And now for something completely different…
As most viewers of HIMYM know, the standard formula of the show follows the gang’s adventures in life and love, narrated by an older but wiser Ted (voice of Bob Saget). This week brought us the tale of the many coincidences that almost brought Ted and his future wife together for years. Voiced by the still-unnamed Mother, we take a walk through years of character development and relevant plot points in her life.
This twist on the old favorite started off by showing us a parallel McLaren’s Bar, on the other side of town, frequented by the Mother and her friends. The year is 2006, it is the Mother’s birthday and her boyfriend is running late. She fondly recounts his gift-giving prowess, as she and her pal await his arrival. The affection and strong bond between them is immediately revealed, in order to make the next few moments all the more affecting. When her cell phone rings and her face falls, we know the news cannot be good. Max, her beloved, is no longer with us.
Flash forward to 2 years later and the Mother is still in mourning. Her best friend drags her, protesting, to a dance club. It is the club where she will eventually forget one very important, very yellow umbrella. The significance of the yellow umbrella is not lost on long-time viewers. The very first time we got a glimpse of the elusive Mother, it was just that flash of yellow against a stormy sky. Ted would rescue that umbrella from that very same club and eventually unwittingly return it to its original owner.
Highlight moment for fans is also the return of the “Naked Man.” In a much earlier episode, Ted and Barney learned the secret of the “Naked Man” from an innocuously plain-looking acquaintance. The premise is simple: Go on a date with a pretty girl. Get her to take you back to her place. When she leaves the room, strip. Two out of three (or so he claimed) would say “why not?” to sex right then and there. The Mother proves to be the exception to the Naked Man rule (the 1 out of 3, that is) but she does get some excellent life advice. And a good reason to steam-clean her furniture.
Another flash forward takes us to the classroom where Ted made his first big teaching mistake. Again, viewers may recall that on Ted’s first day, he walked into the wrong classroom. He passed up the chance to be told otherwise, on the premise of establishing dominance by not taking questions. Narrator Ted revealed that the Mother was in that very classroom. As it turns out, she also met the roommate that Ted would later date while she was sitting there.
When Ted was dating the Mother’s roommate, Cindy, he came over to their place and discovered so many things he just loved! Except that every single thing he loved… belonged to the Mother. Ted left the apartment single, the yellow umbrella changing hands once more in the process.
Throughout the episode, other connections are missed and paths left uncrossed until the Mother finally ends up in the hotel room right next to Ted’s. It is the Present day, the weekend of Barney and Robin’s wedding in the Farhamptons. The Mother has checked in just following a dramatic change in her own life. Her boyfriend at the time unintentionally forced her to face a life decision. In a moving monologue, we watch the Mother finally face her past and the possibility of moving on from the late Max.
She plays her (omg Manic Pixie Dream Girl warning) ukulele and sings “La Vie En Rose” as a dreamy Ted listens on. They are strangers connected by only a shared wall, but her gentle voice gives them both some peace and harmony.
Before the credits roll, however, a quick shift back into Ted’s POV leaves us with just the hint of a cliffhanger…
Personally, I would have liked to see more about Lily and Marshall’s story, but this episode was not for them. It was the long overdue glimpse into who the Mother really is and how she got to be that way. Some of the jokes felt a little too much like winking at the audience, but Cristin Milioti (who plays the Mother) turned out a touching performance and lovely vocals.
To watch this and past episodes of HIMYM, visit the CBS website. And let us know what you thought of the episode in the comments.