September 10, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

After a four-year jump forward in season 5 and the addition of roughly 2.5 million characters last year, it’s time to simplify in Tree Hill in season 8. ”We’re going to focus on the core regulars,” says creator Mark Schwahn. For those of you keeping score, that means the newly engaged Brooke (Sophia Bush) and Julian (Austin Nichols), the expecting-their-second-child Nathan (James Lafferty) and Haley (Bethany Joy Galeotti), and — oh, right — the shot-by-a-psycho-in-the-season-finale Clay (Robert Buckley) and Quinn (Shantel VanSanten). ”We’ll pick up pretty much in the moments we left, with the shooting,” Schwahn says. Whether and how they survive could cast a pall over the impending wedding, which might bring back a ”familiar face or two.” Somewhere, Chad Michael Murray’s and Hilarie Burton’s ears are burning. SEPT. 14

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