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‘How I Met Your Mother’ Review: “Unpause”

How I Met Your Mother Unpause Review Luke Penny
CBS

How I Met Your Mother’ season 9 recalls its 15th episode of the final year in “Unpause,” Robin and Ted discover they can question a drunk Barney for any answers they want, while Marshall and Lily finally have it out over his decision to accept the judgeship.

Previous ‘How I Met Your Mother’ installment “Slapsgiving 3: Slappointment in Slapmarra” saw Marshall recount his training to deliver Barney’s penultimate slap, before the punishment finally arrived at the Farhampton Inn. So how does the latest episode keep the final season rolling down the aisle?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘How I Met Your Mother’ season 9 episode 15, “Unpause”!

During their stay at the Farhampton Inn of 2017, the Mother begins to go into labor, chiding Ted for his idea to take one last weekend away before the baby comes. Meanwhile in the present, Robin and Ted make fun of Marshall’s handprint still on Barney’s face, while Marshall continually plies the group with liquor, hoping to delay his “unpause” with Lily as long as possible.

After 2:00 A.M. and Marshall’s embarrassing parade of souvenirs from Ted’s childhood home, Barney’s Jabba the Hutt-like drunk slurs convince the gang it’s time to call it a night. Marshall reluctantly heads upstairs with Lily, preparing for the fight, though she insists they remain paused until after sex. Marshall attempts to psych himself up to go all night, while downstairs Ted and Robin realize Barney has reached a new plateau of his drunken phases, wherein he truthfully answers any question posed.

Barney dutifully answers their questions, revealing he’d never actually gotten very far with Ted’s mother, though Barney dips down in Jabba drunkenness once more when Robin asks why he continues to refer to a “ring bear.” Robin and Ted quickly ply him with booze, but the answer to the ring bear question is once again cut off when Marshall comes downstairs looking for Barney’s Viagra. Barney next reveals that Robin’s family comes from money, but when asked what he does for a living, Barney only responds with his usual “please…”

Marshall revels in his victory that Lily has fallen asleep, but accidentally triggers one of Ted’s talking toys, waking Lily and unpausing their argument. Downstairs, Ted realizes that Barney’s “please” means more than they might think, as Barney goes on to explain that years ago, barney tracked down the suited man who’d stolen his girlfriend, and secured a job performing “PLEASE” (Provide Legal Exculpation And Sign Everything) for a morally bankrupt company. Robin and Ted balk that his company has been setting him up to take the fall, though Future Ted reveals that in two months’ time Barney would enact his master plan, having colluded with the FBI from the beginning in order to have his girlfriend-stealing boss arrested as revenge.

Upstairs, Marshall insists that he had to take the judgeship in the best interests of their family, reluctantly admitting that he thinks Lily’s opportunity in Italy to be nothing more than a hobby. Marshall suggests that their moving to Italy would be even more selfish than when Lily broke up with him years earlier and moved to San Francisco, that their marriage and Marvin have been little more than consolation prizes to her. Lily leaves in tears, calling an unseen figure to come get her away from the Inn, before she gets in their car.

Finally, the truthful Barney admits to Robin that their ring bearer is someone named Trevor Hudson, and that he’d never want to put their wedding in jeopardy. Robin heads upstairs, as Barney answers one last truthful question for Ted, assuring that his love for Robin is genuine, and however nervous the wedding makes him, he knows how Robin has helped him feel unbroken after so many years.

Back to the future, Ted carries his young daughter Penny to the car as the pregnant mother follows, and Future Ted suggests that at least one good thing happened after 2:00 A.M.; the birth of his son Luke. After the credits, a burly-looking man pulls along “Trevor Hudson” on a chain, revealed to be a bear after all.

OUR REVIEW:

Every drab episode of the ill-conceived final season of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ has led us back to the same inexorable truth. For every filler episode, homage to the series’ past (however racist they may unexpectedly be), or narrative constraint posed by the wedding weekend format, we’ve known that ‘HIMYM’ knocks the important episodes out of the park. Whether or not the final installments leading up to the March series finale can balance out some of the truly wasted episodes in months before remains to be seen, but “Unpause” reminds us of everything Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have done well to begin with, neatly balancing some cathartic closure with truly devastating emotion.

And where “Slapsgiving” unfolded as a cheap love letter to the early days and the show’s most famous gags, “Unpause” took Marshall and Lily back to one of their most interesting stories of the entire run, not the inevitability of sitcom love and marriage, but rather the time they spent apart early on, and a rift that never fully healed. We want Lily to find her passion in the arts, naturally, just as we’d want Marshall’s dreamjob to provide for the family as much as his own well-being, but in matters such as “Unpause,” neither is truly wrong in their selfish desires. That ambiguity only adds to the weight Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan’s chemistry has carried over the years, through good times and bad, as Marshall’s harsh words prove far more painful than any slap ever could.

Admittedly, we might question the use of such a dramatically rich division for Marshall and Lily so close to the end, one we know they ultimately make it through together, but the fact remains that “Unpause” offers up some of the most honest storytelling we’ve seen all season. Yes, from the same episode that sees Marshall conspiring with his penis against his own wife, yelling through a thin door in a previously haunted hotel room.

On the lighter side of life, Barney’s drunken ramblings prove a bit cheap in practice to run through unanswered questions of his history, but the generous payoff largely covers for the slight. Barney has long been both the bane and salvation of ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ as the character’s increasingly cartoonish nature often obscured any pained history or grounded nature to the well-dressed man, but a series-long throwaway gag to his ambiguous job neatly ties back to the goodwill of earlier seasons, regardless of how implausible it may have seemed.

And while the nature of the series itself naturally requires a bit of narrative tweaking to involve Cristin Milioti as the mother, the somewhat clumsy nature of another mythology reveal (they met, got engaged, and went into a second labor, all in Farhampton!), the heartwarming, if meaningless reveal of the children’s names nicely lay the groundwork for more revelatory episodes in the weeks to come. To borrow phrasework from a drunken Barney, ‘How I Met Your Mother’ has been tagged out more this season than its career performance would reflect, but a swing for the fences still occasionally connects.

Well, what say you? Did ‘How I Met Your Mother’’s latest installment, “Unpause,” warm your heart to the final season? What did you think about the big fights and reveals? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and join us again next week for another all-new recap of ‘How I Met Your Mother’’s latest episode, 200th installment “How Your Mother Met Me” on CBS!

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