Sep 30, 2013

How I Met Your Mother: “Last Time in New York”

By Josh Oakley

When I returned home for my first summer between years away at college, I found myself taking long walks at night. I hail from the suburb of Wheaton, and live near its downtown area. It’s a nice place, but there’s not all that much to see after so many strolls up and down the same blocks. Yet I kept going, crossing the train tracks, making my way past the chain coffee shops, through the tiny, mildly pretty parks. The place was home, and always will be to a certain extent. In that town I made and lost great friends, graduated high school, found the things and people that I will love forever. We grow attached to where we are from because anything so integral to our lives becomes a part of us, and it can be difficult to lose a piece of ourselves.

Ted and Barney & Robin struggle through variations of this idea in tonight’s solid How I Met Your Mother, though the former in a more literal way. You may recall that Ted has decided to split for Chicago the minute he leaves the wedding, and has yet to tell anyone besides Lily. She stumbles upon a list he has made, and almost completed, signifying all of the things he wants to accomplish one last time before departing New York City. His missions range from fixing graffiti (“Your a penis” to “You’re a penis”. I don’t understand how people dislike Ted) to his last unchecked task, having one last scotch with Barney. Ted has been avoiding that drink due to the sticky nature of the love triangle consisting of those two best bros and Robin.

Barney and Robin spend the episode running from their elderly relatives, attempting to have sex before their impending nuptials. After realizing how many older couple lose that sexual spark, and having that fear verified by Barney’s brother, they spend the half-hour frantically searching for a room in which to do it. Though the majority of the humor here deals specifically with Barney and Robin’s sexual relationship, the threat is much more wide reaching than the cheap “elderly testicle” jokes let on. This is a couple that thrives, to a large extent, on the excitement of the unknown. The main common thread between the two is their shared belief in a life lived quickly and to the fullest, with plenty of cigars and liquor. Marriage points towards the opposite approach to the years ahead, with the encroaching possibility of growing too comfortable. The idea drove much of Barney’s development over the years, as he began to put on emphasis on a relationship that could be cultivated, rather that a one-night stand, easy to toss aside. As last season’s “Weekend at Barney’s” beautifully proved, no matter how much Barney has matured, his impish nature has always attracted Robin, and their relationship has thrived off of this specific energy. They may not fear the loss of a physical place, but a loss of a time, a collection of months or years that cannot be replicated.

The true last item on Ted’s list speaks to his friendship with Lily, one of the relationships the show rarely pulls out but almost always manages to work in beautifully (the best example being one of my favorite episodes, “How Lily Stole Christmas”). Lily gives Ted what she promises will not be her last life lesson (I love that no narration promises us this; we know these characters and their futures well enough not to depend on that). She tells him that saying goodbye to the good things is the wrong approach, because those experiences never truly leave us. Yes, at one point or another, we will say goodbye to our favorite building for the last time, but until we know we’ve reached the end, why focus on an assumed inevitability? Why not, instead, “say goodbye to the bad things,” as Lily recommends. She points out the terrible relationships Ted has had, the physical bruises he’s accumulated, and the number of times his heart has shattered after hearing the word “no”. It’s a nice reminder, especially to a romantic like Ted. There’s something to be said for the proper, planned farewell, but there’s also no reason to spend all of one’s time thinking about what tomorrow may not hold. “The good things will always be here waiting for you,” Lily promises.

Robin and Barney could also have used that advice, as they obsess over what they may lose. They end the episode on a positive note as well, promising to each other that they will be the old couple they stumble upon, still hot for each other after all those years. Though that may not prove true, that doesn’t make those words empty. “Last Time in New York” is an episode all about those promises, the things we say to each other and ourselves. Not outright lies, but hopes, beliefs that will work to dictate the future through optimism. You can decide that you’re sharing a last drink with a friend, but that decision leads to the finality of the situation. We have so much say in who and what we love. Sometimes those things and people are torn away from us, but we often do it to ourselves, create a self-fulfilling prophecy of loss. But no matter how many times you say goodbye to the place you call home, it’s never truly gone.

Grade: B+

  • “Last Time in New York” is an incredibly clever title. It calls back to season two’s “First Time in New York”, which paralleled visiting the city to losing one’s virginity. Here, Barney & Robin worry about the end of sex, and Ted considers his final visit to the city.
  • Marshall won’t arrive until right before the rehearsal dinner? That seems like far too many episodes for Jason Segel to be separated from the rest of the gang.
  • I also am mysteriously drawn to the words “Mandy Patinkin”, especially now that Homeland is back.
  • “Mouth… words… memory… times” – Lily proves that she can improvise a maid of honor speech.

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