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How I Met Your Mother Recap: Building a Mystery

"Daisy" "Daisy"

The time to take old characters out for one last spin around the block was not last night, when all anybody wanted to know was: Does the Mother die?! This is especially true if those characters include Lily’s dad (Chris Elliott), BoatsBoatsBoats (Laura Bell Bundy), and the Captain (Kyle MacLachlan), all of whom served their purpose on this show a long time ago and didn’t need to be seen again.

The mystery of where Lily went during her fight with Marshall was a good one, although after last week’s stake-raising episode, I’m not sure we cared quite as much. I doubt I’m the only one who went in expecting the titular Daisy to be the name of Marshall and Lily’s second child, which ruined a lot of the suspense, without which the episode was kinda boring. A pregnancy didn’t exactly square with Linus’s sublime service — except for the fact that Lily hasn’t slurred a damn word this whole weekend, and in reality, she would’ve been in worse shape than Hannah in Sunday’s episode of Girls.

Was it a good twist? I was more surprised by their last-minute (and sweetly motivated) decision to move to Rome, because I always had that pegged as a misdirect. Also, that the writers left out Lily’s crucial coda about the mocktails felt more like a cheat than a genuine twist. But it’s a happy development nonetheless, and one that I was only primed for because recent flash-forwards have been so careful not to reference a second child. It’s certainly possible Marshall and Lily would be one-and-done, but they seemed inclined to have more, which got me wondering if that would be among the weekend’s surprises — an easy gimme to satiate us while we wait for the big finale. (You knew the name of the Mother wasn’t going to be given away in an episode title, and Daisy/Lily, etc.)

Thankfully, Zabka was once again in the mix, having spotted Lily while “out doing some late-night dirt biking in the sand.” (Marshall: “Naturally. Continue.”) A run to the store, which could have been for cigarettes, called back to season one, when Marshall and Lily took their first pregnancy test of the series — then it still qualified as a scare, which is another reminder of how far we’ve traveled with this gang. Yet the Captain’s involvement in all this didn’t really make sense. The desperate tone Lily uses during her phone call suggested she was talking to a trusted friend, or even the Mother, with whom she had developed some intimacy, but her boss? Again, feels like we were deliberately misled. And how illogical that she would need the Captain to send a car for her so she could go to the store to take a pregnancy test in someone else’s bathroom? Why not wake the trusty Ranjit? Was it merely a contrivance to get some old faces back in the mix?

Speaking of contrivance, Robin’s mom’s stories about Mr. Scherbatsky had a quickie cut-and-paste vibe. If Robin had a gay black uncle, would this really be the first she’s hearing of him? A couple of episodes ago, when Robin was taking a late-night stroll with Ted, Barney was conveniently dispatched to teach some boys his bachelor tricks. Now it seems Robin’s mom (an underused Tracey Ullman) has been conveniently deployed to spook Robin into thinking she’s marrying her dad by sharing some preposterous coincidences: Robin’s father was a sociopath who slept with “over 20 women” and once dressed up like a Prussian aristocrat to seduce them, and so on. The setup — that both men disappeared on their wedding day with an abrupt “I’ve got to go teach somebody some manners” — was just weird enough to work, but the rest was filler, until the very end, when a deflated Robin descends back to earth and possibly back toward Ted.

I’m not sure what Robin’s doing with Barney if she hasn’t already asked herself if she really feels safe with him, if she can really depend on him, but from the look on her face when her mom poses that question, it’s clear the person she has in mind is not her fiancé. It’s taken a long time, but I have gradually accepted Barney and Robin’s coupling, and this kind of crap undermines everything. Barney either is or is not the same old dog, and the series has taken pains to say “is not,” so let sleeping dogs lie already, or do we need more canine metaphors?

What I liked:

  • The saltine challenge, including NPH’s perfectly crummy execution, and the resulting Heimlich maneuver.
  • The Mosby Boys (minus Ted’s sister and Squirlock Holmes). Yes, sometimes later-series Ted appears to have had the Monica Geller lobotomy — remember how Courteney Cox’s character was once supposed to be vaguely responsible and mature, which in later seasons turned into neurotic and highly strung? Ted similarly went from being earnest and intelligent to at times insufferably pedantic, but I don’t really mind, maybe because his personality was poked fun at by the series first, particularly in “Spoiler Alert.” Anyway, I liked having him on the case in full-parlor pretentiousness, contemplating the daisy’s access to sunlight, as well as Marshall’s response: “Oh, this is going to be unbearable.”
  • The varying answers given for what Lily does when Marshall’s away: cry, masturbate, karate, sailing. All wrong, of course. “Last Cigarette Ever” is one of the better later-season episodes, and even though the callback to it wasn’t explicit, or even sensible, since we know Lily’s last cigarette was the day she started trying to get pregnant, I was at least reminded of it.
  • Mrs. Scherbatsky’s fear of flying. Unfortunate timing in light of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, but as a nervous flyer, I appreciated her hysteria.
  • Despite the improvement in Marshall’s Italian, he still talks mainly about Funyuns.
Photo: Richard Cartwright/CBS