How I Met Your Mother Ep 9.03 ‘Last Time In New York’ wastes a lot of time to make a great point

himym 9.03

How I Met Your Mother Season 9, Episode 3 ‘Last Time In New York’

Written by Craig Gerard & Matthew Zinman

Directed by Pamela Fryman

Airs Monday nights at 8pm ET on CBS

 

Like the opening episodes of the season, ‘Last Time In New York’ is at its best when the recurring jokes are put to the side and Ted is sitting at the bar in the hotel lounge. Last week, we watched him watch himself, talking to the Mother about the bitter man wondering when it was going to be his turn – and this week, Lily and Ted share a touching conversation about that bitterness, and how important it is for him to let go.

It’s really a fantastic climatic moment for the episode, succeeding where Mandy Patinkin and old people sex jokes failed with Barney and Robin: in that moment, Ted becomes defined in a way the show had only shown hints of in previous seasons. His list of New York goodbyes were a list of good things: in other words, the only thing he’d be taking on that trip to Chicago was bitterness and regret, saying farewell to all the great times and career-defining moments that we’ve watched over eight seasons. Future Ted might be a great guy: but present Ted really isn’t, something the show faces head-on, if only for a brief moment.

The rest of the episode, while funny, feels extremely inconsequential to anything: more people are arriving to the wedding, Marshall’s in Wisconsin with Daphne (“Did you know I don’t care led the league in dumb sports stuff?”) doing nothing, and Barnobin (that’s terrible…. Robarney? Barin? Robarin?) are running around just trying to bang somewhere because they’re afraid they won’t have any spark after sixty years of marriage (neglecting the 80% chance they’ll both be dead by the time that anniversary rolls around). There are some amusing jokes (though Mandy Patinkin humor only goes so far), lots of Lily drinking and not getting that drunk, and a pair of goofy flashbacks that brought back the swords from Ted’s apartment… In other words, there is a lot of “stuff” happening in ‘Last Time In New York’, but none of it really matters, and none of it is as effective as Lily’s minute-long speech at the bar.

However, Ted’s plot in this episode also has a problem: we know he doesn’t leave the city and go to Chicago – and in the end, this just feels like a passive-aggressive Ted tantrum. The writers can’t fool us into thinking Ted’s heart is into his decision: and although it brings out a very lucid realization from Lily about Ted’s mental state (the negativity drowning out good ol’ Ted from the early days, it still feels a little silly the show had to use “moving to Chicago” as a place-card for “dealing with the feelings he’s had for Robin, even though he probably should have done that before getting engaged”. I suppose I’m a walking contradiction here: the best part of the episode itself actually displays some of the issues with the construction of the season as a whole: it’s a great moment, tacked onto 19 minutes of characters running in place with silly faces. A strong finish, but one that feels a bit empty, knowing the things we know and seeing the pointless things happening around them.

 

Other thoughts/observations:

– at the end, a suddenly angry Barney reveals to Ted that he saw Robin and him at the park, digging up her necklace (which we assume is in Ted’s possession right now). Dun, dun, dun… I suppose? We’ve already seen them on the wedding day being pals, so this just feels like extraneous drama to fill time.

– “… but they’re family, and I love them.” How many times have we all said this in our lives? My favorite comedic touch of this episode.

– The jump cut of Robin picking up the broken scotch bottle to drinking on the couch is Scherbatsky gold.

– … ok, we can stop with all the “damn, the brother always dies first, huh” jokes now?

– no Mother in this episode, but that’s ok. The big problem right now is the lack of Jason Segel with the rest of the cast: it makes the HIMYM family feel so fragmented with him so far away, and Barney/Robin off on their own all the time.

– “Thank you, Linus.”

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