The ninth and final season of How I Met Your Mother has admittedly been a rocky one so far. Its earliest episodes—barring the one-hour season premiere—struggled to balance the characters in the new "all wedding wedding, all season long" format, but after several less-than-charming installments, the series has at last settled into a pattern that is mostly pleasing on a week-to-week basis. (Feel free to use that in your promo materials, CBS!) Once the series remembered what it made it so endearing in the first place—mixing emotional moments with humor—it started to return to form. Once the show remembered how to use flashbacks to its advantage, it began to feel like the series we used to know. And once the series figured out how to integrate Marshall into the main plot, the quality of each episode went way, way up. So with tonight's "Bass Player Wanted," the series can definitely say it ended 2013 on a high note.
Marshall finally arrived at the wedding this week, but before he could pause his fight with Lily or threaten Barney with the final slap, he met the Mother. She picked him up in a van as he walked along the side of the road en route to the Farhampton Inn. That makes Marshall the third member of the gang to meet the show's titular lady, after Lily and Barney. Of the three meetings so far, Lily's is still my favorite, because it was our first real glimpse at who the Mother is, but I've enjoyed the fact that in each chance meeting she's been a breath of fresh air, swooshing into people's lives to offer wisdom and guidance. It was also nice to see Marshall and Lily returning the favor tonight as we finally gained some insight into the Mother's character, as she worried about the future of her band, Superfreakonomics.
As it turns out, the band's lead singer Darren, played by the talented Andrew Rannells, had taken over the band and was planning on kicking her out. Once she discovered the ad for a new bass player (hence the episode's title), she decided to quit before he could kick her out. But thanks to a bit of Aldrin Justice™ and a level-headed Stick Up For Yourself speech from Marshall, she decided to tough it out, which worked out in the end when karma finally met up with Darren; Ted punched him after he bumped into him, forcing him to drop the third bottle (the second that was stolen) of $600 Glen McKenna scotch. You go, Ted! As a result, Darren quit the band and the Mother bought Ted—sight unseen, of course—a drink to thank him.
Ted and the Mother were so close in "Bass Player Wanted," yet they're still so far away. I still don't think there's any reason to believe Ted will meet her before the final moments of the series, but I do foresee increased screen time for Cristin Milioti, especially in the series' 200th episode, "How Your Mother Met Me," which airs at the end of January and will really introduce her character. Unlike many viewers, I don't subscribe to the notion that more appearances by the Mother would have made the fist half of Season 9 less rocky. Not even her charm could erase the weak writing that littered the season's earliest episodes. But I certainly agree that the Mother has been a welcome addition each and every time she has appeared this season, and tonight was no exception. I look forward to her first meeting with Robin, which I hope is soon now that she has returned to the inn.
In addition to moving along both Marshall's and the Mother's storylines, "Bass Player Wanted" also made some progress on the Ted Is Moving to Chicago front. Thanks to Darren—who somehow discovers everyone's deepest, darkest secrets and then uses them to tear apart friendships—Barney now knows that Ted is planning on hightailing it out of New York only 12 hours after Barney and Robin exchange vows. It was a wonderfully written scene, originally played for laughs until it wasn't anymore, as Barney came to grips with the knowledge that his best friend was moving in less than 48 hours and he hadn't even told him. Barney eventually came to understand that Ted was leaving because he needed a fresh start without Robin in his life, and although I still think Barney probably gave in too easily, I'm just glad this secret is finally making the rounds. Obviously, we know that Ted never actually moves because he meets the Mother, but this has been hanging over our heads as much as Marshall's impending judgeship, and for some reason it's largely been ignored as if it's not also a life-changing event. Secrets are like a loaded gun, and I'm not necessarily looking forward to the episode in which Robin discovers Ted is moving.
If the episode had ended with Ted drinking the scotch the Mother had bought for him as the best man, it still would have been a successful episode, and maybe one of the best of Season 9 so far. Andrew Rannell's Darren was an on-going gag that wasn't played out (I could argue he was a plot contrivance used to move certain storylines forward, but it's very hard to say anything bad about Rannells so I won't nitpick), the conversations between characters that occurred without actually speaking thankfully ended before I threw something at my TV, the episode further illuminated the puzzle that is the Mother, and the whole gang was reunited once again. So yes, "Bass Player Wanted" would have been labeled a successful final episode for 2013 if it had ended there.
But the fact that the episode ended with Marshall and Barney and the promise of the final slap made sure fans would be excited for the series to return in a few weeks. "Slap Bet" is still one of the series' best episodes, and fans have been waiting years for the final slap to occur. According to the Slap Bet Countdown Clock, it will arrive in the January 13 episode, so here's to 2014 and what I hope will continue to be a funny, heartwarming Season 9 of How I Met Your Mother. Please don't blow this great momentum you've got going here, and I'll see you all in the new year.
– There were some nice callbacks in this week's episode, including Marshall's obsession with Bigfoot, Marshall and Lily pausing their fights, and Ted's insistence that Marshall is his best friend not Barney. It's been awhile since we've seen any of those jokes, and although I think it's safe to say Barney is definitely best friend material now, it was cool to hear it again. Also a nice callback: The Mother going to business school, as we know she was in the class Ted thought was his architecture class when he first started teaching.
– The Mother was wearing driving gloves!
– "I said science is this close to a pill."
– MARSHALL IS AT THE WEDDING. THANK YOU, GOD.