‘How I Met Your Mother’ Review: “The Time Travelers”
‘How I Met Your Mother’ season 8 goes off the deep end with its twentieth episode of the penultimate season “The Time Travelers,” as future versions of Barney and Ted urge the present Ted to attend Robots Vs. Wrestlers, while Marshall and Robin argue over the rights to name a MacLaren's drink.
Last week's ‘How I Met Your Mother’ episode "The Fortress" saw Barney letting go of his apartment when Robin urges him to get a new place, while Marshall grew resentful of Lily for spending so much time with her new job, 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 20, “The Time Travelers!”
Speaking to his children, Future Ted reminisces about how near and far his 2013 self was from the mother, who lived on west 115th street, took classes at Columbia and dated a man named Louis. Meanwhile in the present, Ted sits alone at MacLaren’s, before Barney shows up begging him to go to a “legends” version of Robots Vs. Wrestlers, predicting it as a legendary night they’ll both remember 20 years from then.
Moments later, Marshall, Robin and Lily arrive, Marshall bragging about a drink he’d invented called the “Minnesota Tidal Wave.” Barney presses on Ted that all good nights start with imagining how they’ll be remembered in twenty years, and urges Ted to close his eyes. When he opens them, Ted is astonished to see another Barney from twenty years in the future urging him to go, followed shortly by a Ted from twenty years ahead corroborating the tale!
Over at the bar Marshall orders his drink, but learns from bartender Carl that Robin frequently orders the same drink, so much so that the bar named it after her, souring Marshall’s mood. Meanwhile, Ted agrees to go to Robots Vs. Wrestlers, until yet another Ted appears, hailing from 20 hours in the future and bitter about the resulting hangover. The disheveled Ted admits that the night was eventful, but might not be worth the initial pain it causes.
The others return to the booth, as Marshall challenges Robin to a dance-off for the rights to the drink, but Lily reminds her husband his dancer’s hip has been acting up. Marshall instead retreats to the men’s room and returns with a marker over his ear, before Robin herself enters and changes the message he left in the stall. Knowing he wouldn’t dare enter the ladies’ room, Robin writes her own message, upsetting Marshall.
Just as the Teds and Barneys agree to finally leave, another Barney from 20 minutes in the future stops them, directing their attention to the MacLaren’s door. After a first false start, the Teds and Barneys see the infamous “Coat Check Girl” ('Glee's Jayma Mays) from seven years prior enter the bar, and the present Ted wonders if he should finally talk to her. Meanwhile, Marshall enters the ladies’ room to find Robin’s long, drawn out message on the wall, explaining how her father mistreated her as a girl, but the end of the message reveals it as a ruse to have Marshall in the ladies’ room when other women enter.
Embarrassed, Marshall hides in a stall to wait for the coast to clear, though he fails to notice multiple women occupying the bathroom as he attempts to make a break for it. As the women and Marshall run screaming out of the ladies’ room, Carl chastises Marshall and names the situation after him. Carl agrees to undo it, and name every drink in the bar after Marshall if only the man can produce the bartender’s last name, but Marshall fails to remember.
Present Ted goes over to talk to Coat Check Girl, but a future Coat Check Girl grabs him and drags him into a booth to warn him away. Inside the booth, Ted sees two future Coat Check Girls from 20 months ahead, one an obsessive wreck pining over their failed relationship, the other having grown tired of him. The first Coat Check Girl reminds him dating only ever goes one of the two ways, as Ted watches the real Coat Check Girl get up and leave the bar, and realizes himself alone.
Ted sulks back to his friends’ table as Lily gives Marshall her blessing to have a dance-off with Robin, and the pair battle for rights to the drink. Opting to head home, Ted expresses surprise that Barney isn’t pushing him harder to see Robots Vs. Wrestlers, but Barney reveals that the entire experience has been in Ted's head, while the real Barney, Robin, Marshall and Lily have all been home living their adult lives, unable to accompany Ted to the wrestling match.
Future Ted remembers it had been twenty years since that night, and that his younger self would have either hung out with Marshall, Lily and Marvin, or Robin and Barney, or simply gone home to enjoy his old apartment. Instead, present Ted runs to 115th street and up to his future wife’s apartment. Ringing the doorbell, Ted explains to the unseen figure that they’ll meet in 45 days, and share a lifetime ahead, but that he couldn’t wait that long to see her. The mother’s boyfriend Louis shows up behind Ted, punching him out for his bizarre behavior, but we see that back in reality Ted still stands outside MacLaren’s alone.
Over the credits, Future Teds and Barneys perform a perfect, harmonious rendition of Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time.”
There really isn't much cause to mince words about it: "The Time Travelers" was every bit as bizarre as the episode's description initially suggested. Utilizing future Teds and Barneys in the show's occasionally out-there narrative might have seemed interesting in concept, but the execution proves nothing less than confusing, and ultimately depressing. We empathize with Ted's despair at the moment, and Josh Radnor really does nail his emotional monologue to the unseen mother, but any point "The Time Travelers" attempts to make gets lost in the mix of confusing, and hokey plots that prove imaginary by episode's end anyway. We're waiting for a clearer picture of how 'How I Met Your Mother' will handle the upcoming wedding, as well as an additional season beyond, but "The Time Travelers" proved a conceptual mess that doesn't inspire a great deal of hope going forward.
What say you? Did ‘How I Met Your Mother’s latest “The Time Travelers” tug at your heartstrings, or leave you scratching your head? Do you think it made for a solid entry to the penultimate season? Join us April 15 for an all-new episode recap of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ episode “Romeward Bound” on CBS!