Note: Recapper Phoebe Reilly could not be with us this week. Lauren Hoffman, Vulture's Glee recapper, graciously stepped in.
When I found out that How I Met Your Mother was bringing back Gary Blauman as the focus of its third-to-last episode, I was concerned that we were in for another gimmicky half-hour. Gary’s been in a few past episodes, but his most memorable mention was in “The Chain of Screaming.” It wasn’t out of hand to imagine that we were headed for thirty minutes of, say, “The Ball and Chain of Screaming: Wedding Yells are Ringing!” But I’m pleased to say that my fears were unfounded.
Last night’s episode flashes between Gary Blauman’s story (we’ll get to that) and Ted’s first date with the Mother, a few days after Robin and Barney’s wedding. The Scottish/Mexican fusion restaurant he’d planned to bring her to featured live music, and the combination of bagpipes and a mariachi band was irritating enough that they take to wandering around the Mother’s neighborhood, looking for a different place to eat. At one point, they duck behind a van to avoid the Mother’s ex-boyfriend, and as she’s detailing how messy their split was, Ted asks how long ago they’d broken up. She sheepishly admits it was the Saturday before their date. There’s not an in-depth explanation or anything, but it’s nice that the show isn’t completely glossing over that detail (first introduced in “How Your Mother Met Me”) – she’s fresh out of a relationship. And as they walk through the city, Ted tells her the story of Gary Blauman.
When Gary (played by Saturday Night Live regular/husband of Cobie Smulders Taran Killam) turns up at the wedding unannounced, Robin panics and tells Marshall he has to be shoehorned into the seating arrangements. Marshall – who is uniquely skilled at being condescending about really, really unlikely things – tells her that he has things under control. After all, Table 27 from his and Lily’s wedding still meets for a reunion every year (the picture of Table 27 on the log-flume ride is pretty stellar). He wrangles Ted in to help, but Ted immediately gets angry because he. Hates. Gary. Blauman.
There are iterations of Ted Mosby I won’t miss — Whiny and Desperate Ted Mosby and Professionally Hung Up on Robin Ted Mosby are two good examples – but I will absolutely miss Unrepentant Nerd Ted Mosby. Ted’s beef with Gary began years ago, after he’d just finished reading a biography of Teddy Roosevelt. (Side note: this portion of the episode was legitimately educational; big ups to President Roosevelt for losing his sight in a boxing match while still in office.) Gary Blauman interrupted Ted’s conversation with a girl who’d also read and loved the book – “A unicorn!” Ted gasps – and destroyed Ted’s chances with her.
The rest of the gang starts to weigh in: Lily loves him because he helped her and Marshall get back together and prevented an unfortunate tattoo; Billy Zabka (yep, still around) loves him for recognizing him for his poetry, not his karate-based acting. Barney hates him for stealing his fries without permission and, more egregiously, an “accidental curly” fry. (As Barney explains it, “Regular-cut with a few extra curlies. That’s the dream!”) But it’s Barney’s older brother who has perhaps the most legitimate beef: He had an affair with Gary, which is why he’s now estranged from his husband.
Marshall finally declares himself the judge of the situation, makes a gavel out of a shoe, and sends everyone out into the hall to deliberate, where Ted tries to bribe Lily with ten dollars to drop her pro-Gary stance. When I’ve recommended HIMYM to friends in the past, I’ve tried to sell it as “heavy on high jinks,” and this scene is a prime example of how the show excels at that – goofy and over-the-top without being cynical or unbelievable. It’s just weird fun, and that’s a compliment.
Even though Marshall rules that Gary can stay, he storms off. Ted and Barney reassure each other that he’ll cool off, and they’ll see him again someday. “I don’t know,” Marshall says. “We might really never see him again,” and given how little of HIMYM we have left to see, that hits pretty close to home. Bob-Saget-as-Ted goes on to consider how easy it is to part ways with someone forever, to never see someone again, not out of animosity or indifference, but because that’s just what happens. This is all underscored by The Kinks’ “Preservation: Act 1 – Where Are They Now?” (a textbook sad-indie-rock HIMYM closing song) and it’s really, properly sad, especially as brief looks at some of the show’s long-running characters – Carl, Scooter, Patrice – flash by.
Eventually, Gary comes around and goes to the wedding, and it’s time for Ted and the Mother to say goodnight – since he’s been wandering around writing love letters to New York City for years now, this seems like a dream come true, as first dates go. He and the Mother share their first kiss, and the chemistry the two have in that moment makes me wish we had seasons more of moments between the two of them waiting. She asks if they can walk around some more, and he agrees, but pauses first. “What are you doing?” she asks. “Remembering this,” he replies. And while I’d probably be unsettled if someone said that to me on a first date, it’s kind of the perfect thing for Ted to say here. I’ll remember it too, Ted.