Music has always been a part of How I Met Your Mother, from the familiar theme song to Robin Sparkles to the series' 100th episode, which featured the song-and-dance number "Girls Vs. Suits." Knowing that Cristin Milioti is a talented Broadway actress (she spent two years playing Girl in Once), I was hoping we'd have the opportunity to hear her sing before the show signed off for good. This week, during the series' 200th episode, that wish came true as she sang not once, but twice. The first song was a silly little number involving an English muffin and some jam, but that was just the writers throwing fans a bone, because the real moment came when she sang "La Vie en rose," a song made famous by Édith Piaf in the 1940s, and one that's guaranteed to make me cry 83 percent of the time.
The fact that the Mother was singing it as a final goodbye to her former boyfriend Max while playing the ukelele, the last birthday present he gave her, was heartbreaking and sad, but it was also a big moment in the life of a woman we've really only begun to get to know. And while there's plenty to discuss regarding everything we learned in "How Your Mother Met Me," what viewers should take away from the episode is this: There's a reason we've been waiting nearly nine years to meet the Mother, and it's not because Carter Bays and Craig Thomas are jerks. It's because the Mother wasn't ready to meet Ted, and he, in turn, wasn't ready to meet her. As an audience, we can complain all we want about how this or that could have or should have happened earlier, but "How Your Mother Met Me" cemented the fact that this story is as much about the Mother as it is about Ted's journey toward meeting her. By the end of the episode, both characters were at their lowest, thinking they were never going to find love, and little did they know that love was literally just over a fence during that song.
According to Thomas and Bays, they've had an eight-year plan from the very beginning, and although that could be complete bullshit—and I wouldn't even be mad if it were—I do believe they've had some of the Mother's backstory in place for quite awhile. When shows are in the pilot process, networks want to know that they're investing in something with the potential to last for several seasons, and they often want to know the plan for many years' worth of plot. I think, especially with a series as unique in nature as HIMYM was in the beginning, that it's probable the creators always knew the Mother's backstory would include a former lover who died tragically. But even if I'm wrong (and let's face it, that's like 68 percent of my life), "How Your Mother Met Me" worked because it showed the Mother's grieving process over eight years, so that by the time she met Ted, she was ready and willing to open her heart to someone else. And before she could do that, she had to let go of Max and ditch Louis, because while he might have helped her ease back into the dating world, she wasn't in love with him. It kind of sucks that he proposed and she said no, though (for him, obviously; not for Ted or for us).
Although the Mother's backstory was filled with sadness that began on the night of her 21st birthday in September of 2005 (outside a MacLarens—YES, THERE ARE TWO), the other glimpses of the Mother's past that we saw in "How Your Mother Met Me" were very fun, and they further developed a character we feel like we know, but don't. I could nitpick that it's ridiculous to think that she has pretty much everything in common with Ted (driving gloves, calligraphy, coin collections, etc.), but I won't because the Mother is just so damn likable, and everything about her in this episode was pleasant and made my heart swell. Her appearances in episodes like Season 3's "No Tomorrow" or Season 5's "Girls Vs. Suits," which was the first time we were introduced to Rachel Bilson's Cindy, were also fun, because they gave us points of reference in both her history and the gang's. We knew there were several near misses in their history, but it's one thing to hear that from by Future Ted, and another to see those moments from the Mother's point of view. They built on who she is as an individual, and fleshed her out a bit more. I also especially enjoyed the reappearance of Andrew Rannells as Darren, because it was just enough and not too much.
But even though this episode was very much about the Mother and what she's been up to since 2005, it'd be wrong to say it had no influence on the storylines of what's happening with the gang on the evening before the wedding. As the Mother sang, we saw that Marshall was clearly very upset about his argument with Lily, while Lily was still in the car on the way to who knows where. Robin and Barney were both lying awake looking nervous (which we know they are, per all the previous flash-forwards to their wedding day). And Ted, well, he was being Ted—creepy, but oddly romantic Ted—listening to a stranger sing "La Vie en rose" on his balcony. But despite that beautiful montage, the final seconds of the episode are what really important here, as Ted has discovered that Barney is gone.
I think it was smart of the writers to give us a Mother-centric episode that acted as a crash course in Mother history, but I also think it was smart to add a bit of story development for the rest of the cast. Because as heartwarming and funny as "How Your Mother Met Me" was, and as much as we were predestined to like it because it was all about the Mother, How I Met Your Mother needed to stay on track with the wedding, too. Was it necessary for the Mother to end up staying at the inn (especially when we didn't know she wasn't staying there to begin with)? Maybe not, but it was sweet that Ted heard her voice and loved her rendition of the song before even meeting her. Is it totally unlikely that he wouldn't have peeked over that wall that was like, three feet tall to get a glimpse of the woman singing? Completely, but this moment ties into the notion of Ted as a romantic, and I can't wait to see the moment when Ted meets the Mother and realizes that he's already met her, in a way.
"How Your Mother Met Me" was a great 200th episode for How I Met Your Mother. It was something different, but it was also a long time coming. It fleshed out a character we've been hearing about for nearly nine years but still didn't really know, and it was one of those patented emotional episodes the series does so well that sometimes I wonder why it even bothers with pure comedy. How I Met Your Mother could easily be a successful 30-minute dramedy if it wanted to be, and I maintain that it's at its best when it's doing these kinds of emotional stories. I didn't expect the Mother to have loved and lost at such a young age, but it worked for the show and for her character, and it added a nice bit of depth to the woman Ted will soon love, and that we already do.
– As of this writing I haven't read the comments yet, but I do hope that no one is mad they didn't actually meet in this episode. For one, the Mother does know who Ted is indirectly. She was in his classroom that first day, and that's "how she met him." She knew who Cindy was talking about when she cried about their bad date. And despite episode titles, we know they're probably not going to officially meet until the very end of the series.
– The Naked Man! What a nice, weird callback that I never saw coming, but am glad the show decided to bring back. Two out of three!
– After realizing we never learned the Mother's name in this episode, I've decided that I hope we never do. I think somethings deserve to remain mysterious, and her name is probably the most sacred secret the show has, second only to the moment when Ted and the Mother actually meet and speak for the first time. So I'll be happy to call her the Mother for the rest of the show and beyond. What about you?
– Obviously, the Mother is not a fan of The Vampire Diaries, because she would know that one person can be your first love, but someone else can be your last.
– "Better than Radiohedgefund!?"
AIRED ON 3/31/2014
Season 9 : Episode 24