Screen: CBS

How I Almost Ruined Your Aunt Robin's Wedding One Last Time

How Mother-y was Ted's impossible-to-extinguish eternal flame for Robin?

We probably should have seen this coming.

When it comes to Ted and Robin and Ted's pining for Robin, which is several years past its use-by date, this show will always insist on having the last word. Since so many who were enamored of the show in the early years have probably jumped ship by now (and may only be returning now to see how the end plays out), it will probably succeed in that. For as long as we viewers have complained that Ted's nine-season quest for Robin stopped being cute or romantic or sympathetic a long time ago, this episode serves as a pointed response, as if to say, "See? We told you this was going somewhere. This is where all that Robin/Ted business was leading, just before he meets The Mother." Not surprisingly, it was written by the show's creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. They're doing a lot of the heavy writing lifting this season, with pretty uneven returns; they wrote last week's excellent "How Your Mother Met Me," but they also shat out this season's regrettable "Slapsgiving 3" episode.

The thing is, Ted once again telling Robin that he loves her, that he will never stop loving her, that he accepts her marriage to Barney (oh really?) as some sort of noble sacrifice on his part to see that she's happy would be novel if we hadn't heard all of this shit so many times before. The only thing new is Ted revealing to Robin, on a beach as they halfheartedly seek out Barney together at 5 AM, 13 hours before the wedding, that he's moving to Chicago. We've already known this for a long time and it doesn't even seem to surprise Robin that much. At least, not as much as finding out that Ted broke things off with Victoria to preserve his friendship with (and longing for) Robin. What's new to us is that the lengths Ted went to retrieve Robin's locket went far beyond what we thought (and there's still more to the story yet to be revealed); it turns out he spoke to several exes in order to find it; Victoria eventually mails it to Ted from where she lives in Germany as a baker.

The main thread of "Sunrise" is Ted baring all to Robin for (hopefully) one last time, telling her what she (and we) pretty much already knew, and finally deciding to let go one last time. But really, if he didn't end up meeting The Mother the same day, wouldn't he have just gone on wishing on Robin forever, and eventually hating her and Barney for leaving him loveless and friendless? "Let go" my ass, Ted. The only thing that saves this Ted and Robin business along the shore (which ends in a sunrise and Robin floating away like a balloon, alluding to a beloved balloon Ted lost as a kid) is that Bays and Thomas are savvy about choosing which bits of Ted's past to bring back, his ex-girlfriends being among the most interesting parts of the show's history. Their memory is good for stuff like this for the most part, and the episode ends with a tag that feels out of place with the rest of the episode, but in a good way. Ted asks if Robin wanted him to kiss her on that very first date, the one that charmed us so very long ago. She says she did.

Elsewhere in the episode, Barney has wandered out of bed, found some liquor, and run into two young men who are clueless about fashion, women, and life in general. So he teaches them about suits, about how to talk to women, and other life lessons. It's wasted time, really, one last effort to show what Barney is giving up by getting married, but again it feels like material we've already covered in several other ways, and the events that take place would seem to have taken up much longer than an hour of time. And doesn't anybody sleep in this show? Are they all planning on napping through the wedding? And isn't Barney supposed to be Truth Drunk or Jabba Drunk or some damn thing? Did he slip into Mentor Drunk or something? So many questions! But this was pretty negligible business.

Lastly, Marshall has a long imaginary conversation with the ghost of Lily present and the ghost of Lily from seven years ago, the one who went to San Francisco when they broke up, a matter he brought up in a current argument. It's more silly business, more going over stuff we've been over before, but it leads Marshall to the revelation that he's trying to blame current Lily for old mistakes she made in an effort to win an argument. Winning, Ghost Lily tells him, is no way to win with her in the long run. Marshall finally agrees that it doesn't matter where they live. When the real Lily returns (we don't know where she went after their argument, or what happened there to bring her back), she changes her tune and says that of course they're staying in New York. They have a baby, after all. (Did she just find out she's pregnant again or something? People with kids do manage to live in Italy. Especially when they are rich enough to bring a babysitter to a wedding sorry to bring that up again.)

A lot of wheel-spinning and rehashing, but at least the writing felt pretty fresh, and the focus on the core five characters and their current state of minds felt like touching base for the home stretch. (I can almost see it from here!)

But how do the numbers stack up? How Mother-y were the elements of this week's How I Met Your Mother?

Mother-Y Element Present?
Ted Still Pines For Robin…Or Does He? Hoo boy. For the whole episode.
Robin And/Or Barney Shows Signs Of Cold Feet Before The Wedding No. Robin jokes about Barney skipping out on the wedding, but she's not very serious about it. Barney imparts his Lothario wisdom to the young men as part of his acceptance that he'll no longer be a bachelor.
Guest Star From A Past Season Pops Up (Ex-Boyfriend, Old Boss, Ranjit The Cab Driver) Quite a few, including Ted exes Stella (Sarah Chalke), Victoria (Ashley Williams), and crazy-ass Jeanette (Abby Elliott). Robin mentions several others as she rattles off a list of Ted's best and worst girlfriends, but they aren't shown. Tim Gunn shows up again for some late-night tailoring. The ghost of Marshall's dad, Marvin (Bill Fagerbakke), also appears briefly.
Baby Marvin Does Something Cute And/Or Disruptive Still with the all-night babysitter, or some damn thing.
Gay Jokes About Barney’s Brother James Stinson (Wayne Brady)? James is still away for now.
Ted Moves A Tiny Step Closer To Meeting The Mother (Cristin Milioti) No, and after last week's episode, that's disappointing.
Humor Involving Wacky Relatives Doing Wacky Relative Stuff At A Wedding They're all apparently still sleeping.
Ted Is An Insufferable, Pretentious Prick About, Architecture, Wedding Etiquette, English Literature, Or Any Other Pedantic Bullshit Ted's constant declarations that he's a master gift-giver have not gotten any less grating. Why not give the gift of shutting the fuck up once in a while?
Public Transportation High Jinks No travel to speak of.
Flashback To Ted, Lily, And Marshall In College No, just a ghost of Lily from seven years ago, when they still did the Borat voice.
Pop Song Montage Or Episode Outro "Eternal Flame" by The Bangles is used in the most heavy-handed way imaginable. Robin floats away from Ted like a balloon as the song plays. I wish that were some kind of joke.
Barney Says Something Inappropriately Dirty About A Hot Woman Because, Come On, Barney He was pretty gentlemanly this week.
"Legend…ary!", "Wait For It…," Or Any Pun On The Word "Bro" Ted doesn't want to break the Bro Code because it would mean he'd have to go to "Bro Hell." Barney reveals that things aren't legendary unless you share the experience with friends. Barney shows them how to do, "Haaaave you met…[name of friend]?"
Retro Video, Instructional Tape, Book, Or Other Multimedia Project Starring Or Created By One Of The Main Characters (Robin Sparkles, Barney As A Fake Astronaut, Etc.) Barney passes on his Playbook to the two young men he mentors as a huge stack of Post-Its.
Slap Bet Ted could have used a good slap, but no.
Unanticipated Wedding Hookup Barney gave his young protégés the tools to score, but we didn't see them actually hook up with anybody.
6 / 16
37.5 percent rehashed Mother.
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