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How I Met Your Mother S09E19: "Vesuvius"


As How I Met Your Mother enters its final handful of episodes, it comes as no surprise that the series is choosing to pile on the emotional drama that has truly made it a series worth investing in over the years. People say dying is easy and comedy is hard, but I would go one step further to say that successfully meshing comedy and drama into a 30-minute window for 22 to 24 episodes a season is even harder. And yet How I Met Your Mother has been doing it to varying degrees of success for the last nine years. The show has stumbled in its later years, sure, but I would never say the show's problems were the result of poorly done drama, but rather a combination of cheap, lazy jokes and poorly plotted seasons in the writers' room. It's a given that not every episode is going to be great. Not every episode can be as funny and entertaining as "Slap Bet," for instance. But the episodes that have explored the dramatic as well as the comedic are almost always the series' best.

Tonight's "Vesuvius" is probably one of the most emotional and dramatic episodes the series has done since Marshall's father died in "Bad News" or when we found out Robin couldn't have children in "Symphony of Illumination." And like those episodes, it wasn't until we'd nearly reached the end of the episode that the rug was pulled out from under us and the seriousness of the situation became apparent. It's long been suspected and theorized by fans of the series that Ted is telling his children the story of how he met their mother because she has died or will die in the near future. I've personally never put much thought in to why we're on this journey, choosing rather to enjoy the ride alongside the children. For all I knew or cared, they were going out to dinner and the Mother was taking an exceptionally long time getting ready.

It probably sounds odd, but the destination was never that important to me as a viewer. I knew we'd eventually meet the Mother, and I looked forward to that day, but my goal when watching How I Met Your Mother wasn't to find out the identity of the woman who would become Mrs. Teddy Westside, because I feared that once that day came, the show would be over. So my goal was to spend as much time experiencing life's most wacky adventures through these five friends. This means that rather than feeling some sort of validation or fear as I think many fans did when the theory was all but confirmed tonight, I just felt an overwhelming sense of sadness mixed with a hint of surprise. I was sad because a show that has made me laugh continuously over the years appeared to be based on a very sad, emotional time in Ted's life. I was surprised not because the series would go there, but because the series went there in "Vesuvius," an episode that was, for all intents and purposes, a setup episode in the present.

No one in their right mind believed that Robin's mother wouldn't come to her wedding. As the Mother said in the increasingly important flash-forward, what mother wouldn't be there on their daughter's wedding day? Unless, of course, something horrible happened and prevented her from attending. But we knew that wasn't why Robin's mother wasn't coming, so when she arrived in the form of Tracey Ullman near the end of the episode, it wasn't all that surprising. But that's okay, because it wasn't meant to be a surprise, it was meant to pull Robin out of her listlessness. She was the catalyst that would eventually lead to Robin's own special wedding day freakout, a moment that would show just how important this wedding actually is to her. We knew this was coming, and now we know what sets it off, which means we can finally, truly get on the train for the last few hours of How I Met Your Mother

The love story between Ted and the Mother is the reason we're here, and knowing Ted as we do, it kind of only makes sense that this long, meandering story has a greater purpose. There's a reason he's telling his children about all the women he's met and banged in his search for their Mother. It's not because he turned into a crass man in his older years, it's not because he's a bad father, it's because Ted is a romantic. And although all signs from the flash-forward at the Farhampton Inn in the year 2024—10 years after they meet and six years before Ted begins to tell the story—seem to point to a world entrenched in a great sadness, I want to point out that we purposefully don't have all the facts. I think it's suspicious that the series would dare reveal something like this with four episodes remaining. If that's truly where we're headed, then it's a sadder ending than I'd have liked, but would also like to point out as silly as it sounds, many believe that true love stories have no endings.

One of the most important things to remember when watching How I Met Your Mother is that it's a lesson in storytelling, in which time is not linear and the narrator is not always reliable. But it's also important to remember that this is a series of stories, snapshots of Ted's life leading up to and after his meeting the Mother. But Ted's life didn't begin or end when he met the Mother. He continued living his life, albeit a different chapter than the one he was leading prior to their meeting, but it was still his life. Ted's once harmless stories might eventually take on a new light as the years go on, but they are still the stories that define him. And even if we're heading to an ending in which the Mother is no longer living, Ted's life isn't going to stop anymore than ours will once the series signs off for good at the end of the month. 

The Mother had a point when she told Ted not to live only in his stories and to keep moving forward with his life, because when we dwell on the past, our lives have the tendency to stall. But there's also a good argument to be made for telling these stories. We tell them because they're important to us, and we want to remember them. We tell them because we want other people to know the love and joy they brought into our lives. We tell them because they are what define us. So while I think it's important to remember to live life and make new stories, I don't think we should ever forget the past either. And I have no intention of forgetting the journey that How I Met Your Mother has taken me on over the last nine years. Some of the stories were good. Some were bad. But all of them were worthwhile.


NOTES

- The Mother's comment about not living in stories keeps reminding me of Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: "It does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live." The Mother is basically plagiarizing Dumbledore, guys.

- It's entirely possible the Mother is fine and perhaps Ted is dying, or someone else like his mother has just passed away. We won't know until the end of the series. I also think it's possible we're getting yanked around, and the only reason Ted's telling his children this story is because the Mother is sick and tired of hearing it. 

- While Barney's plot seemed a bit silly on the surface, I think the metaphor worked very well. But um, CBS, would it have killed you to release photos that included the Mother this week? All the suits don't really scream, "OMG DEPRESSING."

- In addition to meeting Robin's mother this week, "Vesuvius" also saw the return of Lucy Hale as Robin's younger sister Katie. Barney also suited up for the last time. That's three items from my wish list for the rest of the season. I even got a bonus wish when they brought back Barney's Swarley nickname. That was something I'd hoped would happen because "Swarley" is a personal favorite of mine, but I didn't actually think it would happen, despite the abundance of callbacks to earlier seasons. It fit in well now that Marshall has his own nickname, Narshall.

- I don't really want to take sides, but Marshall was totally right. If Ted didn't want him to eat that cake, he really should have put a note on it. Cake is serious.

- I understand why Lily was freaking out that Robin wasn't freaking out, but the scrapbook was out of character for Lily, no? 

- We're all in agreement that the callback to The Wedding Bride is something we could have done without, right?

- "It’s got everything! Intrigue! Betrayal! Lamps!"



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Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 3/31/2014

Season 9 : Episode 24

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