Jan 2, 2013

Great Moments In TV: How I Met Your Mother's "The Limo"

By Josh Oakley

Though How I Met Your Mother took a number of episodes to find its voice (finding it, as most sitcoms do, in its inaugural Thanksgiving episode), one of the most brilliant elements was thrown into the pilot. The show seems, to those who are unaware of the up-and-down adventure over the past couple of years, to be delivering on its title's promise quite early. Then, a line that would come to define the sitcom to a certain extent. A line played as a joke, as well as a set-up for many more jokes to come: "And that kids… is how I met your Aunt Robin".

Over the years, the show would tease out a relationship between the two, both on a romantic and platonic level. But it could not be less of a spoiler to say that they will not end up together. Though fans, including myself, postulated theories as to how that line could be worked around, we all knew the truth: Ted & Robin were never a will-they-won't-they couple. You could definitively place them, from episode one, in the "they won't" column. 

The most recent episode, the excellent "Final Page", places yet another comma on their story, though most likely the last one. Throughout the show, these moments of progress (or progress through regression) have been heartbreaking, hilarious, tedious, frustrating and, above all, authentic. When we were upset to find the two back together, knowing full well the inevitable outcome, that wheel spinning was, to a certain extent, the point. I don't mean to say that this forgives everything the show has done. Rather, the story of these two, with an ending we are told at the very beginning, can hew closer to life than otherwise possible. 

That authenticity is found rather quickly, almost fully by the eleventh episode of the show, "The Limo". The gang celebrates New Year's Eve, and we see them almost completely within the titular vehicle that Ted has rented. They attend a number of lackluster parties, meet Not-Moby, and listen to a mix-tape that is, as Barney says, "all rise". It's one of the first great episodes the show produced, for a number of reasons, but its conclusion says a good deal about what the show already was, and what it would become. 

Robin's boyfriend seems, throughout the episode, like he'll be missing in action at midnight, leaving her to promise her New Year's Eve kiss to Ted. The promise is flirty, sure, but has layers of the way that friends actually do this come the big night. Near the end of the episode, Robin's boyfriend returns, and Ted exits the limo while the couples (Robin and her rich boyfriend, Lily and Marshall, Barney and some foreign girl, because this was way back when that kind of stuff went down) prepare to kiss. However, Robin follows him, reminding him of their deal. They kiss, and Robin returns to the limo. Ted saunters off, crossing the street as the camera pulls in on a sign flashing from "Do Not Walk" to "Walk". It's by no means a subtle moment, but it is a thrilling one.

Again, at this early point in the show, it is exceedingly clear that romantic interests underlie these character's actions. Given that line I mentioned in the first paragraph, words that I'm sure the writers occasionally wish they could have taken back, but thank the lord, never can, we know how this ends. It ends like most New Year's Eve fantasies. We create resolutions: jobs we mean to acquire, girls we long to kiss, hobbies we intend to pick up. But we know how these resolutions normally end, and that isn't a cynical way to view it at all.

Robin and Ted were never meant for each other. No matter how many times they hooked up, reunited, promised to stay friends, "let each other go", actually let each other go, their story was set in place. Like the unrealistic goals we set for ourselves every January 1st, there aren't enough loopholes to guide us, or Ted & Robin, safely to the finish line. That kiss, however, is a moment. A beautiful moment that no certainty of ending can take away. Though you may not return to the gym after the first week of the year, you'll continue to talk to the friend you made there. Though your diet may end before you reach the "proper" weight, you have discovered a new favorite dish. How I Met Your Mother is a brilliant show, a show that will be covered again in this column, and weekly on the site, because it understands the importance of the friends and moments we collect on our journey towards whatever that end may be. No, Ted & Robin do not end up together. But if that were the point, then we would have far fewer stories to tell.

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