'How I Met Your Mother' Season 9, episode 21: 'Gary Blauman' keeps Ted and the Mother going

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gary-blauman-how-i-met-your-mother.jpgBack in January, when "How I Met Your Mother" co-creator Craig Thomas revealed that one of the show's final episodes would be called "Gary Blauman," I cringed a little.

In a season that by the nature of its design has featured a good amount of running in place, an episode named after a minor character -- Barney and Marshall's GNB co-worker, played by Taran Killam, appeared in four previous episodes -- seemed like it could be the wheel-spinningest one of all.

It also brought to mind "Across the Sea," the divisive final-season "Lost" episode (which also aired two weeks before the series finale) that spent zero time with the show's primary characters. "HIMYM" has been "Lost"-ian in a number of ways over the course of its life for both good and ill -- but mercifully, "Gary Blauman" ended up being a much more satisfying episode than "Across the Sea" was.

The blizzard of cameos -- everyone from Blah-Blah Carol to Zoey to Kevin to Blitz -- at the end was a nice touch, and the filming of them in one long take, a la the two-minute date from Season 3's "Ten Sessions," worked seamlessly. The individual Blauman stories were mostly amusing too, even if they didn't illuminate anything important* we didn't already know about the cast.

(*Your mileage on the importance of Lily having half a butterfly tattoo, her attachment to her breakup song and the way she and Marshall get down on his birthday may vary.)

What really made the episode work, as it has for many of the better episodes this season, were the scenes between Ted and the Mother. We've seen a number of the big milestones in their future relationship, but seeing the tentative first steps they took together, on a date three days after the wedding, was a lovely surprise.

It presents evidence that Ted actually has learned from his past: He doesn't go steal a French horn, blurt out "I love you" or otherwise try to convince the Mother that they'd be great together, even (or especially) after she tells him that after turning down his proposal, she's not really ready for a relationship yet. Plus, he totally recognized that she was leaning in for a kiss.

Also nice: the fact that Ted and the Mother's date served as the framing device for the Blauman stories. Future Ted comes in late to narrate the long take and tell his kids that you have to work to maintain the relationships you really want, but it's the Ted we know now who's telling the story as a way to extend his date.

It's a subtle change from the usual formula, but an effective one. It gives the tale of Gary Blauman, accidental wedding crasher, more weight not because it's one last crisis before Robin and Barney get married, but because it helps these two realize that maybe, despite everything else happening to both of them at this time, they may be right for each other.

I first watched "Gary Blauman" at the "How I Met Your Mother" Paleyfest session over the weekend, along with a thousand or so very enthusiastic fans who ate up every word. That can skew a view of the episode, but happily, it held up on solo viewing too. Here's hoping "How I Met Your Mother" can maintain that in its final episodes.

What did you think of "HIMYM" this week?

Photo/Video credit: CBS