Have these past three weeks been enough to erase the image of Robin floating away into the early-morning sky like Ted’s former balloon companion? Very little has happened since then in the Farhampton time line, but for the cast (and possibly us fans), it’s been an intense February. Sweet Alyson Hannigan has shed a lot of tears — at the final table-read for the last episode and the on set of The Talk — while Neil Patrick Harris went whirling around New York preparing for his post-HIMYM career, all of which has softened me up for the upcoming finale. Also, we learned that How I Met Your Dad will not necessarily be the lame reboot that we (or at least I) feared it would be, but rather a potentially formidable spin-off starring mumblecore maven Greta Gerwig, who also plans to produce and possibly write for the show.
HIMYD will no doubt learn a little something about long-term planning from the current series, which I can’t be too hard on with only five episodes left, but still wish was able to deliver a stronger farewell. The only problem with last night’s “Rally” boiled down to logic. The gang has spent a considerable amount of time drinking over the years. This surely wouldn’t be the first time we’d hear about Stinson’s Hangover Fixer Elixir, and if the writers wanted to sneak it in there, why not call back to actual hangovers (like Ted’s in “The Pineapple Incident” or Marshall’s in season seven’s “The Naked Truth,” which was the last time he swore off drinking)? It’s always more fun when the writers recreate the past instead of cut-and-paste flashbacks into the narrative, which they also did in this season’s “No Questions Asked,” where Marshall collects on favors he’s done for his friends. There, the new backstory was conceivable, even if the scenarios themselves weren’t.
Then again, “Rally” is realistic in the sense that casual drinkers rarely make “a quit drinking so much" vow only once in their lives. And somebody had to pay the price for all the booze that’s been consumed this weekend — I’m just shocked it wasn’t Lily. Possibly to make up for the fact that this isn’t the most inventive plot, the writers have supplied us with more Ted and the Mother, loosely connecting their New Year’s 2022 to … well, actually, this was muddled, because it seems like the story is for the benefit of the kids to remind them of the importance of love in the midst of a hangover (?), but it was supposed to connect the gang’s wedding-day vows to drink in moderation with their future failures to do so. Those vows are prompted by Barney being so deep in the hurt bag that he even takes a bad photo, which as we know from “Say Cheese” is virtually impossible. This lighthearted episode doesn’t lend itself to a lot of thoughtful grappling, but there were enough jokes to keep the momentum going. (And besides, aren’t you glad the Olympics are over?)
What I liked:
* The Too Many Manhattans Project. I’ve generally come to dread Barney’s later-era faux history — it’s a love-it-or-hate-it gimmick by now — but for anyone who likes to tipple, there’s some sad truth to this episode, and it fits with his FDR pun. Most people in their mid-30s cannot drink like they did in their 20s. The day after is no longer comical, but rather full of recrimination, self-loathing, and sometimes even depression.
* The flash-forwards, which are more precious now that the series is drawing to a close. What’s going to happen to these beloved characters? Unfortunately, there wasn’t much in the way of mind-blowing revelations — for a second, it looked like Robin and Barney ended up having a baby, but I bet a lot of us anticipated that twist at least a beat before it happened. Marshall runs against his former brunch date, Brad (Magic Mike’s Joe Manganiello), for a seat on New York’s Supreme Court, the Mother writes a compelling book that in Ted’s estimation will “end poverty,” and Marvin follows in his parents’ footsteps and goes to Wesleyan.
* Ted growling over the bacon. “This will go great with one of my mom’s L.T. sandwiches.” I find it hard to believe that Mrs. Mosby convinced Ted that he was allergic to bacon and “not saying ‘thank you’” for all these years — in fact, I’m pretty sure I spied some bacon on Ted’s plate in season two’s “Brunch” when I decided to be a total killjoy and revisit. But I especially liked the side-eye both Marshall and the chef gave the camera when Ted wonders if he’ll like it.
* Lily and Robin’s kiss. This seemed like it had to happen, even though it would have been just as fine as a running fantasy that’s been partially satisfied already. Now, it’s part of the closing circle. Also, in a nice tweak, after all Lily’s years of hinting and pining, Robin dug the lip-lock more than she did.
* Drunk Marshall’s idea to flash the Bat Signal even for minor trespasses, like snow removal or a police horse dumping out in the park.
* Lily doling out orders so she can make it to her mani-pedi only to have Robin threaten to tag in Zabka as maid of honor. I’m a sucker for this Billy Zabka gag.
* The failure of the “Weekend at Barney’s” stunt. It would have been too neat if it worked, but the episode had it both ways: the funny pictures, and the gesture of friendship.
What I didn’t like:
* Marshall runs for his Supreme Court seat in 2020, which is only seven years from the present, so why do Marshall and Lily look like they might’ve already started shopping for cemetery plots? Even Hillary Clinton ditched the do that Lily’s rocking. Meanwhile, two years later, Ted and the Mother still look as young as they do in the present.
* Love as the secret ingredient. Well, technically, lying as a form of love, which is more appropriate for Barney, and this was sweet, of course, but I was way more moved when we learned that Barney purposely stole women from Marshall while he and Lily were broken up, or that he flew to San Francisco to tell her to come back. I don’t quite buy Barney as nurse.
* Why couldn’t that grizzly be the ring bear?