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How I Met Your Mother Producer Carter Bays Tells Vulture What’s Next After Tonight’s Big Episode

Photo: Ron P. Jaffe/?‚??2012 Fox Television. All Rights Reserved.

September’s season premiere of How I Met Your Mother revealed that the on-again, off-again relationship between Barney and Robin would, one day, lead to the wedding altar. What we didn’t know — and if you didn’t watch tonight’s episode, look away! Now! —  is how and when their engagement would take place. The answers came last night (read our recap here), but as always with HIMYM, answers led to more questions: Why did Barney pull such an elaborate con to land Robin? What does this all mean for Ted? And how much longer will the show go on? Co-creator and exec producer Carter Bays agreed to answer a few of our queries.

So: Why did you trick us? Why did you opt to keep Barney’s deception a secret from the audience as well?

Given the fact that we’ve known from the start of the season that they end up getting engaged, we felt like Barney winning Robin had to be wrapped in something big and surprising. And Barney has gone to such great lengths to successfully seduce so many women, it felt like anything less than spectacular would be a disservice to Robin. Also, we liked the idea of a long con. I think the final run of episodes in season four of Breaking Bad was a big influence. We wanted a moment of, “Ohhhhh, that’s what’s been going on.” Just without anyone getting blown up or poisoned.

I had the same initial reaction Robin had when she realized Barney had been running a play on her: Really? He tricks her and manipulates her … and now she’s supposed to fall for him? And yet, because the deception is the final one — the last play — Robin gives in. It does make sense, given who Barney is and given that Robin accepts, and even appreciates, Barney’s inner player. And yet … it’s a lot to expect the audience to accept, isn’t it? 

We’re not blind to the possible ickiness of how Barney went about getting Robin to say yes. And neither are the rest of the characters. It’ll come up that there’s two sides of this coin: Was this a big, whimsical romantic gesture, or was it emotional manipulation? Ultimately, I think that’s really Barney in a nutshell: loveable amorality. The next chapter in this story is about Robin deciding if that’s really what she wants in a husband, and Barney deciding if he’s about more than just magic tricks.

When did you for sure for sure decide that Robin and Barney would get married? Was there ever any doubt?

It was the summer between seasons five and six, and after that there wasn’t really any doubt. We built the last two seasons around the reveals of Barney getting married, and then Robin getting married. It felt right, for Barney and Robin, but also for where we hope to go with Ted’s story.

Part of Barney’s scheme was making sure he had Ted’s blessing, even if he had to trick him into giving it to him. Is this also a defense against the notion that Ted is a wuss for urging Robin to go after Barney? You’re basically saying, “This isn’t Ted being nice. This is Ted realizing Robin isn’t his true love.”

I think sometimes wussiness and niceness are so confoundingly tangled up that it’s hard for people to know what their own motivations really are. Ted wants Robin, but he also wants Robin to be happy. Both urges are enormously strong. It’s a complex moment for Ted, and there’s not really an easy answer.

In some ways this episode was as much about Ted as it was Robin and Barney. Our hero is looking damn pathetic at the end of this hour: Now, every one of his four best friends has found happiness. We know Ted finds The One, but how quickly will things move now toward that resolution? You’ve got anywhere from 12 to 36 episodes left in the show; no matter the final number, can Ted stay this low for long?

The short answer is no, he can’t. This current condition will lead him down some unexpected paths, and he’s not going to sit around and mope for the rest of the series. I think the honest human reaction to a situation like what Ted’s in is to charge headlong into a terrible relationship that’s absolutely wrong for you. And that’s exactly where Ted’s headed.

Would you like to take this opportunity to announce that Ted will, in fact, meet his future wife at some point this season — regardless of whether season nine happens?

That question has been coming up for eight years now, and our answer never changes. I don’t want to seem unnecessarily opaque, but we’re just never going to announce that. We’re going to tell the story we set out to tell. I hope it’s all right with everyone that we don’t divulge huge spoilers for our own show. I get it. I get the frustration. It’s a frustration that’s built into the DNA of the show, and very much shared by its protagonist. You just have to wait and see.

Speaking of which: You’ve got your own version of the Fiscal Cliff brewing behind the scenes, in terms of whether or not there will be another season of the show. Industry buzz is that you very much want a deal to be done with the cast within the next few weeks so you can effectively plan the show’s endgame. Are you optimistic?

Yes, advance notice is crucial, and so far everyone’s been taking that very seriously. In my mind, the cliff is the TCAs in January. We’ll be able to announce something by then.

One of your crew announced on Twitter that Rachel Bilson and Ray Wise are headed back to the show. CBS also announced that Ashley Benson will be on the show, but was coy about what she’ll play. Any details you can offer on those three roles?

Ashley plays a love interest for Ted, who is wrong for him in a very funny way. Rachel and Ray will be showing up as well, though I’d rather not get into when exactly they’ll be appearing. And just to be clear, that’s Rachel and Ray. Not Rachel Ray. Rachel Ray will not be on the show as far as I know.

I feel obligated to always ask about the status of the Slap Bet, as well as the possibility of a full-on new Robin Sparkles song. Will the first half of 2013 be a good year on these fronts?

We’ll have a new Robin Sparkles episode on February 4. And by the way, that episode will be a big huge giant monster, for a bunch of reasons. Definitely the most astonishing lineup of guest cast we’ve ever assembled for one show. There’s a lot more info to come on that one.

Final question: Can we assume that Barney Stinson’s bachelor party will be legen … well, you know? I assume it will put The Hangover to shame.

I think you could make the case that the past eight years have been Barney’s bachelor party. But yeah, I’m sure there’s a hotel room and some dead hookers in Barney’s immediate future.

What’s Next for HIMYM After Tonight’s Big Hour?