If there’s one thing How I Met Your Mother does well — or, more accurately, often — it’s the Rashomon episode. For years, the show has duped us into believing a given flashback sequence is told reliably, only to undercut any validity with a conflicting recollection of the same events, as told by another character (who, in turn, is occasionally “corrected” by a third). On this week’s HIMYM, Ted is prompted to recall a simple trip to an art gallery with Robin and Lily back in 2011, when he last saw (cue mystifying horror) the Captain. Cheer vivaciously, fellow Twin Peaks lovers: Dale Cooper is back.
The perpetually grimacing man with whom Ted shares a past romantic partner (Zoey) gives the frazzled young architect a call in present day, provoking terrified narration of their most recent crossing of paths in an effort to explain to Marshall and Barney what it is exactly that the Captain wants: revenge. However, it isn’t until Robin takes the reins on the account do we realize that Ted’s point of view on the outing is far from objective.
And you’d think we’d know better by now. HIMYM has hit us with this shtick so many times, those of us who did fall for it on this week’s “The Ashtray” might want to revisit our secret aspirations for being world class detectives. While we’ve certainly reached the point where we can no longer be fooled by the sitcom’s misdirect twists, we’re still apparently susceptible to the ol’ Rashomon trick. But I guess if a show manages to keep pulling the wool over our eyes in some form, it has to be doing something right. Something…
And so, we delve right into the inscrutably surprising, generally entertaining stories, "Ted, Robin, and Lily Go to the Art Gallery".
Ted is sure that the Captain is phoning for revenge. Not over the whole Zoey debacle, but a following ordeal involving and unknowing Ted and a new lover of the yachstman. Ted recalls showing up at the gallery back in '11 to face off with the dead-eyed Captain, who in turn invited the trio of he, Robin, and Lily up to his apartment to see the latest painting he acquired.
While there, Ted and the Captain came inches from dueling — the former Dale Cooper drew a gun on Ted in the name of Zoey, but eventually came to forgive his eskimo brother, prompting Ted only to never wrong him in the same way again. But what Ted finds out when the Captain leaves the room, and he snags a peak at the framed picture to which ol' Cap was whispering sweet nothings just moments ago, is that the seafaring fellow seems to be madly in love with the young lady with whom Ted was taking up just that morning — the actress in a "Boats, Boats, Boats!" commercial, appropriately. Oh, the fates are not in the favor of these gents.
As such, Ted concludes that the Captain has found out about this tryst, and is after Ted, with murderous intentions.
But then we find out that the man was actually calling to get Robin's number. And so, we go to Robin...
The Captain wasn't at all engaged in hostility that night, but amorousness. Ted's memory, as Robin reveals, is a bit marred by the fact that he had partaken in a large sandwich (that's HIMYM for marijuana, as you probably know) just that morning with the "Boats, Boats, Boats!" gal.
So Robin recounts the "truth": the Captain invited her up to see his painting, didn't pull a gun on Ted but a remote (so he could DVR Real Housewives), and made an attempt to seduce Robin. She insists, however, that despite momentary lapse in judgment, she ultimately refused his charms.
And now, he's back in her life to win her over for good. That's gotta be the real story, right?
But then, we find out that the Captain was not, in fact, calling for Robin, but actually for Lily (the ol' name mix-up). And so, we go to Lily...
Right off the bat, Lily reveals that Robin was stone drunk that night, on top of Ted being high as a kite. So while her friends are wrapped up in revenge theories and sexual fantasies, Lily has the actual truth.
It was Robin who came onto the Captain, not the other way around (her drunken stupor leading her to interpret his innocuous conversation as flirting). But the Captain's true intentions were to show Lily, avowed art enthusiast, his painting. Up at the apartment, where Ted hallucinates a picture of his girlfriend when he sees a photo of the Captain's true love, his boat, and Robin jumps the Captain only to fall unconscious seconds later, Lily remarks that the Captain might have been better off purchasing a painting of an elephant the gang saw down at the gallery, rather than his acquirement. Offended by Lily's declaration, the Captain limits her qualifications by saying that she is "just a kindergarten teacher," an insult that really strikes a cord. So Lily does the mature thing and steals the Captain's expensive ashtray.
But that's not why he's calling. In fact, he didn't even notice the theft. The Captain is seeking out Lily, who has apparently harbored this sobbing self-esteem issue since 2011 (never bringing it up or exhibiting it or anything of the sort since the occurrence — kind of a plot hole, HIMYM), to inform her that her choice of painting has skyrocketed in value since their last union. As such, he wants to hire Lily as his own personal art dealer. Which, apparently, is her true dream.
But is it? Is she done with teaching? Can she really just up and quit her job, like Marshall advises her to? Ah, who cares. We love a Rashomon!
Oh, and Barney was there, despite everyone's insistence that he was, in fact, not. A good disguise can work wonders.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.
[Photo Credit: Richard Cartwright/CBS]
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