This week’s episode of How I Met Your Mother tells the story of a “cold April night in 2013” through a variety of different perspectives — present day Ted and Barney, Barney from 20 minutes in the future, Ted from 20 hours in the future, and Ted and Barney from 20 years in the future. Oh, and a couple of Jayma Mayses were tossed in there, too. As such, I/we will be recapping the appropriately titled episode, “The Time Travelers,” from the vantage point of my/our present and varying future incarnations. Present day me thinks it’ll be a great idea! (Me from 20 minutes in the future is already bored and just wants to watch the new Top of the Lake, but he'll have to deal).
"The Time Travelers" recap — Written: Now
How I Met your Mother is one of the few multi-camera sitcoms that dares to play with format. Quite often, the program will institute an interesting vehicle for the delivery of a simple or succint idea — something no more convoluted or unpredictable as Ted realizing he wants to get married, or Barney coming to terms with his love for Robin. The sitcom has upheld a handful of different bait-and-switch manifestations over its eight season run, with the latest being one of the most fun and playful experiments in a while: Ted denies Barney's pleas to attend Robots Vs. Wrestlers as Barney employs the perspectives of a number of different Teds and Barneys from futures immediate and distant to convince his friend of the merits of the outing.
The long-distant Barney/Ted duo agrees that the friends should, in the interest of creating a delightful memory, attend Robots Vs. Wrestlers. Ted from a day in the future argues that the whole ordeal isn't worth the painstaking hangover. And a Barney from only 20 minutes in the future diverts the lot's attention to an incoming Jayma Mays, playing the a girl for whom Ted has dormantly pined ever since first meeting her and failing to ask her out years ago.
For a while, Teds, Barneys, two disparate Future Jayma Mayses (one who grows sick of Ted, one of whom Ted grows sick) clamor over one another until Actual Present Non-Hypothetical Ted awakens to his ultimate realization that he is alone in MacLaren's. None of these figures, not even Barney of present, are really with him, thus leading Ted — who can, thanks to the graces of the television gods, live out life through the eyes of his 17-years-in-the-future-and-voiced-by-Bob-Saget-self, bring himself to the apartment door of his wife-to-be, whom he informs the audience he will be meeting 45 days from this point. It's a heartfelt profession of loneliness and fated love alike, one that'll surprise you with how much it actually does seem to affect you.
But that's all we have for Ted this week. In real time, he's still alone, still wallowing in self-pity, still sitting by himself in bars imagining Barney prying him into Robots Vs. Wrestling while Marshall and Robin settle an argument about the rightful namesake of a MacLaren's cocktail by dancing like goons (yes, that is what Ted's mind allows his best friends to do all this while). All in all, and interesting, well-delivered, and emotionally resonant episode.
"The Time Travelers" recap — Written: 20 minutes in the future
This week's How I met Your Mother, while duly deemable as one of the season's strongest yet, suffers from one major flaw: its convolution. After the 20 minutes granted to be me by the graces of a linear time-space continuum, I find myself revisiting the episode and having to claw through all the muck to get to the heart and soul. Sure, it's there, but hidden behind a vineyard of backwards details. See, Ted pays a visit to his usual haunt of MacLaren's, earning Barney's scorn when he refuses an outing to Robots Vs. Wrestlers. What follows is a fun but ultimately disjointed casting call for Teds and Barneys of the future — 20 minutes, 20 hours, and 20 years; they all come back to explain to Ted the bounites and horrors of the night he has in store.
But the big reveal: the whole schlock is in Ted's head, Barney included. He's simply alone, writhing in self-deprecation as his friends lead actual lives, imagining the glory he will someday soon face upon meeting the love of his life (or is that Future Ted recalling? Does Future Ted have false memories? Is Ted a latent schizophrenic?). While Ted oralizes his devotion to a woman we have yet to meet, we're still stuck in the jumbled mass of realizing that all of the junk that happened in MacLaren's — including Marshall and Robin's dance-off — was not actually happening. Enough Shyamalan endings, HIMYM. It's like we can't even trust you.
Still, one of the season's stronger installments — fun, an interesting effort, and riddled with imaginary dance routines.
"The Time Travelers" recap — Written: 20 hours in the future
Well, I've about given up on this show. A program that used to be fresh, riveting, and imaginative has sunken to hammy gimmicks like time travel to sell an idea that it has barely even expanded since the pilot. This week, Ted sits alone in a bar, dreaming up conversations with Barney and their future selves, in order to pass the time between his lonely sighs.
After the harebrained reveal that Ted was St. Elsewhereing us all, we're forced to endure a tearful speech from Hypothetical Ted to Hypothetical-er Tedwife, a profession of love that would be sweet if the second party actually existed. Instead, the whole episode feels like a slap in the face. Not only to the viewers, but to the characters: so Ted's all alone? Barney, Marshall, Robin, and Lily don't even deserve genuine plot movement? Jayma Mays gets, what, like, two lines? Come on, HIMYM. Get it together.
"The Time Travelers" recap — Written: 20 years in the future
What the hell is "The Time Travelers"? Is that a movie? Oh, it's an episode of a show — what? How I Met who? Oh... oooh, I remember that... that had the Tony's guy in it, right? And the Apatow guy? What ever happened to those two? And wait, wasn't Buffy in that show? Or Buffy's friend, maybe... am I thinking of the right show? Yes? Okay, good.
Okay, so this episode... I presume it had something to do with time travel. Was this a sci-fi? I've got to be honest, it's been a rough two decades. But I... I think this is the one where... they went back in time... to reveal how he met... his own mother. In the past. Yeah, he took this time machine back to the '50s, and met his mother. But then he had to introduce her to his father, so he could be born. Right, yeah. And there was a bully, and the Tony's guy had to punch him out... is any of that right? I remember it being a good one. Lots of heart. And Jayma Mays, too. Back before she was a senator, of course. Man, what a time.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to take my rations pill and retire to my sleeping pod before the clock strikes thirteen.
So what'd you and your future incarnations think of the episode?
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
[Photo Credit: CBS]