I love this episode. It's fantastic.
Ted is all alone. In a group of five you always run the risk of being the fifth wheel, the odd man out. People partner off, and you're just kind of left there. Sad and lonely. And that sucks. That really, really sucks. It hurts. It scares you.
So, what does Ted do in this moment? He tries to revisit something familiar. Something safe. He buys a ticket to Robots vs. Wrestlers Legends because he remembers how great that moment was. To be a part of something. A memory.
And that's what the first 16:10 of this show is. It's visiting the familiar. The safe. The comforting.
An earlier better time: Minnesota Tidal Wave.
He sees one that got away: Coat Check Girl. But in the same way that he can't actually bring himself to go to Robots vs. Wrestlers, he can't bring himself to approach her. He's reached the ultimate low point. He is presented with something that a younger, more hopeful Ted would view as a sign of fate and go to CCG, but instead he thinks about how all of his other relationships have flamed out, and decides that it's not even worth it before it begins.
The entire time traveling aspect: It's just Ted's subconscious playing out. Barney, Twenty Years From Now Barney, and Twenty Years From Now Ted are basically his id, 20 Hours From Now Ted is his superego. They battle out it trying to convince Ted to go try to reclaim past glory- indulge- or be prudent and steadfast.
So, that explains the first 16:10, but what happens in that last five minutes is where it all pays off.
It's kind of like a microcosm for the entire series.
Consider this: The thing that really separates this show from the way so many others are told is Bob Saget.
His voice isn't just a father regaling his children with a long (and ridiculous) story about how he met their mother (and banged a parade of sluts), but also it's about reflection. This show has the magical gift of hindsight. Ira Glass always talks about how good storytelling has two components: the anecdote and the moment of reflection. The anecdote is just a series of events: this happened and then this happened and then this happened. And the moment of reflection: that's where you get a chance to come in and look at those events and farm meaning from it. This entire series is built upon these two ideas. Old Ted is not just giving his kids a series of events, he's trying to say something, to give them meaning.
And that's what the last five minutes does so brilliantly. It takes a series of events (or non-events because it's all just in Ted's mind) and it farms out this amazing sentiment. Everything in life is building towards something. When you're at your worst, at your lowest moment- you can't see that. Only when you have distance, time, perspective can you look back and say "Yeah, that was awful, but if I'd only
I guess the only other thing that I can say about this episode is this:
We all have our moments where we like to throw a rager of a pity party for ourselves. But when that time passes and things get better and then we look back on that mess we've made from wallowing in it, we realize there's so many better things that we could have been doing. Appreciate the little things and realize that it's not always lonely being alone. You can learn things about yourself- like being able to appreciate the small stuff in life. Your friends can't come out? Go see them. And if you could go back, knowing what you know now, well... you know the thing that Ted or any of us would do first.
All in all, I think this was an absolutely brilliant episode from one of my favorite shows in the last decade.