By Sandra Gonzalez
December 18, 2012 at 06:00 AM EST
Ron P. Jaffe/CBS

Ron P. Jaffe/CBS

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen tonight’s How I Met Your Mother, do not continue reading.

Monday night’s episode of How I Met Your Mother was not short on memorable moments, and in fact, the episode, which saw Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin (Cobie Smulders) getting engaged, is being dubbed by some as one of the best episode of the series.

But even before the episode had hit television screens, executive producer/co-creator Craig Thomas knew it was something special.

“I was on set for [the limo scene with Ted and Robin], and it was just one of those moments where you feel really lucky to work with these actors — and everybody,” he says. “It was just one of those moments where you’re like, ‘Well, you know, the show isn’t going to last forever. So let’s just take a moment while filming this to appreciate the depth of this cast and how much we care about these characters eight years in.'”

But even eight years in, there’s still quite a bit of story to tell. For scoop on tonight’s developments and a look ahead, read more from Entertainment Weekly’s chat with Thomas  below.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start off with this limo scene.

CRAIG THOMAS: Josh [Radnor] and Cobie’s limo scene was one of those where it so much more powerful than you thought it’d be. That moment with Cobie and Josh, in a sense, was Ted was saying goodbye to Robin and saying goodbye to the possibility of getting her. He makes that sacrifice and supports her so she can go make one last Hail Mary pass for Barney. It’s almost saying goodbye to a whole future possibility that, in the back of his head, he always imagined. He knows it and she knows it. It’s like eight years of history sitting there between those two characters in that limo, and it was just really heartbreaking. It really hit them; they both started to cry. We weren’t pushing them to cry. It wasn’t written, ‘Now they cry!’ It just really hit them. So what you’re seeing there is them feeling that for their characters. It was just a real reaction that no one asked for and surprised everybody.

But it was an important moment for Ted to finally get there.

Then, Ted was an amazing friend to both Barney and Robin in that moment, but then seeing Ted standing alone there by that window looking out at the world and looking ahead, it’s definitely bittersweet. There’s a wistful feeling about it at the end. There are about five different moments in the episode where we all started crying. We’ve seen it 100 times now, and it keeps getting us. So hopefully everyone will like it.

Speaking of the window moment, I love how you ended on that moment. We’ve closed this big Barney and Robin chapter, and ending on Ted after all that seems symbolic.

Yeah. Definitely there’s a feeling at the end of the episode [that] there’s still an odd man out here. There’s still Ted Mosby, who is just the best friend in the world to Robin and to Barney, and he’s still out there searching. There’s definitely a “to be continued” feeling. If Barney and Robin have gotten to the place we’ve always promised and are heading toward a wedding potentially, what’s in store for Ted? It’s a nice moment to end on. It sort of feels like a mini season finale even though it’s just a midseason finale. It feels like, “Alright now, let’s see what the next — and possibly last — chapter is for Ted.” How does he move into his future if we are watching Barney and Robin move into theirs? In the way that Christmas is sort of great and a little bit sad and nostalgic and wistful — that’s definitely how I feel at the end of the episode. And hopefully people will feel a feeling of resolution, in terms of waiting for Barney and Robin to reunite, but also a question left unanswered. Stay tuned for what either will be the final 10 episodes ever of the show or possibly that plus one more final season. We don’t know yet.

Now, you said “potential wedding,” but there is a wedding right? I never know what to believe.

Right. They’re heading for a wedding that will have its own twists and surprises when we get there. But yeah, we’ve been waiting for them to get engaged, so hopefully that will feel satisyfing to people. It certainly has been a long time coming.

Let’s talk about this proposal. Why the trick?

To me it feels like a really appropriate way for Barney to propose to someone. We could have gone much straighter at it and had just had him propose in episode 3 of this season, but there’s something really fun, elaborate, playbook-y, and very “evil genius” about the way Barney put it together. [Laughs] He’s an evil but very sweet genius, I suppose. It’s very heartfelt and wonderful. The moment where he’s on bended knee and puts a ring on her finger is just super sweet. I hope people will be as moved by it as we were making it.

NEXT: One last dance with Robin Sparkles.

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.

Follow @EWSandraG

Related:

‘How I Met Your Mother’: Robin and Barney got dressed up for a memorable moment — EXCLUSIVE

‘How I Met Your Mother’ recap: The Robin

‘NCIS,’ ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ ‘Dallas,’ ‘White Collar’: Find out what’s next in the Spoiler Room

 

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