How I Met Your Mother has taught us a lot over the course of nine years. It's taught us that people change, relationships are often messy but ultimately worth it, and that (almost) nothing good happens after 2am. It has, for better or for worse, also taught us that the people we love the most often lie to us for our own protection. I don't know how much of that I believe, but in the case of "Rally," I think it was an important lesson tucked into a very good episode. In fact, you couldn't have asked for a better episode to begin the final leg of Ted's journey toward meeting the Mother. The episode had all the makings of a well-written, funny, and fun HIMYM outing: flashbacks, flash forwards, the Mother, a Barney Stinson history lesson, and everyone interacting together in the same storyline.
When we last saw Barney, he'd ventured out on his own the night before his wedding to have one last hurrah as a single man. He got sh*tfaced (that's a technical term), imparted what he considered to be wisdom to two young men on the search for the Ladies, and then gifted them with a new copy of the Playbook. The entire premise of "Rally" was that Barney had gotten so drunk during this adventure that he wasn't just hungover the next morning—he was passed out for hours.
Over the years Barney had come to everyone's aid when they were hungover by plying them with the Stinson Hangover Fixer Elixir (created by Barney's relative Dr. Stinsonheimer—who looked an awful lot like Dr. Horrible—during the Too Many Manhattans Project). It contained, as far as I could tell, Tantrum soda, Funyuns, a banana, and grease. This is actually not a bad mixture, even though it looks—and probably tastes—foul, because grease, caffeine, and a banana are all good things to consume during a hangover (I don't know a lot of things, but I do have a PhD in avoiding and curing hangovers).
For years, Barney had said there was a special ingredient that made the elixir work, but no one knew what it was, and thus the gang spent the entire episode attempting to awaken Barney in order to discover what it was. Dunking his head in a tub of ice water, threatening to cut his tie, and sticking his face in front of a roaring bear on TV did nothing to wake him. Once he did return to the land of the living, he told the gang that the the secret miracle cure was the same thing that exists in your grandmother's cookies and your mother's home-cooked meals: love. This was a silly explanation, and I much rather would have preferred it to be something like a blended grilled cheese, because despite what HIMYM wants us to believe, love is not a cure all. But then again, this is How I Met Your Mother, which has always had a very romantic outlook on life. Although I'm really not sure what's more romantic than grilled cheese, but I don't write the show.
Despite my skepticism at Barney's hangover cure (I take these things very seriously, okay?), "Rally" was a very funny episode that shed light on a number of things—like how Marshall's Big Fudge nickname came to be—and revisited things like Weekend at Barney's, which for some reason never seems to grow old. It even dealt with Lily's lingering desire to make out with Robin, which was silly, but completely in keeping with the tone of the episode. It was even funnier when it turned out that it was a let down for Lily, but enticed Robin. The episode even found an easy way to incorporate the Mother in to the story by using flash forwards to bookend the episode. This was one of the series' more successful attempts to integrate her, and I think it worked very well when Ted eventually shared Barney's hangover cure with her in the year 2022.
The idea that we sometimes lie to the people we love to protect them is an odd lesson here, especially given the relatively silly nature of a nearly stand alone episode and the lies in question. Lying to Barney about the wedding photos seemed silly (although it's possible I'm just slightly bummed Barney and Robin don't actually have wedding photos resembling Weekend at Bernie's), especially because it's an easy lie for Barney to unravel once the wedding photos never arrive. Lying about a special ingredient in the hangover cure was equally silly, but strengthened the romantic nature of the series and the very strong bond shared by the five friends we've come to love like family since we first met them at MacLaren's nine years ago. It also taught us that as long as we love one another, anything is possible. Despite all of the episode's silliness—or perhaps because of it—"Rally" was a strong return to the days when How I Met Your Mother was less concerned with the wedding weekend and more with the simple art of making viewers laugh. If the series can continue to integrate the flashbacks and flash forwards as well as they did tonight, while still slowly moving the main plots forward, I think the series has every chance of going out on top (or as on top as can be).
– Ray Wise returned as Robin's dad for roughly 30 seconds. That's not nearly enough Ray Wise, in my opinion.
– I think we can all appreciate Ted's first experience with bacon, because let's be honest: We've all been there.
– How great was it to see an all-grown-up Marvin, not to mention Ted and the Mother's children, in the flash-forwards? In case I didn't make it clear enough above, I really, really loved the way the series integrated the Mother this week. The children were just icing on an already very sweet cake.
– I also enjoyed Marshall's speech as Commissioner of Gotham City. Batman really should help out with the little stuff more often.
– If there was one universal truth present in this episode, it's that no matter how many times you vow to never get that drunk, there's always a next time. Thanks for keeping it real, HIMYM.
– Because of the relatively standalone nature of this episode, I do hope the series hasn't just skipped over what made Lily change her mind about moving to Rome. Please don't leave any dangling plot threads, writers!