HIMYM: The Time Travelers

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HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: 8.20 “The Time Travelers”

I don’t quite know what to do with this episode. I’m still digesting it. But here goes.

When I first saw the promos for this episode, I wasn’t impressed. Future Barney? What’s that about? Sure sounds like another ploy to get people to watch. And let’s face it: This show doesn’t need ploys. It can be smarter than that.

And it was, wasn’t it? With a bit of a trick in the end. The entire episode, as we saw it, never happened. And Ted’s been by himself, stuck in his own head, the entire time.

Were you tipped off? I wish I could say that I was. But you know, something about it made me start wondering about what was really happening here. Future Barney (both of them) were pretty accurate. They seemed pretty much like you’d think a Future Barney would talk. But Future Ted…something was different there. And it all started with a joke.

Or was it? When Ted asked about getting married, 20-year Ted told him he still hoped to get married. That he was still waiting. And sure, he turned it into a joke, but there was some truth there. Somehow, Future Ted was feeding into Ted’s insecurities. Something that felt like it would come out of Ted’s own mind, not from a figment (this is all a little odd, what with the fact that none of these people would have been real in the first place, but stay with me).

Now, think of the Coat Check Girl. She didn’t have one future self. She had two. Clearly, the people we’re seeing don’t really know what’s coming. And that’s basically how Ted’s seeing the decisions — he’s seeing the end results. In this case, it’s one of two, neither of which have a happy ending. Again, we’re feeding into his insecurities.

Now, did I know Ted was sitting alone in the bar the whole time? No. I didn’t. I didn’t know that Robin and Barney were actually at their place, and Lily and Marshall were actually at home. But it did give you a great moment of discovery — and self-discovery for Ted. His speech to the mother, well, it was beautiful. With tears in his eyes, you really felt for him. It almost made me wonder if we were in the future, making me wonder if, for a moment, he was really at his future girlfriend’s door after a fight, trying to get her back.

But no, we’re in the present. And we still have 45 days to go. How they’re going to do that with another season following that 45-day deadline, I don’t know, but we know there’s an end in sight. Poor Ted, the one at the bar, doesn’t, and it looks like dark times ahead for him. We know there’s hope, but there’s less and less to go around for him.

It was a poignant bait-and-switch. One that I enjoyed and am still thinking about (and apparently not as controversial Robin’s switch last year). And it was well done. I haven’t been a fan of Ted-centric episodes, and the reason I think this one worked is because we didn’t realize it was one. It was a dumb question: Should he go to Robots vs. Wrestlers? We didn’t realize that something bigger was behind that question: the future.

So yet again, HIMYM can show us that beyond some sloppy filler episodes and between some silly B-stories, there’s still quality there. And that’s why, if I went back in time, I’d be telling Past Raked, the one who watched “The Burning Beekeeper,” just stick with it. You’ll see.

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