How I Met Your Mother "The Time Travelers" Review: T-Minus 45 Days

By Bill Kuchman

Mar 26, 2013

How I Met Your Mother S08E20: "The Time Travelers"

“How I Met Your Mother. Gut punch.”

That’s what I tweeted the moment HIMYM ended. After a run of mediocre episodes, the show came roaring back this week with "The Time Travelers," an installment that even without its closing minutes would've ranked as one of Season 8’s best. With its final reveal, though, “The Time Travelers” delivered an emotional close that could stand with many of the show’s finest moments.

After spending the entire episode following the present-day version of Barney, two future Barneys and two future Teds tried to convince present-day Ted to attend Robots Versus Wrestlers, and then HIMYM yanked the rug out from under us. In a shocking ending, the entire episode was revealed to be either a memory of Ted’s (Marshall and Robin’s dance-off over the name of a drink at MacLaren’s) or all in Ted’s head (everything else). “Look around, Ted—you’re all alone,” figment-of-Ted’s-imagination Barney said as Ted realized that while the rest of his friends were busy living their lives as new parents or a couple planning a wedding, he was at the bar… by himself.

That's when the Bob Saget narration took over, setting up yet another heartbreaking HIMYM monologue. Saget’s Ted walked his kids through all the things he'd have rather been doing that night instead of going to Robots Versus Wrestlers: Spending time with Marshall, Lily, and Marvin. Watching Barney and Robin fight over a caterer. Or even just sitting in his apartment, surrounded by furniture that reminded him of his younger days. “You know what I would do first?”  Saget's Ted asked, and then we saw Ted running through the streets of New York City to reach a slightly familiar-looking apartment door. When the door opened, Ted launched into an impassioned speech, his eyes filled with tears.

“Hi. I’m Ted Mosby, and exactly 45 days from now, you and I are going to meet... and we’re going to fall in love. And we’re going to get married.”

Ted continued to ramble at this faceless woman, telling her about how they were going to have two kids and love each other and they're children very much. Most importantly, Ted said that he didn’t want to wait 45 more days. He wanted to meet The Mother in that moment. 

Part of me actually thought there was a chance that HIMYM was going to reveal the identity of The Mother right then, that the camera would spin away from Ted’s distraught face and show us the woman we’ve been waiting eight seasons to meet. Had the showrunners snuck a major casting choice by us? But before Ted’s fantasy was able to go any further, Louis—The Mother's current boyfriend—showed up and punched Ted in the face, returning Ted’s thoughts to his present state.

There’s a worry among some HIMYM fans that the show won’t be able to deliver the emotional goods when it finally gets around to showing us how Ted and The Mother fell in love, that the series has wasted its biggest emotional wallops on Marshall and Lily or Barney and Robin’s stories. If the closing minutes of “The Time Travelers” were any sign of what HIMYM is going to deliver in its final year, I think we’re going to be okay.

Let’s take a second to talk about the rest of the episode, which was outstanding even before the twist at the end. After Ted rejected Barney’s invitation to go to Robots Versus Wrestlers, Barney called upon 20 Years From Now Barney, a future version of himself, to convince Ted that he should go. This led to 20 Years From Now Ted, 20 Hours From Now Ted and 20 Minutes From Now Barney all joining in. Each future version of Ted and Barney offered a reason for why Ted should or shouldn’t go to Robots Versus Wrestlers.

20 Minutes From Now Barney had another message for Ted, though, calling his attention to a woman who walked into the bar. “She’s the coat check girl from that dance club we went to seven years ago,” all the Barneys and Teds yelled at Ted when he recognized the woman. Yes, the Coat Check Girl, from the Season 1 episode “Okay Awesome.” Before Ted was able to talk to Coat Check Girl, he was stopped by two versions of 20 Months From Now Coat Check Girl, one who Ted was sick of (she was wearing his hoodie and had made him muffins, since his nickname at the time was “Muffin”) and one who was sick of Ted (she wanted him to stop DVRing the news). Convinced by both future versions of Coat Check Girl that the relationship would never end well, Ted passed on talking to her. As the Coat Check Girls pointed out, his relationships never end well—why would this one be any different?

Ted returned to the booth while Marshall and Robin competed against each other in a dance-off to decide who deserved to have a drink at MacLaren’s named after them. Laughing at the situation, Ted told Barney that he wouldn’t be joining him at Robots Versus Wrestlers. And that's when Barney revealed that none of this episode was real.

“Robots Versus Wrestlers” was an interesting episode for HIMYM to reference at this point in the show’s narrative. From Season 5, it dealt with Barney’s fear that the gang was breaking up, with everyone drifting in a different direction. Three years later, Marshall and Lily have a kid, Robin and Barney are engaged, and Ted is alone.

On a technical level, “The Time Travelers” was also one of HIMYM’s most impressive episodes. Up until I saw that ending, I thought for sure this review would focus on the complexities of the scenes featuring three Teds and three Barneys, or how the two possible Coat Check Girls fit into the Ted and Barney timelines. To borrow a line from Bruce Willis in Looper, the final scene saved me from having to diagram the possible futures of HIMYM with a bunch of straws.

I hope I’m safe saying this, but it looks like HIMYM has once again steadied itself. And just in time, too. With just four episodes left in Season 8, we’ve reached the endgame before the endgame. The Mother is just 45 days away. According to my math, the penultimate episode of Season 8 is 42 days aways and the season finale is 49 days away. While HIMYM doesn’t always follow real time, it's been known to adhere to it closely. I still want to believe that we’re going to meet The Mother in the season finale.


– Present-day Barney and 20 Years From Now Barney tag-teaming their catchphrase: “Legen—wait 20 years for it—dary!”

– If 20 Years From Now Ted really wasn’t married, HIMYM would have a ton of work to do during its final season.

– 20 Years From Now Barney: “If Ted doesn't get wasted, there’s no way he ends up making out with that surprisingly realistic looking female robot.” Ted: “Waaait. I kiss a female robot?” 20 Years From Now Ted: “You do a lot more than that.”

– Lily to Marshall after he suggested a dance-off: “The doctor said your dancer’s hip is worse than ever. You have to lay off dancing for awhile.” Marshall: “You're killing me, Lily. I’m an adult. You have to let me dance my own battles.”

– Robin’s bathroom note to Marshall: “Did you know that the first two years of my life, my dad treated me like a cat? Seriously. I wasn’t permitted on the furniture, I had to bathe myself, and I was only allowed to poop in a box.”

– Bringing back Jayma Mays as Coat Check Girl was a nice callback. Unlike when Victoria returned, this HIMYM cameo didn’t ruin our past impression of the character. The woman in this moment couldn’t've been a random girl—she had to be someone Ted thought he could build a future with. The two of them did connect at the club seven seasons ago. In fact, the part of me that thought HIMYM was going to show us The Mother in this episode kind of even thought it was going to be Coat Check Girl.

– Robin mocking Marshall’s dance-off idea: “God, you're still clinging to that? Marshall, you’d lose anyway. And you know why? Cause I’m Sparkles, bitch.” Marshall “Oh, and you think you can step to me? You think you can step up to the streets? To me? You think you could step up over me to the streets?”

– Here's Ted’s entire speech to The Mother (in case you want to make it your AIM status): “Hi. I’m Ted Mosby, and exactly 45 days from now, you and I are going to meet... and we’re going to fall in love. And we’re going to get married. And... we’re going to have two kids. And were going to love them and each other so much. All that is 45 days away. But I’m here now, I guess, because I want those extra 45 days... with you, I want each one of them. Look, and if I can’t have them, I’ll have the 45 seconds before your boyfriend shows up and punches me in the face, because I love you. I am always going to love you. Until the end of my days... and beyond. You’ll see.”

What'd you think of "The Time Travelers"?

  • Comments (119)
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  • Digess Jun 15, 2013

    Is it me or does coat check girl also look like Amanda from when Ted and Robin wanted to volunteer at the homeless shelter on thanksgiving?

  • SergiDomenge May 07, 2013

    This episode sucked in sooo many ways. And the final reveal was sooo annoying. Show us the mother already and stop jerking around!!

  • speedforce131 Mar 29, 2013

    I don't think he or the mother was dead. It's future Ted reflecting on his eventual meeting with the mother in 45 days and if he could, he would go to meet her earlier at any cost because she was worth it.

    He would use the extra time that night to go see his friends because as time goes on, they live their own life and see less and less of each other (future ted actually mentions this in a past episode).

  • Soerign Apr 02, 2013

    I absolutely agree, that is what I thought as well.Ted has always been a romantic at heart (from what i have seen). I am really surprised that all but two reviews expect either Ted or the mother to be dead! I mean really? I dont think the writers would do that after all the careful foreshadowing thats leads up to this point.

    I loved the song at the end, a beautful rendition and looked like lots of fun.

  • DerekMoss Mar 29, 2013

    After he meets the mother they can just call the show When I met your mother and keep going. They could even drop the whole future Ted telling the kids storyline and just go as a normal show

  • MatejDijanin Mar 29, 2013

    I'm not a type of guy that gets emotional but the twist in this episode was heartwrenching... I'd buy it that mother or ted are dead(this entire story being a recording his kids are watching) but I don't believe it since I just cannot see a possibility of a sitcom ending on that tragic a note.. I mean the finale ending with the reveal of a death would be heartbreaking and haunting since you in fact would retroactively(sort of) be watching a man's eulogy for his wife or the last words he'll ever speek to his kids if he's dead.. Seems awfully depressin to end a comedy show that way don't you think.. Although, an ending like that would definetly elevate this show to a whole new level for me if it happened.

  • robivincze3 Mar 27, 2013

    I think that the last episode of this season will reveal who the mother is, and that there will be a nineth season where it actually shows how they get married, how they plan the wedding and stuff.. or it could be that the final episode if 8th season reveals the mother and that's all, though I really want to see how they work their relationship.. I don't think neither of them will be dad.. i mean it's a comedy sitcom after all, it would break my heart to find out that Ted or the mom is dead..

  • BillKuchman Mar 28, 2013

    Don't worry — the ninth and final season is already official. Here's my theory on it:

  • SageBird Apr 08, 2013

    Bill -- your theory is great, but I subscribe to this theory:

  • SageBird Apr 08, 2013

    This comment has been removed.

  • ch0c0nutz Mar 27, 2013

    cause i'm sparkles, bitch
    it was the best line!

  • RobinDanil Mar 27, 2013

    Are you crazy??! This episode sucked once again. Just another filler ep with not much going on. I agree Barney en Teds future selves was funny. But the rest of the episode? No not at all. And what about that speech? Didn't make any sense. HIMYM in it's first season was refreshing and new. Now it's just another mediocre sitcom. Even TBBT has taken over and that's something i never thought i would say.

  • MikeUK123 Apr 13, 2013

    I agree. Although I enjoyed this episode, I think the mystery created by fans is far beyond what the show has created for itself. Without the mother thing, this would have disappeared around season 3 or 4.

  • 24treehills Mar 27, 2013

    An idea came to me this morning when I woke up , what if the mother is also played by Lyndsy Fonseca ? I mean it's the perfect way to keep it under the radar , and surely her daughter would look like her . She is a litte young for Ted ( Lyndsy is 26 , Josh 38 and Ted 35 ) but nothing make up and clotihing cannot fix

  • KatherinaTan Mar 29, 2013

    Awesome thought! However I don't see how that could work as Lyndsy Fonseca is currently working as one of the main characters in Nikita so unless that show get cancelled or her character died there... it would be really tricky.

  • lesmy Mar 28, 2013

    Mind Blowing! ...and perfect BTW =D

  • Ubercolt Mar 27, 2013

    Before this episode I had a hunch that the mother was dead. Now, like several other posters, I suspect that Ted is deceased at the time of explaining to his children how he met their mother. After all, why are the kids always curled up on the sofa? Could they be watching their father's recording of his life story?

  • KatherinaTan Mar 29, 2013

    Don't think the kids were watching off a recording, they did gasp on occasion (like the smoking episode) and Ted quickly covered it with something else.. showing some kind of dialogue rather than a broadcast

  • ken_wakashimazu Mar 29, 2013

    i'm pretty sure the children say stuff to future ted sometimes (once or twice, not every week). not that it would matter because continuity is not something writters really go for during big reveals at series finales (cough*gossip girl cough*).
    the mother being dead is much more probable.

  • Ubercolt Mar 29, 2013

    That would make more sense. It was certainly my original suspicion, and having looked on YouTube I can confirm that the kids do appear to engage in dialogue with future Ted. That could still be a red herring - future Ted could be terminally ill, for instance. In any case, I think one of them is dead :-)

  • ch0c0nutz Mar 27, 2013

    my thoughts exactly

  • Horokeh_Usui Mar 27, 2013

    I'm actually right there with you on the possibility that either might have died in that future,

    "But I’m here now, I guess, because I want those extra 45 days... with you, I want each one of them."

    This was really it for me in terms of dialogue. We'll see if we're wrong, but it really jumped in my face the way it was said.

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