If last week's super-sized premiere was a reminder of how good How I Met Your Mother can be, this week's outing was a reminder that jokes about old people aren't that funny and can really bring down an otherwise heartfelt episode.
Tonight, Robin and Barney's relatives began to arrive for their wedding, and while Robin and Barney's relationship can be one of the stronger things about the series, everything about this particular storyline felt, well, really terrible. I'm sure jokes about the elderly can be funny, but that wasn't the case in "Last Time in New York." The oft-repeated "they're family, gotta love 'em" line never once landed because the remarks made prior to its delivery were flat. The Mandy Patinkin gag didn't work because Patinkin is a boss and I will fight anyone who dare says otherwise. And even though Neil Patrick Harris can often pull off a bad joke simply by being NPH and going all in, not even Harris can handle a broken yo-yo/drooping testicles quip. But it was nice to see him try.
The most frustrating aspect of Robin and Barney's storyline wasn't that the humor wasn't funny, but that the entire plot was driven by their mutual fear that once they're married, the magic and spark will cease to exist in their relationship. It's not an uncommon concern for sitcom characters to have, but since HIMYM turned it into a "one last bang before the wedding" story, it didn't have the emotionally manipulative ending option either. Yes, they're nervous about whether or not they'll still be this in love 60 years down the line, and why shouldn't they be? Their relationship hasn't exactly been smooth sailing, and their engagement came after an extended period of not being together. I'd be more worried if Robin and Barney weren't worried about their future as a couple. But there are better ways to address the issue than by making a bunch of jokes at the expense of buffets, 60 Minutes, and Mandy Patinkin.
While Robin and Barney were stuck in elderly hell, Ted and Lily spent some quality time together, which is always nice because their friendship goes back just as far as Ted and Marshall's, and because it's one we haven't gotten to see much of over the course of the last eight years. Alyson Hannigan and Josh Radnor have always worked well together, and tonight was no different.
Mistaking Ted's New York Bucket List for his wedding toast, Lily read it with the hope that she could get some ideas for her own speech. Instead, she found an itemized list of things that Ted wanted to do before he left Manhattan for Chicago. It included several Ted-like things, like saying goodbye to the Empire State Building, having drinks with his favorite students, buying a round for everyone at MacLaren's, coming clean about what happened on April 26 (which happened to be that he and Marshall were responsible for what happened to Lily's wedding rehearsal dress and not the drunk dry cleaners), and fixing the "Your a penis" graffiti on 96th and Amsterdam (totally reasonable). As Lily eventually pointed out at the end of the episode, Ted's list was not written by someone who was ready to move on from New York; it was written by someone who loves New York.
Ignoring the fact that Lily probably should've been stumbling around and slurring her speech after all the drinks she'd consumed in the previous few hours, Lily was still able to give one last patented life lecture to Ted. She finally understood his reasons for leaving New York and was able to put aside her own feelings on the matter, but she also made him realize that his bucket list shouldn't be about saying goodbye to the things he loves, but about leaving the bad things behind, like his failed relationship with Stella. She told him, "The good things will always be here waiting for you." Even when she's supposed to be drunk, Lily still knows how to stick a landing.
– Marshall is still marooned in his own personal hell, and seeing him so disconnected from everyone else is mine. I did appreciate his dislike for Wisconsin, and I also took comfort in Lily's bond with Daphne even though she'd never met the woman and Marshall had technically only known her a few hours. Typical Aldrin, but it also helped make Sherri Shepherd's character less of an outsider.
– Ted's been avoiding Barney because of his residual feelings for Robin. Once he'd worked up the courage to finally have that drink with Barney (and after Lily stole a new, untainted bottle of scotch), Barney dropped the bomb that he'd seen Robin and Ted at the carousel when they were searching for her locket. Which of course is where the episode ended. Hmmm.
– The callback to the sword fight of 2005 was nice, and I look forward to more of that sort of thing as the end of the series draws near. In that vein, seeing the montage of all the bad things in Ted's life over the course of the last eight seasons also worked on an emotional level.
– Lily not knowing the proper words to Inigo Montoya's famous declaration in The Princess Bride must make Marshall so sad.
– Ted in that old bathing suit was the best sight gag in awhile, and Robin's "Oh my, I found Waldo," line was successful because for the most part, Ted just sat there like a man and you almost forgot he was even wearing it.
– Robin and Lily's bastardization of that Glen McKenna scotch (which has been featured throughout the series and sadly does not exist in real life) made me die a little inside. I'm willing to ignore the fact that Robin would never do that to a bottle of scotch considering her own love for the drink, but I cannot get past the cheap whiskey, chocolate syrup, ketchup, and hand sanitizer. FOR SHAME.
– The one part of Robin and Barney's storyline that I liked: Barney's girlish scream, and his insistence that whoever was behind him take Robin instead of him when James grabbed his shoulder at the ice machine. Girlish screams from dudes are always funny.
AIRED ON 3/31/2014
Season 9 : Episode 24