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Worldly Distractions: How I Met Your Mother 9.3 - Last Time In New York





Kids, let me tell you a story.

It's about a show that, against all rational advice, persisted in claiming a ninth season, though it was generally agreed that it shouldn't have gone beyond, oh, Season 6. Despite the obviously lacklustre participation of its five main stars, the go-for-broke attitude of its beleaguered team of writers, and a sense of purpose long left by the wayside, the show continued far beyond credible stretching. In repeating the same jokes over and over, swirling them into a sort of pig slop of pointless attempts at humor, it turned our likable team of New York Millennials into something beyond all recognition. Nonetheless, the fans continued to tune in to the superfluous season, proving once and for all that timeless phrase - "if you air it, they will come."

To add a new layer of suffering for these most loyal of fans, said beleaguered writers decided to make the superfluous season a clusterfuck of idiotic proportions. In limiting their setting to one hotel and 48 hours before the Big Wedding - a gambit that only works if your show stars Kiefer Sutherland - they alienated the precious few fans the show had left, driving the last nail into the coffin rapidly closing on their creation's dignity.

That's right. This is the story of "How I Met Your Mother."

Let's focus on the very first frame. 52 hours left before the wedding. Seriously. We've proceeded three hours from the beginning of the season. Last episode was about everyone getting their rooms reassigned. Next thing, we'll have a show about that time Barney had to take a shower, so he took one.  Marshall isn't even on his way yet! This is not building anticipation - it's crushing our sense of charity.

Okay, so Robin and Barney are going over the schedule when the ring bearer/ring bear debate comes up again. At this point, I hope Barney did get a ring bearer, just so something can happen. Barney and Robin's elderly relatives all show up in a shuttle bus. The nine steps it takes to get into the building, lasting 45 minutes, represent all the free time Barney and Robin have left before they are inundated with cheek-pinching aunties. Crap, this is going to be their entire plot, isn't it?

This causes them to reflect on how long their relatives have been married, how long it's been since any of the old farts probably have sex, and how they have to have sex right now to prove they're still young. Sigh. These two are mature enough to carve a lasting relationship, and I'm Don Draper's secretary. Opening credits.

We recap Marshall's Excellent Adventure Back To New York, which led to him getting stuck in a car with Daphne (played by Sherri Shepherd). He complains over the phone to Lily about Wisconsin's cheese-infested horrors. To counteract its evil ways, he has dressed himself and Marvin in Minnesota Vikings gear. Daphne is about to kill him. I don't blame her. He promises to get back in time for the rehearsal dinner. Lily (still partaking of the "Kennedy Package" from last week) launches into a rant about the dry cleaners who destroyed her perfect dress. They hang up and Marshall goes back to being totally obnoxious.

Ted has overheard part of the conversation and joins Lily at the table. They talk about the toasts they're supposed to give. Lily claims she'll wing hers. (Okay, the drinking is really getting disturbing by this point. It's gone far past sitcom exaggeration. Lily, you seriously have a problem. Please, seek help.) She grabs Ted's paper, but instead of a speech, she finds a list. Of things to do. One last sunset over the Hudson. One last drink with students. Wait, with Robin getting married, is Ted going to end it all? Nope, it's the move to Chicago we all forgot about! Yeah, he's heartbroken about the end of Robin as a potential partner, so he's fleeing town like any normal person. Idiot.

Lily tells him that it's ridiculous he's leaving (true), and even more ridiculous that he hasn't told anyone besides her (double true). Ted thinks it will ruin the wedding. Lily calls him an avoider, especially since he's leaving basically the second the wedding's over. But not before correcting all the grammatical errors in the local graffiti, of course. And indulge in a possible sexual interest in buildings. So wait, the plan is basically to go to the wedding, act all happy and casual, and then run the fuck away? That is STUPID, Ted. It makes this author want to hit him with a rolled-up newspaper. STUPID. This entire season is STUPID.

Robin and Barney run to their room and start to rip their clothes off, but Robin says they should go somewhere forbidden. Barney gets all excited, but no, Robin only means somewhere in the public view. They head for the roof. Unfortunately, they're interrupted by complaining elderly relatives. To make matters worse, they're locked out of their room. They decide to run for the front desk to get a key - but the lobby is infested with the elderly. Um, these guys have put up a ton of money and time to come and watch you guys get married. The Barney and Robin I liked wouldn't be this ridiculous.

Lily and Ted, still going through the list, reach "tell my upstairs neighbor how I feel about her". Ted feels that her shoes must be made of lead, and she sucks at the bongos. Tap tap tap. We've all had that neighbor. Let's move on. There's also a mysterious story taking place on April 26th. Ted and Marshall got way too in-depth about The Princess Bride and decided to swordfight (despite a previous incident that almost killed Lily). They destroyed Lily's dress in the process and blamed it on the dry cleaners. Lily flips out, of course. Stop letting her drink. Ted apologizes, but Lily demands retribution. Since she has to wear something she hates, Ted has to wear - a 1920's bathing suit? Huh? What fresh hell is this? Marshall doesn't get punished because he's still in the Midwest somewhere - until Lily gets Daphne to dress him up as a Green Bay Packer. I think I just watched a man's soul die.

Barney and Robin are still trying to avoid the elderly, but Barney accidentally says "Mandy Patinkin", which apparently draws them like flies to rotting meat. Huh? Since when is that a thing? They hide out near the ice machine, since it's too cold for them - but James has already taken the hiding place.

Lily points out that the only thing Ted hasn't checked off yet is scotch with Barney, proving her point that he can't handle his friends anymore. Ted brushes it off, claiming he and Marshall will have the scotch with Barney right before the rehearsal dinner. It's even special scotch, aged to perfection and super rare. One problem, though - Lily and Robin were swordfighting, all while pretending to disapprove of the guys swordfighting, and smashed the precious bottle. They bought cheap whiskey and replaced the label, figuring no one would know the difference, and altered the color with ketchup, hand sanitizer, chocolate syrup, and other things too fierce to mention. Lily doesn't mention this, however, and Ted is too pretentious to know the difference. Before Lily can stop him, he takes a sip - and declares it breathtaking. Oh, poor snobby Ted.

James is hiding from the elderly because of his gay black divorced status, and he gets into a chat with Barney and Robin. They explain their "one-last-bang" situation. James is no help, saying all the sex went out of his marriage - but he won't let it happen to his brother. He is going to sacrifice himself for Barney and Robin's horniness. They try to stop him, but he is insistent - and gives up his moment of peace for their chance to shag. (Actually, in all seriousness, this scene is quite funny. The deadpan delivery makes it.)

And so he walks into the hall, stretches out his arms like Christ Himself, and is swept up in a maze of old people (though he has to tap them on the shoulder to get them to notice him). Godspeed, James. I think I'm crying a little. Barney cries out in agony for his lost comrade, but Robin tells him that James is gone, and they leave to have the fuck they've been longing for since ten minutes ago. Unfortunately, there is another squadron of old people on the stairs. They discuss finding open rooms or the gym, but nothing seems to work. They settle on the business centre - because old people are scared of technology - and split up for some reason I can't remember.

On the way, Robin runs into Bathing Suit Ted and thinks it's hilarious. However, as she walks towards them, she picks up Ted's list. DUN DUN DUN!

Ted explains that now he has a choice - come clean or lie. (Well, duh.) He chooses the latter, but is unfortunately not very good at it. Lily covers for him by saying it's her New York bucket list, before she leaves for Italy. Robin doesn't quite buy it (the Empire State Building is a dead giveaway), but the moment is saved for now. Unfortunately, in the process Robin brings up their swordfight, thinking Lily told Ted. Lily says she was trying to imitate Patinkin, which draws the old people closer just as Robin confesses to destroying the whiskey. Barney calls with the news that the third floor is empty. They're off - and just barely make it into a room before Aunt Muriel rounds the corner. To their dismay, Robin's great-grandparents are already using said room for the same purpose. The young couple escape, their sex drive gone for the foreseeable future.

Marshall is enraged over the bottle. Throwing the Wisconsin cheese hat aside, he accidentally enrages a room full of Packers fans. He puts it back on before they can beat him up, but it's clear he's their hostage.

Robin and Barney are grossed out by the sex, but Robin soon comes to the conclusion that if they're still this active after sixty years, they must be very much in love. They kiss with the hope that when they grow old together, they'll be just like that. Love is good at any age, right? They then invoke the name of Mandy Patinkin, knowing that they will never escape their relatives.

Lily returns with a replacement bottle, thanks to the miraculously well-stocked liquor store nearby and her "five fingered discount". He reluctantly accepts it, with his trademark Josh Radnor exasperated look. Ted thanks her for covering for him. However, he's still puzzled as to why, since she's so upset about the move. Lily replies that the list is from someone who loves New York so much, his departure must be absolutely necessary. It's a nice thought.

She advises him not to wait for Marshall, as he might not get there in time - but instead to have that scotch with Barney now. It's not right to go out avoiding your best friend, especially when it's his damn wedding. Then she launches into a speech about "saying goodbye to the bad things", while keeping the good things close. It shouldn't be a last scotch with Barney - but the first of Barney's new life. He tells her to turn the page. On the back, it reads "Get one last life lecture from Lily". Well, he has a point, but Ted and Lily scenes really can be gold. Hannigan and Radnor pulled it off brilliantly. Even if Ted's reasons for leaving are still pretty dumb.

They hug, Ted leaves with the scotch. Barney is out on the patio, making viewers remember the way he and Ted stood together at Lily and Marshall's nuptials way back in Season 2. We're ready for our friendship moment. But Barney looks angry, and tells Ted that he saw him with Robin at the carousel. Whatever that means, it's shocking, because Ted drops the precious drink. Cut to black, end credits.

Okay, so the show is a lifeless shell of what it used to be. That's obvious. It's in Community Season 4 territory, or (God forbid) The Simpsons at any point after Season 10-11ish. And I can't help but think that this new "carousel" drama will just be more repetitious Ted-Robin-Barney drama. Yawn. On the other hand, this episode was fairly well set-up, had some funny gags and great character moments. James' sacrifice and Ted and Lily's conversations were particularly good. If they can only move forward from this stupid wedding, maybe the season can be salvaged. Maybe. The HIMYM we like is hiding under there somewhere, and tonight we had our first glimpses of it. If we can get away from the event and back to the gang itself, maybe we'll see something more akin to the likable comedy of the mid-2000s. In the meantime - goodnight, kids. Don't let the elderly zombies bite.


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