What makes How I Met Your Mother different than a lot of other shows is the structure. It uses its voice over narration in a way no other show really does, and the episodes are never a linear story, but are instead full of digressions and fake-outs, as well as an unconventional order of things that helps explain actions or motivations.
The best episodes of the show are the ones that play with time and perspective, make good use of the unreliable narrator, and make Pam Fryman’s head explode with the number of scenes and cuts.
Last night’s episode, “Right Place, Right Time” was so much fun (even if it was also, alas, still Lily-less) because it did what the show does best, which is play with structure and time to help tell the story. (Spoilers for the episode are below)
When you think about it, this episode was really a microcosm of the show as a whole. Season three opened up with Ted telling the kids,
Kids, there’s more than one story of how I met your mother. You know the short version, the thing with your mom’s yellow umbrella. But there’s a bigger story, the story of how I became who I had to become before I could meet her. And that story begins here.
So, in essence, the entire show is a huge digression and explanation for how he got to the place where he met the mother. And this episode is a series of digressions and explanations for how he go to the place where…
he ran into Stella. Seriously though, what did you expect? It’s the third to last episode of the season, so we’re not meeting the mother right now. And who else could have created the immediate “what the hell?” reaction to Stella? Maybe Victoria, but let’s remember, Victoria was three years ago and, what’s more, HIMYM’s audience has grown since then, so I’m guessing a sizable portion of the audience would just be seriously confused.
Stella was a great fake-out, and she is obviously not going to be the mother. Still, every since last year’s finale, where Ted talks about the car crash changing his life, it felt like Stella had to be a more direct instigator in the search for the mother. And it seems like that’s where this is headed.
As for the subplots, I think I’ve mentioned before that I completely love lists. I also have to admit I love graphs and charts. Marshall’s subplot was, therefore, especially funny to me. Also, the list of Presidential names that sound dirty was inspired. (“Bush” was No. 2 and No. 9 by the way and both Andrew and Lyndon got shout outs with “Johnson” at No. 1 and “LBJ” (think about it for a sec… there you go) at No. 7. Honestly, Marshall is at his best when Jason Segel gets to play unapologetic, geeked out joy.
I haven’t even gotten to Barney yet. I have to agree with Marshall on this one: Barney is definitely gross, but also less successful than I’d always assumed (though, as I’ve seen some people mention, there are some problems with Marshall’s calculations in terms of “sexually active years” and what we know about Barney’s sex life from “First Time In New York”). Still, Jim Abbott shout-outs are always a good call (does anyone remember when he guest-starred on Boy Meets World?).
And the end of the episode, we got to see what seems like a turning point for Barney. I’m a sucker for NPH’s longing looks.
Other fun stuff–
- Cecilia! [edited to add: if you came for the Cecilia charts, may I suggest you read some of the other stuff we've had to say about HIMYM. Or maybe one of our other recurring features. We're fun people!]
- The return of the Intervention! That episode was probably my favorite of the season (not least of all because it was full of a lot of time jumping and self-referential fun, too), so a shout-out was much appreciated.
- “Bro’s life.” Oh God.
- Robin, curiously silent during the discussion of the magic number. Oh yes, Robin and Barney are meant to be.
- Can we just… if Neil Patrick Harris doesn’t get an Emmy this year, I might have to take drastic steps. He has such amazing comic timing, and he is a freaking amazing physical comedian, and then in a second he can turn it around and remind you that Barney is actually that poor, damaged, heartbroken hippie from “Game Night.” Could anybody else make you root for Barney like he does? In summary: Piven, I will come for you.
- “I will end your life”– Marshall’s line in response to Barney’s suggestion that Lily be No. 199. (A great line, but also exceptionally well delivered, Segel).
- “Barney, I’m pregnant.” Yes you are, Cobie. Yes you are.
- “Let’s raise this baby together.” Oh Ted.
- “You’re a big sustainable growth…” — Barney
All in all, good episode, and a great set-up for what promises to be two very interesting episodes to end the season.