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How I Met Your Mother Recap: Stories She Tells

"How Your Mother Met Me"

It’s the episode we’ve been waiting for — or one of them, anyway. The 200th installment of HIMYM unfolds from the Mother’s point of view, beginning with another creative twist on the opening credits and cycling back through all of her near run-ins with Ted over the years, including a few more than previously anticipated — maybe even an unlikely number. But nobody has the benefit of knowing exactly how many times we almost crossed paths with the important people in our lives, and the idea of Ted and the Mother circling each other’s orbit all this time is actually very New York. Somehow, though, the execution left me feeling like the writers were filling in the blanks.

Watching this episode, I realized: A lot of the details referred to here were first introduced in season five’s “Girls vs. Suits,” and that was ONE HUNDRED episodes ago. It was then that Ted pursues Cindy (Rachel Bilson) only to discover that everything he likes about her actually trace back to her roommate, a.k.a. the Mother: She does paintings of robots playing sports; she likes to make her breakfast foods sing show tunes; she’s read T.C. Boyle’s World’s End. I had actually hoped the scene revisiting St. Patrick’s Day — which, in 2008, was apparently celebrated in April — would last longer, even if just to see the Mother’s offhand reaction to Ted’s bad behavior. Yeah, we saw her friend Kelly bump into Barney, who was dressed like “an N.B.A. player sidelined by a knee injury,” but that was rather obvious continuity courtesy of the wardrobe department. In season three’s “No Tomorrow,” Future Ted says, “It’s a good thing I did [go to the club with Barney], because your mother was there.” Why was it good exactly? I guess because he stole her yellow umbrella (the next morning), which he would (years later) return, and it will play a role in their introductions when he eventually sees her on the train platform in Farhampton?

What we mainly learned is that the Mother is as hopeless a romantic as Ted, but for entirely different reasons: She believes she already met, and lost, The One. He died the same night Ted met Robin, on the Mother’s 21st birthday (yeah, incredibly grim). It would have been boring for the Mother to be simply Ted’s female foil, mooning over every failed relationship in her quest for marital bliss, so on one hand I appreciate this backstory. But at the risk of sounding callous: I haven’t gotten to know the Mother well enough to be genuinely moved by this tragedy. Twenty-two minutes vs. eight-and-a-half seasons? The Mother’s P.O.V. is so truncated. I’d be curious to know whether this is the history creators Bays and Thomas always had in mind for her, although I guess it doesn’t really matter. It distinguished her loneliness from Ted’s, and that’s primarily the point.

The other revelation is that the Mother ended up in that economics class because an old camp instructor, after failing to pull off the Naked Man, asks her, “What is it you want to do with your life?” and her answer is, “End poverty.” Talk about broad strokes. That’s a noble but general response. Was there no precise goal in mind to get her into that class? I might have preferred a more realistic imposition from “the universe” — like that econ is usually a core college requirement.

My final disappointment: The last third of “How Your Mother Met Me” reacquaints us with very recent events. I love Andrew Rannells, but we only encountered Darren a few episodes ago. I don’t really care when the Mother met him and how he insinuated himself into her band, Super Freakonomics, with his trademark obsequiousness. And I wasn’t crazy about Louis’s proposal either, because while that definitely ups the kismet factor of this weekend, the series has burned through way too many proposals already. Marshall, Lily, Ted, Robin, Barney … Broken/failed engagements aren’t this common.

And the ukulele — how to not sound like a curmudgeon here? I mean, when Ryan Gosling played the instrument in Blue Valentine, I actually yearned to return to the depressing timeline. It’s just that twee now. Okay, it was a gift from her late boyfriend, so I’m being kind of a jerk about this. That scene either made you fall in love with the Mother, or it made you cringe (let’s discuss). But “La Vie en Rose”? Cristin Milioti has a beautiful voice, and the song underscored some heavy moments for the rest of the cast, but why not something off of the Unicorns’ Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? Also, if Ted heard a woman playing a freakin’ ukulele on the balcony adjacent to his, wouldn’t he of all people strike up a conversation, or at least tender some applause? Obviously, that couldn’t happen for the sake of the story arc, but these close encounters aren’t meaningful if the choreography feels forced or contrived.

Even so, Carter Bays’s tweet about how he was so nervous about this episode that he had a stomachache makes me go soft. I didn’t hate it, and it definitely gave us more of the Mother, which is what we’ve been asking for throughout this season, but my expectations were high.

What I liked:

  • Louis remembering MacLaren’s as Puzzles, meaning he was there the night Barney and Ted ran the place in “Three Days of Snow,” one of the best episodes ever. Also: There’s another MacLaren’s?! 
  • Cindy and the Mother’s kiss. No, not for pervy reasons; in many ways, the incident was glossed over too neatly. But in “Girls vs. Suits,” Cindy was threatened by her roommate. I wish the backstory in this episode had explored Cindy’s insecurity, though mayber her jealousy stemmed only from her own attraction. 
  • More cliffhangers. Not only do we not know where Lily is off to, or with whom, but now Barney’s gone missing as well.

What I didn’t like:

  • The Mother sharing Ted’s interest in coin collections, calligraphy, and Renaissance fairs. She doesn’t have to be Ted’s twin for them to be suited to each other. I’d have preferred to learn even more about what made her unique than what made her perfect for Ted.
Photo: Ron P. Jaffe/CBS