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When Ted picked up the yellow umbrella on his way out of the apartment to get a bagel, did your heart start beating faster?  Mock me all you want, but I am seriously invested in the masterplot of this show.  I catch my breath whenever there's a hint of mother information or mother activity.  If you're with me, then you might have been soaring during the montage where Ted hugs all the people who led him to that fateful moment at the end of Act III, set to Guided By Voices' joyful "Glad Girls."  You might have yelled out involuntarily when the montage ended and Sarah Chalke appeared.  Did you yell out "No!"? Was it "Yes!"?  If you stayed quietly in your seat, then this recap might not be for you.

The portents start very early in this third-from-last episode of season 4. ¬†Ted is moaning that the universe is conspiring against him because his first big client as an independent contractor is a rib restaurant whose owners desire a Stetson shape to the building. ¬†"Nothing says delicious like the inside of a cowboy hat!" Ted enthuses in person, but back at the apartment he bitches to Robin about all the wonderful works of art he could be creating instead. ¬†She advises him to take a walk, clear his head, get a bagel ‚ÄĒ and oh, take the umbrella, because the weather clown on her morning show says it's going to rain.

Fork in the road #1: Ted starts to turn right to go to his favorite bagel place, Schlegel's, but unfortunately Robin got food poisoning after eating there, leading to an on-air purse-filling incident.  So he goes right instead.

FitR #2: He stops at a magazine stand to check out Muscle Sexxy magazine (in which most of the pictured ladies, like the title, have two X's and one Y). ¬†It's all because of Barney's pathetic quest to cap off his list of lifetime sexual conquests with Number 200, Miss May in Bro's Life magazine, Petra Petrova, Czech supermodel. ¬†Although Ted suggests that 200 is too many, Barney argues that "too much of a good thing" is a meaningless concept: "Hey, Steve Gutenberg, maybe just make three Police Academy movies ‚ÄĒ America's laughed enough!" ¬†And Marshall surprisingly agrees ‚ÄĒ on the basis of charts proving that Barney's overall batting average is .012, "eight times worse than one-handed pitcher Jim Abbott." ¬†But Robin finds a name listed twice on the list, meaning Barney's date in two hours with Petra would be 199 not 200. ¬†Solution? Turn the Barney charm on fast-forward, and when that doesn't work, proposition the female bodybuilder who's been chasing Barney for years. ¬†He comes back bruised and bloodied, but at 199! ¬†Except now Robin's found a place where he listed the same number twice, meaning that the bodybuilder was number 200. ¬†Ted stops to check out her pictorial.


FitR #3: Cuts across the street to give a homeless guy a dollar.  Here's where the episode started to roll.  What was up with Marshall's charts depicting Barney's unexpected failure rate?  Marshall has a chart problem, enabled by a graphics department at Goliath National who will supply him with any chart he wants.  Presidents ranked in order of how dirty their names sound. (Number 1: Johnson.)  A Venn diagram of people both breaking his heart and shaking his confidence, with Cecelia in the intersection.  A pie chart depicting his favorite bars, and a bar chart depicting his various pies.  And as we know from Episode 4 of this season, the gang has a big "INTERVENTION" banner ready to go for these situations, and they are unmoved by the chart Marshall's worked up projecting a resurgence of their interest in his charts.  (His own line on the graph stays steady at the very top both in the historical and projection charts.)  When they throw out his charts, though, out with the bathwater goes the charts he's actually prepared for a presentation at work.  So Ted has to buy them back from the homeless guy who's scavenged them from the trash, making a deal to give him a dollar a day for a million days.  So today he goes to make his installment.

And that's why he was at that corner at that moment when it started to rain, opening the yellow umbrella, and being touched on the shoulder by Sarah Chalke, the woman he almost married at the end of Season 3. ¬†My confidence that she's not the mother hasn't been shaken. ¬†Undoubtedly she's going to lead Ted to the mother. ¬†But the exuberance of Ted's joy at this moment seems to indicate that it's a very significant one. ¬†We'll probably know more ‚ÄĒ and be teetering on the edge of an even steeper cliff ‚ÄĒ in two episodes, when Lily's back and the finale ends.


Grade: B+

Stray observations:

- There was some discussion in the comments last week about whether Barney's any good for Robin ‚ÄĒ why we'd want to see that pairing in the first place. ¬†I think the epilogue to "Right Place Right Time" answers some of those questions. ¬†Barney's been collecting sexual partners obsessively and unhealthily. ¬†His bubble just got burst. ¬†What comes after that meaningless quest ‚ÄĒ love and commitment, maybe?


- I thought this episode didn't have the top-to-bottom ease and invention of the best HIMYM eps.  But the laughs really started to come thick and fast with Marshall's charts.  Barney's overdone takes were brilliant as usual.  And the way the episode dealt with the significant steps toward the mother both moved me and had me on the edge of my seat.

- Article in Bro's Life magazine: "Those Last Five Pounds: How To Get Her To Lose Them."


- Places that might have given Robin food poisoning: that Indian place where the cat jumps on all the tables, that Spanish place with the baby's crib in the middle of the dining area, MacLaren's.

- Another callback to earlier this season: Marshall pulls out his standup act to stall for time while Ted brings his charts to the meeting.  "I'm sorry, is there a land bass I don't know about?"


- "Every inch of her tasted like roast beef and creatine."