What are the magic words that will get you out of a speeding ticket? Ease your conscience? Bring back true love? This episode was about the search for that secret formula. The lesson? There are some things that just can't be rushed. You can lie about your sexual conquests and put on a pose to play it cool in front of your ex, but when it comes to waiting for "the one," there's nothing for it but to be patient. "She's on her way — and she's getting here as fast as she can," Stella promises Ted at the end. It might as well be a message to us viewers. When Ted confesses to being tired of waiting, and concludes "That's all I'm going to say on the subject," we know for a moment that he cares as much about the masterplot as we do. I feel strangely comforted.
First, the good news: Ain't no way Stella's the mother. That notion goes out the window right away when Tony (Jason Jones) ducks under the umbrella with Stella right after she runs into Ted. And then it bites the dust again after Tony leaves Stella, sending her to Ted's doorstep not to reignite their relationship but to ask Ted to help her get Tony back. No matter how we feel about the people who've done us wrong, haven't we all had that fantasy where they show up all repentent, agreeing with us that we're the better person? The situation with Stella in the hall (quite apart from the well-meaning biddy who kept trying to get the two of them together) hit a lot of nuanced notes. "You can't pull those strings anymore," Ted informs her. "They're not attached to anything — thanks to you." What he's saying is that romantic Ted is dead, or on life support. He wants that self back, but that will have to wait for The One. Until then, it's broken Ted, wounded Ted, threatens-to-turn-into-cynical Ted.
Who can also be moved by a big check, thankfully, lest the show turn into a bitter psychological drama. Tony wants to assuage his guilt about stealing away Stella by getting Ted some work. Ted's insulted by a Columbia professorship (trust me, Ted, it beats working), but he agrees to meet a friend who needs a very expensive country house — until he hears the client's unusually detailed plans for the laundry room. "Ted, you can't design a murder house!" Robin screams as the whole gang jumps around creeped out by the steel chains hanging from the ceiling, the soundproofing, the protestations of messiness. Eventually Ted tells Tony that his need to compensate Ted is misplaced. And after that unfortunate interlude where Tony believed Ted's contention that Stella's a horrible person, the little family jetted off to California to live happily ever after. Leaving Ted … still waiting.
In the B-story, Marshall boasts of the occasion when he talked his way out of a ticket by inviting the policeman to a barbecue ("You a brat man, Officer Jorgensen?" "Follow me and lean on the horn, we're going to be running some reds!"). So Barney has to prove he can do the same, leading to an attempted bribe with Italian tailoring ("$375 and he kept the gift certificate!") and arrest for sexual innuendo with a female officer ("wait — my wife's having a baby — I've got a sausage with your name on it!"). Stella drives Ted to bail out Barney in New Jersey, Ted uses his influence to get Tony back with Stella, and everything's back where we started.
Except there's been a peek behind the curtain. The yearning that narrator Ted projects back into his long tale is shared, for a moment, by our Ted. Sometimes what you need to keep waiting is an acknowledgement that the wait is taking longer than you'd hoped.
- This was a funny, sweet episode with a couple of all-time classic moments (see below). The half-grade reduction is only because the A and B stories weren't as well integrated as in the very best HIMYMs. A meaningful Barney-Robin moment would have gotten extra credit, as would a complicated flash-back-flash-forward sequence, but maybe we're saving up for the finale.
- Ted believes that because he's transitioned into small business ownership, he's now the backbone of the economy. No one else believes this.
- Tony's movie The Wedding Bride will be a big hit one year from now. Surprisingly, there doesn't seem to be anything at www.weddingbridemovie.com, the URL prominently displayed on the poster.
- "A check so big it doesn't take its shirt off when it goes swimming." "A check so big that if you had sex with it, you wouldn't tell your buddies." "A check so big that if you sat next to it on an airplane, you'd find yourself wondering if the check should have bought two seats."
- Hey, Lily's back! Yay!
- "Challenge accep—" [points to Ted].