Screen: CBS

How I Didn't Terrify Your Mother Into Not Kissing Me On Our First Date

How Mother-y was a strange combination of flash-forward and future nostalgia leading right up to the final episodes?

On its face, this episode would appear to be another time-waster, a going-nowhere distraction when precious time is running out before the finale (which is only two weeks away). Why bring back a character who hasn't been since Season Five and wrap a whole story around him so close to the wedding? That doesn't seem smart. Why would they do that?

But it's in the last few minutes that it becomes clear: this is a way of saying goodbye to all the background characters on the show who aren't Ted, Lily, Marshall, Robin, or Barney. All the Gary Blaumans and Zoes and Patrices and Sandys and Billy Zabkas who have brightened up the show with fun guest appearances. (Sorry, no Bob Odenkirk.) That the spotlight guest star happens to be married to Cobie Smulders may have had something to do with this particular farewell, but since we're all in love with Taran Killam's work on SNL, it's not something to get bent out of shape about.

More importantly, we get some meat on the bones of the relationship between Ted and The Mother before they've even chronologically met at the wedding. The episode begins three days after Farhampton with Ted having called The Mother after the customary Three Days Rule. Their excursion to a Scottish-Mexican fusion restaurant does not pan out (or flan out) when they arrive to find bagpipe-toting mariachis. Somewhat incongruously, this leads Ted to tell the wedding tale of Gary Blauman, who showed up at the wedding and apparently wasn't on the seating chart because his RSVP card got lost. This turns into a lengthy sequence in which every character, even ones you didn't know were still around, reveal whether they love or hate or hate-love or hate-to-love or love-to-hate Gary Blauman. Marshall agrees to handle things for Robin so she doesn't freak out, and pretty soon it's flashbacks within a flashback about all the ways that Gary Blauman has affected each person's life.

For Ted: Gary once got into a Teddy Roosevelt trivia-off with Ted for the affections of a young woman at a party (in Ted's own apartment). Which is a little weird when it turns out Gary later slept with Barney's brother James Stinson, but let's just assume Gary is bisexual and was not, as Ted assumes, angling for our narrator in a sexual way. For Barney, there's hate for Gary because he once stole four fries off his plate at MacLaren's, including an accidental curly fry, which as all fry connoisseurs are aware is the unicorn of eating French fries. Even Billy Zabka has a Gary story: Gary is the only person in the world who appreciates his six volumes of poetry and has no idea what Karate Kid is all about.

Gary gets uninvited to the wedding, then convinced to come back, which turns out to be a roundabout way to get to Ted's point: that guests you love so much at your wedding often fall away and you lose track of them. But he manages to wrap up loose ends with a powerhouse montage that reveals where many of the show's supporting characters ended up.

Of course, Ted doesn't know all this at the time when he's telling the same story to The Mother, but that doesn't stop her from being enthralled by his tale (lord, why?), insisting he finish even though they arrive at her home and she says it's too soon for her to start dating again. By the time the story is properly over, she's charmed enough to kiss Ted and to continue the date with more walking. It's incredibly sweet, even if at the core it's kinda nonsense, but who cares. More Mother and Ted, hooray!

But how does this risky gambit work overall? 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? No; in fact Ted is shown falling in love with The Mother on their first date and (much earlier in the timeline) hitting on a woman who is also a fan of Teddy Roosevelt.
Robin And/Or Barney Shows Signs Of Cold Feet Before The Wedding No, Robin's already in her dress and Barney calls her "the woman of my dreams."
Guest Star From A Past Season Pops Up (Ex-Boyfriend, Old Boss, Ranjit The Cab Driver) Oh boy, strap in! In an end-of-episode montage showing what happens in the future, past girlfriends of Ted including Zoey, Blah Blah (who turns out to be named Carol), and Jeanette appear. Zoey is still fighting for causes like saving hawks while Jeanette ends up with Kevin, Robin's ex. Also: Sanjit (who gets rich), Scooter (who ends up with Stripper Lily), The Blitz (still cursed), Carl the bartender (still working at MacLaren's with a son), Patrice (who ends up with a radio talk show), and Robin's former co-worker Sandy, who ends up as an anchor in Russia. And of course the episode title's namesake, Gary Blauman.
Baby Marvin Does Something Cute And/Or Disruptive We see James Stinson's kids all grown up, but no sign of Marvin or his sister Daisy.
Gay Jokes About Barney’s Brother James Stinson (Wayne Brady)? No gay jokes, but James finally returns and reunites with his husband after Gary tells him to own up to his mistake (of sleeping with Gary).
Ted Moves A Tiny Step Closer To Meeting The Mother (Cristin Milioti) Since we know that moment is coming very soon time-wise and since we got a fairly significant glimpse of their falling-in-love (first date, first kiss), it sure feels like some steps were taken.
Humor Involving Wacky Relatives Doing Wacky Relative Stuff At A Wedding Humor involving wedding seating charts and who can/can't sit near each other probably counts.
Ted Is An Insufferable, Pretentious Prick About Architecture, Wedding Etiquette, English Literature, Or Any Other Pedantic Bullshit Ted was obsessed with Teddy Roosevelt and it drove everybody crazy. You might say it was some rough riding. OH NO, I AM TURNING INTO TED!
Public Transportation High Jinks Ted and The Mother's first date is spent walking around instead of eating; Ranjit gets rich and ends up owning the limo company where he used to drive.
Flashback To Ted, Lily, And Marshall In College None.
Pop Song Montage Or Episode Outro "Where Are They Now?" by The Kinks plays, appropriately, behind a montage showing what happened to characters from the show's past.
Barney Says Something Inappropriately Dirty About A Hot Woman Because, Come On, Barney He was on his best behavior this week.
"Legend…ary!", "Wait For It…," Or Any Pun On The Word "Bro" Not at all. Is Barney still drunk or sedated or something?
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.) Ted's recounting of what happened to many of the people from his past plays out in one seamless, theater-production-like set of scenes. It's actually quite lovely.
Slap Bet Is it possible to slap-bet tears of nostalgia out of a viewer's eyes?
Unanticipated Wedding Hookup It didn't actually happen at the wedding, but it was surprising to learn that Gary Blauman and James Stinson had hooked up, causing the breakup of James's marriage.
8 / 16
50 percent atypical yet oddly satisfying, wind-up-to-the-finale Mothery goodness.
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