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How I Met Your Mother- Episodes 9.18/9.19 "Rally/Vesuvius" Review- The gang prepares for the farewell, but so does the mother?

So I was on the beach by the time “Rally” aired; I managed to get enough internet connection to see the episode with a friend, but not to post the review for the episode. So when I came back to town, I decided to wait until the newest episode aired to make a double review; now I think that was a mistake. “Rally” and “Vesuvius” are very similar, but at the same time they are very different. Both of them start and end with Ted sharing moments with The Mother and revolve on incidents prior to the beginning of the wedding, but the tone is wildly different in each episode. “Rally” is all set on exploring all the fun sides of dealing with a huge Stinson hangover, while “Vesuvius” is set to make some grand emotional strike.

Let’s start with “Rally”: it’s an episode that uses HIMYM chaotic timeline at its best; it jumps back and forth to future and present exploring the state of our characters in the future. By dealing with Barney’s huge hangover, eventually the entire gang vows not to get that drunk ever again, a vow which all of them end up breaking seemingly at the worst possible times, with Marshall getting drunk when he assumed he lost an election that he ended up winning, Lily drinking when Marvin’s off to college (and being caught on the spot by him) and Robin and Barney waking up on Buenos Aires, Argentina, on the wrong room with a baby that isn’t theirs (the show plays a rather surprising trick by letting us think at first that the baby is Barney and Robin’s, but then clarifies that it’s actually someone else’s baby). During the whole episode it becomes predictable that this shift in the narrative is going to occur, but the outcome is always surprisingly well executed and worth quite a few chuckles.

Coming back to present time, our characters try to find out a way to wake Barney up before the wedding pictures are taken, and Ted remembers that Barney used to cure their hangovers with some kind of “fixer elixir” (presented to us by Barney’s elegant rip off of the Manhattan project), so all they have to do is recreate; however, there is a missing secret ingredient that Barney never told them. And so the episode branches out in two plots; the girls will try to wake up Barney long enough to tell them the secret ingredient, while the guys would gather the ones they already know of.

The part with Robin and Lily trying to wake Barney up is by far my favorite part of the episode; it has everything! Falling down the stairs! Drowning Barney’s face on ice! Bears on TV! Almost cutting off ties! Lily & Robin make out! Lamps! (Oh, wait, that’s for next episode…). It is always a pleasure to see Lily and Robin going chaotic, and they try everything out to wake Barney up has some pretty hilarious results. The best part? Definitely Robin telling Lily they should make out; the show has been playing with Lily’s interest on Robin for so long that is pretty satisfying to get some kind of resolution by now, and it’s even better when- at the end of the episode- Robin and Lily invert roles and Robin is the one who wants to make out with Lily, while she is no longer interested. That’s what you get when you blow off Lily so many times, serves you right Scherbatsky!

The guys’ storyline is pretty good too (loved the bit when Marshall throws a Tantrum bottle to Ted, “Dude! Why are you throwing a Tantrum? You’re a grown man!”), but the whole bacon grease thing, while amusing, never felt like it was good altogether (maybe it has to do with the fact that I don’t like bacon… you have my permission to glare at me). It is fun to see Ted going obsessed over the bacon, but at times it felt like the show was trying too hard.

Anyway, the guys come up just when Barney woke up (thanks to Robin and Lily’s kiss) and they ask him what the ingredient was. Plot twist: it was a lie. Robin realizes that Barney gave them those fixer elixir on the worst possible times, when Marshall thought he wasn’t going to become a lawyer, when Robin was going back on the air, when Lily was about to endure a bad trip with her kindergarten class, and the most touching of them all, when Ted was left at the altar. Barney lied to them so they believed they could rally, like a placebo (“placebro”). Barney is known to lie a lot, but it has never been in question if he loves his friends, and the way it is demonstrated here is great. But you know what is glorious? That the gang let him think that they pulled off a “Weekend at Barney’s” taking all the photos for the wedding while he was passed out (and even that he got along with Robin’s father, even if for a second) even though it was an outright lie. Sometimes we lie for those we care about, sometimes we need those lies to lift us and then we can really rally, the episode shows that on a rather magnificent way.

And then we have The Mother, who after dealing with a new year’s hangover is given the very same fixer elixir by Ted, a lie made to make it all better, but things look pretty bright anyway; she published a book that is supposed to end poverty in our times, she is married to the guy of her dreams and have two seemingly great and loving children. All of it looks so fine… and that makes next episode a little bit confusing, but we’ll get to that right away. This episode alone was a great installment in the comedic size and in the everlasting affection that the gang holds for each other.

Grade: A-

Now “Vesuvius” is an episode that I loved on my first watch, I knew I would outright give it the best grade because I felt there was a great use of references from the show’s past season mixed up with brilliant comedic moment and poignant ones. But then I read the comments on The AV Club review and found out something that left me out cold: most people there thought the Mother was going to die. This is a theory that has been out there for quite a while, and that it really consolidated on “Time’s Traveler” back on the last episodes of season 8, when Future Ted thought about going to The Mother’s apartment to win some extra time with her; while it made a lot of sense that Ted would have loved to have those extra moments with her if she was indeed dead, there wasn’t enough evidence to support the theory… until now.

“Vesuvius” features a shift on the narrative like the show has never done before; Bob Saget doesn’t narrate, the show shifts between 2024, with a slightly younger future Ted and the Mother spending a weekend in Farhampton’s Inn where they both discover they have told each other every single one of their stories, and 2012, with the story Ted seemingly hasn’t told The Mother yet; the story behind the lamp Robin broke on her wedding day.

The story would actually be one second long, because it outright starts with Robin breaking said lamp while playing hockey in her room with her sister Katie to blow off some steam before the wedding. Lily thinks it’s time for Scherbatsky to get emotional and real about the wedding (scrap book with cheesy music included). However, once Robin sees that “The Wedding Bride Too” is in paperview she can’t help but to watch it. Way back on season 5 I hated the episode “The Wedding Bride”, considering how emotionally affecting Ted being left at the altar back in season 4 was, I never came to like how Tony made Ted an antagonist when he was the victim. I was ready to be let down by the reference, but it worked out pretty funny and I let myself go, forgetting my grudge to said episode.

When Lily tells Marshall this, trying to get him to help her get Robin real about her wedding, he gets excited about the movie instead and they all end up seeing it. I loved how the movie ended up parodying Marshall as well (or should I say Narshall?) and how it also ripped off their story of being trapped on a snow storm with a gorilla in the car (even if it makes no sense whatsoever to the original plot of The Wedding Bride, but hey! It was pretty great watch!).

Wedding Bride aside, the Ted and Barney subplot deals with choosing a suit for Barney; there is one that is made for the wedding, but Barney doesn’t think it is the right fit, so he goes through a lot of suits with Ted (Ted: “SAY YES TO THE SUIT!!!!” Barney: “I can’t…” *sobbing*) and while it is mostly an excuse to remember how old Barney used to bang all kinds of women, by the end Ted convinces him that the best suit is the newest one, the one he can fill in with new memories that are to come, and it becomes a perfect fit. It’s a nice little moment.

Meanwhile, Lily is fed up with Robin not acknowledging the importance of her wedding day, so she goes as far as to dress up in her own wedding dress threating to wear it on the ceremony (and taking Marshall with her, as she packed up his wedding suit too), but she doesn’t care, and when Barney walks in he also doesn’t mind (Ted minds a little, but only enough to take away a glass of wine that could stain the dress). And so Lily finally says why it is so important to acknowledge that day; it’s not just the wedding, it’s probably their last chance to be together since Ted is moving to Chicago. Everyone already knows, but now it’s out in the open, and the gang became aware that they didn’t know when they would be together again, that was it. So they embraced each other’s company. And as Marshall, Barney and Ted left the room, Robin, Lily and a reintegrated Katie finish The Wedding Bride Too; Robin goes for ice, and surprise, surprise! Her mother makes an appearance, on her wedding day, and Robin is overwhelmed with emotion.

And that’s the story, a story that The Mother already knew. I left her out of the rest because I need a whole section to talk about her. Midway through the episode, when she realized she knew the story, she told Ted that she doesn’t want him to just live on his stories; she also told him that life only moves forwards. And then, by the end of the story, when Ted remarks Robin’s mother showing up as a surprise ending, The Mother asks what kind of mother would miss her daughter’s wedding. And then there are the watery eyes, the sad expression on Josh Radnor’s face tells us that something bad has happened or is about to. On my first watch, I assumed that Ted’s mother passed away and missed his wedding day, a moment I deemed so emotional that it got me to tears. But as I read the theories about The Mother being the one who is going to bite the dust I couldn’t help but notice that it makes sense; during the whole episode Ted looks at her as if he was afraid to lose her, and the fact that she tells Ted that life moves on only reinforces the idea that she is not going to be with him forever.

The problem with that idea, as poetic, poignant and beautiful as it could be, is that Ted would end up being the very man The Mother didn’t want him to be, one who ended up living through the past and his stories, unable to move forward. Is that the ending we want for Ted? While Lily and Marshal have their happy ending, and so Barney and Robin, why must Ted be left alone? Sure, he has his kids, but her partner is buried under the ground; hasn’t this guy endured enough? Does he have to endure this too?

Wherever the theory is correct or not, the episode raised the stakes of the show just as it is about to end; last week it seemed as Ted was promised the best ending possible, the happiest one, and now it seems that ending is at risk. Even if the mother doesn’t die, and it ends up being Ted’s mom, it is still quite an injury to the guy, and if The Mother actually dies, then my appreciation on the show may change drastically, as I hanged on during Ted’s hardest moments by knowing that at some point he was going to meet The Mother and they would be happy together; should you take her out of the equation there is no consolation, only more damage done to Ted, and I don’t think I could handle such thing. I admit it would be very brave if the show went through with it, but I don’t think it is the right choice, it would fundamentally change everything we know about the show, and it would leave Ted (and the audience) with a hole on their heart. For a show like HIMYM, that’s not the way to go.

But I can’t judge the episode only on that theory alone; it is a fun, adorable episode that is also willing to raise the emotional stakes just when it is about to end. It is pretty great, but I can’t deny how worried I am about what’s going to happen next, and it’s not that I’m excited, it is that I’m deeply afraid. Should the show take the wrong step I could be on the verge of hating its finale, and that’s something I don’t want to happen.

Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

-After the opening sequence on “Rally” when Ted says “this is what Barney remember of those two hours” and they show us the cube with the ice, the stairs, the bear and Lily and Robin about to make out, I was screaming “WTF?!”. I consider that clip the most beautiful chaotic short bit on television history.

-I love how Barney screamed “BOOOM!” just to mess up with hangover Ted.

-Barney thinks that after pulling “Weekend at Barney’s” everything is going downhill from there. Schebatsky is not amused.

-Ted: “Maybe my friend Lincoln… can emancipate that information”
Curtis: “I can’t violate the hotel privacy policy… for 5 dollars”

-Curtis again: “I’m sorry, I heard you guys say ‘The Wedding Bride’, were you talking about the movie or the smash Broadway musical”
The Wedding Bride will always hunt Ted.

-How cold is Robin for driving her grandmother out of the room when she was telling that poignant story about her wedding day? Very, although in her defense, she tells that story every holiday (Lily: “on the very same church!” *sobs*).

-The whole bit with the cake in The Wedding Bride is based on an interview Jason Segel had on 2010, where he practically bashed the show; I was really surprised.

-Is it me or this is the first time we see Katie since season 2?

-So, what do you think about the whole Mother dying controversy? Will she die? Will she survive? Was she never in any danger to begin with? Does Ted’s mother die? Does The Mother’s mother die? Leave your thoughts on the comments!

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