We'll dig into "Sunrise," Monday's worthy follow-up to last week's all-time great "How Your Mother Met Me," in a few paragraphs. But can I get personal for the first few? Is that okay? Since I can’t hear any notes of dissent through the Bose headphones I’m wearing at this coffee shop, I’m going to take that as a yes. How I Met Your Mother premiered in the fall of 2005, my sophomore year of college, and along with the second season of The Office had a profound effect on not only what I wanted to do with my life (write funny but relatable things, or at least try to) but the kind of person I considered myself to be. At the time, I was hopelessly enamored of this girl at another college, a girl I’d met on the beach that past summer. I was uptight, anxious about everything. I wore a lot of loose, plaid shirts. Before I could even make the connection myself, friends were calling me “such a Ted Mosby” and asking where I thought I might find a blue french horn (this was a weird school where lots of people watched HIMYM). And when I understood what they were making fun of… it made me feel great. Ted Mosby wash’t some Eeyore character moping through his prime dating years; he was my television proxy!
Watching Ted suffer through heartache and hard-learned lessons in some vicious cycle didn’t make me cringe, or evaluate the entertainment-dictated choices I was making in my own life. No, it reinforced them. If a television character almost 10 years my senior was feeling these same things and acting the way he did… then I had my guide for living! Ted slogged through — or more insidiously, Ted pined — and it was like CBS telling me, directly, that I would be okay if I just stayed the course. I pined for (and emailed) the girl from another college. I pined for girls at my OWN college. If only I hadn’t done so much goddamn pining, I might have actually lost my virginity at a reasonable time.
Now, nearly a decade has passed since those first happily romantic seasons of HIMYM. And along the way, Ted’s unyielding romanticism has gone from something I once aspired to and empathized with so deeply… to a worrisome tic that’s actually impacted the character’s ability to evolve and find happiness. I say this not to criticize the writing of Ted, who is:
- a great sitcom character with defined attributes and
- just about to meet the Mother and finally put to bed those years of heartbreak and anguish.
No, I do so to suggest that “romance” or “romanticism,” moments that most of us yearn for, have a shelf life — both in the world of sitcoms and, you know, outside it.
“Sunrise” (the last episode before an interrupted dash to the finale starting Feb. 24), finally acknowledges this in a way that doesn’t convince me they’re totally done with the Robin-Ted storyline, but that nicely suggests as much. Ted, we know, has been hung up on Robin… for pretty much the duration of the show. He’s dated lots of great women/guest stars, most notably Sarah Chalke’s Stella and Ashley Williams’ Victoria (both of whom pop in tonight). He’s also told us, and his friends, that he no longer has feelings for Robin. Told us several times, annoyingly! But it’s always been Robin. And in the process of trying to track down a drunk and escaped Barney on the beach, Ted reveals as much to the woman about to marry his friend.
There’s no top five, Robin. It’s just a top one, and it’s you. I know it’s not going to change anything, but I had to tell you.
2005 Sophomore me cheers and whistles, thrilled that Ted has summoned the courage to tell the woman he loves just how he feels! ( ...Again!) But 2014… I don’t know, Super Senior me throws his hands up, knowingly sighs, and asks, “Do we really need to run through this shit one more time?”
We don’t (I think)! (That said, if the Ted-Robin end game theory Bustle's own Samantha Rullo proposed is right, we do.) A series of recent flashbacks fill in the story of Ted’s search for that missing locket of Robin’s, the one he was planning to give to her “as a friend” at the wedding. First Stella, then Victoria, then Jeanette (Abby Elliott) all tell Ted how CRAZY he is to pursue this locket fantasy. How much he needs to LET GO of this Robin fixation he has held onto for so, so long. And finally Jeanette, the craziest of the bunch, flat-out throws the locket in a lake. Ted seems lost, and devastated. But eventually he does with Robin what Jeanette did with the locket — and lets her go.
(LISTEN TO YOUR FRIEND PASSENGER, TED — HE’S A COOL DUDE)
When I root for Ted, I’m rooting for myself. When I cringe at Ted, I’m cringing at myself. More than any character on television in the past decade, I’ve seen Ted Mosby as this great and awful reflection of both the way I am and the way I don’t want to be. The writers are aware of this — not me, obviously, but the kind of identification an audience makes with its characters. And it’s hard, especially in sitcom world, to balance character growth with character consistency. But as a young(ish) guy way too sensitive for his own good trying to become… something resembling an adult? I couldn’t be more happy that HIMYM may finally be slaying one of Ted’s most persistent demons. RIP Ted & Robin (maybe). Long live healthy emotional growth.