After an excellent mini-run, HIMYM returned with a merely entertaining episode last night, one that committed no serious sins and had a major saving grace: official confirmation that Zoey is absolutely not the mother. Multiple high-fives! We never doubted this would be the case — among many reasons, Future Ted frequently refers to her as Zoey, and his kids would obviously recognize their mother’s name — but Jennifer Morrison’s irritating puppy-dog faces are more bearable now that we know she is not long for this show. No offense to Morrison, but, as a character, Zoey never earned enough goodwill for us to want her on the scene for the duration.
We learn that things didn’t end well when a version of Future Ted bumps into Wendy the waitress at a Hong Kong airport in 2021 (a time when, despite technological advances that allow for cell-phone holograms, planes are still delayed because of a little weather). Not only is Wendy a beloved recurring character, she’s well-used here; she is exactly the type of person whom Ted might not be able to immediately place even though he saw her regularly at one point in his life. And she played a role in last night’s particular flashback: It’s, in part, the story of how she met her husband.
So Marshall was back from Minnesota and in a slump that left Lily with the female equivalent of “bleu” balls — five weeks has got to be some kind of record for them. On the surface, it seemed like his job at GNB had him down: “At least I know that I’m making the world a place.” A late-night special on Garbage Island reminded him of his former environmental passions. (Aside: Every effort should be made to cut those plastic rings before trashing them, but we still laughed at that bird’s polluted headdress.) In the typical kind of grand gesture that once led him to Chicago for a pizza, Marshall dedicated himself to saving the planet one green act at a time — which resulted in poor Wendy hauling 80 pounds of bottles for recycling and a co-worker named Meeker getting fired for supporting Marshall’s plan to spend 12 million dollars to reduce GNB’s carbon footprint. (Arthur captured the phony bombast of such initiatives by pointing out that he’d already met Sting.)
Long story short, Wendy and Meeker met and eventually married, bonded by a mutual hatred for Marshall, whose real reason for craving change stemmed from regret that his father would never see him become anything other than a “corporate stooge.” This was touching, as was his other real-life anxiety: that having a baby would keep him tied to his well-paying job forever. From Lily’s encouraging response it sounded like her pregnancy might be postponed for just a little while longer, so that Marshall can once again pursue a position at the NRDC — a nice twist from the days when her shopping addiction left them in more dire financial straits.
Ted, meanwhile, crossed paths with Zoey’s ex-husband and landed in the awkward position of confidant. In our humble opinion, the episode where these guys went on a boat together was among the worst ever, despite Kyle MacLachlan’s welcome cameo. But their repartee here felt more natural. Ted pretended to hate Zoey’s new lover — “a rake, a rogue, a rapscallion” — while the equally erudite Captain responded, “Rapscallion may be going a bit far.” And certainly Ted, a “Ren-ay-sance” fair enthusiast, is no stranger to a flail. But ultimately he can’t help hunt down the allegedly mustachioed predator for the obvious reason, which he confessed. Then, he proceeded to confide in Zoey his guilt over having stolen her. Her response? “The eggs are already broken — let’s make sure we get a pretty good omelette out of it.” Knowing what we know by the end of the episode, which is that theirs is a gray-looking and bad omelette, didn’t it seem strangely loaded for her to say, “It will be years before we know who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy”? Maybe there’s more complexity to their story.
While Robin’s friend and Barney’s new love interest Nora (former soap star Nazanin Boniadi) didn’t return last night, she weighed heavily on Barney’s mind, though he refused to admit it. (Her explanation for declining a post-laser-tag drink was amusingly drowned out with the Charlie Brown teacher voice.) Barney: “She had a nice face, her booty was in place, but Barney don’t chase.” And a coinable retort from Robin: “Please, cheese.” She called his bluff, telling him that Nora was on a date with another dude at Café L’Amore, the eatery of Marshall and Brad’s brief bromance. When that test failed, she consented to his crass offer of sex for old times’ sake: “We’re exes, we’re probably due for a backslide — or we could do it the normal way.” Robin’s remark about the curve of Barney’s appendage playfully honored their former familiarity, but the part that’s hard to swallow (move past it, guys) was the persistence with which she pushed her ex-boyfriend toward another woman. We realize this was never more implausible than when Ted calmly watched Barney and Robin couple up, and it’s a necessary conceit that keeps sitcoms running when there are only so many possible pairings, but it can never be entirely realistic. Of course, they don’t do the deed. Barney decided to call Nora after all.
Finally, on the subject of the mother, a discussion in last week’s comments section merits a brief mention now: Is Nora a contender? We have no idea, but introducing the mom to the audience before introducing her to Ted is certainly a possible strategy. Given that this is the most anticipated moment of the series, Bays and Thomas might want to test-drive a potential mother before deciding if she’s the right fit (i.e., popular with fans). Also, we tend to think that this role won’t be stunt-casted, mostly because it’s hard to keep the introduction of a more famous actress from being spoiled. Thoughts?