Lucas, does he still want children? And how does it all shape her place as a designer and businesswoman? Brooke has a lot on her plate this year. As open as she has been with her heart, she's been kind of closed off, emotionally, for a while. It's interesting to peel those layers back and ask, "Why is it OK to be that way?" It's challenging material for Sophia, that's for sure.

In Part 2: Mark Schwahn surveys the stories for Nathan, Haley, Mouth and other key players.

Coming Soon: Part 3 asks Schwahn to weigh in on the big rumors surrounding the show, including the most pressing one of all: Is this Tree Hill's final season?

One Tree Hill Set Visit Videos:
" Chad Michael Murray Tells (Almost) All
" Hilarie Burton: No More Tears for Peyton?
" Sophia Bush: Is Brooke Still in a Dark Place?
" Bethany Joy Galeotti: Love Scenes Ahead for "Naley"?
" Lee Norris on Mouth's "Interesting" Love Life
" Young "Jamie" Reveals His Cast Mate "Crush"
" Meet Ashley Rickards, Tree Hill's New Troublemaker
" Still to come: James Lafferty and a "bonus" Burton vid!