One Tree Hill Star Weighs In on [Spoiler's] Death - and the Emotional Return that Shocked Us All!

Warning: If you’ve yet to watch Wednesday’s heartbreaking episode of One Tree Hill, avert your eyes now. We repeat, do not read on! Everyone else, proceed… with caution.

After nine scandal-filled, scheme-riddled, redemption-seeking seasons, beloved One Tree Hill baddie Dan Scott on Wednesday night bid an emotional — and final — farewell to the shrub-deficient town.

While his death wasn’t entirely unexpected, the rather exceptional hour of the long-running CW series pulled off a feat rarely seen in TV today: the unspoiled return of a fan fave character.

Craig Sheffer — who portrayed Keith Scott until the noble character was murdered by Dan in Season 3 — reprised his role for the final moments of the series’ pen-penultimate episode, helping usher his brother into the afterlife — and a heavenly one at that. What’s more, Keith even offered Dan his forgiveness for that fateful day nearly a decade ago (in Tree Hill time).

TVLine spoke with Paul Johansson about the fitting death of his Tree Hill alter-ego, his final moments on set and what he thinks about Keith’s surprise return.

TVLINE | I have to say, I didn’t think it was possible, but I do believe that, in death, Dan Scott finally redeemed himself. How do you feel about the way his journey wrapped up?
The caveat for me to come back this final season was that the storyline would have some meat to it, that it wouldn’t just be Dan up to his deep dark ways, manipulating people — though that is always fun to watch. There would be some sort of need for the show to end in a way that would give Dan a really magnificent out. I couldn’t imagine what [creator] Mark [Schwahn] would do. I knew he had to kill Dan, but I didn’t know how he would do it. Would Dan’s heart finally give out? Or something more crazy? But the way that Mark wrote this gave Dan so many different ways to affect people’s lives before he goes out, the lessons that he imparts on Chris, or Julian… or even Haley, which I think is one of the most fascinating relationships in the piece for nine years. But the father/son, Great Santini relationship came full circle, and I’m so honored that Mark gave Dan such a wonderful and powerful storyline this season. I’m flattered. It’s an actor’s dream come true to be able to finish a series the way that Mark allowed me to finish it.

TVLINE | It really was so important for Dan to address and atone for Keith’s murder — something he hadn’t done for some six seasons — and he finally did. In the end, do you think it was enough?
Not to go Biblical on you, but St. Paul’s name was Saul and he was a murderer. He saw the light, turned his life around and he is now one of the greatest saints. It’s the classic story of forgiveness. In my mind, Dan was so conflicted and so torn up inside…. Everything that he did was designed towards making his son’s life better or giving him the tools to survive in a harsh world — tough love lessons that he was also taught in life. That’s all he ever wanted, especially for Nathan. But I think Dan made a lot of really horrible mistakes. I’m a father and believe me, playing this role was so informative to me and it reflected my life as a little boy. My father was an NHL hockey player and was tough as nails. I think that at the end of the day, Mark’s nimbleness in handling the character, making him horrible, making him wonderful, making him redemptive, making him unforgivable, making him laughable…. Did Mark accomplish redeeming Dan? I think murder is one of the worst things you can possible do, especially to a wonderful soul like Keith, but it did two things: One, I think it saved the TV series, Mark doing that. In a way, we were on our way out. Had Mark not made that episode and pushed it though, the show would not have gone nine years. And two, It created within the audience [the question], ‘What is Dan going to do now?’ Without that, a show can be bland and Mark wouldn’t allow that. He’s an edgy, interesting, kindhearted writer who made an evil character someone you cheer for to win in the end. Again, it’s been the greatest pleasure of my career to play this role, and to play it with a writing staff that kept it interesting.

TVLINE | Talk a little about shooting that final scene between Nathan and Dan on the River Court. I have to imagine those emotions were very real.
It was heart-wrenching. James [Lafferty] is a very, very dear friend of mine, of whom I’m not only a big fan, but I think he’s going to be a hugely successful man in his personal and professional life. I also was shooting that as my very last scene on the show, and it was hard to keep it together. [Executive producers] Joe Davola and Greg Prange were there, and Mark was directing us, and some of the actors who weren’t in the scene had driven out to just be there with me; it was just beautiful. It was the exact way that you’d write it in real life after nine years on a show. I was very focused on that scene, but I’ve got to tell you, it was moving. It felt like my performance, with my personal feelings about leaving the show and the character’s personal feelings about being able to move on and ask forgiveness — and then his son accepting that — in some ways were knitted together. It really wasn’t hard to act that scene at all. It was incredibly rewarding.

TVLINE | Was it similar working again with Craig? And to that point, how far in advance did you know that he’d be returning and that that was how Dan would be ushered out?
I only read that in the script, and when I read it I was tearing up and thinking it was the most perfect thing that I could imagine. I called Craig immediately and talked to him because I’ve missed him for so many years and loved working with him. Mark keeps things really close to the vest because we have a really excited fan base, so we really don’t want to let those things get out — Mark didn’t even tell any of us until a week before shooting. As a matter of fact, nobody on the cast knew who was going to die except for me. So, it was fun to have that in my head to play, to know that every scene was going to be the last in that specific situation — the last with this person, the last with that one. It really helped the work.

TVLINE | Perhaps one of the most poignant scenes came from the goodbyes between Dan and Deb, if only for how much nostalgia was present there.
Oh, yeah. Mark really gave homage to the fans that have been there with the last few episodes, and he really wanted to reward their loyalty in sticking around for the whole series. For the ones who have seen this show from the pilot to the final episode, Mark threw a lot of stuff in there, and I think that was really magnanimous of him. And working with Barb[ara Alyn Woods] is always amazing because she can really go there. But she’s also a master comedian. We have a hard time keeping it together when we work with each other because she’s very talented in comedy.

TVLINE | Were you actually able to stick around to watch the series wrap? Or were you done when Dan was done?
My mother actually died while we were shooting my final episode, so I came home for her funeral. It just wasn’t possible for me to stick around, but as you can imagine that whole time was an amazing, sad, beautiful, full-circle of life thing for me. I had to have a fast goodbye [with the cast], and sometimes those are better. It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid; it hurts a little less. Joe Davola actually came up to me and said that they wanted to give my mom a tribute, so that’s what you see at the end of the episode with her name on it. I thought that was just beautiful.

TVLINE | What’s next for Paul Johansson? I know the One Tree Hill fans are looking forward to following your career.
I’ve been hired to direct a movie and I’m writing the script with Nick Cassavetes, who did The Notebook and Alpha Dog and John Q and Blow — one of the best writers in Hollywood. We’ve collaborated on a lot of things together, and now we’ve been hired to make a movie together. We’re having a lot of fun in the research phase of it, and we’re sending off pages everyday to the producers — hopefully we’ll get into production in the next few months. You know, I’d love to get in on pilot season and do another show, but I feel like after nine years and directing a lot of One Tree episodes, this is the artistic evolution of someone. I love acting, but I also really want to tell stories and captain those ships and see how they turn out.

Tree Hill fans, what did you think of Dan Scott’s sad send-off?

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Jen says:

    Why would you bother to censor the heading but then proceed to include a photo revealing the spoiler right next to it? This sort of logic baffles me.

    • Cyn Cromarty says:

      Ummmmm they didn’t, they showed it being Debera Allen Woods (Deb), not Keith.

      • Cyn Cromarty says:

        Barbara Allen Woods^

      • Billy says:

        Umm cyn, they are talking about “one tree hill star weighs in on [spoilers]’s death”, not the “emotional return”. But to answer Jen’s original point. Dan being in the chair didn’t necessarily mean he was the one to die, look through the entire history at how many people went to the hospital only to live. Plus it was kinda spoiled in last week’s preview for this episode.

  2. Adrian says:

    Perfect. Just solidified that one tree hill is like the best show i ever watched and i am going to miss it terribly. This coming from a person who hated Dan pretty much until the Dan and Keith scene which was perfect and i was shocked and emotional that he came back without it being spoiled. This makes me happy and extremely sad for the final episode in two week

  3. CaptainAwesome says:

    wow, best episode of the series. Thats the first time a tv show ever made me cry.

  4. allison says:

    it was so good… i found myself not wanting him to die.. after wanting him to die for so many seasons. they really did an awesome job. and i was straight up shocked when i saw keith. well done OTH

  5. Kristen says:

    I think what surprises me the most is that they kept Craig Sheffer (Keith) returning a secret….

  6. Kara says:

    I was fine until I saw Keith then I lost it! That made the episode!

    • kat says:

      Me too, totally lost it, like how it mirrored the last time they saw each other and how powerful that last episode was. It made this one just as powerful with the full circle of his complete description of the scene to Nathan word for word and then Keith showing up was the end for me.

  7. TheLonelyPlace says:

    Haven’t watched one tree hill since Peyton and Lucas left. Lucas may have come back but..I’m still waiting for Peyton. Seems impossible, but Keith being back..I get pretty emotional with this. It’s a part of One Tee Hill that I’m very much invested with. Thinking of watching this episode rn.

    • lorna says:

      yes s7 and s8 were crap except for a few eps or moments, this season, for the most part, has been incredible. last week and tonight’s ep were 2 of the series best, and lucas and peyton were my favorite, along with chris and dan. too sick to emote much but i shed some tears. was shocked as all hell at keith’s return, it was such a great surprise. shame on hilarie for not returning. i lost respect for her. the child thing is such bs, joy gave birth and kept working. i may have trashed this show the past couple of years, but it definitely is still one of my favorites, and this season was great!

      • bkwrm says:

        Hilarie Burton is working on a tv show after having a baby. It is just a different show, filmed in a different state AND she has her husband, child, a production company, and starring on a tv show to think about. Give the woman a break! Her situation is completly different from Bethany Joy G.

        Anyway, I loved Dan’s death. It was the perfect send off for the charecter and I was unexpectedly moved and heartbroken about it. Bravo.

    • guest says:

      Peyton’s not coming back unless they are keeping it a secret like they did with Keith. Even though it’s a long shot that would great.

  8. Michelle says:

    *sobs* <— nuff said

  9. Joseph Mikota says:

    I hated to see Dan die. All these years he played the man you loved to hate. Whitey was right Dan lived his last years for redemption. This season Dan was allowed to redeem himself. This should give everyone hope for a better life. WELL DONE! We will miss Dan.

  10. Emily says:

    I thought it was a beautifully written and performed episode. Absolutely wonderful. Thanks for nine years of my favorite show, Mark Schwahn and cast and crew!

  11. Sparky says:

    One Tree Hill has been one of those shows that I loved to hate but found myself watching a lot more than I would probably admit to. When you think about it that is the last show that crossed over from the WB when they used to make some good shows…. Anyway I have to admit I found myself tearing up a little when Hayley and Dan were talking and when he was with Nathan on the basketball court. Pretty good episode!!!

  12. Matt says:

    I am a spoiler addict and I didn’t even know about Craig Sheffer returning. I think my heart stopped beating for a second when I seen him. Caught me completely off guard and it made the Dan Scott dying story line 100x better then it already was. Gives me hope that they could have kept the return of Hilarie Burton as Peyton a secret too! Only two more episodes to go! And by the way, love what they’re doing with Julian making ‘An Unkindness of Ravens’ a TV show!

    • carly says:

      Yeah no one knew that Craig was coming back, it wasn’t in the spoilers and they didn’t list his name in the opening credits. This also gives me hope that they could have kept it a secret of Hilarie returning but I doubt it. :(

  13. madhatter360 says:

    Pen-penultimate isn’t a word. If you want to say third to last the word is antepenultimate. Seriously, it’s an underused word. It’s a wonderful word. Use it!

  14. Alex says:

    This was one of the best episodes of OTH. Paul Johansson is an amazing actor. Thank you , Mark Schwahn for nine years of greatness!

  15. Erin says:

    One Tree Hill has been one of those show that i loved, at the end of the episode Keith returned and he was showing Dan out of the school hallway even though dan scoot did survive

    • April says:

      I just finished the episode a few minutes ago and haven’t quit crying yet. So so so glad that Keith came back and glad that we got that episode before the end of the series. Mark Schwann is a great writer.

  16. Santa says:

    What a great way to bring Keith back to usher little brother Dan out. One of the best episodes of OTH that I have seen. Loved seeing father and son play basketball together. Can’t believe this is the end of the show. It will be missed. Looking forward to seeing the cast in future endeavors!!!

  17. BeeBee One -Tree says:

    I sobbed the whole time…that means it was a great show. I Really hate that its going off the air. I love One Tree Hill have watched since beginning…very sad.:'( I wish they’d surprise us and stay on another season. That would be wonderful!!!

  18. Mia says:

    I stopped watching after Lucas and Peyton left, but I came back for part of this season and I LOVED how the ushered Dan out.

  19. Rob says:

    This episode was one of the top episodes of the entire series. I can’t think of another episode in this back half of the series that even remotely comes close to this one. It was beautiful in a way that I could never imagine because so much of the show has been about Dan and redemption. From the moment he shot Keith he searched for redemption and slowly found some (i.e. with Jamie, Haley, Whitey, Nathan (sort of), Deb, Nathan (for good this time) and now finally with Keith). I think that that’s one of the most beautiful messages to take out of the show. Redemption takes time and it takes work and eventually you can get there. I was actually happy that Lucas didn’t come back for this part. Only for the characters that surrounded Dan at the end, that was his family. There are two factions of Scotts and this is the faction that found it in their hearts to give him some semblance of family at the end. The best tie in to that was having Keith surrounding him telling him that he knew he could get there eventually and that it gets better. My favorite line was, “You’re my plus one.” I thought that was beautifully poignant and that they did a remarkable job writing this episode. Well done, everyone at OTH. Haven’t cried for this show like this in a VERY long time.

  20. kacy says:

    I have watched One Tree Hill since its pilot. I couldn’t have imagined a more PERFECT ending for Dan Scott. I couldn’t be more satisfied. Thank you Mark Schwan and Paul Johansson.

  21. Patti says:

    I really loved Keith. It was great to see him back.

  22. Nikki H. says:

    It was amazing. I cried throughout most of the episode. What a great way to send Dan Scott into the afterlife, redeeming himself and getting absolution with his family. Awesome.

  23. othfan says:

    This episode was emotional and surprising. Dan Scott being the bad guy you should hate, but don’t really for some reason, dying tonight was bittersweet. Paul Johansson played Dan perfectly for nine years, bad guy and good guy! When Keith appeared I was blown away because you just didn’t expect it. I love that it was not spoiled or leaked! His appearance, to me, was more fulfilling than the return of Lucas-sorry! The hype of Lucas returning was so anticipated and yet seeing Keith who we didn’t know about coming back was a very pleasant surprise. I was really hoping that maybe there would have been a new heart for Dan to get but he left the show perfectly. Was not dissapointed at all by any of the stories in tonights episode!

  24. dude says:

    Absolutely one of the best episodes of the entire series. Can’t believe this show is ending but I’m so happy that after 9 wonderful years, they’re going out with a bang. Best. Season. Ever.

  25. Lily says:

    Beautiful! Dan was always such a devil, but he truly deserved redemption. He has been trying for so long and in death he has found peace, redemption, friendship and above all, family. Keith’s plus one, priceless. Thanks writers, and cast, but a really special thanks for an Emmy worthy performance by Paul Johansson.

    • Carm says:

      I loved it when Keith said ‘you’re dead and if I can’t forgive you now when can I or something close to that. Also loved the plus one comment.

  26. Susy says:

    Hands down- the best episode of the season,dare I say the series!
    For nine years, OTH has been amazing. I think Mark Schwahn is a brilliant writer- he knows how to bring a character full circle.
    Dan Scott’s send off was so poignantly portrayed by the entire cast, that I couldn’t stop the tears from falling.I felt Dan redeemed himself in the eyes of his family and to see his brother not only forgive him, but accompany him into eternity was absolutely perfect! Thanks, OTH cast/crew for nine wonderful years!

  27. Heather says:

    I broke down crying when I saw Keith. I couldn’t breathe for about 10 minutes after the episode ended. I also never thought I would shed a tear for Dan Scott. But I shed many. I don’t want this show to end. but like they say… “All good things must come to an end.”

  28. Jen says:

    The episode ended ten minutes ago, and I’m still crying. I have watched since the very first show, and have all the seasons on DVD. I’m on the “older” end of the demographic this show attracts, but it has held a large part of my heart for the last nine seasons. I remember each and every May waiting, impatiently and with bated breath, to see if OTH would be renewed.

    The send-off for Dan was absolutely perfect. Bringing Keith back was such a surprise and so wonderful. I cried through the entire show, but really lost it when I saw Keith. After years of hating Dan for what he did, I felt that he apologized to everyone he needed to (that was in the episode), and made amends for what he did. Keith escorting him back into the hallway, telling him he forgave him, and then taking him as his “plus one” to heaven was the best way to end Dan’s story. Thank you to Mark and Paul for their never-ending loyalty and care for their long-term viewers. I’ll be very sad when this show ends for good. It has been a great run!

  29. Drew says:

    I don’t watch the show and haven’t for years, but it sounds like they’re doing right by the fans and that’s cool.

    Paul directed “Atlas Shrugged, Part 1” (now on Nerflix instant streaming) and I thought that was really well done. He also played John Galt in the movie, though he is hidden in shadows so you can’t really tell that it was him. I’m interested to know whether or not he’s working on the sequel. It doesn’t sound like it, based on this interview.

  30. Lisa says:

    I started crying three minutes into it, which was 3 1/2 hours ago and I’m still wiping tears away. INCREDIBLE!

  31. Carter says:

    i cried from the start of the episode to the end. heck i’m still tearing up now. right now it’s probably the most powerful hour of TV i’ve ever seen of my 30+ years watching TV. unfreakingbelievable

  32. Shez says:

    ohh lord perfect doesn’t even describe this episode! it was amazing! THE BEST!!!! i wept for the entire episode from Nathan and Haley’s reunion till the end where dan and keith had walked into the afterlife together! tears from beginning to end! i never thought i would be so upset at Dan’s death but i was.. still tears hrs later!

  33. Kelly says:

    Amazing episode. I knew Dan was going to die, it just seemed inevitable, and it was hard to watch in a way yet fitting in other ways. Loved the flashbacks, and Keith’s return… beautiful. He was one of my favorite characters, and getting to see him again was a gift. I am really going to miss OTH.

  34. Liz says:

    I never thought I would cry so much over Dan Scott’s death. This episode was completely amazing from beginning to end. I loved how the show was able to keep Keith’s return a surprise, I didn’t think that it was possible anymore to have a character return to a show and not be spoiled about. I was late to start watching OTH, but with Netflix streaming I have managed to catch up with every episode and I am really going to miss this show. I will always wish that I could have started watching it earlier on. I remember seeing previews for way back when on other channels, but I didn’t have The WB until it merged with UPN and became The CW.

  35. Trista says:

    I personally felt that having Keith come back was a must, but totally loved that Mark didn’t let the cat out of the bag until the end. I also loved that Nathan finally asked why. Kudos to OTH for their 9 years of fabulous television and kudos to Paul Johansen for being one of my favorite – love to hate’em characters.

  36. Jason says:

    Dan opens eyes, sees Deb: “Am I in hell?”

    Deb: “Not yet.”

  37. LaurenMC says:

    Great end to Dan Scott. As soon as I saw Keith I started crying. It’s actually starting to set in that this show I have been watching for 9 years is ending. Tear.

  38. Brandy says:

    Im going to agree with everyone & say it was a great episode, bueatifuly written/acted ect. I liked Keith so I was glad to see him& I was suprised cause his return wasnt spoiled. I am glad Dan apologized to everone,even Keith and he finally found forgiveness/redeemtion. Dans death wasnt a suprise cause itt wwas sorta spoiled that a major character would be killed off a drama series & lots of people expected it to be Dan. This final season has been mostly really great & im gonna miss it.

  39. I’ve been a fan of OTH for my high school and college life, and the beginning of my professional life as well. I think Paul Johansson blew us all away with his phenomenal work in this last episode. It really is a bittersweet goodbye, because the show is wrapping up really well, and it makes me excited to see the last episode. But it IS the last episode. After that, I have to say goodbye to a constant staple of my teenhood and my college years. That’s really sad. We all see ourselves in each of the characters. Haley and Nathan as a loving, devoted couple willing to fight the odds. Brooke as this headstrong, amazing character who’s vulnerable and yet headstrong at the same time. Lucas, who looks as though he’s cool enough to have all the answers but really, he’s still a regular guy. And Peyton, who’s been to hell and back, but survived and is stronger for it. I will miss these constant companions.

  40. From someone who has been a loyal fan from the very first airing of the first episode, I have to say that was definitely one of the top 3 episodes ever. Death and its aftermath are one of the things Mark Schwann and his team always do well. I enjoyed the flashbacks, it felt as if Dan’s life was flashing before our eyes, and the nods to seasons past. The exchange with Nathan on the Rivercourt was especially moving. And I could not be more thrilled to have seen one more scene with Keith, made that much sweeter by the unexpectedness of it. I’m finding this last season to be bittersweet. I’ll be beyond sad to see it go, but I’m so happy to see one of my all-time favorite shows go out with some of its best material ever. I think Karen said it best back at the end of season 1 when she said “There’s only one Tree Hill.”

  41. The episode was very heartbreaking, it was sad to see how much time when between Dan & Nathan before they were able to forgive one another . Life is too short to hold grudges! It must have been very hard for Dan to have lost his mother during his last & final episode! I think it was so incredibly kind to tribute his mother however my prayers are with him and his family during this difficult time. Dan Scott was a great actor on One Tree Hill, I’m going to miss this T.V. show I’ve been watching it from day one.

  42. Jason says:

    Can I just add how much Barbara Alyn Woods brought to the series? I have sorely missed “Deb” these past couple years, and am ecstatic whenever she returns. There’s no doubt that this show was somewhat aimed at a teen / young adult audience, but the actual ADULTS in One Tree Hill truly helped make this show the success it has been. From Dan and Deb, to Whitey and Karen and Victoria and Lydia….the adults have brought a gravity and professionalism to this show in spades.

  43. Dean says:

    This was definetley one of the best episodes. I agree the adults were important part of show and ive missed karen, deb, keith. Thank you for a great final season!

  44. Marisa G says:

    Wow, that episode was just fantastic. Incredible acting all around and one of the things that I will ALWAYS love and defend about OTH. It could be cheesy and dramatic, but at the end of the day it has a certain realism and heart that most of the teen dramas currently on air DON’T have at all. I think it helps that it’s a small town and not some grand locale and it has that small town feel to it. I admit that I haven’t always watched it because the cheesy/dramatic parts would drive me away, but what always made me come back was that at it’s core OTH will always be about this characters living together and loving each other no matter what. It’s even more incredible when you think about where the pilot started out and how much these characters have grown and changed in this span of time. We’ve literally all watched them grow up and that has been such a beautiful experience.

    In watching that episode it was really, really difficult to mourn Dan, a beloved yet hated character. Nine years is a really long time to have a character in your life. This show started when I was 13 and I’ve watched it almost since day 1. I’ve run the gamut of hating and not-so-much-hating Dan Scott for all these years and it definitely was heartwrenching to have to say goodbye for the final time, especially because I can remember many times when I couldn’t WAIT to see him dead.

  45. Kryslidge says:

    I have to say the ending of the show where Dan tells Keith, ” I know where your going, but what about me?” and Keith says, “D

  46. Kryslidge says:

    I have to say the ending of the show where Dan tells Keith, ” I know where your going, but what about me?” and Keith says, “Don’t worry Danny your my plus 1” I loved it, it truly brought closure on that whole brotherhood. Amazing, I’m still in tears!

  47. justine says:

    It was a very good show. I thought is might of been on the final show. But did any body
    see the credits. It said In memory of Paul Johanson. I didnt realize that he actually died in real life.

  48. Renthead621 says:

    Dan and Keith were my mothers favorite characters. She passed away last summer, so she didn’t get the chance to see the final season. She got me into OTH. I cried when Dan died, but totally lost it when Keith came to escort Dan to the afterlife. Well played Schwann. Bravo.

    • Bunty says:

      I cried so much I had to keep reminding myself Its only a tv show Didn’t help I cried my eyes out. Will sorely miss OTH,

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  50. A.Ahaf says:

    I love paul johansson from eps 1 and cant wait to meet him…i hope he gets to play james bond in movie