Not even 20 seconds into tonight’s episode I thought negatively about the episode. Marshall began a five-mile walk that was portrayed as longer than five miles, complete with a musical number and a cameo by Bigfoot. Marshall’s subsequent ride to the Farhampton Inn with Ted’s future wife furthered my irritation with the episode. One assumes Marshall began his trek and traveled, at the very least, a half-mile, which means he’d have four-and-a-half miles to go before he reached the Inn. Ted’s future wife picks him up and they immediately bond over their separate challenges in their personal lives. An involved personal conversation ensues, and the breezy four-and-a-half mile car ride to the Inn stretches into eternity. Time elapses more than ten minutes in “Bass Player Wanted.” Ted has time to break-and-enter into a liquor store and steal the expensive bottle of scotch in the basement. Barney has time to stew over Ted’s secret move to Chicago. Robin and Lily have an involved fight followed by reconciliation and an impromptu boxing session with Marshall pillow. Obviously, the car ride never existed. Future Ted imagined it as he told his children the story of how he and their mom met, or I should get Nabokov out of my head and roll with the improbable drive to the Farhampton Inn.
“Bass Player Wanted” is the second or third best episode of the season. It was without fluff and filler and flashbacks. The writers weren’t leaving long marks in the ground from dragging their feet. My mind didn’t wander during the episode. I didn’t feel the precious time ticking away with each second. The writers weren’t wasteful this week. Three important plot points were addressed. It took a tertiary plot device to move the stories ahead, lazily tied into Ted’s future wife to make it more earned and organic, but it wasn’t. Close friends shouldn’t decide to be honest whenever a stranger throws a tree branch into embers. Barney, for the first time ever, had a right to act petulant and childish. Marshall should’ve worried about meeting Lily after other plot device let the judgeship secret slip. The Lily-Robin conflict happened.
The tertiary plot device, aka the singer for Future Wife’s band, charmed Lily, Robin, Ted and Barney before tossing the aforementioned tree branch into the embers. Lily and Robin squabbled over Robin’s opinion about Italy and the judgeship. Robin sided with Marshall selfishly because she doesn’t want to lose Lily, but she understands why Lily feels hurt and betrayed. Robin helps Lily work through her motions through a physical release, which is preferable to the alcoholic treatment she’d contented herself with since her arrival at the Farhampton Inn (initially because of Marshall’s absence and then because of the judgeship revelation). Her arc in “Bass Player Wanted” is scattered but she reaches a necessary emotional point by the time Marshall arrives: she’s raw, without that annoying comical desire for revenge. Alyson Hanigan and Jason Segel express very much without speaking when Lily and Marshall look at each other. The space between them is uninspired direction (considering Boy Meets World made fun of that staging trope 13 or 14 years ago in the sixth season Valentine’s Day episode), but regardless it’s the best acting this season. Hanigan’s very good when she’s asked to induce sadness in the viewers.
Ted’s secret move to Chicago baffled, saddened, and angered Barney, but no one else finds out about the move. Ted needs to move because he can’t bear to stay around married Robin to his vey good buddy Barney, which Barney eventually realizes after he pulls his head out of his own ass. The writing tries to get Ted and Barney to a vulnerable place when Ted embraces Barney with an “I love you” following Barney’s earnest “I’ll miss you.” Ted’s gesture was executed better. Radnor and Harris were good in the “I love you” scene but it was neat a minute after Ted created a mess (or three-four minutes). Barney searched for reasons to convince Ted to stay, unaware his reason was within a mile of the Inn and, later, a room apart from him.
Ted and his future wife were the closest they’ve been in the present day narrative, which led to their first connection through a mutual dislike for Darren. Darren caused Ted to break the third glass of expensive scotch. Darren forced the nameless one from her own band. The scenes between Marshall and The Mother showed more of her than in previous episodes. The Mother’s previous portrayals, as the perfect woman who’s not even human but more of a metaphysical goddess, was poked fun at when she described Marshall’s situation to Marshall. Their scenes showed off her personality. Milioi is good fun with the right material. The story devolves into contrived, sappy, sentimental, and gooey stuff from romantic comedies. I liked, though, that she was separate from her fate with Ted, i.e., that her portrayal wasn’t dependent on where she’ll end and on defining her as Ted’s perfect mate. Initially, at least, it was not that, but the third act brought their destined union to the forefront over the bit of karmic justice done unto Darren, ending with Ted receiving his first drink from her, though without seeing her or even knowing who bought him the expensive scotch.
“Bass Player Wanted” was not the best episode, but it wasn’t wasteful. Nearly every episode has shown why the season-long wedding was not a good idea. After thirteen episodes, the gang’s finally together, and the mother is definitely at Farhampton. How I Met Your Mother can easily screw the rest of the season up, but it’s nearing the New Year, so I’ll hope for good things in 2014 for HIMYM.