You didn’t need X-ray vision to see through last night’s food-poisoning gag. From the moment Lily and Marshall decided, at the end of season five, to try for a baby, it was pretty much a given that the following year’s finale would conclude with their good news. (You can read an interview with Carter Bays and Craig Thomas about the finale here.) Thus, Marshall’s endangered bowels weren’t much of a smoke screen. If we wanted to be generous, we could say this subterfuge was a fitting end to a season rife with loss (of a parent, of bad habits, and, to some extent, of youth). If we wanted to be objective, we would suggest that scatological humor — a “Where’s the poop?” if ever there was one — reeks of desperation (pun intended). But it led to one fabulously accurate assessment from Lily: “When it’s stomach stuff, you just say ‘under the weather’ or people start picturing you doing unspeakable things.” Yes, unless those people are your bosses and you don’t want to be questioned about playing hooky, you never refer to the roiling of your insides.
On to the real shocker: Barney’s getting married before Ted?! Yes, the idea had been floated because it never made sense for the whole gang to attend Punchy’s big day, but this still landed like a plot bomb. On the one hand, it’s fitting: Even when the last bachelor falls, the true romantic waits for the perfect woman. Then again, we imagined a less conventional route for Barney, especially if it’s Robin standing beside him. The title of this recap is literal, but it’s also inevitable: At some point, one’s thirties become consumed with these two mostly celebratory, but also slightly tiresome topics. We’re not sure we can abide Barney’s capitulation to the norm.
With what felt like a clumsy chronology, the episode opened with Ted and Barney arguing over who would press the button that demolished the Arcadian, which Ted suddenly announced was how he “spent the summer.” Kind of hasty and improbable, as was Robin’s grousing that neither of them could even find her button. Scherbatsky doesn’t strike us as the type who would settle for bad sex, and we can recall at least one instance in which she said Ted “literally” blew her mind (Ted: “figuratively”). Before the three months pass, though, Ted informed them that Zoey wanted to get coffee, which everybody rightly understood to mean “get back together.” No worries, of course, because Zoey was the absolute pits. Right? Except Ted has a previously undisclosed habit of contacting his exes during moments of duress: He reached out to Natalie when a can of whipped cream sputtered out (presumably, this was after he rediscovered the old shirt and did the same thing?); he called Karen whilst suffering a bad sunburn. Ever notice how Victoria is seldom mentioned? Prediction: She returns before the end of the series.
Thus, after a weird situation with the new GNB building that probably only existed to feed Barney a lightbulb joke, Ted found himself on the precipice of reuniting with Zoey. Robin and Barney felt compelled to stop him. “New is always better,” Barney argued, calling it his best and oldest rule. Actually, a strict textual reading of the Bro Code suggests that his oldest rule is “bros before hos.” But “new is always better” fit last night’s theme, even if Barney wasn’t convinced of its wisdom. Huddled unnecessarily close in the spacious backseat of Ranjit’s car, he and Robin were having some second thoughts while en route to a bourgie café called the Intersection, located at Brooklyn’s Smith and 9th Street, where Zoey and Ted had their first date.
Hold up. Generally, we applaud HIMYM’s realistic shout-outs to the city. This season’s “Subway Wars,” for example, nailed a few true New Yorker moments, like crying on the train and being able to understand conductor-speak. As far as Brooklyn goes, we suppose they adequately name-dropped Trader Joe’s last night. But this is the intersection of Smith and 9th street. No ritzy flower shops, and certainly nobody’s idea of a destination, unless they’re taking a bus to Red Hook.
Anyway, Robin and Barney succeeded, and in the process of talking Ted out of meeting Zoey, they talked themselves out of giving it another go. Robin: “The future is scary, but you can’t run back to the past just because it’s familiar.” When the orchid intended for Zoey ends up in the hands of another pretty blonde, Ted faked out the kids by saying “And that’s how I met your mother” — it was not as good of a “Psych!” as when he said the same thing about the hooker who turned out not to be a hooker in season one. Life moved on, the Arcadian crumbled, and emerging from the dust was Nora (we’re just being flowery here; Robin and Barney bumped into her a little while later). Again, strange timing, and a rather haphazard way to bring the season full circle. Barney: “You look beautiful. And here I thought it was too late for sundresses.” Nora: “It’s never too late, Barney.” In the first episode of the season, Barney lavished similar praise on Robin for sundressing up. Now, she looked on wistfully as Barney murmured “challenge accepted” and we wonder which, if either of them, will be Barney’s bride “a little ways down the road.”
We could get lost in speculation. Robin asked Ted to be her best man. So he wouldn’t be best men to both, or would he? There’s a strong lobby out there for Robney, though we can’t count ourselves a part of it just yet. (Other than the amazing “Bagpipes” episode, their coupling felt miscalculated.) But, to the show’s credit, it took us a long time to get over Ted and Robin, yet their friendship finally sunk in. Ultimately, we can debate this all we want — the truth is, the writers probably don’t even know yet. They’re going to test-drive this one. Question, though: Will Barney’s wedding, where Ted meets the Mother, be the series finale? Introducing the Mother is already challenge enough since a new character could upset the dynamic within the gang. Could the audience endure a married Barney, too? Possibly, if it opens up story lines that can sustain two more seasons.
Not to short-shrift Marshall and Lily, but they really only had one thing happen to them. After Lily bought soup from an establishment where a hairy gray cat prowled the counter, she become so violently ill that she sounded “like a velociraptor from Jurassic Park.” Since she and Marshall prefer to deal with bathroom situations from afar or via text (peeing in front of one another was once traumatizing), Marshall ended up leaving to go on a job interview with a character played by Dave Foley (from Kids in the Hall and News Radio), thinking he had only moments to go before his insides burst out. Discouraged after his hasty exit, he returned home: “Lily, this year — this nasty schoolyard bully of a year — will not stop punching me in the face. How did we kick off 2011? My dad died. And now, after five months of unemployment, I just blew my dream job. Good news is in a few seconds I’m going to start heaving my guts out because that’s what life is for me now — just losing what’s inside until I’m just empty.” Aw. It was a bit manipulative to invoke all this meaningful drama on the heels of an intestinal joke, but the sentimentalists among us believe in Marshall’s self-pity and were touched when he woke up the following morning to Lily’s tearful announcement.
On its own, this was kind of an unremarkable episode that doesn’t stand a chance against memorable finales like “Come On,” “Something Blue,” or “The Leap.” Despite Bays and Thomas’ promise that the show would return to form, this season was uneven. There were a few very good episodes (“Oh Honey,” “Hopeless,” “Last Words”), and “False Positives” was our absolute favorite. Not only did it end with that great My Morning Jacket Christmas song, it contained one of the truest observations of the season: “When your friends have great news, you’re happy for them — for like a millisecond. And then you start thinking about yourself.”
Which brings us to what we liked about this finale: It stoked curiosity by suggesting that the characters, urged on by each other, were growing up. Slowly, we’ve watched the gang mature — Marshall dealt with his dad’s death, Barney reached out to his own father, Robin and Marshall changed jobs, and Lily got pregnant. It will be interesting to see what happens as they each become slightly more self-involved, an unfortunate by-product of getting older. In last season’s “Robots vs. Wrestlers,” Future Ted shared this Stand by Me–ish overview: “Kids, I’d love to tell you that over the years, we didn’t all drift apart at one time or another. We didn’t mean for it to happen, but it does.” In spite of everything, we’re glad we have a couple of years to go before that happens. So, until next sweater season …