'How I Met Your Mother' - 'Platonish': How Barney met the Mother

how-i-met-your-mother-platonish.jpgThe big selling point of Monday's (Nov. 11) "How I Met Your Mother" was the return of Bryan Cranston as Ted's erstwhile boss Hammond Druthers, and it helped fill in a piece of the present-day puzzle.

Cranston's appearance -- which unfortunately only featured Hammond and Ted interacting by phone -- was not, however, the biggest thing to happen in "Platonish." Instead, we got a long look at how Barney met Ted's future wife, and she in turn helped give him the final push toward the wedding where she's about to be part of the band.

The episode is the first of the season not to revolve around the wedding weekend*. The flashback is set up by something silly -- Lily wants to know why Barney didn't complete a challenge to pick up diapers and samosas -- but becomes a lot more in exploring Ted's still-complicated feelings for Robin and why Barney finally decided to commit.

(*It's also the biggest example of what Carter Bays and Craig Thomas said they wanted to do with this final season -- use the wedding weekend to go back in time to fill in some story, and forward to see Ted and the Mother together. We've gotten bits of the latter but not nearly enough of the former thus far.)

There was a sweetness to "Platonish" that has often gone missing in late-period "HIMYM," as Barney reveals that his failure in the diapers-and-samosas challenge came because of his accepting of the one that really matters. "Do you want to keep playing, or do you want to win?" the Mother asks him, and it finally hits him that the answer he had given Lily and Robin earlier in the night (and, really, for the life of the series) wasn't the right one.

Meanwhile, the Hammond-Ted stuff serves to inform us that Chicago is not just a random would-be destination for Ted after the wedding -- his feelings about Robin between the time of Hammond's call and now are so all over the place that he'd consider working with his former nemesis (as we're surely meant to infer) rather than continue his romantic self-torture. His conversation with Marshall* at the Globetrotters Generals game gets at that feeling, even if it doesn't quite take us to the point where he's buying tickets to Los Angeles to look for Robin's locket.

(*Another advantage of the extended flashback: Marshall gets to be with his friends again!)

So that's now two members of the gang to encounter the Mother before Ted does, and given how "HIMYM" likes to play with time it wouldn't be all that surprising to find out that her (unwitting) past with everyone goes even further back. Cristin Milioti's work continues to be among the high points this season, but the show needs to be careful about where it puts her in the timeline. Her presence in this episode* fit nicely, but while we've been told and are starting to see why she's so great for Ted, the show shouldn't treat her like a magical creature. A random, funny meeting with Robin or Marshall might help balance the scales a little.

(*Also, six months earlier the Mother was dating someone else. Sorry, bro.)

Based on the previews for next week's show, we're back to Farhampton and wedding shenanigans, but this was a welcome reprieve. What did you think of "How I Met Your Mother" this week?

Photo/Video credit: CBS