It felt a little odd to me that the pen-penultimate episode of this series would feature as its central character a former colleague of Marshall and Barney at Goliath National Bank, a guy who has appeared in a handful of episodes over the years but never as a significant member of the gang’s circle. It seems like now would be the time to focus on the characters we’ve come to know and love over the years and their interactions with the as-yet-unnamed Mother. Barring the obvious connection that Gary Blauman’s portrayer, Taran Killam, has with the actors (he is married to Robin’s Cobie Smulders), an entire episode centered on him doesn’t make sense to me. Or it didn’t until the very end.
The framing device for this episode is Ted’s first date with the Mother. They meet outside her apartment building four days after the wedding. There’s an awkward hug and some discussion about where to go. Ted wants to take her to the kind of restaurant that only exists in the HIMYM version of New York City: a Scottish-Mexican fusion restaurant called Pedro McKinnon. He assures her that the haggis enchiladas are delicious.
As they walk, Ted tells her the story of Gary Blauman. Gary turns up at the Farhampton Inn to say hello to Robin after she’s put her wedding dress on. After greeting Gary, Robin grabs Marshall and shouts “Code red!!” No, it’s not Gary that’s the problem. It’s that apparently Gary has committed that New England wedding peccadillo of not RSVP’ing, and now she has no place for him on the seating chart. Luckily, Marshall is the seating chart master, and he and Ted go to work.
In the course of all this, Ted informs Marshall that he hates Gary Blauman. Apparently, a few years ago Ted was reading a biography of Teddy Roosevelt (cue a very Ted-like profusion of useless facts). A party at Ted’s house brings a girl who sees the book on Ted’s coffee table and starts enthusiastically singing Roosevelt’s praises. She’s perfect for Ted! But then along comes Gary, who’s also read the book, and who gets into a silent battle with Ted for the girl. Any girl who finds herself choosing between two guys based on which one knows the most obscure facts about an historical figure deserves what she gets, but I digress.
Enter Lily in her pink maid of honor dress that doesn’t look like anything Robin would have chosen. It turns out she LOVES Gary Blauman. Way back in 2006, when Marshall and Lily broke up, she spent her days brooding and listening to Sugar Ray’s “I Just Want to Fly.” She went to get a tattoo of Mark McGrath’s face surrounded by butterflies, and Gary saw her and stopped her when all she had was half a butterfly. You can understand Lily’s devotion to Gary given what he saved her from.
Back to Ted and the Mother. She sees her ex-boyfriend and pulls Ted behind a van with her. Turns out, she broke up with this guy over the weekend and there was a ring involved–a reference to the Mother-centric episode earlier this season that saw her refusing a proposal. Seeing the guy makes the Mother realize that she’s in a weird place right now and she can’t do this. Ted walks her home.
Returning to the Farhampton, Ted, Marshall, and Lily seek out Barney to get his take on Gary. Barney hates him too, because they were at the bar together once and Gary told the waiter he was “good,” then proceeded to take FOUR of Barney’s fries. And the fourth was an accidental curly! A basket of regular cut fries with a few accidental curlies–that’s the dream! Continuing the roll call, Billy Zabka announces that he loves Gary Blauman. Gary recognizes him for his poetry rather than his Karate Kid fandom. This should probably have clued us in to something about Gary. It’s confirmed when we learn that Gary was the one Barney’s brother James had an affair with, the affair that broke up his marriage. This, of course, leads Ted to realize that Gary and the girl were fighting over him at the party, and he was the prize.
After hearing all the opinions, Marshall deliberates on whether Gary can stay. He decides that the bride’s desire trumps all things, and they all leave the hotel to find Gary and ask him to stay. Barney had already seen him in the hall and chased him away by threatening to have Billy Zabka kick him in the face.
Ted and the Mother have reached her apartment. They say good night. Voiceover Ted tells the kids that 8 years ago he would have given some speech and professed his love, but the mature Ted is able to trust that everything will turn out all right. He turns to go and, hurray! She calls him back to finish the story.
Gary Blauman refuses to go back into the wedding. James realizes that the Gary situation was his fault, and he gets his wedding ring back from Barney so he can go find Tom. Marshall mentions that many of the people who attended his and Lily’s wedding haven’t been seen by the gang since. This leads to the most extensive and rapid-fire stretch of cameos that have ever been on any sitcom ever, as Voiceover Ted tells us and the kids whatever happened to a who’s who of minor characters throughout the history of the show. Highlights include Patrice with her own advice radio show, James and Tom back together, and Jeannette getting arrested for sending jars of her own urine to Val Kilmer. Jeannette’s court-ordered therapist is Robin’s old flame Kevin, who apparently has no understanding of the professional boundaries that should exist in a therapist-patient relationship. Ted informs us that Jeannette and Kevin now live together in Poughkeepsie.
At the end of the episode, Ted and the Mother share their first kiss. Without any explanation for her sudden change of heart, she decides she wants to walk around some more, and they stroll off into the moonrise together. Gary Blauman, and whether any one of the gang loves or hates him, turns out not to be that important. What is important is that we know all of these characters live happily ever after, whether major, minor, or in between.