Screen: CBS

How We Retconned Barney Meeting Your Mother

How Mother-y was the unlikely flashback revealing the real reason Barney proposed to Robin?

This is an episode that would not have stacked up well against early seasons of How I Met Your Mother, but placed next to this season's suffocating series of wedding weekend episodes, it feels almost like an escape hatch. It's a breath of fresh air to have the gang back together (yes, including Marshall) on home turf, even if it's just a lengthy flashback meant to connect backstory dots that it's easy to suspect were never really there.

At 11 AM on Saturday, thirty-one hours before the wedding, Robin uncharacteristically can't stop crying because her mother's not making it to the wedding. Barney cheers her up, at Lily's prompting, with a story about the night when, six months before, he accepted a bunch of challenges to get phone numbers from girls using criteria from Lily and Robin instead of just making up his own. He engages in some amusing bits where he has to engage with ladies at MacLaren's speaking only in a dolphin voice or not using the letter "E." But it goes in an unexpected direction when he tries to hit on The Mother at a drugstore. She has a boyfriend, and instead of shooting him down, she treats him like a real person and senses that he's a sad guy who missed his chance at a great love. As unlikely as is that Barney apparently met her so much earlier than everyone else and that she was the catalyst for his proposing to Robin before Ted could get to her, or that she would even sit on a bench and have a long conversation with someone like Barney, doesn't really matter. This show needs much, much more Cristin Milioti, and we'll take her however we can get her because she's a welcome change from all the excess baggage the main characters are carrying.

Of course, the other part of this quadrangle is Ted — who, it turns out, was seriously mulling making a grand move on Robin. He and Marshall take in a horrible Washington Generals game (a callback to a conversation way back in Season 5 that Ted had with Robin) and, in between insulting the refs, talk about the twenty minutes it would take for Ted to pursue Robin one last time and have his happily ever after. Ted seems weirdly dispirited and passive, far removed from the romantic guy of eight years ago, and he finally decides that he's got plenty of time and, hey, what's the rush? He even turns down a job offer by phone from his old boss/one-time employee Hammond Druthers, played by Bryan Cranston, who calls him during the game and wants him to come work in Chicago. That whole big plotline, with Cranston doing his spiel at a desk, is broad Cranston, and it's not bad at all, but it feels extraneous as anything more than a "We got Cranston to come back and do a thing!"

It's a lot more wistful than funny, but then shades of the old fate-and-romance-and-twisted-timelines vibe of early seasons still works better than whatever the Hell you're supposed to call a show that relies on an egg cookoff for laughs so late in the game.

So how Mother-y were the forced friend-zones of "Platonish"?

Mother-y Element Present?
Ted Still Pines For Robin...Or Does He? Oh boy does he — especially at the end when Robin and Barney kiss and he's just been schooled on how, six months earlier, he missed his absolute last chance to try for her one more time. He didn't need another reminder.
Robin And/Or Barney Shows Signs Of Cold Feet Before The Wedding Not at all. The episode is built around a flashback of Barney's decision to woo Robin for good, and the episode ends with the two of them kissing.
Guest Star From A Past Season Pops Up (Ex-Boyfriend, Old Boss, Ranjit The Cab Driver) Bryan Cranston, still on a Breaking Bad victory lap, returns as Hammond Druthers, who in Season 2 played Ted's boss. He offers Ted a Chicago architecture job in a long, desperate riff of a phone call.
Baby Marvin Does Something Cute And/Or Disruptive No Baby Marvin or Daphne this week.
Gay Jokes About Barney’s Brother James? James does not appear.
Ted Moves A Tiny Step Closer To Meeting The Mother This one's a stretch, but I'm going to give it to them since we did get a nice chunk of her on screen and we learned that she's connected to Barney, bringing her closer to Ted even if it's six months after the fact and Barney has no reason to remember yet who she was.
Humor Involving Wacky Relatives Doing Wacky Relative Stuff At A Wedding No, unless you count Robin's mom skipping the wedding as "wacky."
Ted Is An Insufferable, Pretentious Prick About Architecture, Wedding Etiquette English Literature, Or Any Other Pedantic Bullshit It almost physically pains me to admit that Ted was not pretentious this week. Pathetic, yes, but not pretentious or insufferable.
Public Transportation High Jinks No transportation issues addressed.
Flashback To Ted, Lily, And Marshall In College Not this time.
Pop Song Montage Or Episode Outro "It's Only Time" by The Magnetic Fields plays over an end-of-episode montage of Ted blowing his last chance to be with Robin and Barney writing the book entry that will seal his proposal.
Barney Says Something Inappropriately Dirty About A Hot Woman Because, Come On, Barney A big chunk of the episode takes place while Barney is single and looking to score. After getting a girl's phone number using only a dolphin voice, he makes a joke aobut her touching his blowhole. Hi-yo!
”Legend...ary!”, “Wait For It...,” Or Any Pun On The Word “Bro” None of these, but there are enough "Challenge Accepted!" callbacks from Barney to consider this episode a contributor to the annals of HIMYM catchphrases.
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’s big Playbook makes an appearance as he begins writing the page for "The Robin" technique.
Slap Bet Not even a tiny slap.
Unanticipated Wedding Hookup No, but Barney does make a very tiny move on Robin as she's crying uncontrollably, with predictably negative results.
7 / 16
Final Score
44%
flashbacky, not-so-hacky How I Met Your Mother
56%
Recent Business As Usual
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