HIMYM creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays spent their summer vacation explaining away their show's partially maligned fifth season, where plot development gave way to a parade of hit-or-miss episodes. Here's Thomas, speaking to Vulture in July: “We wanted to slow down the [narrative] after telling the Robin and Barney relationship, so we opened it up in the middle of the season and did some stand-alone episodes. That meant we didn't emotionally move the ball down the field as much as we have in past years." But! "Season six is ... going to bear a lot more resemblance to season one or two. The characters are going to be having a lot of big things happen to them."
Well, here we go. HIMYM premiered last night with all kinds of mother talk: The episode opens on what looks like Ted's wedding day, then shifts back in time to the bar, where Ted is grading papers and eyeing a comely young lass reading Brideshead Revisited. But before he can make his move, the girl's friend shows up and it's very special guest star Rachel Bilson! As you'll recall, Ted briefly dated Bilson last season, when she was revealed as the current roommate of the mother as well as a perfectly fine device to use to pass on a bunch of innocuous details about that mother. So could the Brideshead girl be the roommate?! No, of course not: It's the first episode of the season, and we haven't even met previously announced love interest Jennifer Morrison. But there is a twist — Bilson and Brideshead are dating, which seems to be as much an excuse to have two attractive ladies kiss as anything else.
Flash forward again, to Ted's presumed wedding, which actually turns out to be someone else's wedding for which Ted is giving a best-man speech (Barney's?). More important: This is the day, Bob Saget tell us, that Ted meets the mother. Happy now, people complaining that the ostensible purpose of the show wasn't getting enough shine?
Elsewhere, Marshall and Lily are making sex dates for baby-conceiving purposes, complete with twangy banjo jams set as the soundtrack for the actual deed. And here comes what will surely be one of many, many contrived baby-making roadblocks: Marshall told his dad that he and Lily were trying to have a baby, which is just the latest example of Marshall's dad constantly interjecting in their lives! A few funny lines (“Why don't you have a baby with your butt?”) and heartfelt moments (Lily doesn't really care about Marshall's dad, she's just scared she won't be able to have a baby) later, and Marshall and Lily are back to being a perfect couple.
That leaves Barney and Robin, as usual, to do all the comedic heavy lifting. Barney has a nice bit with a fantasized best-man speech, in which revealing he called dibs on Ted's alternate-reality future wife leads to public table sex. But Robin, who has slipped into a post-Don (remember that dude?) dirty-sweatpants-and-Cheetos sitcom depression, wins the episode: After being goaded into a quickie makeover by mean-spirited Barney (“It's like you have squiggly cartoon odor lines coming off of you”), she reappears at the bar and is immediately hit on. “Fourteen seconds! Fourteen seconds and already some ding-dong is stepping up thinking he can get some of this broke. off. ho. I still got it.”
All in all, a solid opening episode. But even if it wasn't, it's a brand-new season, which means we are — until further notice — on a moratorium from complaining about this show. Welcome back, HIMYM.