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How I Met Your Mother’s Co-creator Shares the Plan for the End of This Season

Tonight marks the beginning of the end for How I Met Your Mother's drama-packed sixth season: After three weeks off, the CBS comedy returns with the first of five episodes leading up to the show's May 16 finale. First up: "The Exploding Meatball Sub," an appropriate title for this evening's show since, according to HIMYM co-creator Carter Bays, "The way we structured this season is that it's all headed toward an explosion." We're pretty sure Bays isn't just talking about the Arcadia Hotel, which Ted has been plotting to destroy all season. So what can we expect between now and the finale?

"There are a lot of balls in the air right now, and we're gonna resolve all of the stories we've been seeing this season," Bays told Vulture last week. "We're also going to get to some bigger stuff about the series and where it's headed." Of course, Bays is mum about details — though he and co-creator Craig Thomas have already revealed that there'll be a wedding in the last episode of the season. Just who gets hitched is still top secret (though the Internet seems to be assuming it'll be — theoretical spoiler ahead — Barney walking down the aisle.)

Next week's episode, dubbed "Hopeless," will offer more daddy drama for Barney, with John Lithgow making his second appearance on the show. "'Legen-daddy' just scratched the surface of [Barney and his dad] starting a relationship. This episode, there's a little more of a connection. Though it's less about them connecting as father and son, and more about what ... Barney's dad comes to represent for him. It's going to hold a mirror up to Barney." And the episode's comedic highlight? "We'll get to see John Lithgow dancing in a very embarrassing way," Bays promises. "Seeing him naked in Dexter — this will be more embarrassing than that. Not that he has anything really to be embarrassed about. He has a lovely physique."

So what would this season's volume be called? "I think Barney said it in 'Architect of Destruction,'" Bays says. "He said something that's sort of been a touchstone for us — 'New is always better.' This whole season has been about change: It's been about creation and destruction, it's been about new versus old. Ted is kind of caught between new and old — new building, new job, a new relationship. But he's also being pulled in the other direction, to save this old building. Robin's changed careers; Barney has let go of his old perception of who his dad is; and we're going to see Barney's old way of life shaken to make way for a new way of life that's hopefully every bit as fun."

Next week's episode, dubbed "Hopeless," will offer more daddy drama for Barney, with John Lithgow making his second appearance on the show. "'Legen-daddy' just scratched the surface of [Barney and his dad] starting a relationship. This episode, there's a little more of a connection. Though it's less about them connecting as father and son, and more about what ... Barney's dad comes to represent for him. It's going to hold a mirror up to Barney." And the episode's comedic highlight? "We'll get to see John Lithgow dancing in a very embarrassing way," Bays promises. "Seeing him naked in Dexter — this will be more embarrassing than that. Not that he has anything really to be embarrassed about. He has a lovely physique."

Fans can also expect plenty of callbacks to previous installments of HIMYM in the weeks ahead. "Especially in the last two episodes, we revisit a lot of things we've touched on this season," Bays says. "There are a number of jokes where we went a little Arrested Development. People who stuck with us this season will be happy they did."

Photo: Eric McCandless/FOX