How I Met Your Mother: "Happily Ever After"
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How I Met Your Mother: "Happily Ever After"

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How I Met Your Mother

"Happily Ever After"

Season 4, Episode 6

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Sorry, folks who thought we'd seen the last of Sarah Chalke. You didn't really think that ferry ride was enough closure, did you? Tonight's episode is the real capper to the Stella storyline, and it's a classic. I know a lot of you didn't like the whole Stella affair, but it was worth it to get to this.

Although his friends beg him to vent, rage, cry, or in some way release his feelings about being left at the altar, Ted claims that he's perfectly happy being repressed. "We Buckeyes take that pain and we push it down!" he explains. But at the same time he's made a map with all the places he might see Stella marked in red to indicate must-avoid real estate. When Lily suggest a tapas bar in the safe zone, the gang sits down for a meal -- only to dive under the table when Stella shows up at the counter to get take-out. There, crouching in a cramped illustration of Ted's untenable no-fight, all-flight strategy, Ted's friends reminisce about the people they're hiding from. Lily can't face what she did to a high-school lab partner whom she unfairly tagged with the nickname "Gasser." Barney has an ex-lady friend from the penitentiary who has threatened him with bodily harm when she gets out.

And Robin wants to leave her father in the past, believing there's nothing that can fix his lifelong determination to make her into the son he really wanted. After her pee-wee hockey team won a big game, Robin kissed a fellow player while Dad was out of the room getting "an assortment of soft drinks and American pretzels." When he caught her in this decidedly unfelial position, he declared that he has no son -- and Robin, remembering the scene, finally says some of the things she's always wanted her dad to hear.

Ted is inspired to confront Stella, although to the dismay of the gang, he plans to engage in mutual dialogue and listening ("probably should have done more of that before"). It's not until he realizes that Stella is taking her tapas to her ex's apartment, where she now lives, that he finally "unleashes the berserker" as his friends had been urging. "I love Angry Ted!" Marshall exults as Ted mutilates the inside of the cab. ("My leg is asleep!" Barney joins in.) And the friends are thrilled with the kiss-off Ted rehearses for them in one of HIMYM's signature switcheroo dream sequences. But when Ted sees Stella hugging her daughter and her ex, all the fight goes out of him. The closure he needed was not to tell Stella that she made a mistake, but to realize that she didn't -- that she did the right thing for her, no matter how it turned out for him.

This is why I don't just love HIMYM when it makes me laugh. The show cares enough about the characters to make sure they learn something along the way. And really, it's a fulfillment of the show's premise in a far more significant sense than just getting us to Yellow Umbrella Girl. The show is about growing up, and letting go of a wrong done to you because it doesn't turn out to be a wrong done to the universe at large -- that's s a significant step along the way to adulthood.

Grade: A

Stray observations:


- And of course, this was a very funny episode as well, with a solid implementation of the multifaceted flashback struture that HIMYM always does well. Who would deny the elegance of the Rule of Three in the sequence of friends coming by to help Ted with his grief? First it's Lily and Robin with pizza, then Marshall suggesting a game of catch. When Barney shows up with two women, leading Ted not only to protest that he's fine but also opine that the idea is a little creepy, Barney responds: "Actually, I didn't think you'd be here. Ladies, to the stairwell!"

- Unusually, Ted asserts his midwestern origins (schooling his friends on how Ohio deals with unpleasant emotion), even though he later gets incensed over Stella invading "his" Manhattan.

- The two vignettes featuring Hannigan and Smulders playing younger versions of their characters kinda weirded me out, as adult actors playing kids or teenagers often do.

- Anybody else hear Lily's suggestion of a "tapas place" as a "topless place"?

- "I think 'in the crease' speaks for itself."

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