How I Met Your Mother Recap: Take a Vow

Photo: Richard Cartwright/CBS
How I Met Your Mother
Episode Title
The End of the Aisle
Editor’s Rating

Robin’s pre-wedding jitters came as no surprise. “I can’t shake this feeling that nothing about me and Barney makes any sense.” We hear you. To Ted: “You always go big for me. Maybe I’m making a mistake. Maybe I should be marrying you.” And there it is at last.

If we’re tolerating Robin’s crisis, it’s in the spirit of understanding the complicated feeling of loving one person while believing somebody else might actually be the better partner. Her panic felt raw and believable. I’d never considered the significance of Barney’s initials before, or the less-favorable interpretation of legendary, but in her distress, Robin’s clearly conflating all sorts of issues. Cobie Smulders did such a good job of acting rattled that I think a true friend would have advised her to call the wedding off. Was Ted’s argument that love is the best thing we do particularly convincing? Were three deep breaths all it took?

Her about-face was probably never going to work for me, so rather than dwell on that, let’s talk about Ted for a second. Lily warned him that giving the locket to Robin would be a manipulative move, a passive-aggressive way to prove that he cares more about her than Barney does — yet he was planning on doing it anyway? He only changed his mind when Robin basically said the same thing, that she wanted a grand, Ted-like gesture from her husband-to-be, at which point he did something arguably even more passive-aggressive, by giving the locket to Barney to give to Robin, because he set Barney up to look like a liar (even though he scrambles to argue otherwise when Robin discovers the truth).

If you think about it, wasn’t it unfair of Ted to plan the gift knowing in his heart that his intentions were never pure, but then, when Robin reacts as he deep down wanted her to, to turn around and accuse her of “not knowing him at all”? Though it’s also possible he saw that she was coming from a place of utter desperation, which is insulting in its own right, and maybe it’s in that exact moment that he realizes he doesn’t love her like that anymore.

Either way, Robin had cause to feel desperate. Barney was in (not so) rare form. After that offensive prenup from last season, are we expected to believe a rough draft of his vows includes a clause about Robin “pudging out”? Also, it was ludicrous to attack the validity of Marshall and Lily’s vows. Marshall pretending to sleep through Lily’s motion sickness, and Lily participating in a practical joke on Marshall, do not count as breaking their pledges to one another.  

I think the writers wanted to find a way to work Lily and Marshall’s more profound relationship into this story line, because the truly heartfelt moments last night belonged to them and their ever-evolving commitment to each other. Maybe the spark fizzled, though the implication has always been that these two enjoy a terrific sex life, and I personally could’ve stood for fewer dumping-out jokes, but Lily bemoaning passing toilet paper through a crack in the door, and Marshall pointing out that by this point the door is wide open, came from a real place. Jason Segel was not on set for the final day of filming, so I assume this might have been some of his and Alyson Hannigan’s last scenes together — “Marshmallow and Lily Pad, bitch” — and they nailed it.

The Mother and Robin made for another brief but sweet scene. When they ran into each other, I worried the Mother would give a pep talk (remember how unbelievably cozy she got with Barney?), and was happy when she instead deflected the situation with a joke about how she didn’t know Robin well enough to give her any advice other than to breathe. Not all of the Mother’s scenes have succeeded — at times she’s come across as a little too saintly (dum da dum dum) — but it’s been interesting to see her emerge as a charming, comforting person.

Ultimately, I’m pleased to see the wedding went off, and most of all, that the ring bear made it to the ceremony. Like Barney getting that final slap out of the way, there’s a sense of relief. I’m tempted to think him saying, “This may sound crazy, but I’m gonna miss that slap bet” is really the audience saying the same about how we’re going to miss the anticipation of the series. But Marshall speaks the truth: “No, you won’t.” The waiting is over, as it should be. Onward to the biggest moment of all.

What I liked:

The shout-out to the (weird, riveting) Staircase documentary. When Ted refuses to be part of a third runaway-bride situation, he makes the valid point: “It’s like the dude in the documentary who kept having women show up dead at the bottom of his staircase. Sure, maybe they all tripped, but do you want to hang out with that guy?”

Robin walking down the aisle to “Sandcastles in the Sand.”

Barney’s hysteria over the “cornflower blue” tie. The specificity of the color added to the panic, and Neil Patrick Harris (as always) brings so much physicality to his portrayal.

“Lily, you know I’m not a vomit guy. I just thought I should give you your space like a dying cat.” Amen. Also, Marshall vowing to stop pointing out dog erections and screaming out, “Maybe it’s Maybelline.” Not sure why Lily and Marshall’s updated vows were so graphic, but the illusion of decency is often the first thing to go. And finally, the bad vow puns that fell on deaf ears.

What I didn’t like:

Robin snapping at Patrice. It’s a running joke, yes, but in this circumstance, it seemed extra-bitchy.

Barney’s original lie about the locket. It still seems problematic that he wasn’t (1) creeped out by Ted’s effort to get it, and (2) man enough to refuse to lie to Robin. Also, why didn’t Ted bother to share that awesome story about the baby pigeons with Barney if he wanted the whole thing to sound plausible?