“Platonish” is an episode of returns. The half-hour marks the return of Marshall to Ted’s side — a flashback to the boys enjoying (rather, lamenting) a Harlem Globetrotters game allows Jason Segel his first piece of screentime with a fellow How I Met Your Mother star yet this season — the return of Bryan Cranston as that nefarious and bumbling Hammond Druthers, and the return of the mother to our story. But not in the way we might have expected.
Let’s start with the Marshall return: a good chunk of the ep is spent courtside, some time prior to the rekindling of the Stinson-Scherbatsky romance, with Marshall rallying for Ted to fess up to Robin that he loves her. Ted, supplanting his old idealistic ways with a newfound cynicism, asserts to Marshall that he and Robin are through. No matter how many blue French horns he might retrieve for her, she’ll always shoot him down. In a twist of foreshadowy fate, it is around this time that Ted receives a phone call from his old boss Hammond Druthers — a fellow we might know best Bryan Cranston taking to the small screen in an early post-Walter White appearance — offering him a job in Chicago. At this time, Ted shoots him down — first out of his distaste for the man, and later (they have quite a few chats in this ep) out of his renewed hope that Robin might someday change her mind about him.
Just in case you’ve been thinking Ted is a mentally stable human being, this renewal of hope comes when Robin admits she likes olives now. So, if she likes olives now, then naturally… seriously, Ted, how old are you?
But since we know how this story will end, the most important facet to focus on is the return to action of Mr. Cranston. By our count, this is the first time Cranston has acted since Breaking Bad came to a close, and the first time he’s appeared on How I Met Your Mother since before he took on the Walter White role back in 2008. Watching Cranston contort his face maniacally in close-up as this comically evil character is at once hilariously charming, a reminder of his aptitude as a comedic actor, and eerily reminiscent of some of his Walter White tics. You can see a little Heisenberg in Druthers’ sneer, and it’s a bit of a rush.
Of course, more important even than our relentless gushing over the Cran Man is the second bit of canon material we get for The (still unnamed) Mother. As it turns out, Lily wasn’t the first member of the group that she met: Barney was (or so we think, for now…). During a night of accepted challenges that sees Barney speaking in dolphin language, pretending to be a post-plastic surgery Ryan Gosling (NPH’s Gos impression is quick, but worthy of a laugh), and buying diapers and samosas for Lily and Robin while attempting to get a woman’s phone number, the compulsive lethario encounters T.M., earning an abject but compassionate assessment of his misery right out the gate. The Mother, quite the prescient oddball, tells Barney that he doesn’t have to subject himself to an endless string of meaningless games and hook-ups, and that he should return to what he truly wants: the love he so clearly lost and misses. After that biting conversation, the two part ways permanently, with Barney abandoning his final challenge in order to make his way home and begin working on his plan to win Robin back, leaving us to wonder what twisted coincidence has landed The Mother at his wedding however many months later.
But who leaves perfectly good samosas on a city bench?!