So Ted and Robin took Barney’s disappearance in stride, literally. The former couple went for a walk on the beach and talked about their relationship as the sun rose on the morning of the bride’s wedding — you know, as one does. After the spit-take-worthy scene of Robin floating up off the sand to the strains of the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame,” I thought for a second with some relief that this was all in Ted’s imagination, until I realized, no, it was just remedial special effects referencing Ted’s pitiful best-friend balloon. We’re going to have to come back to this.
It seems safe to skip Barney’s trip to the Crab Shed. This was written in the script the moment Curtis mentioned Farhampton’s strip clubs, but other than a cameo by the incomparable Tim Gunn, the plot line was a bore: Barney schooled boys on how to be men (or maybe the other way around) while extolling the virtues of bespoke suits and naked women. Basically, the writers just had to get rid of him for the night, and they justified this by having him pass the baton (a.k.a. “The Playbook”) at the dawn of a new day.
As for Marshall, his fight with Lily is, next to meeting the Mother, one of the most interesting developments of the season (which is admittedly low on developments). In a call back to the hotel’s occasionally substandard service, Marshall can’t get the AC working because the ghost of Captain Dearduff likes it muggy, whereas just the other night, the AC wouldn’t turn off because Dearduff brought “the icy chill of death.” The haunting metaphor got clumsy with Marshall trapped in the room, talking to the ghosts of Lily and Seven-Years-Ago Lily, who dated herself with easy MySpace and Borat jokes. Also, this echoed “The Time Travelers,” a far better episode from last season.
But the substance of the argument remains the same. Marshall thinks San Francisco is a valid point; Lily thinks it’s ancient history. I thought Marshall really had Lily “on the ropes,” as he said, but her retort about his problematic lying and talk of winning made sense. In last season’s “Romeward Bound,” we learned that Marshall had been goofing off and going nowhere at his endangered law firm, which I found so totally out of character, but at least there’s some precedent for his deceit as of late, and Lily’s fear that his behavior would slowly erode their love — even if it sorta comes out of nowhere — was the most valid point.
Okay, Robin and Ted. Does the fact that, in the real-life time line, these two were sharing a similar moment only a few days ago at the Central Park carousel make this midnight stroll more or less plausible? On one hand, there’s still those pesky feelings. The locket has come to symbolize Ted’s true intentions. If Jeanette (Abby Elliott), the worst character ever in a series that includes Zoey (Jennifer Morrison, who rightfully ranked No. 2), hadn’t dropped the heirloom, Titanic style, would Ted have still let go? Overlooking the fact that he would never have had time for all this zigzagging across the country in the middle of planning a move (and that Victoria would have surely told him to fuck off), I buy some of what’s happening here. It’s incredibly manipulative and very far from best-man behavior, but I can’t blame Ted for wanting to send Robin one last message that says, “See how much I care?” That said, his caring is creepy. I need Ted to get a restraining order for this credo: “If you love something, you can never let it go, not even for a second, or it’s gone forever.”
So, why is Robin asking about Ted’s split from Victoria now? Technically, it’s because in last season’s “Autumn of Break-Ups,” he implored his friends not to tell her about Victoria’s ultimatum, though Future Ted said she did eventually find out and promised, “We’ll get to that.” Typical Ted: Silent in the short term, but he never really stops that emotional faucet from leaking. It’s unbelievable — absurd, even — that Robin still demands explanations from Ted, or that Ted can still bear to give them to her without his balls falling off (maybe Hammond Druthers should immortalize them while he can).
If I find it redeemable, it’s only because their reckoning brings me back to the first season, to a relationship that defined those early years, and to all the relationships along the way, even if the shout-outs to Blah Blah and Karen were perfunctory at best. (Their ranking in that “running e-mail chain” sounded an awful lot like various HIMYM recaps and comments.) As weather-beaten as the topic is, the series was never going to abandon Robin and Ted in its final season, just as Ted was never going to give up Robin until he had to, so this conversation was inevitable. But is this it? For-real for real? I found that closing scene, which took place pre-resurrection and in which Robin finally confessed to Ted that she did want him to kiss her on that first date, a little confusing. It was presumably meant to be a cute coda to the series premiere, the coming full circle of Ted’s pursuit of Robin, but it had me wondering if they were undoing everything that came before.
What I didn’t like:
- The balloon metaphor. The last thing we need is a backstory about an escaped balloon to understand that Ted has a hard time letting go.
- Call-back fatigue. Did Barney in a Dumpster on St. Patrick’s Day 2008 come up because, what the hell, the writers were revisiting that episode to write for the Mother’s story line anyway? Ditto teacup pigs and Marshall and Ted’s brief stint as a gay couple. (This probably also applies to Stella’s ambivalence about Star Wars, but that was one of my favorite things about her, and Ted’s dismay was so very realistic.) I guess these are just little treats for longtime fans as the series winds down.
- Robin. Like Ted, I’ll always love her, but she’s a shell of her former character. It’s crappy of her to casually chat about exes as if she doesn’t know where she stands among them, and it’s careless of her to tell Ted he should have acquiesced to Victoria’s wishes when obviously, if he chose not to for whatever reason, that was the right decision. She’s adding insult to injury.