“One Tree Hill”: The Slippery Slope … Gets MORE Slippery

by Karl J. Paloucek

Yep, it’s official: Lucas and Peyton will not be returning to One Tree Hill next season. Rumors had been swirling around for a while, especially after a video surfaced of OTH star Chad Michael Murray telling fans that he wasn’t being brought back for Season 7 “because they want to save money.” But now, according to a CW rep, it’s a done deal — Murray and costar Hilarie Burton will not be back for next season.

Of course, all of this is a well-engineered publicity stunt ramping up to Monday’s season finale. Usually, a season or series finale in a show like this would lead up to the wedding — but the long-awaited (or dreaded, depending on your perspective) wedding of Lucas and Peyton came and went with surprising speed, which all but ensured that there would be SOME sort of dramatic twist. I don’t think it was a surprise to anyone, really, when Peyton started hemorrhaging after they got back from the wedding. Something terrible had to happen, or there would have been nowhere to go for next week’s finale.

So let the speculation begin:

What do you think will happen? I will say that photos on the CW’s press site seem to indicate that Peyton will make it long enough to be in the hospital with Lucas — as well as Nathan, Haley and Brooke — at her side. Whether her and Lucas’ story ends there or in some other fashion is still a mystery. This morning, my wife theorized that Peyton will be OK, and will be discharged from the hospital … but the two of them will be wiped out in a car wreck while driving home in the Comet. I like that idea, and it certainly would be consistent with all of the other car-wreck spectacles that have taken place on the show over the years, but there’s still room for loads of other possibilities.

There are a few fun ideas I could entertain: Peyton dies, and Lucas drives the Comet into a tree — maybe the very tree after which the show is named. (Well, it’s named after that U2 song, really, but you get the idea.) Another variation could have Lucas hanging himself from the tree, but I don’t really see that happening. Maybe Peyton needs an emergency transfusion and Dan Scott is the only available donor of the same blood type, but Peyton dies anyway, so Lucas goes bananas and tries to kill Dan, but Dan pulls out a gun and shoots Lucas.

OK, probably not. But given the track record of the show, if they need to dispose of these two characters posthaste, I think it might go down like this: Peyton gets rushed to the hospital, has all sorts of tubes plugged into her, and she’s stable long enough to say all or most of the things she wants to say to Lucas and her friends, after which she expires. In Lucas’ grief and panic, he starts clutching his chest (remember, he’s got that cardiac condition) and he goes into shock, and soon after dies of a broken heart. THAT would be crushing and satisfying all at the same time for all the young fans of the show, would create a heckuva buzz for the next season, as well as a natural curiosity over how many people in Tree Hill would get killed off by series end.

Not saying it WILL happen that way. I’m just saying …

Anyone else have a theory?