Photo: RON P. JAFFE/©2011 FOX Television. All Rights Reserved.
Let’s for a second imagine the core relationship among HIMYM’s five central characters to be like the Arcadian’s impressive lion-head stonework, the only thing worth salvaging from a condemnable wreck of a hotel. Okay, time’s up. Tempting as that construction is — obviously, the condemnable wreck in this case would be Zoey and her abysmal story arc — it stretches a building’s symbolism too far, and we saw how well that worked last night.
Future Ted began by telling his kids, “There are moments in life when you have to decide which things you can stand to see torn down and which things you have to preserve no matter what.” True enough, but reading between the lines here: You just decided you loved Zoey about a week ago, Ted, and you spent the duration of the season fighting. Knock it down, kick the windows in, don’t bother searching the rubble for a memento. “There’s a very good chance she will be the mother of my children,” Ted argued. People have protested being treated to a free dinner on their birthday with more conviction.
After Marshall uses a series of insipid rhymes to convince NYC’s Landmark Preservation Commission not to demolish the hotel (“We must make sure the lion is always there / Destroy the Arcadian? Oh no, don’t you dare”), chief architect Ted was called upon to give his opinion. Remember, in season two, when Robin and Ted refused to share news of their breakup for the duration of Lily and Marshall’s wedding and it wasn’t until the end of a three-episode arc that we learned what really happened at that Italian restaurant? This wasn’t like that. Anticipation was palpably low. But the episode rewound to the backstory anyway.
Arthur Hobbs (Bob Odenkirk, wasted in this scene) informed Barney that he’d be fired if Ted switched sides. Yet, despite the risk it poses to his dreams and his friend’s career, Ted was unconvinced, because “[Zoey] is the only thing that matters to me right now.” So Robin laid down the law with an anecdote that drew the only real laughs. “Sometimes I go play chess in the park” — really? that’s so unlike her — “Okay, I play online. But the key to chess — Okay, it’s Angry Birds. But the key to Angry Birds is to see every possible outcome. And hit some pigs with rocks or something. I don’t know, I can’t get it to download.” Is an Angry Birds joke too easy? Considering a recent Times writer compared blowing up the pigs with his father’s victories in the Spanish Civil War, we’ll say no. And Seasons was tricky to download. The point, Robin continued, was that Zoey and Ted were going to break up and it hardly seemed worth jeopardizing both his and Barney’s jobs in the process. Why none of this applied to Marshall is anyone’s guess.
In a dream sequence, the Arcadian architect Laribee, an “overpaid, plagiarizing ether addict with two thumbs” (a this-guy joke), visited Ted, who assumed it was Barney playing a prank. But then Ted’s mom showed up and told him about her “magical lady bits” and it officially became an upsetting Oedipal fantasy — or was it a level? There was a spinning top from Inception and, all right, clever, but moving on. The dream reminded Ted that only a select few people get to mess with the Manhattan skyline and shouldn’t he be one of them? His could be the next Verizon building, after all. So he arranged for a late-night rendezvous with Zoey in front of the hotel and she suggested they get “one last look to remember what we’re trying to save.” They’re talking about the Arcadian, right?
A last date before a breakup can take on a more loaded quality in its recollection, so this might have been a more resonant scene if Zoey were a beloved character or even important to Ted. But their belabored drama felt especially facile given how quickly relations between them soured in front of the LPC. As soon as Ted said the building didn’t qualify as a landmark, Zoey jumped to the podium with her incriminating tape of Ted dissing GNB, which means she brought the tape just in case, which means she never trusted Ted, which means she was always prepared to expose a sentiment shared in relative confidence when she didn’t get her way. What did Barney call her last week that we perhaps too quickly tut-tutted him for?
Briefly, the gang discussed their options now that two of them might be unemployed. In a callback to the fantastic “Three Days of Snow,” they get jazzed about buying a bar again, except rather than Puzzles, this one will be courtroom-themed. Like so many plans hatched while drunk, theirs is a sweet fantasy. Instead, Lily came up with the idea to steal the lion’s head from the building, thereby removing the sole reason to save it, a plan they took to Arthur, who just happened to be loitering on the street with his new adorable dog, because maybe the thinking here is that a cute dog can redeem a show, and this completely plausible scheme worked. Again, not to read too much into an episode that doesn’t deserve it, but spending a whole season on preserving the Arcadian only to cut off its head is sort of like spending a whole season on Zoey only to cut off hers. She became the focus of our ire from the moment of her introduction, but surely that wasn’t the long-term plan. In retrospect, both story lines seem like a pure waste of time and Jennifer Morrison shouldered the brunt of the blame for it with her character’s lazy dismissal.
However, she’s gone now, so that’s cause for celebration. In an episode loaded with double meanings, Ted’s parting words, that “sometimes things have to fall apart in order to make way for better things,” can probably be interpreted as a promise from creators Bays and Thomas, who wrote last night’s episode. With two more seasons to go, this likely won’t be the last disappointing installment of HIMYM. As we’ve said before, that part’s actually pretty forgivable. They can’t have the group playing in a band during the opening credits every week. We just ask that next time a new character spends most of the season with us, he or she makes more sense than Zoey did.