Screen: CBS

Penny, Luke, Jabba Talk, And Bugs With Boobs

How Mother-y was an episode about truth-drunken revelations, sex stalling, and the birth of Ted's kids?

If you had stepped out of a time machine at the start of How I Met Your Mother's Season 9 and told me that this season's slap bet episode would be a dud, and that an episode about trying to have sex all night and Barney revealing secrets as if by truth serum would be leaps and bounds better, I would not have believed you. I would have also said, "What are you doing, using a time machine to discuss How I Met Your Mother?! That seems like a tremendous misuse of scientific resources and shows extremely bad judgment!"

Then we would eventually have talked about how great "Unpause" was going to be, an episode that runs with two silly high concepts and somehow nails them both, while also giving us a nice flash-forward dose of Ted with The Mother (finally!), real emotional stakes, and big laughs. The title comes from the huge argument that Lily and Marshall are due to have about his taking a judgeship job without consulting her first. The argument is paused and Marshall figures out that the argument will only happen after the night is over. So he tries to get the rest of the gang to stay up late as long as possible. When that finally fails, Lily wants to have sex and Marshall challenges himself to make the act last all. Night. Long. This leads to the best bit of the episode (if not the whole season): a musical montage of unsexy thoughts, ending with "Bugs." It's so unsexy that Marshall starts to lose his groove. Back to sexy thoughts: "Bugs with boobs," with the best possible visual aid.

This is a pretty good bit and the show probably could have ridden this out and delayed the fight to the next episode, but instead, after the sex is over, it finally happens. And it's brutal. Marshall brings up the time Lily left him to pursue an art career in San Francisco, and wonders if her life with him and the baby was just a consolation prize and if moving to Italy is a way to make up for lost time. Lily, very hurt, can't stay. She gets a ride from a mysterious stranger we can't see. (It's The Mother. Has to be.)

The other high concept is that Barney goes through several stages of drunkenness, bottoming out at talking like Jabba the Hutt. But he has one more level of drunk that Ted and Robin haven't yet seen: he becomes totally honest. Ted and Robin keep the alcohol flowing and ask all the questions they've wondered over the years that Barney was never straight about, including what really happened with Ted's mom, how much he spends on suits, and what he does for a living. It turns out all he does is sign forms as his company's eventual scapegoat for years of legal wrongdoing. But we learn that he has a plan to turn the tables on the guy who hired him, the jerk who stole his girlfriend, in an admirable display of long conning on Barney's part. More notably, Barney gets to be his true self, revealing to Ted how much he truly loves Robin and how broken he felt before he met her. Yeah, we've heard variations of it before, but it rings truer here than in other episodes. It's very sweet and it works, even after all this time.

And then there's The Mother. In bits that bookend the episode, we learn that she and Ted were at Farhampton in 2017 when she was about to give birth to their second kid. It explains Future Ted's fondness for the place and, as a bonus, we catch a glimpse of the first kid as they head to the hospital. It's a girl named Penny, who is about to be joined by a brother named Luke.

In the tag, which took me a moment to get, we learn that there really is a ring bear. When Robin kept asking Barney, while he was truth-drunk, whether there would be a bear at the wedding, Barney said it's someone named Trevor Hudson, who is adorable and whose mother he worked with. But he didn't reveal that Trevor Hudson is a bear, oh my goodness, a bear is coming!

These are all parts that could have misfired separately, but somehow only the stuff with The Mother didn't directly tie in with everything else, and yet it was still a welcome bit of business; Ted always seems like less of a jerk-off when he's with her. At this point, having this many reveals in one episode seems right. For once this season, it didn't feel like things were being stretched out unduly.

But how did it stack up with past episodes? 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? Ted has issues with the idea that Robin let him pay for everything while they were dating even though she's rich, but he's not really pining. In fact, while Barney is truth-telling, Ted discovers that Barney is truly happy to be with Robin, and he seems pleased by that.
Robin And/Or Barney Shows Signs Of Cold Feet Before The Wedding No. Barney's revelations only endeared him more to Robin and showed that Barney's feelings for her are genuine.
Guest Star From A Past Season Pops Up (Ex-Boyfriend, Old Boss, Ranjit The Cab Driver) Ted's mom showed up in a flashback, as did a few other people, but the biggest guest role this week is Greg (Mark Derwin), the guy who stole Barney's girlfriend back in his hippie coffee-shop days. It turns out Greg hired Barney to his current job, and in a flash-forward, he'll be busted by the feds with Barney's cooperation.
Baby Marvin Does Something Cute And/Or Disruptive He's with a "sitter." Who brings a sitter along to a weekend wedding? What are you, made of money, Lily and Marshall?
Gay Jokes About Barney’s Brother James Stinson (Wayne Brady)? James did not appear.
Ted Moves A Tiny Step Closer To Meeting The Mother (Cristin Milioti) Not in terms of wedding-weekend plot, but the flash forwards to Farhampton with The Mother when she's about to give birth in 2017 give a little more context as to why that place is so important to Ted. We'll allow it.
Humor Involving Wacky Relatives Doing Wacky Relative Stuff At A Wedding No relatives shown at the wedding this week. It's 2 AM. They're all getting their relative beauty sleep.
Ted Is An Insufferable, Pretentious Prick About, Architecture, Wedding Etiquette, English Literature, Or Any Other Pedantic Bullshit He actually skates by pretty well for most of the episode until the bit about Robin's riches. It's way too late to harp on that and at the end of the night, he charges all the drinks to Robin's room. Dick move, "best man"!
Public Transportation High Jinks None this week.
Flashback To Ted, Lily, And Marshall In College No, although we did hear a 19-year-old Ted say "I wub you" to his mother in the form of a talking stuffed toy.
Pop Song Montage Or Episode Outro Marshall's efforts to keep going whilst having sex are set to a hilarious song about unsexy things like fingernail clippings, TMJ mouth guard smell, and bugs. Then it shifts to sexy-unsexy thoughts. Also, Barney's "Awesome CV" song plays while Greg is busted by the feds.
Barney Says Something Inappropriately Dirty About A Hot Woman Because, Come On, Barney He starts to describe, under truth-duress, what he did with Ted's mom, but Ted can't handle it. In baseball terms, Barney explains that he didn't actually have sex with her. Huge relief. And yes, Ted's mom is kinda hot.
"Legend…ary!", "Wait For It…," Or Any Pun On The Word "Bro" Surprisingly, no, but mostly because Barney wasn't really talking like himself for most of the episode.
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, dressed as a cowboy, posing for a photo with his best friend. That best friend was a balloon, also dressed as a cowboy, as Marshall gleefully reveals to the rest of the group.
Slap Bet It's referenced because Barney has a handprint on his face. Robin and Ted take turns making fun of Barney's palm-face with a lightning round of jokes.
Unanticipated Wedding Hookup Lily and Marshall go at it in epic fashion before they unpause their huge argument.
8 / 16
50 percent vintage Mother stylings.
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