You probably heard over the holidays that Jason Segel renewed his contract, making a ninth season of How I Met Your Mother all but officially official. On one hand, good for this cast of likable actors. Let them cash paychecks while they can. On the other, greed kills television shows. To know that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have been writing this season as though it were the last and then all of a sudden it’s not? It’s like pulling back the curtain to reveal a miserly little man behind all of that wizardly bluster. How can fans be expected to get excited in the wake of this trickery? Don’t get us wrong, there was a time — a long time — when we were in no hurry to meet the Mother, which was, and remains, the symbolic end of the series. But lately we had been looking forward to the conclusion, because, actually, it’s been a pretty decent season when you adjust for the late era (it’s a far cry from the early excellence), and it would be nice to conclude on a reasonably strong note.
But who knows? Maybe we like these people enough to be entertained by what is sure to be an ever-dwindling number of awesome episodes and a slew of okay ones. Last night’s was actually pretty good. Ted’s love for Robin is a dead horse, and it’s been beaten, but those clever writers — they managed to make Ted’s wildly unsurprising confession of feeling like Robin should be with him just that much more effective by pairing it with Lily’s tearful breakdown about motherhood. Emotional honesty is the series’ strong suit, and moments like these resonate, especially because they probably hew pretty closely to the evolution of their fan base. Lily’s “we have to accept our lots in life” speech was kind of painful, and it reminded us of the time the gang was on the roof for their last cigarette, which seems so long ago.
Elsewhere, a very sick-sounding Robin helped Barney get her father’s permission to marry. Ray Wise was reintroduced to maximize his Twin Peaks creepiness by trying to disguise it with a Hawaiian-print T-shirt, a Facebook account, and an affection for I Can Has Cheezburger. And all of this went down at Pizzazzy’s, which someone on set thought was pretty freakin’ clever, because if you missed the restaurant name the first time, there were multiple shout-outs to it.
At first we were a little skeptical about Ted’s quick turnaround to wedding planner, but it all fit together fairly nicely, and the band-versus-D.J. thing was another plausible rubric for a larger plot: Ted wouldn’t have met the Mother if he had gotten his way with a D.J., and we have one more puzzle piece.
What we liked:
- Marshall and Ted’s Departed routine. It was enough that Lily refused to let Marshall go to the bar with Ted because she suspected he was trying to ditch constipated Marvin, get drunk, and pretend he was in the movie. It took us totally by surprise when the two started shouting, “Are you a cawp?!” This seems like something Segel might’ve brought to the table, and Josh Radnor could barely keep a straight face for it.
- Ted’s montage of pain. Even though he basically put Barney’s engagement ring on Robin’s finger, Ted apparently felt kicked in the nuts by the text announcing their good news, and we saw this as a montage of memorable moments, mostly from the series: his fall from the chair in “The Pineapple”; getting attacked by the goat; faux fighting Barney to satisfy crazy Doug; the kick to the face by the ex who knew Krav Maga in “Return of the Shirt”; having his tattoo removed.
- Lily’s honesty: “Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a mom. I want to leave in the middle of the night and not come back.” We didn’t see that coming with Marvin’s constipation story line, and it’s true that nothing greases the wheels for a heart-to-heart quite like secret-swapping.
- Most of the dialogue concerning or involving Robin’s father. Marshall’s description: “He always looks like he just came from slapping some guy tied to a chair in a back.” Mr. Scherbatsky’s burn to Barney: “Grown men are not blond.” Barney’s appeal to Robin’s father: “I left the meatball at home so I could talk to you, spaghetti to spaghetti.” And Mr. Scherbatsky again: “That is why I’ve asked Carol for a divorce. She’s heartbroken, understandably. Possibly suicidal. But if that’s the price for my daughter’s love, then I will gladly let Carol pay it.”
- Ted’s argument for having a D.J. “Would you like Kool & the Gang to play your wedding? And would it be okay if they invited their friends, Beyoncé and Abba and the Bee Gees and Queen?”
- The almost-Halloween music that plays when Ted rivals Lily as wedding planner. (It sounded a note off from Michael Myers’s legit theme.)
What we didn’t like:
- Chekhov’s poop. When Baby Marvin’s constipation was announced at the episode’s beginning, it was obvious we would be treated to some unleashing of bowels by the end. The confetti imagery wasn’t a bad disguise, though.
- Would Barney really text Ted to say that he was engaged to Robin? Seems like that would warrant a phone call.
- During Lily and Ted’s moment, he asks her if she’s told Marshall how she feels, to which she responds, “Have you told Robin how you feel?” Yes! About a million times! Where has she been?
Overall, this episode is an argument both for and against HIMYM’s renewal: It was solid enough to suggest that a ninth season will not be without its charms, but it was repetitive enough to prove that the writers are very nearly out of material.