“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.
NOTES & QUOTES
– 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"?