How I Met Your Mother Season 9, Episode 13 “Bass Player Wanted”
Written by Carter Bays & Craig Thomas
Directed by Pamela Fryman
Returns 1/13/2014 at 8pm ET on CBS
The first half of How I Met Your Mother’s final season has mostly relied on the mystery of three events: what would happen when Marshall and Lily saw each other, when will Ted tell everyone he’s moving to Chicago, and when will Ted meet The Mother. We already know Marshall and Lily aren’t going to break up, we already know Barney and Robin will indeed marry each other, and we know Ted’s going to get a happy ending: with all of the endings being a given, the only thing left for the writers of HIMYM to do is show us the journey to the inevitable. As the mid-season finale designed to bring all three of these stories to the forefront, “Bass Player Wanted” is a fitting litmus test to this “experimental” final season: unsurprisingly, it’s not going so well.
The biggest problem with “Bass Player Wanted” is pretty obvious: Darrin the Demon arrives at Farhampton to stir up all the drama that none of our characters have been able to bring to light over the last 12 episodes – a really shitty way to catalyze the season’s biggest conflicts (outside of all that “locket” nonsense, of course). This fire-eyed stranger (a hyperactive Andrew Rannells) drops bombs left and right, turning each and every character on HIMYM into a convenient caricature to throw easy jokes off of. Even more troublesome is how later, “Bass Player Wanted” resolves all of their dramas (except Marshall and Lily, who “pause” their impending argument, of course) with smiling reconciliations, although there’s really nothing to suggest their frictions are dealt with in any kind of believable way.
Robin and Lily are a perfect example of this: instead of having Robin actually express her feelings to Lily about this weekend turning into Marhsall/Lily drama (which it has, when Robin isn’t dealing with Stinson family hijinks), “Bass Player Wanted” irresponsibly has Darrin bring these things to light, a dishonest way for two longtime friends (as ted and Barney are) to settle a dispute. And it really isn’t settled at all: a few lines of overt, robotic dialogue pushes the dirt under the rug and moves on to lighter, more fun things once Robin and Lily are besties again. Robin never has a moment when she realizes how selfish she’s being – she just comes to Lily and says she’s being selfish, and just does what best friends do.
It happens with Ted and Barney, too, though at least their resolution is handled with a little more emotional levity: seeing Barney and Ted realize why Ted wants to leave is a beautiful little moment, the one time where “Bass Player Wanted” slows down and shows a moving moment between two friends realizing an era is coming to an end. It’s the rare moment where How I Met Your Mother is able to put the hijinks and nonsensical characters aside, and give two characters the chance to reflect on the nine years we’ve watched them spend together – in fact, it’s only happened twice this season, when Future Ted watched gloomy Present Ted, and Barney reminded Robin that he doesn’t need to “wait for it” anymore.
When it comes to The Mother’s presence in the episode, I’m kind of “meh” about the whole thing at this point. There are some nice little touches (The Mother knitting when she’s really nervous, her driving gloves), but largely, the ride Marshall and The Mother share feels as contrived as Darrin’s sudden appearance and need to destroy any relationship that existed at Farhampton. There’s something to be said about people owning the mistakes they’ve made (The Mother letting Darrin into her band, Marshall taking a job without talking to his wife), but it all feels… inconsequential, because at this point, The Mother’s band and story that goes with it doesn’t matter to us. We’re all just waiting for her to meet Ted: and despite her charming presence whenever she appears on-screen, her “importance” to the people in Ted’s life feels forced at this point, lessening the eventual impact of her meeting Ted, rather than strengthening it (her buying him a scotch and leaving the bar before he arrives is a nice little mislead… but is it one we really need at this point? This has happened four or five times already throughout the series, we get the point).
“Bass Player Wanted” really wants to be a Big Episode of How I Met Your Mother: moving The Mother ever-so-closer to Ted, finally reuniting the gang at the inn, and moving into the final 20 hours before Robin and Barney’s wedding. There’s Big Conflicts “dealt” with, romanticized moments to hang narrative hats on, and the usual assortment of running gags – but none of it really lands, less of an enjoyable episode of comedy than a sigh of relief that this show is finally, FINALLY getting to the point.
– Bigfoot smoking is not funny.
– the big mystery of the back half of season nine: what happens to Linus?!!!
– The Mother is too nice??? What a character flaw!
– Ted saying “I need a new start” is both extremely convenient and satisfying to hear.
– most heartbreaking use of Marshall and Lily’s “pause”, even if it’s for a drama that doesn’t need to exist.
– isn’t this the third time How I Met Your Mother‘s used a slap as a ‘cliffhanger’?