Season 9, Episode 21
This St. Patty’s Day, luck was on my side in that I was able to see a special screening of tonight’s “Gary Blauman” episode in advance. This was all thanks to a ticket I purchased back in January for the HIMYM panel at Paley Fest. This episode contained a lot of what I love about this show and these characters. It perhaps felt more special to me because there is nothing quite like watching one of the very last episodes of a favorite TV show with hundreds of other self-proclaimed superfans—everyone laughing and cheering in magnitude, wishing it could last just a little bit longer.
The episode’s title is deceptively simple. Some of you—if you looked only at the episode’s title before watching—maybe had some concerns about the quality of the content. Would there be enough substance? Are they really going to ‘waste’ an entire episode on a very minor recurring character? I would have asked myself these same questions had I not been suddenly thrust into an opportunity to watch it. Instead, I think the writers did us well. They gave us some funny and creative closure on some beloved recurring characters who helped make the show as delightfully successful (Ranjit, James), humorously innovative (Billy Zabka, Blah Blah), and sometimes frustrating (Zoey, Jeanette) as it was. Not only that, but our gang’s character quirks and tics were in fine form, AND we got to experience the very first adorable date between Ted and the Mother.
The First Date: Wednesday at 8PM, 3 days AFTER the wedding
I really like how this season we have seen pivotal and lovely moments of Ted and the Mother’s relationship, in an almost backward fashion. We have seen them celebrate anniversaries and have their kids, and now here we are at the very first date, just three days after the wedding (Future Ted had told us years ago that he did not wait the standard three days to contact her). Eventually, Future Ted’s flashbacks to the present will collide with the future glimpses of the couple as each set of stories work toward the exact same point: the meeting. If the actual legendary moment of the meeting isn’t the very last scene of the series, then it is certain to be one of the last. This is, after all, the story of how they met.
It is an adorably awkward first date—you can see they both have their nerves and their baggage, with the Mother’s literally popping up on the street in the form of her VERY recent ex (the same one who proposed on the wedding weekend). But you can also just feel the initial chemistry and almost like they are both trying to temper the sparks because they feel like they need to on a first date. Future Ted even points out that he didn’t just let out a declaration of love speech, a la his Robin first date, showing that he has matured in some ways. He also just had a feeling it would work out. And fortunately, the initially hesitant Mother took on the typical Ted role by calling him back and kissing him. It is a sweet moment that we can only hope is not marred by forthcoming tragedy for this love story.
Where Are They Now?
As Ted and the Mother stroll along the streets of NYC for their first date, after wisely passing on an unappetizing Scottish-Mexican fusion restaurant by the name of Pedro McKinnon, Ted does what he does best: tell a story. He explores a little Code Red action the happened just before the start of the wedding, when an unexpected guest showed up. Robin had not counted on former GNB employee Gary Blauman (ahem, her real-life hubby Taran Killam) to attend, so when she spots him she enlists Marshall’s help. Good thing that Mashall is a seating chart master—guests from Table 27 at his wedding still hold reunions to this day. But when Marshall sees what a disaster Robin’s seating chart is to begin with, of course he enlists his best bro Ted. Cue additional flashbacks that explain how each member of the wedding party—Ted, Lily, Barney, Billy Zabka, and James—all either hate or love Gary Blauman.
Let me break it down:
- Ted HATES Gary because once they had a days-long (?) stand-off over a girl at a party celebrating something or other. I enjoyed seeing Ted in all his historical fun facts glory as the two men ‘duke’ it out with Teddy Roosevelt biography factoids. But was Gary even really interested in the GIRL?
- Lily LOVES Gary, because way back when she and Marshall were broken up for those few months, she had been thisclose to getting a hysterically horrible mega tattoo in honor of her equally bad break-up song, Sugar Ray’s Fly. Fortunately Gary stopped her only half a butterfly into the process.
- Barney HATES Gary, but would love to kick him out of the wedding. He has a really good reason for his hatred—Gary once ate four of Barney’s fries, and the fourth fry was an accidental curly fry. Props to the writers for finally having all three bros agree that a basket full of regular fries with some accidental curly fries is “living the dream.”
- Billy Zabka LOVES Gary, and that is solely because Gary approached him earlier that day to compliment him on his poetry collection. Nice.
- James HATES Gary, but his reasoning goes much, much deeper. Turns out that Gary is the man James cheated with, thus causing his marriage separation. In related news, Ted now sees the party hook-up standoff in a whole new light.
Judge-in-spirit Marshall to the rescue, and he declares that Gary Blauman can stay at the wedding and they will find him a seat…because the Bride requested it. As they all head outside to find him, Future Ted reminisces about how difficult it is in life to truly stay connected with the people who once seemed so important at various times. Even with the best intentions, people come and go, so if you find someone you want to keep around, “you do something about it.” He did manage to keep track of a few people over the years, and we are fortunately the beneficiaries of this excellent scene, with staging reminiscent of the two-minute date:
- Carl still runs the bar, now with his son.
- Jeneatte was arrested (of course) but surprise! In her mandated court therapy she met good ole’ Kevin, Robin’s ex. They now live in Poughkeepsie.
- Ranjit made some good investments and now owns limo service! Hoorah for Ranjit!
- Patrice has a drive-time radio advice show: Patrice in the Morning! She still doles out the happy, while Robin still calls in with, “Dammit Patrice!”
- William Zabka won American Humanities Medal for Literature with his poetry.
- Zooey still protests, and still isn’t very successful with it.
- Scooter met Stripper Lily, Jasmine, in the lunch line. A perfect match if there ever was one.
- Blitz struggled with gambling addiction, and found that his curse continued. Awwwww man!
- Blah Blah…well, she has a name! Carol!
- Sandy Rivers had career setbacks in the U.S. and moved to Moscow, still smarmy as ever, now in Russian.
- James fortunately reconciled with husband Tom and they lived happily ever after with their two kids.
It was a nice send-off to a slew of characters we have grown to know, love, or hate. And it was great to see so many actors from over the years pop up. The scene reminded me of Seinfeld’s finale, when all these folks the gang had encountered over the years (usually for the worse) showed up at the trial. Now that we have a little humorous closure for HIMYM’s crazy cast of characters, I truly believe that the final two episodes will be all about our beloved little gang and one very important Mother.
Some thoughts on HIMYM @ Paley Fest:
Attending the HIMYM panel at Paley Fest practically had the energy of a concert—everyone was THAT pumped. And the cheering for not only the stars but the creators really proved how much love still exists for this show. Sure, the final couple seasons haven’t been as uniformly strong as the first several (when is that EVER the case for a comedy?) but audience members like me have love and respect for the entire life force of this show. Just watching a montage video of clips from all nine seasons, it was wonderful remembering just how much HIMYM got right, and how significantly it worked its way into not only pop culture, but our own daily cultures. And this was no small audience: we completely filled up the Dolby Theater in Hollywood (i.e. where the Oscars are held).
Thomas and Bays talked about how, when coming up with the show’s concept, they used the cardinal rule: write what you know. In case you don’t know, Thomas is “Marshall” and Bays is “Ted.” And if you enjoyed the Mother playing and singing La Vie en Rose the other month, just know that Bays himself bought a ukelele in Hawaii during his own wedding and learned that song (and sings it to his kids). Turned out that Cristin Milioti’s family also has a special connection to that song and she surprised them with that episode. The cast also shared some fun things they learned from the show or their characters. Alyson Hannigan doesn’t go out after 2am, because as we all know nothing good happens after 2am. However, she also hilariously admitted to rarely leaving the house after 2pm. But all of them expressed how bittersweet it was to film the end of this beloved show and how much it meant to them personally. The crew had tissue packets printed that read: Let It Go. No Questions Asked.
Unfortunately neither Jason Segel nor NPH could be there. But a very cool NPH really showed us how much he appreciates the fans by Skyping from NYC and his rehearsals for Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Check out a brief clip of NPH addressing the crowd (and ripping his shirt off!) here in my brief video clip.