'How I Met Your Mother' Season 9, Episode 9 Recap: 'Platonish'

Spoiler Alert: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 9, Episode 9 of CBS' "How I Met Your Mother," titled "Platonish."

Perhaps, I have been overly critical.

In nearly every recap thus far of the final season of "How I Met Your Mother," I've lamented some beloved aspects of the show that are long gone. But, Donna Bowman of The AV Club said it best when she called last week's episode, "The Lighthouse," a fresh start. It was, indeed, a new beginning, one that I also championed as a turning point for the long road toward uniting Ted and the mother.

While "The Lighthouse" gave the plot a giant leap forward, this week's "Platonish" takes us six months back in time, before Robin and Barney were engaged. We're at MacLaren's. We're in the gang's apartment. Everyone's got a fresh set of clothes. It feels a little bit like old times, but we're in for a few major twists.

In case we'd forgotten, six months before the wedding, Barney had been hitting just about everything he could. In a series of escalating challenges (all of which were accepted) from Robin and Lily, he gets girls' numbers while talking like a dolphin, wearing a garbage bag and pretending to be Ryan Gosling. But then he tries to pick up the mother. Yes, that mother.

A few of the subplots of this season have led no where, which is where I thought Barney's samosas-and-diapers-run was headed. But Barney's interaction with Ted's future wife is a serendipitous reminder that we're actually headed somewhere. The writers know exactly where they're going. Perhaps it's time we trusted them.

Earlier in the episode, Barney commented that platonic friendship doesn't exist except in the rare case of Marshall and Robin (which is a dead-on obvious-but-understated observation in this group dynamic, by the way). After the mother thwarts Barney's advances, the two discuss their own relationships on a bench outside the subway, which feels equally platonic. She convinces him that Robin is the big fish out there he's been missing while he's been busy playing "the game." She asks, "Do you want to keep playing or do you want to win?"

When Barney sits down to write "The Robin," there's a clear a-ha moment that used to come at the end of most "HIMYM" episodes. Now it feels like a neatly-tied up present for us.

But over on Team Ted, fans might be left with majorly mixed feelings. This is a show where the ending doesn't matter; we already know what's going to happen. Instead, we've been trained to focus on the journey. We know who Ted marries, but how do we get from Barney and Robin's wedding to the Lighthouse proposal?

Marshall and Ted spend most of "Platonish" at the Generals-Harlem Globetrotters game, where Marshall tries to convince Ted that he might have one last Big Gesture left in him when it comes to Robin. Eight years ago, Ted would have gone to get that blue French horn when the smallest of feelings came back. But in the Fall of 2012, he sits on those feelings. "What's the rush?" he asks.

We end the episode with Robin and Barney in pre-marital bliss. I've never been fully on board with this relationship -- it never seemed believable enough to me -- but in that moment, it worked. It also felt like the final end of Ted and Robin. She is not destined to be his. He knows it too, and looks absolutely heartbroken. In that same moment, Barney's challenge is complete.

Some great leftovers:
  • Bryan Cranston comes back as Hammond Druthers with lucky baseball in hand! This serves as a welcome reminder that Walter White didn't kill his comedic chops. Well played Druthers!
  • Marshall saying "I can't even" after the Generals lose.
  • Marshall calling Ted "Nicholas Sparks."
  • Basically, everything about Marshall being fully present in this episode.

"How I Met Your Mother" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.

What did you think about "Platoonish"? Do you think the final season will live up to your expectations? Leave your thoughts in the comments!