That in-between period after childhood and college but before settling down? It's about imagining various futures for yourself. Some you want because they fit with the way you see yourself right then. Some you want because you think that's what it means to move on to the next step. And then there are the rare moments where the two seem to come together -- where the future isn't an alien place where some stranger resides, but a bridge from here to eternity.
Marshall feels like he betrayed his former self, the one who rocked the stonewashed overalls every day, grew the rat-tail like it was a religious observance, and burned with fervor to save the world. At fifteen, as revealed in the letter he wrote to himself in the future that wound up in one of the boxes of random crap Marshall's mother periodically sent him, he envisioned a steady escalation of the awesomeness he was already experiencing. That's one occupational hazard of mapping out of an environment for your future self: you think that whatever you're into right at the moment will be your passion forever. In the case of the whole save-the-world obsession, though, Marshall's younger self had a point. Is there any way to redefine selling out to Goliath National Bank as anything other than a betrayal of self, at whatever age?
Ted has known what he wanted, or at least the human being that symbolizes it, ever since college. Not that he hasn't enjoyed playing the field, but when he saw himself settled and committed, it was with some version of Maggie Wilkes. And apparently he's not alone. Maggie Wilkes is a super-powered man magnet; you can't wait even a few minutes to make your move when you see her temporarily unoccupied, because the shorter the interval between the last boyfriend and the next one, the longer the ensuing relationship. (One month = 2 years; one week = 3 years; one hour = four years; and the time it takes to run from MacLaren's to her apartment = the rest of her life.) Ted's so serious about getting a crack at his dream girl that he gets a neighbor to make a cryptic phone call to him when she breaks up with the four-year mailman boyfriend -- "the window is open," she intones -- and enlists all his friends to babysit her while he teaches his class.
What ensues is a classic ring-the-changes sitcom episode, executed adroitly in signature HIMYM style. Check out the efficiency of the phone calls by which Lily (then Robin) informs Ted she's leaving Maggie in someone else's care, followed by the economy of the new caretaker (Robin, then Barney) assuring Ted all is well just as visual evidence to the contrary is revealed. Throw in the reversal of Ted's class teaching him about his feelings for Maggie, and punch it all up with Barney in Marshall's overalls trying to prove they aren't an impediment to his sexual magnetism, and what you have is a fleet if somewhat overdetermined half hour. I'll ding it slightly for the fact that it's all a bit too neat -- and for the lack of milk-out-the-nose humor -- but forgive it much for the resonance of the final images: Ted ready to think about his future, settled, relationship self seriously after the busted wedding fiasco, and Marshall offering his younger self a gentle sign of slightly too-hot free wings.
- A pad of Mad Libs? Man, keep those forever. Pure gold. Even if it's just "Fart went to the window to fart fartly."
- Outstanding timing on this particular exchange: "Who'd you get to cover your class tonight?" "Crap!"
- Ted took his very underdeveloped presentation on bridges -- "There are six main types of bridges beam cantilever arch suspension and two others" -- straight off this Wikipedia page.
- Why would anyone buy tickets to something called Le Chien Erotique?
- Along with Ted, Jamie Kaler from "My Boys" has been waiting all his adult life for Maggie.
- "That window's going to open again in like ten minutes."
- "They're not called over-tee-shirts."
- Make adjustments go get it energized!