Let’s start at the finish: From the moment Ted cruised onto the terrace with two tumblers and an expensive bottle of shoplifted Scotch, Barney’s body language made clear this wouldn’t be the bromantic moment Ted might’ve hoped for when he composed his list of things to do before leaving New York. Sure enough, the episode left off with an uncharacteristically stern Barney saying that he saw Ted and Robin at the carousel. Granted, this plotline is tired from having dragged itself all the way from season three, but I’ve been looking forward to a reckoning between these two since Barney’s harsh words to Ted in “Romeward Bound”: “Robin’s marrying me, not you.” It appeared he was done deferring to his friend’s feelings, and though it was glossed over at the time, the boys haven’t been particularly chummy since. The previews for next week don’t look remotely serious, but I hope the writers will sensibly address the weirdness that can never entirely disappear when your best friend marries your ex-girlfriend.
As for last night: The Farhampton Inn is proving to be a promising alternate universe for the characters (minus Marshall, who dissed Wisconsin as he travelled with Daphne through that “cheese-infested wasteland”). Destination weddings take on an energy of their own, and seeing Lily mid-afternoon on Friday, still taking advantage of the Kennedy package, intensifies the time frame and makes me anticipate every phase of this weekend: the we-just-arrived debauchery, the resulting hangovers, the rehearsal dinner — it’s going to be a busy weekend for Linus.
During this compressed amount of time (52 hours and counting), everyone tends to get busy with their own adventures. For RoRo and Barnstormer (now R-Train and B-Nasty), this means dodging their elderly relatives, who complain about travel and humidity, and think five dollars in a card counts toward a nest egg. Robin and Barney barely disguise their ageism with half-hearted affirmations: “Living link to history/greatest generation/smother me before I’m that age.” The best element of their zombie allegory, of course, is that seniors will come running at the words “Mandy Patinkin,” a joke that took its own course in Lily and Ted’s separate conversation about his move to Chicago. (Which came first for the writers: the Princess Bride–inspired sword fights or a Patinkin punch line?)
The hasty life decisions made by the characters in the last few weeks is one of the weakest plot points to emerge from the addition of another season, which probably necessitated all this scrambling. Ted put his house up for sale and packed up his entire apartment in the span of a couple of days without telling anyone? Unlikely. That said, letting Lily and Ted share this secret together balances out the plausibility problems, and perhaps it serves a greater purpose: to prepare Ted for the mother, who, as commenters noted, seems more in the mold of Lily than Robin. Ted’s list ends with “get one last life lecture from Lily” and her advice added some emotional resonance to the episode. Even though we know Ted won’t actually leave, he should be saying farewell to his crappy memories instead of getting weepy about everything else (the sunset over the Hudson, the Empire State Building — come on, Ted, Chicago is only two hours away. Take it down a notch).
What I liked:
- The dual accidents resulting from the sword fights: Ted and Marshall, not the drunken dry cleaners, destroyed Lily’s rehearsal-dinner dress, and Robin and Lily broke the $600 bottle of Glen McKenna and replaced it with a mixture of cheap whiskey, chocolate syrup, ketchup, and hand sanitizer. (Thank God it wasn’t the $2,500 bottle of the fictional stuff that the gang drank at McLaren’s several years ago.) Bonus: Robin immediately drinking the remaining Scotch, and pretentious Ted deeming the impostor bottle delightful. Extra bonus: Lily getting Inigo Montoya’s name and lines wrong.
- Robin and Barney’s desperate quest for sex. If these two are going to continue to have reservations about tying the knot, their anxieties need to be grounded in reality (fear of a sexless marriage works). The plot fed some standard double-entendres about doing it somewhere they’re not supposed to, and also more old-people jokes, like how the only location that won’t look like a casting call for Cocoon III must involve computers.
- The idiosyncratic things on Ted’s list, like buying a round of drinks for the entire bar (on a Tuesday morning), fixing the grammatical error in some graffiti, and telling off the upstairs neighbor with the loud shoes. It’s just typical Ted stuff, but the list served the story line well, mainly because one of the easiest things on it (drinking with Barney) becomes the hardest for him to do.
- James on sacrificing himself to the seniors: “Why does a brother always have to die first?”
- The ring bear — definitely still a thing.
What I didn’t like:
- The absence of Marshall and the mother. As for the latter, it’s unlikely that she’ll be able to factor into every episode, but last week’s flash-forward was encouraging, and I hope it won’t be long before she returns. In terms of Marshall: It’ll be a shame to have to wait until the rehearsal dinner for Jason Segel to properly join the gang since, according to this roll-out, that won’t be for another couple of months. Maybe it adds a degree of anticipation, but Marshall and Daphne’s odd-couple road trip has yet to really establish itself as worthy of the diversion.
Going forward, the confines of the wedding setting might not allow for the truly ambitious episodes we’ve loved in the past, but if the writing stays sharp and the plotlines are this thoughtfully connected, then season nine might end up being stronger than expected.