“Maybe we don’t need the Universe to tell us what we really want. Maybe we already know that deep down.”
For the last eight seasons of How I Met Your Mother, we’ve followed Ted Mosby as he’s tried to find the One. We’ve watched him get his heart broken. We’ve watched him foolishly ruin relationship after relationship. One guiding principle of Ted’s search has always been that he looks for signs from the Universe, from a sluttly pumpkin costume in a store window to his life flashing before his eyes after getting into a car accident. “You see, the Universe has a plan, and that plan is always in motion,” he once told us. “A butterfly flaps its wings and it starts to rain. It's a scary thought, but it's also kind of wonderful. All these little parts of the machine constantly working, making sure that you end up exactly where you're supposed to be, exactly when you're supposed to be there. The right place at the right time."
In a single speech, Ted tossed all of that away. After watching Robin break down in front of him, in tears over her belief that the Universe was screaming that she wasn’t meant to be with Barney, Ted stopped being the man who believed in signs. Throwing away nearly a decade's worth of looking for hints that he was on the right path, Ted tried to console Robin by telling her that the Universe has better things to do than give us signs, that we should trust our own gut and that deep down, she already knew what she wanted.
Then Robin put her in hand in Ted’s and looked up at him.
With just an episode left in Season 8—and a wedding where Ted meets his future wife looming—that wasn’t the twist we were expecting in “Something Old.” Last week, I contemplated the idea that HIMYM was trying to tell us that Robin and Barney aren’t right for each other, and that maybe this wedding wasn’t going to happen. “Something Old” didn’t play like an episode eager to debunk that theory.
In a flashback to 1994, we learned that while in New York City with her father, a young (and rather boyish-looking) Robin buried a locket in the park with the intention of returning to the city someday, marrying a sophisticated New York man with a sick mullet, and digging up that locket to be the “something old” at their wedding. When both her dad and Barney ditched her while en route to dig through the park, Robin found herself all alone. Robin Sr. was eager to join Barney, or B-Dog as he'd started calling the son he never had, and Barney was too involved playing laser tag to drop what he was doing when Robin called him. Like her emotionally unavailable father, the man planning to marry Robin wasn’t there for her either.
But who was there for Robin? Ted initially brushed off her phone call. He had a job interview, so unlike her father and fiancee, Ted had a real excuse. Minutes later, though, a surprised Robin looked up to see Ted standing in front of her. Knowing that Robin needed someone to help her with something important, Ted showed up. Because that’s what Ted does, right? In “Symphony of Illumination,” Robin found out that she can’t have kids, and Ted didn’t even have to know what was wrong—he threw together a spectacular show of Christmas lights in the apartment to cheer her up. Face it, folks, even if we know that Ted and Robin don’t end up together, there’s still something there that makes them a perfect pair. I've seen a lot of fans cite the cruel ways Barney and Robin interact with each other (Barney’s Playbook proposal, Robin’s fake calling-off of their engagement) as evidence of why they're perfect for each other. But would you want someone to be your soulmate for that reason? Or would you rather have a soulmate who's always there to comfort you, even when they don’t know why?
“Something Old” called back to one of Season 1’s great moments—the time Ted made it rain. Ted and Robin hadn’t become a couple yet, and with Robin about to head out on a camping trip with Sandy Rivers, Ted was desperate for a rainstorm that would cancel their trip. When Ted’s attempts at a rain dance actually made it rain, Ted dashed off to Robin’s apartment and demanded that she come down to him. “I made it rain,” he cried. A sign.
Almost seven years to the day later, Ted and Robin once again found themselves in the rain. This time, though, it was Robin who thought the Universe was telling her something. She found the box the locket had been buried in, only to open it and discover that the locket was gone. For Robin, finding the locket meant that the Universe wanted her to marry Barney and that things would be okay. When she realized it was missing, Robin’s hopes were shattered. Cue Ted’s speech about the Universe and signs, and him telling Robin that, “Maybe we don’t need the Universe to tell us what we really want. Maybe we already know that deep down.” And cue Robin taking Ted’s hand in her hand.
I hate to not focus much on Marshall and Lily’s part of “Something Old,” since they actually had a touching story that also involved Ted. As the couple packed for their year-long trip to Italy, they enlisted Ted’s help to determine what they should bring with them and what they should throw away. With Marshall and Lily on the move, it looks like the gang is finally ready to give up the apartment that they’ve shared forever. Thanks to his penchant for fanny packs (sorry, hands-free belt satchels), Ted knew a thing or two about efficient packing, and swiftly guided Marshall and Lily through the process. It was only when a tattered, Doritos-stained beanbag chair came before Ted for judgement that El Ganso Con la Rinonera (Fanny Pack Dork) broke down. For Ted, that beanbag chair represented his friendship with Marshall and Lily. It was the first thing they bought when they moved to New York City, and it was the only furniture they had for a week. If they were able to throw it away so quickly, what would that mean for their friendship? While we know that Ted, Marshall, and Lily will stay friends in the future, the present-day Ted had no way of knowing that. Ted worries about a lot of ridiculous things, but with so much distance between his closest friends and himself, he was right to worry about about this one.
So where do we go next week, HIMYM? Are we going to see a successful Stinson-Scherbatsky wedding? Will Robin get to the altar and realize that Barney isn’t the person she’s meant to be with? Throwing the Ted-Robin wrench into the HIMYM gears this late in the game is a bold move on the showrunners’ parts, especially since it looked like this part of the story had finally reached its conclusion last season. With next week’s season finale titled “Something New,” are we right to think that Robin was Ted’s “something old” and the Mother will be his “something new”?
NOTES & QUOTES
– Ted showed up at Marshall and Lily’s apartment to help them pack, declaring “I’m here to chew bubblegum and pack boxes, and I’m all out of bubblegum.” Ted then promptly choked on his gum.
– Is this really the last time we’re going to see the apartment? After eight seasons, I feel like the apartment is a bit our home too.
– When did Marshall learn to say “Come again, Big Fudge?” in Italian? I thought the only Italian he knew was “Come on, bro. Don’t bogart all the Funyuns.”
– Lily to Ted after Ted kept pushing Marshall into the beanbag chair: “Every time he lands, that chair farts out ten-year-old Dorito dust.”
Marshall: “Yeah, it’s the chair …”
– So Ted has a big interview about designing another New York City building? Is this something that we’ll hear more about soon? Hopefully he didn’t ditch that interview for nothing.
– Lily’s way of assuring Ted that they'll always be friends: “You’re not a chair, you’re our best friend.” This was still touching.
– Narrator Ted: “Kids, you can’t cling to the past because no matter how tightly you hold on, it’s already gone.”
– Barney to Robin Sr. after stealing the batteries out of his laser tag gun: “Lookin’ for Ds?”
– Ted to Robin after hearing her story about burying the locket: “Robin Scherbatsky, you’re a girl.” Robin: “Shut up, you’re a girl.” Ted: “That’s been established.”
– Ted’s entire speech to Robin: “Maybe it’s dumb to look for signs from the Universe. Maybe the Universe has better things to do—dear God, I hope it does. Do you know how many signs I’ve gotten that I should or shouldn’t be with somebody, and where has it gotten me? Maybe there aren’t any signs. Maybe a locket is just a locket, a chair is just a chair. Maybe we don’t have to give meaning to every little thing. Maybe we don’t need the Universe to tell us what we really want. Maybe we already know that deep down.”
– In case you were wondering, Wilco’s “How to Fight Loneliness” was the song that played during the episode’s closing scene.