After a premiere packed full of relationship defining and professorship launching, the second episode of the season settles into a familiar groove: Ted has a fruitless romantic endeavor while the rest of the group does something much more hilarious. This time, Ted’s on a blind date — only it’s a replay of a blind date he had seven years earlier. The screen splits, with goateed 2002 Ted out with a woman with bangs, and a clean-shaven Ted doing the same with a no-bangs woman in 2009. Both people realize what’s happening at the restaurant and decide to retrace their steps in order to figure out where they both went … yawwwn.
Meanwhile, Barney spirits Marshall away to a strip club under the pretense of attending the “Origins of Chewbacca” Star Wars exhibit (Barney, in the cab: “No we’re not going to the ‘Origins of Chewbacca’ Star Wars exhibit! It’s in Houston this year, everybody knows that”). Barney, now in a committed relationship with Robin, is intent on proving he can still be awesome, but Marshall can’t even look at the hardworking ladies without feeling guilty. All that’s swept aside, though, when the first lass comes onstage — she looks exactly like Lily.
Back at dinner, Ted makes bad puns and points out spelling errors on menus while his date talks about her cats too much: “Then there’s Tabigail Adams, the jester of the group!” (We accept that in order to enjoy this show, we have to suffer through Ted-centric romantic plotlines, but that doesn’t mean we don’t groan every time they come back on.)
Anyway, Marshall and Barney rush back to the bar with the exciting news about the look-alike stripper. Lily is pumped (“Was there a shower onstage? Sometimes there’s a shower onstage. I bet stripper me would get in there with another girl and just go bananas!”), but Robin’s pissed that Barney hit up the club, a fact that Barney gladly ignores. The four go back to check out Stripper Lily, and excitable Lily (“Crawl for it, stripper me!”) springs for a private dance (Marshall: “If you need me, I’ll be getting grinded like some pepper in the Champagne Room”), while Robin teaches Barney an important lesson about honesty.
Ted and date, now bonded over their communal screw-ups, end up on the apartment-building rooftop, where they kiss and imagine what their lives would have looked like if everything had gone right the first time — cue hazy montage set to anonymous sappy song with overly relevant lyrics. But wait! Ted wants someone who thinks his terrible puns are funny. She’s out of there.
So, yes, Ted’s plotline is boring, but the overall sitcom-ness is kept to a minimum. Only one eye-roller, and that’s when Ted asks, “Shouldn’t we hold out for the person who doesn’t just tolerate our little quirks … but actually kind of likes them?” (No.)
Meanwhile, there’s lots of good stuff from Marshall’s Hispanic, mustachioed doppelgänger to Lily as a chain-smoking Eastern European and Barney’s stripper-themed one-liners (“She’d sprint down here with a purse full of singles and a poncho for the 11:30 Jell-O show!”). But Marshall explaining the elaborate pre-fantasy he must indulge before fantasizing about other women was HIMYM Hall of Fame–worthy: Lily, dying of a rare hiccup disease, gives her explicit blessing for Marshall to move on after an appropriate number of years, which he spends making tiny wooden furniture (shout-out to Lester Freamon?). Even better is when Lily finds out:
L: “You kill me off?”
M: “You develop a chronic illness! I spare no expense for your care. I even set up a foundation in your name. We’re, like, this close to finding a cure.”