How I Met Your Mother's seventh season opened with the promise of a wedding and a baby, and we'll be getting both — in classic non-linear fashion, undoubtedly — two weeks from now, when the season finale airs. But any good puzzle requires first getting the corner pieces down, and so last night's episode had the thankless task of getting our characters and running story lines into position. To recount: We've got a superhumanly drunk Marshall, a going-into-labor Lily, and a puzzling-through-their-feelings Ted and Robin. Was it graceful? Not so much. Was it funny? Sometimes! No one said putting together a romantic comedy puzzle would always be peaches 'n crème.
Ted & Robin
Still bummed about the state of his relationship with Robin, Ted is encouraged by Barney to start dating online. So he does… only to discover that each of his dates — and subsequently the bartender at McClaran's, and a beer logo — takes on Robin's appearance in his mind. For what feels like the third time in a row, MVP Cobie Smulders is forced into the background of an episode that has nothing for her to do. She shows up, sure… but in Ted's fantasies, an embodiment of his neuroses more than her own character.
Barney & Quinn
Though we're not supposed to call it this, the Quinn Farewell Tour keeps chugging right along. This week, Barney decides he's actually not cool with his girlfriend's line of work (STRIPPING, in case you haven't been paying attention) and tries with all his might to get her to quit. In his best play, Barney offers her a job at Goliath National Bank: Executive Strategy Coordinator. Or more accurately, "Three corporate sounding words that, when added together, create one fake job." Of course, Barney fails to take into account the fact that Quinn likes to strip. With 10+ minutes left in the episode, Quinn tells him she "needs some time to think" before leaving his office. Wedding mystery CEMENTED.
Marshall & Lily
In the weakest storyline of the night, Marshall has become obsessed with training for the arrival of the baby and it's driving Lily crazy. After a disappointingly off-camera conversation, she gets Barney (who, like we said, has 10 minutes to kill) to drive her sleep-deprived husband to Atlantic City for some crazy-fun-time. It's quickly a mini, network-produced Hangover: craps table, duckie tie, Asian gamblers, and Marshall so bombed he needs subtitles for us to understand him. (This should have been a multi-episode arc.)
This back half of the season has not been top-tier HIMYM, especially for the way it's relegated one of its funniest players to background status, but if the show does anything well it's carefully constructed, heartfelt closing episodes. Two weeks from now I have no doubt we'll get just that. In the meanwhile: don't trick your loved ones into having a good time. Just let them do what feels right!