Review: ‘How I Met Your Mother’ – ‘The Time Travelers’

Senior Television Writer
03.26.13 86 Comments


A review of last night’s “How I Met Your Mother” coming up just as soon as I DVR the news…

I spent a good chunk of “The Time Travelers” feeling the same frustration I’ve had with much of this season. The jokes felt strained (Marshall using a falsetto to try to get out of the ladies room), or like watered-down versions of things “HIMYM” did much better back in the day (the entire time traveler gag was something used well, and sparingly, when Marshall visited his teenage self). Even the hints of darkness, like Ted realizing any relationship with Coat Check Girl was doomed because that’s just how these things work out for him, didn’t really play, because it felt like the show had been hitting those notes too often this season and then running away from them. (Ted realizing that he was “really” ready to settle down was followed almost immediately by Ted conning that woman into sleeping with him last week.)

By the time I realized that the dance-off between Nick Andopolis and Robin Sparkles was going to occur largely off-camera – in an episode that, again, featured Jayma Mays from “Okay Awesome,” an episode that demonstrated why it is always a good idea to show Jason Segel dancing – I was ready to throw up my hands, write a short screed and move on to other things.

And then Barney – or Ted’s imaginary version of him – explained what was really going on, and “The Time Travelers” shifted from irritating to special.

There are times where the show’s use of an unreliable narrator feels like a cheat to me (Future Robin telling a story to her non-existent kids). But then there are other times where it pretty perfectly captures the mindset of the narrator (usually Ted) and why he felt the need to fool himself (and us) this way. This is a miserable, lonely Ted Mosby, whose friends have all moved on with their lives while he’s still stuck in neutral, not even having stupid adventures anymore but dwelling on ones he had years before.

Someone asked me on Twitter whether Ted’s sadness at having to wait another 45 days to meet the woman of his dreams was a signal that she’s no longer alive in 2030. That’s been a popular theory among fans in the past, usually coupled with the idea that Ted and Robin are together by then, which would explain why he’s spending so much damn time telling his kids about the trouble he had getting over a woman he dated years and years before he met their mother. And maybe that’s where this is all going, but I didn’t read it that way. To me, it was more a signal of the despair that he felt during that period – and that Future Ted (who’s telling this imaginary part of things) still remembers vividly, 17 years later – and that can and will only end when he and the Mother finally come face to face.

That entire sequence was played beautifully by Josh Radnor, and more than anything else the show has done this season, sold me on the power of Ted, and us, finally meeting the Mother. It probably raises the bar even higher for whomever Bays and Thomas cast in the role, but for the first time in a while, I feel genuine anticipation for her appearance, rather than considering it an itch the show is long overdue in scratching.

And then as I was feeling on a high from that sequence, the episode finally got real value out of the time traveler gag by having the multiple Teds and Barneys harmonize on Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time.”

Rough start. Terrific finish.

What did everybody else think?

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