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How I Met Your Mother Recap: The Gang’s All Here

The only complaint I can even fathom making would be that last night wasn’t a holiday episode, and HIMYM’s holiday episodes are often my favorites. But it’s May, and rather than tossing some tinsel in a flashback, creators Bays and Thomas gave us an actual gift: Marshall and the Mother. Not only has Marshall finally arrived at Farhampton (great), but it’s the Mother who brought him there (even better) in a van she stole while exacting Aldrin justice (perfect callback).

“Bass Player Wanted” gave the impression of being a solidly planned episode. Like “The Rehearsal Dinner” before it, the plots overlapped effortlessly, and there were a few surprises. The New Normal’s Andrew Rannells (also beloved as Elijah, Hannah’s gay ex on Girls) played Darren, the wedding troublemaker. I’ve never attended nuptials without this guy (or girl) in the mix. Granted, it’s very rare for the person to be a total stranger, but a character who manipulates people with compliments until he gains their trust before turning their confidences into gossip? It’s potentially too dark for a sitcom, which explains why the gang hasn’t dealt with Darren’s brand of toxicity before. And in a nice touch, the Mother (Cristin Milioti) narrates all of this for Marshall’s benefit at the same time as Darren stirs things up for the friends at Farhampton, because he’s the reason she’s getting kicked out of her own band, the aptly named Super Freakanomics.

I’ve taken the time to pick apart the series over the course of this season, so my praise should be as thorough. Darren’s introduction was perfect — he’s the dude who sits down and interrupts two female friends in the middle of an important conversation, and letting telepathic communication do the work of expressing Lily and Robin’s combination of flattery and frustration was a clever way of handling a familiar scenario. Also, it was cool of Bays and Thomas to not confine that reaction to the girls, instead having Ted echo Lily’s geeked-out reaction: “I like that he gets how hilarious and adorable we are!” They really honed in on the thrill of old friends meeting new people together.

Of course, Darren turns out to be a dick, and Rannells has a great face for the duplicity. He sweetly solicits from Robin that she hopes Marshall wins the argument and then offhandedly shares this with Lily. Of course, these two could have squashed the misunderstanding pretty easily if Robin had just told the obvious truth from the beginning, which is that she doesn’t want her best friend to move to Rome (unlike Barney, who only wants Marshall to be a judge so he can help with all of his citations for public urination). But in a fair comeback, Robin turns on Lily for being selfish about her problems during Robin’s wedding weekend.

Elsewhere, Ted and Barney are finally grappling with the weekend’s devastating absence … the expensive bottles of Scotch (dropping both bottles wouldn’t be quickly forgotten, and this made a nice segue for Barney’s “Also, where the hell is Marshall?”). After Ted lectured Barney for abusing a catchphrase to the point of meaninglessness — going to jail for your best friend can’t be The Dream when a suit made of prosciutto and taking a year’s worth of dumps in one 24-hour period are also The Dream — Darren sweet talks them both, embellishing with a family tragedy borrowed from The Lion King. Soon enough, Barney finds out that Ted is moving to Chicago, he’s understandably hurt, and theirs is another believable argument, with a touching but odd resolution (more on that below).

Okay, so, the Mother. What does everybody think? I’m mostly pro, though I’m glad that she’ll never properly join the gang. Still, her interactions with Marshall felt organic, probably because she’s cut from the same cloth as Lily (right down to her requests for the Kennedy Package — actually, if I were Lily, I’d be a little jealous). We’ve all agreed that the Mother is kind of twee, which suits Ted, but her conversation with Marshall made sense in terms of the emo oversharing that sometimes happens between strangers — unlike her profound conversation with Barney on a bench outside a drugstore, which strained credibility. Her psychic fake-out was cutesy (as was her knitting and some of her line deliveries), but it would be a funny prank to pull, especially on the superstitious and susceptible Marshall.

Finally, when Marshall and Marvin walk through the door at Farhampton and Lily says “pause,” her tears nearly prompted my own. I missed Jason Segel, and I was so grateful that, in a callback to one of the couple’s oldest fighting techniques, their battle was put on hold for a moment, because, yeah, it’s time to celebrate. The band is back together. And speaking of celebrating: How is Lily not worshiping the porcelain throne at this point, with all the drinking she’s done?

What I liked:

  • The callbacks, big and small. In addition to the ones already mentioned, there was the Mother’s driving gloves (which she pretended to think were dorky at the start of the season), Gazzola’s Pizza, Marshall versus the Machine, Lily’s crush on Robin, Marshpillow, Ted’s best friendship, and best of all, the slap bet. It looks like we are on the precipice of another slap, adding to those that were re-upped in season seven’s “Disaster Averted.”
  • Robin’s mix of titillation and pride when confessing that Barney pees in public a lot.
  • Ted punching Darren for costing him yet another Scotch, and the Mother anonymously rewarding him with a glass of 35-year-old Glen McKenna. Several (albeit short) strings were pulled together neatly here, maybe enough to get us through some more delay tactics.
  • Fights where a third party is involved almost always prompt the question: How did we get here? I’ll miss Darren in that regard. His shit-starting added an edge to everybody’s dynamic.

What I didn’t like:

  • Barney’s reaction to the real reason for Ted’s move. On one hand, it’s great that he would respect Ted’s fresh start. On the other, this still seems like it would be a really weird situation. Ted is basically saying he needs to leave town once Barney marries Robin.
  • Robin is still in that dreadful dress.
Photo: Ron P. Jaffe/CBS