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How I Met Your Mother Recap: Holiday Surprise

"The Final Page, Part One And Two" --   Marshall (Jason Segel, right-center) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan, left-center) run into an acquaintance from college (Seth Green, left), on a special one-hour episode of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, Monday, Dec. 17 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Hi, I’m Danielle, filling in for regular recapper Phoebe this week. I usually write about Real Housewives of Atlanta, but don’t worry — I am an avid HIMYM viewer and have been reading Phoebe’s recaps for years. This double episode was a doozy, so let’s jump right in.

We are happy that the show seems to have regained some footing last night, if not with jokes, then at least with plot. There was still a lot of hemming and hawing about relationship status and whether or not Ted was going to go after Robin once and for all (for the hundredth time), but it ended with a thoughtful and touching scene that is a callback to seasons past.

The central story line involved the upcoming party for the opening of Ted’s building, but there were a few great plot points. The show opens with the group at MacLaren’s; Barney gets jinxed when he and Marshall both order a “Scotch, neat,” and the gang is bursting with excitement for as yet unknown reasons. Apparently, Barney got jinxed five years ago but refused to follow along with the rules and forgo speaking; as a result, he got hit by a bus and now takes his jinxes very seriously. He has been wreaking havoc on everyone with his jinxing over the years, so they’re all excited for the chance to get him back. Everyone refuses to say his name, so he remains silent for the first half of the episode. 

In a second story line, Ted decides to invite his former instructor Professor Vinick (played by the always dashing Peter Gallagher) to the opening of the GMB building. We learn in a flashback that Professor Vinick told Ted in 1996 that he’d never be an architect, and Ted’s invite is a way to “move past those hurtful words.” Marshall and Lily explain that Professor Vinick is Ted’s “pit guy,” someone you are so obsessed with you would throw them in a pit just like Silence of the Lambs. Robin decides that her Pit Person is Patrice; Lily and Marshall’s Pit Person is Daryl, an intense and annoying guy they knew in college (played by Seth Green, so a sort of Willow-and-Oz reunion). Not only does Professor Vinick turn down the invitation, but he also doesn’t even remember Ted, who travels with the gang to Wesleyan to get some validation. It backfires when Professor Vinick again says that Ted will never be an architect. In true Ted form, he uses the dismissal to learn a valuable lesson about pulling yourself out of the pit. 

At work with Robin, Sandy Dennis is looking forward to end-of-the-year firings; at first, Robin doesn’t want to fire anyone, but then she remembers Patrice. She tries to fire her, but Patrice ends up turning it around and confirming that Robin is only treating Patrice poorly because of her feelings for Barney.

The subplot of Lily and Marshall running into Daryl is pretty funny; not only is he still on campus, but he's still eerily obsessed with them. He sells hacky sacks for a living and generally seems to be stuck in the nineties. Daryl insists everyone go back to his house for a surprise; once in the basement, Marshall screams that he doesn’t want the surprise, only to have Daryl present a check for $100,000 for their half of the business. With Marshall’s outburst, he realizes that he doesn’t need their validation and rips up the check.

Back in the car, Barney shows Ted an engagement ring, causing Ted to say his name and break the jinx. He will only unjinx Ted if he doesn’t tell anyone about the engagement ring or try to stop him. Ted agrees but ultimately thinks Robin deserves to know. Back at MacLaren’s, Marshall talks him out of it, and Ted asks her to be his date to the party instead.

There’s a running story line about Lily and Marshall getting a night away from Marvin; they’re excited but nervous, and the jokes wear very thin. Eventually, they end up at the party, crumpled in a heap and crying over pictures of Marvin.

When Ted pulls up to pick up Robin in their limo, Ranjit is the driver! Robin probes Ted to tell Ranjit about where they’re going, but instead he spills the beans about Barney proposing to Patrice on the top of the World Wide News building. Robin insists that she wants to go to the party, and when they pull up to the building, Ted has rerouted them to the WWN building instead, insisting Robin go up and get Barney. When she gets to the top, there are candles and rose petals scattered on the ground, and a page from Barney’s playbook called “The Robin,” a detailed fifteen-step plan that brings us to this very point. We learn that Barney has been orchestrating this all season, picking exact moments to confess his love, tell her they won’t work as a couple, keep her guessing, make her crazy, and ultimately bring her to her favorite spot in the city, where he proposes, and Robin says yes.

Even though we knew we would end up at their wedding based on the season premiere, FINALLY, we have some movement between these two, in a very sweet moment that reminded us why we liked this once-clever show in the first place.

What We Liked: 

  • Seth Green as Daryl was so great on this episode — not overused and hit all the right beats. Daryl commenting on every social media image of Marvin and then commenting on his comments was brilliant and a reminder that we all have that friend on Facebook.
  • The Three Hackmigos. A perfect callback to the apathetic, jam-band-filled college years of the nineties, when everyone hung out in the quad and hacky sacks were all the rage. I love that at the end he reveals that he’s made enough money from hacky sacks to have a time-share with PFunk in St. Martens.
  • Lily talking about how “she loves the huge wieners at the dining hall” in the car when Barney was still jinxed and unable to speak. Juvenile, sure, but the show needed some levity.
  • Professor Vinick saying he only remembers students who have an interesting mustache and then telling a guy named Handlebar Pete that he’ll make a great architect someday, right in front of Ted. I think it’s great that the writers are also willing to recognize that though Ted is the central point of the show, he’s not always memorable outside of the circle of friends.
  • Robin’s heart-to-heart with Patrice, who is annoying but ultimately kind. Robin’s crazy reaction to her mostly makes her look like a lunatic, so it was nice to see them share a human moment.
  • Ted letting Robin go. It’s been painful watching him grasp at the straw that is Robin for so many years, and we ultimately like them best as friends.
  • Lily getting drunk in a hotel room while she waits for Marshall to finish talking to Ted.
  • Rajit’s love song.  
  • All fifteen steps of the proposal, but particularly “find the person who annoys Robin the most, and ask for her help,” the hidden camera monitors set up in everyone’s apartments, and, finally, “hope she says yes.” 

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Have the writers run out of things for Marshall and Lily to do? We were really disappointed in the clichéd story lines of how difficult it is to lull their child to sleep followed by how much they missed him once they were gone. I’m sure these tropes are true of new parents; we’ve just been hoping the writers would find a way to steer clear of these worn-out ideas.
  • In the flashback to five years ago, why was Lily’s hair brown? That’s just poor continuity.
  • Trotting out the running joke of “How dare you, and what is that?” when Marshall mentioned the pit guy

Overall, we have some renewed hope for this show. If this will in fact be the final season, we’re hoping it will only pick up from here.

Photo: Ron P. Jaffe/CBS