When the description for “Trilogy Time” first popped up online, you could have called me Charlie Parker I was so jazzed. How I Met Your Mother has long worn its Star Wars (original recipe) love on its sleeve, but an episode whose very plot was about watching the movies? Imagine all the Boba Fett jokes they could make! Or Robin as Slave Leia! Or Robin as Slave Leia!
So it was a tiny disappointment, as I'm sure many fellow nerds will sympathize, when the episode chose not to focus so much on Star Wars and instead delivered a thoughtful, somewhat bittersweet look at the way the future doesn't always meet our expectations. If there's a lesson in there, I have no idea what it is.
"Aside from not being able to fart in the apartment, how's living with Quinn?"
It's been only three weeks since we last saw Ted and the gang, but considering all the TV that's emerged in that gap – Mad Men! GAME OF THRONES! – it's understandable if you've (I've) forgotten where this show was at. A quick catch-up: Barney has asked his stripper girlfriend, Quinn, to move in with him. And as "Trilogy Time" opens, things aren't going so well! While Quinn seems to have gone out of her way to accommodate Barney's meticulous, controlled lifestyle, he's struggling to deal with her putting her coffee mugs in his cabinet. Oh, and he has to go outside to fart. Barney confides all this to Lily and Robin, who find his behavior unwarranted. Ted and Marshall say the same thing, though they also have a solution to Barney's problem: Watch the original Star Wars trilogy (from here on referred to as "The Trilogy") and predict what their lives might be like in three years.
"It's been, like, five years." "Dude, you can't let that happen. If you're not trilling it at least every three years, the Dark Side wins."
And so we enter the heart of the episode, with trips both backward and forward (while still technically being backward) and really forward (but we'll get to that, kids!) to realities both actual and hypothetical for Barney, Ted, and Marshall. First stop: 2000, where Ted and Marshall blow off studying for their econ exam to mount the first Trilogy screening. While viewers wonder WHERE FLASHBACK TED'S GLASSES ARE?!?, Ted ponders a 2003 in which he's a straight-haired, very successful architect/guitarist, Marshall's a big-time lawyer with a sweet 'stache, Robin's a British bass player named "Rhiannon" who was a virgin until she met Ted (because duh), and Lily is pregnant. Life is beautiful.
The real 2003 falls somewhat short of everyone's dreams, with Ted decidedly not a guitarist and Marshall managing a Structure. (It's before the start of the series, when he was in law school.) Plus Barney's entered the picture — no one's idea of a dream realized. 2006 and 2009 follow suit in similar fashion, the guys imagining them with optimism to spare only to be sideswiped by life's numerous disappointments. In 2006, Lily has temporarily left Marshall. In 2009, Ted is no longer with Robin and been dumped at the altar and lost his job. Barney seems to trudge ever on, making the same "this is [insert random girl]. You'll be seeing a lot more of her!" joke every three years with diminishing returns on his "Wassup!" capper.
NEXT: How are you going to argue with a baby watching Star Wars?
"I don't want to find myself with some random girl, no matter how many boobs she has."
All the jokes about backboobs and trucker cap'd douchebags and Robin hiding in a Stormtrooper outfit (admittedly this made up for any lack of carbonite freezing references) give way to a moment of depressing revelation for Ted, who in 2012 — today — realizes that he's 34 and not married. Or, as 2009 Ted put it, "something's seriously wrong with him." HEAVY MOMENT ALERT. 2012 Ted spirals, imagining his life three more years down the line: balding, surrounded by newspapers (in a world where George W. Bush has apparently won a surprise third term), and calling frozen dinner hotlines while his friends gallivant on their yacht.
When Ted suggests that Barney will yet again be making his signature joke in this timeline, too, Barney protests — he has real feelings for the woman he's currently fighting with. Back at his apartment, he apologizes to Quinn while smashing his old coffee mugs and, finally, farting openly. She admits to crop-dusting his patio, thus making How I Met Your Mother the second sitcom in 2012 (after Raising Hope) to suggest that a farting relationship is a healthy one. Never hold it in! Says Barney, awkwardly, "I plan on living with you for a long time." WEDDING WEDDING WEDDING WEDDING (or is that what they want us to think… ?).
Back to Debbie Downer, reinvigorated by the always-nurturing Marshall. We fast-forward to the real 2015, where another Trilogy night is about to begin. Barney and Marshall bicker about Ted's bringing "some chick" to the event. Who — wait for it — turns out to be Ted's DAUGHTER. "She takes after her mother." Is this a big mythological step forward? Or yet another mother cop-out, delaying a mystery most of us probably stopped fretting about a while ago? Whatever the case, it's sweet and hopeful and how are you going to argue with a baby watching Star Wars? You just can’t.
"Trilogy Time" offered little for the ladies of the gang to do (at least in a real-time sense; they were active, in an alternate universe 'Back to the Future' kind of way, in most of the flashbacks). And the Barney/Quinn stuff still feels rushed, even when we know she'll be gone by season's end to make room for Barney's wedding to ROBIN (is that a spoiler alert?). But still, Monday night's show was a classically structured HIMYM episode with enough funny moments and a welcome story about dude love at its core. Plus mythology, for the mythology nerds! Short a yellow umbrella and a pineapple or two, you've got almost everything you need. Good to have you back, HIMYM!
Follow Henning on Twitter at @HenningFog