After a deliberately silly but admittedly funny opening segment — in which a low budget Discovery Channel-style documentary chronicles the urban legend of Deerduff the Hooker, the ghost of a murderous pirate who allegedly haunts the Farhampton Inn (more specifically, the room that Marshall specifically chose for his and Lily's stay at the Farhampton Inn) — we return to the How I Met Your Mother gang. But not the gang we saw last week, or this season so far whatsoever. Not the gang with which we've spent the past couple of years, in fact. See, we've faulted How I Met Your Mother for, among other things, losing its luster. Somewhere around Season 7, it seemed like everyone on board was checking out. The writing seemed weak and lazy, and the actors looked bored. With budding movie careers for three of the five stars, HIMYM felt like an afterthought. An obligation. The Rosh Hashanna dinner with Aunt Myrtle that you have to wade through before heading to the lake house for a three-day weekend. But with the finality stamped upon Season 9, some of the old color seems to have rushed back into the show's cheeks. And this week's episode, "No Questions Asked," represents perhaps the biggest rush of energy and wit we've seen in years.
This is still How I Met Your Mother, so you can temper your expectations. At its best, the writing on this show can be called "good fun." But it's nice to see that achieved for the first time in ages, with Marshall (from the open road, in the rig with Daphne) sending Ted, Barney, and Robin on a heist operation to retrieve Lily's cell phone before she reads the text message that reveals his acceptance of the judgeship in New York. The conditions: each of the three (unaware of the others' involvement) must accomplish the mission no questions asked, having each incurred the debt of one "no questions asked" scenario for having asked Marshall the same favor once before (Ted was stuck in a mailbox and pleaded with Marshall to get him out, no questions asked... Barney swallowed several large synethic objects resembling the Lucky Charms cereal shapes and needed Marshall to check him out of the hospital, no questions asked... and Robin, apparently, was being pursued by some kind of leotard-wearing super criminals calling her the Night Hawk and needed Marshall to catch her as she dived from a building roof, no questions asked.
My favorite part about this gag: Marshall is, quite certainly, the one that these imbeciles would call in times of need. Not only is the the handiest (re: Ted's situation), and the strongest (re: Robin's), but also the most forgiving and responsible of the troupe. He's the moral and emotional backbone of the How I Met Your Mother fivesome, so seeing him to be in such dire need of his friends' aid to erase a mistake he has made kind of carries some emotional weight. "I've fallen to your level," he's tacitly admitting. "Please help me." And they do. But of course, they insist, "Down here, you're in our world. And we do things differently."
Naturally, each of Marshall's pals wants to go about apprehending Lily's phone in the most elaborate way possible (climbing up drain pipes, sneaking through vents, hiding in room service carts), while Mrashall insists that they just... use the unlocked door. But with each affirmation, we hear the snarling sociopaths insisting, "No! We do things differently!" So, the gang members attempt to pull off their schemes, each failing miserably until Ted realizes that he has a gold card in his back pocket: he demands that Lily, who herself owes him a no questions asked from that time he helped her break free from the clutches of a gang of unruly schoolchildren, demands she destroy her own phone. Say what you will about these people, but when they make rules, they really abide by them. She breaks the phone, and the message is deleted for ever.
Seconds later, Marshall realizes (through a series of comical flashbacks) that he has never demanded of Lily a no questions asked, always wanting to share everything with her. So, he bites, embraces the value of honesty, ascends from the dark, despondent land in which his friends live, and admits to her through Ted's non-destroyed phone that he accepted the judgeship in New York. She's... pissed. And that's where we end it, setting up for the ultimate Eriksen-Aldrin showdown in the weeks to come.
Meanwhile, Barney and Robin continue to question their compatibility, and continue to offer no confidence either way in their abilities to be together or apart. It's unsettling.