How I Met Your Mother pulled off the sitcom’s most tragic twist by ensuring that no one, not even the show’s stars, knew what was coming next.

While How I Met Your Mother’s saddest scene featured a devastating twist, the sitcom’s creators went to extremes to ensure that this shock was a surprise for everyone involved. For much of the show’s run, How I Met Your Mother was a fun hang-out sitcom that managed to keep the genre’s oldest institution, the much-maligned laugh track, alive in the ’00s. However, like many great sitcoms, How I Met Your Mother could pull off some devastatingly dark moments from time to time.

Whether it was Robin’s revelations in How I Met Your Mother’s saddest Christmas episode or Marshall and Lily’s cliffhanger breakup at the end of season 1’s finale, the series had a talent for making big emotional moments hurt. This was never more pronounced than in How I Met Your Mother season 6, episode 13, “Bad News.” The majority of “Bad News,” is dedicated to a story that revolves around Lily and Marshall trying to solve their fertility issues. The episode features a strange running motif where numbers that can be seen in the background of the screen count down to some monumental twist.

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Why Jason Segel Wasn’t Told HIMYM Season 6 Episode 13’s Twist

Lily and Marshall smiling on HIMYM

Given the episode’s plot, many viewers expected the countdown’s climax would end with the revelation that Lily was pregnant. While How I Met Your Mother’s Lily was a divisive figure, her and Marshall’s relationship was in a happy place in “Bad News” and, until the day of shooting, even actor Alyson Hannigan thought the episode would end with Lily announcing her pregnancy. Instead, the episode ended with Lily informing Marshall that his father had died suddenly, a twist that Jason Segel didn’t know about until the cast were shooting the scene.

To get Segel’s real reaction when Lily told Marshall that his father died, the cast and crew of How I Met Your Mother needed to get creative. Since Hannigan couldn’t tell Segel when to react, she instead told him that the episode’s big news would arrive when she said a line ending with “ir.” This clever How I Met Your Mother trick allowed the stars to nail the scene in a single take, with Segel thinking until midway through the take that the major news would be somehow related to the fertility trouble which the rest of the outing revolved around.

HIMYM’s Jason Segel Trick Made Its Saddest Scene Better

Marshall crying

Jason Segel’s reaction to the news, possibly due to this Method acting-adjacent arrangement, is more naturalistic and subdued than the actor’s usual performance as Marshall. Typically a broad, goofy character, Marshall could be surprisingly stoic at times, especially when overwhelmed with emotion. The most poignant choice Segel makes in the scene is Marshall silently embracing Lily before he breaks down crying himself, a reminder of the character’s desperate desire to embody his father’s tough-but-caring model of masculinity. The How I Met Your Mother twist works on a storytelling level, but it is Segel’s masterful turn as How I Met Your Mother’s hero that makes the scene emotionally impactful.

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