It was nothing flashy, but last night’s episode — which sneaked a realistic portrayal of group dynamics and some heavy plot development in amid some good old-fashioned HIMYM levity — was rock solid. To the recap!
Zoey and Ted and the Captain: Zoey, now officially a member of the gang, invites everyone to a snoozy Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit, and of course everyone but Ted turns her down. Lily highlights the inherent pitfalls of hanging out alone with a married woman, but Ted does so anyway, probably because his heart is secretly whispering things to him. It turns out that Zoey’s a little shifty about the one-on-one situation to her husband, The Captain (Showgirls’s Kyle MacLachlan), and a follow-up outing involving all three primary participants is arranged to make things right. Ted shows up on The Captain’s boat — but Zoey’s not there, missing with a mysterious ailment. Is The Captain trying to kill Ted on the high seas as vengeance for Ted hanging out with Zoey alone?! Yes, says the classic sitcom-chain-of-unintentionally-ominous-dialogue! Only, no, of course not. Still, the misunderstanding leads to a frantic Ted accidentally falling in the water and The Captain fishing him out; next, we are made to understand that Cap was just trying too hard to bond with Zoey’s younger friends (Zoey, later: “The Captain can get a little murdery when he’s nervous”). Bonus points to this segment for the following line, from Ted’s frantic internal monologue: “You didn’t get a ‘good effort’ ribbon from the JCC swim camp because you don’t have what it takes!”
Marshall and Robin: Inspired by Ted and Zoey’s platonic cross-gender date, Marshall and Robin try to hang out, just the two of them. Putting aside that episode where they go get drunk at the Minnesota bar together, this is a very nice plot point! Most people do indeed have buds they get along with great while other people are around, and that they would also never dream of calling up solo. Marsh Madness and Robo Cop force it anyways, going to a fancy dinner and then exhausting their regular stock of conversation topics in sixteen seconds. They get drunk and Marshall starts explaining Barney’s Mermaid Theory: Much like old-timey sailors — stuck on ships for so long without female companionship that they eventually hallucinated manatees as sexy fish-babes — modern man will eventually be attracted to every woman, ever (yeah, it doesn’t hold up at all; don’t think about it too much). Marshall says he’s scared of getting too close to Robin, lest he begin to see her not as a manatee, as he currently does, but rather as a sexy fish-babe. Again, makes no sense: In the real world, dudes in long-term relationships are able to find other women attractive without also feeling an uncontrollable urge to sleep with them. But, hey, Cobie Smulders in a manatee suit!
Lily and Barney: Here, writers get fancy with the flashback structure, making Future Ted unable to remember a fight Lily and Robin had: We go to Future Ted’s living room several times, where the kids, ever attentive, sit idly back and smile while Future Ted wracks his brain for the details. It’s a neat trick, and, more important, an understated way to confirm Lily’s future pregnancy: It turns out the story Future Ted is trying to remember is from a later date, when, yep, Lily is mad pregnant. But right now, the writers aren’t ready to deal with the connotations of a pregnant woman who still spends major amounts of time at a bar, and that’s all right with us.
And then, the postscript: Ted and Zoey at the bar, totally just friends, but with the Mermaid Countdown ticking off. Poor The Captain.