When we last left our heroes at How I Met Your Mother, Marshall and Lily found out they were (finally) going to have a baby, Barney realized he really wanted to make a go with Nora, and Ted (thankfully) had broken up with the evil Zoe. To get you up to speed on all things HIMYM before its hour-long season-seven opener on September 19 (two new episodes back-to-back), Vulture caught up with creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas and grilled them on the status of the characters this year. In the process, they revealed a big upcoming plot twist (there’s a promiscuous pumpkin involved) and talked about getting ready to finally reveal just how the hell Ted met his mate.
So does the new season pretty much pick up where we left off in May?
CB: Yes. A TV season is around nine months, just like a pregnancy. So last season we made the decision to set the finale three months in the future, so that it takes place in September of 2011. So we’re picking up right from Lily finding out she’s pregnant.
CT: Even before that, the episode begins with the future wedding day of Barney Stinson and bride-to-be-named-later. That’s the mystery of this season … but we will name [her] later this season. The episode starts with Barney nervous about his wedding and telling Ted he thinks his is going to be the worst wedding ever. And Ted says, “It can’t possibly be. We’ve already been to the worst wedding ever: Punchy’s wedding.” And then swoosh … we’re back to Punchy’s wedding, which is set a week after our season finale.
Every year you like to reward longtime fans with callbacks to the past. We’ve had the continuing saga of the slap bet and the joy that is Robin Sparkles. Anything you’d like to tease for this season?
CT: We can tell you this first: We are finally going to meet the slutty pumpkin from episode six. It’ll air on Halloween this year. Fans have been wondering, “Is it significant? Does it come back?” It was our version of Linus and the Great Pumpkin, where Ted came back to this rooftop year after year hoping this woman would be back. A lot of the fans still ask us if we’re ever going to meet her. And now we will.
CB: Every year we ask, “Should we do the slutty pumpkin?” And we’ve always said, “No, let’s wait; the show could go on for a while.” But now we’re in the endgame of the series. I don’t know how many episodes that will be yet, but we’ve turned the corner. So we’re going to explore a couple of things from early seasons.
Is it time for another Slapsgiving?
CB: We have one left. We already know exactly what happens with the final slap. Whether it’s this year or next … [turns to Thomas]. Should we say?
CT: The Slutty Pumpkin is this year. Slapsgiving … hmmm.
You guys have read too many Damon and Carlton interviews. Moving on: Obviously Marshall and Lily are going to get some major screen time this season. Any early story lines about the pregnancy?
CT: Literally today we were talking in the writers’ room of the idea of Lily getting a bionic sense of smell from being pregnant. That comes directly from my wife’s pregnancy. We’re always mining our own lives for material. We had two of our writers deal with the loss of their fathers, and last year we wrote about that. So last year was our year of dealing with death. Carter’s wife just had a baby … so this is our year of rebirth. Also, episode two, which also airs on premiere night, deals with the fact that it’s harder to escape your past in the Internet era. We couldn’t Google our parents. But our kids can. There’s a permanent record of you frozen in time now.
Barney’s evolution was also a major plot point last year. How will that continue?
CB: Last year we explored who Barney was and how he got this way. He decided that maybe he could settle down. It was about confronting your own demons … and letting yourself have that kind of happiness that comes with being fully committed to someone. It took Barney a while to get there, but now he is. So now we will see his pursuit of Nora. The door’s open a crack. But he’s going to have to work to make it happen.
CT: Barney dug a really deep hole with Nora last season. He completely screwed up with her and told her he was just trying to have sex with her. He has to redeem himself with her. So it’s a really mature pursuit of a woman for Barney. It’s a step forward for him.
We’ve already seen promos featuring a big Robin-Barney dance number in the premiere. First, any details on the specifics of the dance?
CB: It’s a nineties dance jam by a one-hit-wonder band. Not the Macarena. And not the Forbidden Dance [Lambada].
And what should we assume about how Robin is taking Barney’s newfound willingness to change for love and chase Nora?
CB: She’s sitting off to the side kind of dying inside, dealing with the insanity of the fact that she has these feelings for Barney bubbling up in her. That’s where we meet Robin in the premiere. She’s trying to stuff those feelings back down. But she can’t.
CT: It’s a huge Robin season.
CB: Yeah, there’s a big journey for her this season. We try to distribute stories equally among the five, but going into last season we knew Marshall and Barney were going to have big [story lines]. Now Robin is going to do the same. There’s going to be stuff she’ll go through and learn about herself. It’s actually a seismic event for everyone when Lilly and Marshall announce they’re pregnant.
So you’re definitely going back to the idea of Barney and Robin as a couple.
CT: There’s going to be a lot of shakeups with Robin and Barney. A lot of fans wanted more from season five and were upset that we broke them up. But those characters weren’t quite ready to go there. This season, people who wanted more of the emotional spark between them will be happy. There are going to be a lot of fireworks.
So it’s a potential love triangle?
CB: There’s going to be more than that. A lot of complications are going to come up. We talk in the room a lot about how random life is.
CT: We have sort of a Mamma Mia thing going on this season.
CB: It’s going to be more of a love square.
Wait: Are you saying Ted and Robin is back on the table?
CB: We’re going to get into why Ted decided to start the series telling his kids about how he met Robin.
CT: The notion that Ted is living with his ex-girlfriend, the catalyst for this whole story … is important. So while there’s a lot of great Robin-Barney coming up, Ted’s going to remember why he [fell for Robin]. We’re really bringing it back to the group this year. Ted won’t be dating some other woman for fourteen episodes. It’s these people dealing with how they feel about each other. We care about these five people and there are going to be some serious soap-opera story lines.
CB: Part of what Lily and Marshall’s story is going to do is, it’s going to reset Ted on the path he started out on at the beginning of the series. That episode was Marshall and Lilly deciding to get married, and that got Ted thinking. Now it’s six years later, and they’re having a baby, and Ted really hasn’t gotten any further. So we’re going to revisit a lot of the show’s mythology as he tries to figure out what the last six years have meant. It’ll involve revisiting some old favorites from the series.
Will there be external romantic forces?
CB: We have a very good lineup of paramours.
How about Marshall’s work status? He obviously won’t be working for Dave Foley, but will Martin Short essentially just play the character that had been played by Foley?
CB: No. Marshall legitimately blew his job interview [with Foley]. But something new comes up and we’ve got a whole new character we’ve devised for Martin. He plays someone who’s a legend in the field of environmental law.
CT: And all Marshall wants to do is get into his company. But it turns out Martin Short’s character has a dark secret that we discover as we go along. It’s going to make it a fun part for him.
CB: Marshall’s story this season is: He’s about to be a dad and he’s wondering how he has to change himself to be worthy of this role.
Any random story line tidbits you can throw out?
CT: Well, it’s not really a stand-alone season. It’s much more of an arc season. We’ve got a lot of big stuff planned. So because there’s a lot of emotional stuff, we can’t tease a lot of it.
Even though you don’t technically have an end date for the show, you did just get a two-year renewal from CBS and a lot of people are speculating it’ll be the last deal. Whatever happens, you’ve already said you’re in the endgame. So are you getting worried about how you’ll wrap the show, or maybe more specifically, how fans will react? Ever think of calling up Damon and Carlton for advice?
CB: I’ve thought about whether we should go out for drinks with Damon Lindelof, because he’s been through it.
CT: Yeah, but more for how to deal with the fallout than how to execute it. Carter and I have known how we were going to end the series from day one. We even shot a scene with our kids back in season two with the kids to use in the finale. But we’re going to need emotional support [to deal with the response], I’m sure. You can never please everyone with anything you do. But we’ll take a long vacation from civilization when this is over and not read anything on the Internet.
CB: What people forget is that showrunners are the biggest fans of their shows, even more than anyone who writes about them on the Internet. And so we’re going to write the ending that we’re satisfied with. And we will be happy with it.
Does everyone have to be happy and together at the end of the series?
CB: No! That’s one of the big messages of this show. We began this series with Ted, twenty years later, his life perfect. But our message is: You really don’t ever hit this point. That moment rarely comes, even twenty years from now.
CT: You’re always baking. You’re never done. You never feel ready for any of it, but you have to take the leap anyway.
Speaking of baking: Anything cooking in your development kitchen? Will you be pitching a new series for the 2012–13 season?
CB: We’re talking about it. Maybe. We have a lot of different ideas. Everybody wants us to do the same show, but all the shows we love are the quirky hour-long shows. So we’ll see.