Last night’s How I Met Your Mother was both expected and unexpected. As soon as we met the titular character, embodied most adorably by Cristin Milioti, I knew such an episode may be in the works, particularly as a spinoff impetus. What I didn’t expect was tears. All the tears.
We came in where we came in, the pilot episode—September 2005 and a game of “have you met Ted?” is afoot with a green-turtlenecked Canadian stranger. But that’s not the story we’re witnessing. The mother’s friend, Kelly (the weakest part of the episode for sure. If they intend to have her as part of the spinoff, they need to work on her.) arrives at MacLaren’s, but the west side (our) MacLaren’s, which is the wrong one in the Motherverse. It’s the mother’s 21st birthday—and a tragic one at that. In the first minutes of this episode, the Mother’s boyfriend passes away suddenly, leaving behind a birthday gift: a ukulele.
Three years later, on St. Patrick’s Day, she’s still processing this tragedy. But Kelly gets her out of the house where she doesn’t bump into Ted (but the human red herring does—a very nice nod to the “bump girl” conspiracy theorists). But she does bump into Mitch—high fives all around to everyone who audibly shouted “NAKED MAN!” at his arrival—and he comes to her apartment to find out that his “signature move” only works two out of three times, the number he shared with our gang in his eponymous episode.
Cut to the first day of economics class. The Mother meets her new roommate—Rachel Bilson’s Cindy—and discovers she’s accidentally in Architecture 101 (though she is a tad smitten by the professor and his terrible “mighty shellfish of me” joke—a fabulous callback to “Double Date” where Ted assured us that the first time the Mother heard that joke, she laughed). Oh, wait, nope, it’s Professor Mosby who’s in the wrong place as he dashes past her on the quad.
Then, the aftermath of Ted and Cindy’s date from “Girls Versus Suits.” Cindy actually having strong feelings for the mother is a nice button and much more palatable than jealousy. She’s clearly “got some stuff to figure out.” As Mother tells this story to a would-be suitor, we get yet another glimpse of Ted in the infamous green dress.
So totally even, Teddy Westside.
We get to see more of the bits we already knew, but were fun to see pay off. Her aforementioned breakfast song stylings (“One tasty English muffin…”), her war with the dreaded Darrin (Andrew Rannels), and more about how she and Ted are basically the same person (calligraphy set, driving gloves, “Ren-AY-sonce” and all). Then, one we didn’t know about—Louis, her boyfriend before Ted, proposes to her.
The scene where she goes outside to talk to Max, the deceased boyfriend from the first scene is quite possibly one of the most emotional for the entire series. (“I know you’re probably playing baseball with your dad…” is when the tears started for me, by the by.) I cannot express enough how hard Milioti sold this scene. If any Ted/Robin shippers remained, I can’t imagine anyone who wasn’t won over by the true champion of Ted’s heart. For a character we’ve only known a fraction of a season to make us feel so much in just one episode, that’s impressive. She blew me away. And, after turning down the proposal and checking into the Farhampton Inn (room six—wonder whose room is adjacent?) her ukulele rendition of “La Vie En Rose” (now available on iTunes / now downloading onto my iTunes) finished the job.
This, the show’s 200th episode, was more than a nice introduction to the woman we’ve been waiting nine years to meet. It was a payoff to nearly a decade of devoted viewership, one that has had more than its fair share of hits and misses. I might not be onboard with the spinoff. But I’m 100-percent onboard with the Mother. And I’m 100-percent onboard with this season.
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