'How I Met Your Mother' boss on the next step for Barney and [spoiler]. Plus, scoop on a big return!

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How did the idea come up?
We loved the idea of the secret last page of the playbook. Barney Stinson is Barney Stinson, and he wouldn’t propose in some predictable way. We also liked indicating that there’s one last great play for Barney Stnson to execute, and it sends him into this whole next chapter of his life — a new, more evolved part of his life. But I still like that the thing that catapults him into the next phase of his life is a play from the playbook — the secret final page. It’s the last play he’ll ever run, and it’s the last play he’ll ever need to run because it’s going to get him the love of his life. It felt like a good way for Barney to be Barney and still get engaged, which is a pretty high degree of difficulty. We’ve also seen these two characters come together and pull apart a few times, so the challenge we tried to set for ourselves was how to get them back together in way that felt unlike what we’ve done before.

It was also a tall order considering Barney proposed to Quinn, too, just a few episodes ago.
Exactly. We’ve been tell the story of how Barney is imagining this future and imagining being able to do this. It just wasn’t the right girl. Robin was the right girl for him, and we needed to connect the dots.

Was this arc, in a way, one of your last plays? It felt very much like this great trick you’ve been waiting to play.
It does feel that way. The series could end this year, and Barney will be engaged. You’re not going to see [another] episode where Barney Stinson is single and out there and running plays from the playbook and finding elaborate ways to have meaningless one-night stands. So we like the idea that Barney would use his superpowers and his Barney-ness for good instead of evil and see that his Barney-ness is what gets him the love of his life in the end. It felt poignant in terms of the journey we’ve seen Barney go on throughout the series.

So what’s next for Robin and Barney?
Barney is still Barney. So we’ll see what it’s like for Barney Stinson to really be engaged and really know that “This is the last woman I want to be with.” We’ll see Barney struggle with reconciling those two parts of himself– the playboy manipulator and the guy who’s got the girl. How does he behave and make sure it all goes well? Ultimately, it’s not going to be Barney constantly looking at other women and asking, “Did I make a mistake?” and angst and all that. It’s not that. We want these two characters to be together, and we know they’re heading toward a wedding day. So far it’s actually been fun; Barney is still fun. The challenge is that it forces you to tell new kinds of Barney stories and so far, episode 13 and 14 are really fun Barney episodes. In episode 13 we see Barney have to deal with Robin’s super scary father, who they forgot to ask permission from to get engaged. So we see them go through that process.

With Ted, since we do end on him, tell me what’s next. We know that Rachel Bilson is coming back in the second half of the season. So…
Yeah. There’s going to be an appearance from Rachel Bilson, who we know is a very direct, one-degree of separation from The Mother. I don’t want to say too much more about that, but she will reappear. Make of that what you will.

Ashely Benson is coming on the show too. Care to share more?
I literally can’t tell you much about that either because it’s a little bit of a twist. But she’s really funny, and the one thing I can tell you is that she will play a much younger woman who Ted is attracted to but he ends up asking the question, “Am I just way the hell too old to be up this late at a club with this girl?” It definitely forces Ted to ask the question, “Am I getting too old for this?” — for lack of a better term. But she’s going to be great. We’re shooting that as we speak. That’s episode 14.

That was my next questions. So you’re on 14?
Yeah. So if this turns out to be our last year, we’ll come back in the new year and shoot just 10 more and that will be it.

You’re making me nervous.
You and me both!

One more tease about the second half.
I can tell you this, we’re going to do the final installment of Robin Sparkles. The fourth and final installment — witnessing a chapter in the Robin Sparkles saga that we’ve never seen. It’s sort of the ending chapter in what was the Robin Sparkles career.

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