You know that moment where you learn something about a person and suddenly they’re not who you thought they were? Tonight’s 200th episode of How I Met Your Mother was a half hour of that — an unraveling of a person, in this case The Mother, that completely changed the person I’d assembled in my head over the years from the tiny, perfectly-placed clues that had been placed before us viewers. Shattered is my mental image of this Dream Girl put on this Earth solely to be the opposite end of Ted Mosby’s two-piece puzzle life, and suddenly in front of me is a real woman. A woman who’s survived real heartbreak, gone through real challenges and has real goals in life. I’ve been waiting nine years to see her like that — and I gotta say, it feels wonderful.
But let me dive a little deeper into this milestone episode and fill in the last eight years of The Mother’s life…
The episode opened in September 2005. (HIMYM premiered Sept. 15, 2005.) A red-headed woman stood inside MacLaren’s and received a call from her friend that caused her to swiftly exit the bar and rush across town to…MacLaren’s Pub. On the East Side, not the West Side. (Bombshell: THERE ARE TWO MACLAREN’S.)
That night — which was also the night Ted met Robin for the first time, Future Ted told us — was The Mother’s 21st birthday. Gathered at (ALTERNATE UNIVERSE) MacLaren’s, The Mother and her gang waited patiently for her boyfriend to show up, but he was late. We later learned why — Max passed away that night.
That catastrophic event in her life kicked off a two-year period in which The Mother seemingly lost herself, bringing us to St. Patrick’s Day two years later, when her friend Kelly encouraged The Mother to hit the town and celebrate the holiday of what Kelly called her “people” — binge drinkers. (I kinda loved Kelly.) Inside the club — which is also where Ted and Barney happened to be celebrating (See: “No Tomorrow,” season 3, episode 12) — The Mother soon found herself face-to-face with her old friend Mitch, who we know better as The Naked Man.
It would have been an epic letdown for the show to bring back Naked Man and not have him get his naked on. Luckily, that wasn’t the case. Not only did The Mother get Naked Manned, but so did Kelly. (Only Kelly became a notch on his not-there belt. Two out of three, you know.) The Mother did get something out of her experience with His Nakedness, however — renewed ambitions. After a heart-to-heart with Mitch, she decided to go back to school and get a degree in Economics to help her get closer to her goal of ending poverty. (Honorable mission, Mother.)
As luck would have it, one day, she found herself sitting in the economics class that Ted — a professor of architecture — accidentally tried to teach. (Reference: Season 5, episode 1) It was there that The Mother also met Cindy (Rachel Bilson), who would become her roommate and, briefly, Ted’s girlfriend. We all remember what happened between Ted and Cindy — he was a teacher, she was a student; he thought they were compatible, she knew they weren’t, especially because he was seemingly more compatible with her then-unseen roommate. What we didn’t know that this episode revealed is that on the evening Cindy broke it off with Ted, Cindy also started figuring out she was a lesbian. In fact, she gave The Mother a little peck that evening before pulling away and admitting she had some “stuff” to figure out. Hey, at least we know it all worked out for everyone.
Meanwhile, we got a little more backstory on The Mother’s relationship with Louis, the man who had been mentioned as The Mother’s former boyfriend earlier this season. We learned the two had met at MacLaren’s and ended up dating for several years even though The Mother, still reeling from her loss, initially rejected his invitation to dinner. (This happened around season 6, episode 11 in Our Gang Time — based on the brief moment where we saw Ted in the green dress.) Though The Mother and Louis had a solid courtship, we were led to believe there was something missing. Even so, Louis apparently didn’t feel that way and ended up proposing to her. In Farhampton. On the weekend we’ve been watching all season. The scene that followed the proposal was pretty outstanding.
After the question had been popped, The Mother excused herself outside because she needed to “talk to someone” — Max. On the porch, she tearfully spoke to her former love, asking for his blessing to move on. She said she knew he couldn’t answer indefinitely but begged for a reply, anyway. Before she could utter another word of her request, the wind blew forcefully, and she knew she had her answer. (Was anyone NOT crying during this?)
So The Mother moved on…and rejected Louis’s proposal.
Since she had been staying at Louis’s beach house, she quickly vacated and found herself at the Farhampton Inn, snagging a room because the mother of the bride never showed up, according to the front desk clerk. (The absence of Robin’s mother will continue to be addressed, fyi.)
Newly single and feeling low, The Mother whipped out a ukelele that Max had intended to give her as a gift the night he passed away, and began to sing a rendition of “La Vie En Rose” (available on iTunes) that was both powerfully soul-stirring and yet delicate. Her song carried into the rooms of our gang, and, most importantly, into the ears of Ted, who was sitting just on the other side of the wall she’s propped herself against. Future Ted told his kids that The Mother always sang to them and, in fact, often sang “La Vie En Rose.” But that first performance, he said, “that one will always be my favorite.”
My favorite part of this tale? Max really did give her everything she needed to move on.
The Mother: Is this what dating in New York is going to be like? Even the nice guys turn out to be total creeps?
Naked Man: I have gotten pretty creepy since I got here.
+ I loved how they weaved the backstory with The Mother’s nightmare bandmate Darren (Andrew Rannells) with the interactions we’d seen with him earlier this season AND how all that fit in with the rest of the story.
+ I had REALLY been hoping we’d hear Cristin Milioti sing this season. And boy did they make it count.
+ The episode ended with Ted rushing into the room he was sharing with Barney to talk about this magical unicorn he heard singing. But when he looked closer, he noticed Barney was missing!
+ We still don’t know who picked Lily up in the last episode.