How I Met Your Mother returned Monday night with “Last Time in New York.”  The third episode in the final season picked up Friday at 2pm, 52 hours before Barney and Robin’s wedding. Marshall is driving cross country since his flight was canceled. Barney and Robin are freaking out about whether their flame will die out after getting married.  But this episode was really the story of Ted and Lily sitting down to have a serious talk.

Marshall, Marvin, and fellow weary traveler Shelly were forced to rent a car and drive from Minnesota to New York after a storm shut down the airport.  If that weren’t bad enough, the first state they had to drive through was Wisconsin, home of Marshall’s hated Packers.

Back in the Hamptons, Barney and Robin decide they have to keep things exciting leading up to the wedding.  They look for a naughty place to have sex. However, a bus load of their elderly relatives drops off at the resort, putting a wrench in their plans.

Like I mentioned earlier, this episode was really about Lily and Ted.  Lily finds a list titled, “Last Time in New York.”  It turns out Ted made a list of things he wanted to do before leaving New York.  He had decided that he could no longer be in the same city as Robin and would try to start a new life in Chicago.  Nevertheless, Ted loved New York, and there were so many things for him to say good bye (including his favorite skyscraper, the Empire State Building).  There were only a few things left on the list he hadn’t done yet.  One was coming clean about what happened on April 26th, and another was to have a last Scotch with Barney. 

Ted decides to tell Lily that the reason that her first choice of dress got ruined had nothing to with the dry cleaners, like he had told her.  Instead what really happened was that Marshall and Ted decided to have a swordfight in the apartment, an homage to episode “The Duel” which aired all the way back on Nov 14, 2005.  In that episode Marshall ends up accidentally stabbing Lily, and on April 26th 2013, they end up accidentally stabbing Lily’s dress.  Lily decides to hand out some patented Aldrin Justice.  She says that since they are making her wear something she didn’t want, that they have to put on something they don’t want to either.  Lily makes Ted put on an old tiny swim suit that was hanging on the wall at the Inn, and she makes Marshall pull over and put on some Packers gear while driving through Wisconsin.  While our teams of interest differ, as a huge Bears fan Marshall and I share a distaste for the Packers.  I can tell you that having to put on a cheesehead is a pretty harsh punishment.

When Ted pulls out the bottle of McKellan 30-Year that he had picked out for his last drink with Barney, it turns out Lily has something to confess about April 26th as well.  Lily accidentally broke the real bottle of Scotch and then put the label on to some cheap whiskey that she added chocolate syrup and ketchup to to get the color right.  She grabs (probably without paying) a new bottle from the Inn’s liquor store to give to Ted, but she has a question.  Why was this the last thing Ted hadn’t taken care of yet?  Was he avoiding Barney?  Lily points out that he wrote down all of these things to say good bye to, but they were all good things.  “Why not just say good bye to the bad things?” Lily asks, and continues while a montage of Ted’s memories rolls.  “Say good bye to all of the times you felt lost, all of the times that it was a no instead of a yes, to all of the scrapes and bruises, to all of the heartache.  Say good bye to everything you really want to do for the last time.  But don’t have one last Scotch with Barney, have the first Scotch toasting Barney’s new life because that’s a good thing, and those things will always be here waiting for you.”  Ted smiles and asks Lily to turn the page over.  It reads, “Get one last life lecture from Lily.”

Ted decides he cannot avoid Barney any longer.  He grabs the bottle of Scotch and goes to find Barney.  He finds him out on the porch and offers to have a drink.  Barney startles Ted by replying, “I saw you and Robin by the carousel.”

Wow.  I think this was a really great episode.  Probably one of the best since, “The Drunk Train,” and it’s certainly no coincidence that both that episode and this one were written by Craig Gerard and Mathew Zinman.  I laughed out loud during this episode more than any HIMYM I’ve watched in a long time.  It was really great to see Alyson Hannigan have a prominent role in an episode after not seeing a lot of her last year.  There was that touch of heart that made us fall in love with this show in the speech by Lily.  Lastly, we got a great, startling cliffhanger ending with the confrontation by Barney.  What will he say to Ted?  We’ll have to wait til next week to find out.

The legend continues Monday at 8/7c on CBS.