Monday, March 3, 2014

How I Met Your Mother: "Vesuvius"

Quick Review: A weightier episode than it seems

Episode Synopsis: Lily and Robin have a wedding-day disagreement; Barney is fit to be tied over what suit to wear; and the gang screens a film Ted told them not to watch. -tvguide

Spoiler alert. Trust me, you don't want to ignore this one. I know, you didn't ignore the spoiler alerts when you read the reviews of Doctor MD and Police Cop. That wasn't a big deal, though, because those were terrible movies. However, I know you regret getting spoiled on the big twist of White House President. Everyone was talking about how their minds were blown, but you went and spoiled yourself and had to pretend to be amazed. And now you walk around, wondering if people know you were just faking that amazement. It's a heavy burden, I know, which is why I'm telling you to think very hard about getting spoiled for this episode. I worry about you.

Full Review: "What mother is going to miss her daughter's wedding?" Those words turn this episode from a typical Ted yarn into something more profound and poignant. Because while The Mother, sitting in a snowed in Farhampton Inn in 2024 is talking about Robin's mother, she might also seem to be talking about herself. And suddenly, Ted's long, long, long and rambling story he tells his kids in 2030 makes a lot more sense.

Stories are fantastic. We love hearing them. It's fun to tell them to an attentive (or captive) audience. The entire conceit of this series is that it's a "Love Story in Reverse." We know how the story ends, we just don't know how Ted actually meets The Mother. And that process of discovery over these nine years has been exciting. At times frustrating. Occasionally heartbreaking. Often sidesplittingly funny. But even at its worst I've enjoyed it.

But stories are more than a way to talk about the past or pass on profound life lessons. They can be a retreat. Sometimes life is better in those stories, especially our own stories of days gone by. It's hard to see it when you're living them, but looking back can make you realize how wonderful those times were. We can get lost in the past and refuse to see that life is always moving forward. We get older, times change, and things happen that we don't want to deal with.

This episode isn't a story Ted tells his kids. This is one of the stories Ted tells his wife, The Mother, and she's heard it before. In fact, she's heard pretty much all of Ted's stories. (And he's heard all of hers.) They are officially an old married couple, celebrating their life together. At least, they are trying to.

Because as Ted is telling this story to the woman he loves, she warns him that he shouldn't just live in the past. He needs to live in the present and not ignore the future. At first, it seems like something a wife tells a husband who tells her the same story over and over, but there's a sadness in what she says. And while we aren't told why she's sad, it's clear what's going on when you think about it.

Ted and The Mother are back in Farhampton, but it's not during the summer season. It's the dead of winter, and they are the only ones enjoying the accommodations. Farhampton in winter is not where you go for a fun vacation. Because this isn't a vacation, it's trying to enjoy one last weekend, one final trip together. It's a chance to make one more memory because you don't know how much time you have left.

"What mother is going to miss her daughter's wedding?" The mother asks this question, and it's clear by the look on Ted's face that they both know the answer. That look, with the tears in his eyes that he's trying so bravely to contain, absolutely devastated me. He didn't have to say a word, because words weren't needed. He's trying to be brave for her, because she needs him.

Something is wrong, and there's a very good chance that The Mother isn't going to be there when her daughter walks down the aisle. That's why she and Ted are at Farhampton, the place they met. The place Ted proposed. The place their son Luke decided to be born. This is the most important place for both of them, and when times are tough, really tough, that's where they want to go one last time.

The Time Travelers was easily the best episode of season 8, and one of the top episodes of the entire series. At the end, Future Ted tells his kids that if he got to go back and relive that time, he'd rush over to their mother's apartment because even though he meets her 45 days from then, he wants those 45 days. Or even just 45 seconds. Now, what he says makes even more sense. While everyone's days are numbered, The Mother may have had far fewer days than we realized.

There's been a theory running around HIMYM fan circles that The Mother is dead in 2030. The reason Ted is obsessed with telling this story is because, in telling it, he gets to spend a little more time with her. It's not just about telling his kids all his stories from his 20's and 30's, it's about reconnecting with the woman he loved so much, a woman he misses every single day.

Now, we don't know if The Mother is still alive in 2030 when Ted is telling the story. We do know that something is happening to her in 2024 and it's serious. We're going to find out, and when we do, I'm probably going to cry. Bad news. Good news. This show is going to get me.

There was a lot happening in the rest of the episode as well, mostly just the gang's wacky hijinks as they break lamps and watch the sequel to The Wedding Bride. (The Wedding Bride Too, with Chris Kattan returning as the Evil Architect.) Lily's insistence that Robin have a "wedding day moment" did get a little old. Past Ted and Barney, however, have some great scenes together as they decide on the right suit for Barney's wedding. It's also nice to see Robin's sister again.

The big surprise, of course, is that Robin's mother is here, played by Tracy Ullman. As The Mother says in 2024, it's pretty obvious she'd be coming. Next week we're sure to find out about her, and I can't wait to see her play against Ray Wise. Great casting if you ask me.

And it seems that Marshall and Lily have dealt with Marshall being a judge. We may never see what made Lily change her mind, and that's unfortunate. Of course, given how much the show has to accomplish and the limited amount of time left, I can see why the writers would just declare it finished. Still, there's more to the story and I wanted to see it.

I think this is a great episode, but ultimately its success will hinge on what happens next. It sets the stage for two big emotional stories: Robin and her mother, and Ted and The Mother dealing with what's wrong with her. If it pays off, this episode will be brilliant. If what follows is unsatisfying, then this episode will be diminished. But given the track record of these final few episodes, I think we're in for some powerful television.

Episode Breakdown

Best Bribe: Anything with a 2 on it.

Best Hotel Alias: Ms. Susan Tupp

Worst Forgotten Detail: Barney stole that scuba suit.

Best Callback: Ted and Marshall waking up after the snowstorm, as depicted in The Wedding Bride Too!

Most Notable Absence: the Sagat Narration, as this might be one story Ted can't bear to tell his kids.


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