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‘How I Met Your Mother’ Review: “The Ashtray”

How I Met Your Mother The Ashtray Review
CBS

How I Met Your Mother’ season 8 sets sail with its seventeenth episode of the penultimate season “The Ashtray,” as Ted, Robin and Lily remember the last time they encountered The Captain (‘Twin Peaks’ Kyle MacLachlan), while Barney tries desperately to insert himself into the story.

Last week’s ‘How I Met Your Mother’ episode “Bad Crazy” saw Ted trying desperately to get rid of his crazed girlfriend Jeanette (‘SNL’s Abby Elliot), while Robin confronted her issues with holding baby Marvin over an increasingly elaborate vignette, so what did tonight’s all-new episode bring?  Are we any closer to learning how the final years for Ted, Robin, Barney, Marshall and Lily play out?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘How I Met Your Mother’ season 8 episode 17, “The Ashtray!”

Ted notices a message on his answering machine (right?) which turns out to be from The Captain, sending he, Marshall and Barney into a panic as to what the rich sailing enthusiast might want. While Barney continues attempting to insert himself into a story he wasn’t present for, Ted remembers how back in 2011 he, Robin and Lily encountered The Captain at an art gallery, before being invited up to the man’s apartment to view another painting,

Once upstairs, Ted puts down a priceless ashtray and confronts the Captain about his intentions, calming the man down from holding a harpoon gun! The Captain assures Ted he isn’t looking for any kind of vengeance with regard to what happened with Zoey, but when the others leave the room Ted realizes that the picture on the Captain’s desk he’d earlier expressed his love to was that of “Boats Boats Boats!” girl Becky, whom Ted had recently begun dating again!

The Captain calls once more and Ted reluctantly answers at Marshall’s behest, though The Captain seems only to want Robin’s phone number. Unsure of how to react, the three agree to give him Robin’s number and see what develops. The next day, Robin arrives to the bar furious that The Captain called, as the art gallery encounter happened quite differently than Ted remembers, thanks to a large “sandwich” he’d smoked beforehand.

From Robin’s perspective, Ted’s lowered reactions to the encounter only proved a distraction, as in actuality The Captain had been making voracious eyes at Robin the entire time. Invited upstairs, Robin saves Ted from dropping the priceless ashtray, as The Captain invites her into his bedroom. Nothing happened, as Robin informs the gang, but she did invite The Captain to call her in a year and a half, after he’d gotten over Zoey. On Marshall’s advice, Robin calls The Captain to casually explain that she has a fiancée now, though in actuality it seems The Captain had mistaken Robin for Lily!

After the gang gives out her number to The Captain, Lily returns home furious, as both Ted and Robin had remembered the event wrong, Robin having been drunk from a prior “meeting.” In actuality the sloppy Robin had been the one to make unwarranted eyes at The Captain, while Lily elaborated about an elephant painting at the gallery she liked, in spite of The Captain’s art consultant’s dismissal.

Upstairs again, Lily saves the Ashtray from both Ted and Robin, before The Captain leads Lily into his bedroom to observe a painting. Lily professes to like the elephant painting better, though when The Captain cruelly dismisses her opinion as a kindergarten teacher’s, Lily swipes the priceless ashtray in retaliation.

Robin, Barney and Ted retreat downstairs to allow Marshall and Lily space to fight, as Barney continues trying to interject himself into the story. Barney protests that he has little value to the group apart from delivering crazy stories, so Robin and Ted graciously allow him to believe he was involved in the event, and pulling his “Royal Archduke of Grand Fenwick” play to seduce The Captain’s art consultant Shelly.

Upstairs Marshall protests that Lily shouldn’t have stolen the Captain’s priceless ashtray, as Lily admits the root of the problem that both Shelly and The Captain’s words stung too deeply. Indeed she had left behind her artistic dreams to pursue motherhood and teaching, but Marshall assures her it isn’t too late to pick up where she left off, even if some of her better days are behind her.

Having agreed to return the ashtray, Lily finds that The Captain hadn’t even noticed it was missing, but rather invited her over to show that he placed the elephant painting in his bedroom after all, and sold it for a whopping $4 million following the artist’s rise in popularity. Rather than give her part of the earnings however, The Captain offers Lily a job as his personal art consultant, which she later delightfully reveals to the gang she’s accepted.

Over the credits, we see Barney enacting his “Royal Archduke” play at the gallery, in costume next to an identical portrait of the character, which earns Shelly’s attention.

Opinions ran the gamut following last week’s “Bad Crazy,” which traded mythology and emotional development for broader comedy, in what we thought to be a largely successful half-hour. “The Ashtray” follows a similarly familiar format for ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ re-telling events from multiple perspectives, playing upon the impaired memories each time. And just like “Band or DJ,” “The Ashtray” saves its emotional gut-punch for the end as Lily breaks down over failing to realize her artistic dreams, great material for Alyson Hannigan but a little retreaded nonetheless. We might have liked to see the problem taking more time to resolve over several episodes, rather than the deus-ex-machina of The Captain offering her a job right away. All in all, a tried and true formula for tonight’s ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ but one showing as much gray hairs as The Captain himself.

What say you? Did ‘How I Met Your Mother’s latest “The Ashtray” ring true, or feel a bit hazy in retrospect?  Do you think it made for a solid entry to the penultimate season? Join us next week for an all-new episode recap of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ episode “Weekend at Barney’s” on CBS!

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