From where I sit, there’s no call to get angry and throw things because Ted and Robin had a moment last week. Here’s why. This show started with Ted and Robin. It’s not going to reach its titular moment, much less its final season endgame, without returning to Ted and Robin. Not only do I not mind this fact, but I’m happy to see it. Ted’s search for true love has become especially poignant this year. Robin’s engagement and impending marriage have raised for him an unavoidable question: Was she here all along? That’s a question that many of us have wondered when our solitude becomes unbearable. We rehearse the breakups and wonder if we were premature in deciding that someone we can’t quite seem to shake wasn’t the person to promise to love forever.
Some people feel like any time spent hashing over Ted’s feelings for Robin is a waste of time since we know she’s not the mother. These people, I imagine, also think Citizen Kane is about finding out Rosebud was a sled, and that it’s a terrible film because we waste so much time talking about Kane’s newspaper days and political ambitions and attempt to get his wife an opera career. Waste of time, all of it, right? Of course not. This story, like all good stories, isn’t about getting to the ending. Good stories are about the hero becoming the person that the ending can happen to.
And so it makes perfect sense to me that at the precise moment when the gang is reconfiguring irrevocably—some might say splitting up—Ted decides to leave them before he can be left behind. It’s a move based in fear rather than hope. Worried that he’s doomed to pine over his married friend Robin for a lifetime, he plots a move to Chicago, puts the Westchester house up for sale, packs up his apartment to the bare walls. We know it won’t last. Heck, Future Ted tells his kids at the start of this episode that they’re sitting right there in that big fireplace room in Westchester. This isn’t about suspense, at least not the kind that asks “what’s going to happen?” It’s about what Ted is thinking in that moment. Making a big move. Getting out of Robin’s way. Exchanging his old dream for a new one and hoping a new one comes along. But right at that moment, Ted is still plotting to be Robin’s perfect man, the one who gives her the locket she thought was lost, the one who lets her go, the one who sacrifices his happiness for hers. Conflicted and delusional in a way we all recognize, and one that draws together threads from the whole run of the series.
Meanwhile, Barney and Robin are showcasing how perfect they are for each other by plotting revenge against a super-annoying couple (Keegan Key from Key And Peele and Casey Wilson from Happy Endings) who object to their cigars. Not to the smoke, mind you, but to the very sight of them in a plastic bag (“It’s unappetizing”). When the couple steal the perfect table (the one where Barney and Robin once saw two bums fighting over a sandwich, then it turned out they were making love… over a sandwich), Robin has the waiter serve Krirsten (“Everybody gets that wrong, the R is pronounced before the I… and after the I”) an engagement ring in her champagne glass, which prompts a fight when the man protests that he’d never ask her to marry him since they’ve only been together seven years. It’s a funny subplot, with more than an undercurrent of darkness. The two idly wonder if it’s bad luck to deliberately break up a relationship right before their wedding, but then bond—seemingly without reservations—over how similar their thought processes are and how much joy their scheming brings them. As the bride and groom ride toward Farhampton in Ranjit’s limo, both smile. They seem at peace.
It’s Marshall that is carrying the weight of all the overt uncertainty. He takes Marvin to Minnesota after his mother finds out they’re moving to Rome, and Lily spends her baby-free holiday worrying that Judy will find some way to talk Marshall out of the move. Just when Marshall reassures her, he gets the call that a judgeship has come open for him. He tries to finesse the guy from the judicial board into letting him start a year from Tuesday rather than a week from Tuesday, or allowing him to be “the crazy speakerphone judge,” but nope; he has to make a decision. By the time he gets on the plane to come back for the wedding, he’s made it (“Your Honor,” his brother calls him), but he hasn’t told Lily.
So as the Shins’ “Simple Song” rings out, everybody is on the road, converging on Farhampton for a weekend wedding. With all of these decisions having been made, in isolation or together, and all these changes coming, public and foreseen or secret and shocking, the gang’s reunion has plenty of combustible elements. And oh yes, here’s one more… not an icon of the past, of things changing from the way they were, but an emissary from the future. Wearing boots that Lily will probably be able to borrow, carrying a yellow umbrella and a guitar case, buying a train ticket to Farhampton, played by Cristin Milioti, it’s her.
We’ve met her now. But Ted hasn’t. He’s still got plenty to go through before he’s ready to envision her not as the girl in the wedding band, but as the mother of his children. Some of you will be angry about that. Not me. Ted’s got all next season to turn that corner, and lots of baggage to stow along the way. That’s not a waste of anybody’s time. That’s a story. I say, let him take all the time he wants.
- Lots of well-observed parallels, both comic and poignant, in the cutting between locations tonight. On the poignant side, the empty room in Westchester that Ted doesn’t intend to fill, and the empty apartment that he’s stripped bare. On the comic side, Ted’s shelves collapsing, Barney resetting an apartment full of glitter-covered dancers, and Lily shoving a counterfull of kitchen stuff into a box.
- The obnoxious couple didn’t become Barney and Robin’s archenemies when they ruined their perfect night. They just revealed themselves.
- Key and Wilson are pure gold in their guest turn. My favorite bit: After Barney imagines their conversation from across the room (inane political observation, mention of podcast, pretentious French phrase), we cut to them having that exact exchange.
- Drunk Robin of 2008, upset over Ted marrying Stella, dug up her grandmother’s locket so she could take it to Japan. “She kept it hidden in her butt all during World War II,” she brags to Lily. “Where was she?” Lily asks. “Winnipeg,” Drunk Robin deadpans.
- Why Chicago? “It’s like a Cleveland-y New York,” Ted explains. Also: “My hair excels in the wind.”