Screen: CBS

Did HIMYM Scramble Their Long-Runny Routine Or Is It More Over Than Easy? A Hard-Boiled Review.

Eggs with your torturous headlines?

Be careful what you wish for.

My biggest complaint with HIMYM lo these last two or three seasons has been that it took funny, semi-realistic characters (at least for a multi-cam sitcom) and broadened them to the point of irritability. Emotional moments that used to be the show's specialty now tended to come only at the end of episodes and usually involved some fake-a-roo plot device (say, the excellently employed disappearing children in "Symphony of Illumination."

"The Lighthouse," which leaps ahead to Saturday morning, 33 hours before the wedding, is an odd duck. It indulges the show's worst recent tendencies (badly utilized guest stars, tired wacky hijinks that stretch credulity) but at the same time balances them with some of its strengths, like when Robin (Cobie Smulders) finally breaks down and reveals how hurt she is by her mother's absence the week of her wedding; or in the show's joyous lighthouse proposal, which leaps ahead two years to the moment Ted (Josh Radnor) asks The Mother (Cristin Milioti), which has just the right amount of the old magic to mark it as a positive step from the last few episodes.

The episode continues with Lily (Alyson Hannigan) being super-angry about Marshall's judgeship, so much so that she smashes glasses in her hand every time words like "judge" come up. Linus the bartender (Robert Belushi) is always there to replace her glass, and Lily is still saying, "Thank you, Linus!" as if the running gag will somehow get funnier. Maybe it will eventually; it's still fairly early in the season. Marshall (Jason Segel) and Daphne (Sherri Shepherd) hit a storm on their road trip and make a detour to the house of Ted's mom (Cristine Rose) and her husband Clint (Harry Groener). Clint tags along and plays incredibly annoying therapy songs that make baby Marvin poop and cause Marshall to take control by ditching Clint and putting on his own music in the car, namely "500 Miles" by The Proclaimers, which will probably grow on Daphne eventually.

Robin and Loretta (Frances Conroy) continue their feud, and it turns into a battle over who makes the best scrambled eggs. Robin gets to be mean and petty and Loretta gets to show the Inn how eggs can be orgasmic, but the real drama comes when Robin's mother, who was supposed to compete in the egg-off, skips her plane trip and says she won't be at the wedding, crushing Robin. The show wisely reminds us that we know next to nothing about Robin's mom, and has Lily and Ted play along with collecting stray facts about her ("Terrified of flying"; "got stung by a jellyfish"). When Loretta makes a crack about grandkids and Robin reveals that there won't be any grandkids because she can't have any, Loretta softens up and embraces Robin as her future daughter. We even flash back to the moment when Robin revealed the same info to Barney a while back, and his response is only to hold her tightly, which Loretta does as well in the present.

Going with bad advice from Lily, Ted invites the awful Cassie (Anna Camp) to a nearby lighthouse he really wants to see (nice job by Roger Bart as the desk clerk trying to dissuade Ted from going alone). On their way, Cassie gets injured on the stairs and Ted throws up for only the second time in his adult life after carrying her up the lighthouse. Ted thinks the lighthouse is ruined for him, but that's not the case. We peek ahead two years to the moment when he proposes, and it's such a great, natural moment (she answers "Yes" before Sir Talks-A-Lot can even finish proposing), it reminds you how much fresh energy Milioti has brought to the show in just a sprinkling of appearances. Let's just hope this isn't a teaser for stretching the show another two years with the spinoff How I Proposed To Your Mother.

It's not perfect, and the egg stuff was more over than easy, but it wasn't a disaster. But let's look at the numbers. How Mother-y was "The Lighthouse"?

Mother-Y Element Present?
Ted Still Pines For Robin...Or Does He? No; Ted is too busy trying to get enchanted by a lighthouse near the Farhampton Inn.
Robin And/Or Barney Shows Signs Of Cold Feet Before The Wedding No. In fact, the tension between Robin and Loretta and the reveal to Barney's mom that Robin can't have kids only brings them closer together.
Guest Star From A Past Season Pops Up (Ex-Boyfriend, Old Boss, Ranjit The Cab Driver) Ted's mom, Virginia, and her husband, the guitar-playing therapist Clint, show up again.
Baby Marvin Does Something Cute And/Or Disruptive) Marvin cries in the car seat when Clint plays his crappy therapy music and, according to Marshall, he poops when he hears the sound of it. Very cute, disruptive stuff even if we never actually see Marvin onscreen.
Gay Jokes About Barney’s Brother James Stinson (Wayne Brady)? No James this week.
Ted Moves A Tiny Step Closer To Meeting The Mother (Cristin Milioti) The jump ahead in time to Saturday morning means we're getting closer to seeing more of her. Ted's two-year flash-forward to his proposal atop the lighthouse is sweet enough to almost make us forget how slow we've been moving. Almost.
Humor Involving Wacky Relatives Doing Wacky Relative Stuff At A Wedding Not unless you count the scrambled-egg showdown that Robin forfeited for lack of egg-cooking knowledge.
Ted Is An Insufferable, Pretentious Prick About Architecture, Wedding Etiquette, English Literature, Or Any Other Pedantic Bullshit Ted regularly goes stag to a coin-collection convention, Coin-Con. 'Nuff said.
Public Transportation High Jinks Robin's mother is too scared to fly to the wedding, but we're going to mark this as a no since there wasn't any travel.
Flashback To Ted, Lily, And Marshall In College No.
Pop-Song Montage Or Episode Outro "Try A Little Tenderness" plays over Ted's proposal at the end of the episode and it's pretty great. Much better than any of Clint's songs, for sure.
Barney Says Something Inappropriately Dirty About A Hot Woman Because Come On, Barney Barney makes a joke about Robin putting "this whole thing behind her," gesturing to his own body, but, whoops, he makes the joke to his own mother, then awkwardly awaits a high five. At least she doesn't leave him hanging.
"Legend…ary!", "Wait For It…," Or Any Pun On The Word "Bro" Barney employs "In-law-yered!" in reasoning with his mother about patching things up with Robin, who'll soon be her daughter-in-law.
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.) Not this time.
Slap Bet No, just an egg-related smackdown.
Unanticipated Wedding Hookup Not so much, since Cassie falls down some stairs and Ted pukes at the lighthouse.
7 / 16
Final Score
How I Met Your Mother
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