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How I Met Your Mother begins its seventh season with the show’s first doubleheader ... wait ... seventh season? Holy crap, how did it ever get this far?
Remember the Season 4 finale? Ted was about to begin his life as a professor and his wife would be in his first class. Things seemed to be coming to a head. Then somewhere in the middle of Season 5 the writers and producers found out they contractually had a few more seasons in waiting before they could so much as think about a conclusion. They went 180 degrees on the mother clues and turned their attention to Barney, Robin, Marshall and Lily.
Thus began the “Barney’s Wedding” story arc, in which last season began with a tease of a wedding and the finale revealed it to in fact be Barney’s wedding.
So Season 7 already should feel less like filler and more like a destination, with the million-dollar question being who will Barney be marrying come season’s end? His foreign flame Nora (Nazanin Boniadi) or Robin? Or someone else entirely?
"The Best Man"
The premiere episode, “The Best Man,” has a nervous Barney on his wedding day months in the future reminiscing with Ted about their trip to Cleveland for Ted’s friend Punchy’s wedding (on the current timeline). This episode was absolutely textbook HIMYM, giving each character a humorous sub-plot and swirling it all together at the wedding reception.
The character traits brought out by these sub-plots were very familiar yet refreshingly so. In Seasons 5 and 6, the characters seemed to be warping into different people. Ted became a bit of a jokester as a peripheral character at times and Robin had been reduced to comic relief for much of last season with the focus on Lily and Marshall trying to get pregnant and Ted's frustrating (and pointless) relationship with Zoey.
In this premiere, we learn Ted can’t seem to avoid keeping his personal life out of his Best Man speeches and his crying has made him a viral sensation, so the mystery lingers as to how the “Shmosby” will deliver his toast this time, a perfect hook that gels with where Ted is emotionally. It also allowed for a nice scene with Ted talking about how he thought things would play out differently. With Zoey last season, Ted wandered off track; no one was convinced she had anything to do with his future given the clues of previous seasons. This little moment officially re-calibrated him — thank goodness.
Robin also gets back to form as we learn about her signature high-pitched voice she uses in attempt to mask truthful words with an overly sarcastic tone, specifically as they apply to returning feelings for Barney. Robin was initially rooted in this never-ending quest to balance her ambition as a reporter with her hopeless romantic side instead of using the former to avoid the latter. Although I wasn’t a fan of the days of Barney & Robin in Season 5, Cobie Smulders handles this material exceedingly well and the corny dance number between Robin and Barney works somehow.
Another wise choice in the writing comes from Lily and Marshall trying to hide Lily’s pregnancy, which results in Marshall getting wasted and the foreshadow of how he ruined Punchy’s wedding — classic technique for HIMYM. At first it seemed as though Lily and Marshall might try to keep it a secret into the first part of the season by at least a few episodes, but true to their characters who are unable to keep secrets, they burst toward the end. Presumably this season will be filled with plays on all your typical pregnancy stuff and culminate in May with a new addition to the HIMYM family.
These sub-plots come together like an episode that had been planned for years. “The Best Man” works as both the jump-starter for Season 7 and as an episode in itself, and you can’t ask for more from a season premiere.
"The Naked Truth"
Episode 7.2, “The Naked Truth” puts the focus back on Barney and his attempt to right things with Nora. He can’t seem to do right by her to comic effect and he boldly decides to stay in a diner booth until she agrees to go out with him again. It’s a big move for Barney that suggests if he does in fact rediscover feelings for Robin, it won’t happen anytime soon.
After a great premiere, “The Naked Truth” reverts back to more standard procedure with all the characters facing various independent dilemmas. Marshall is now applying to finally have a job he wants that stays true to his environmental concerns, but discovers when Googled, a video of him as the notorious “Beercules” pops up and he must convince an old college friend to take it down. This plot and a surprising guest appearance from Martin Short (in what will hopefully be a long-term role this season) as Marshall’s awkward prospective employer, wins the most laughs. Short’s Garrison Cootes character might have even gotten some attention had he auditioned last season for The Office.
Jimmi Simpson also does well with his brief time as the old college friend/video uploader of Marshall’s, which results in a humorous explanation from narrator Ted to his kids about what “Edward Forty Hands” is. As Marshall’s character has already set sail for being a serious working man and father-to-be, these humorous confrontations with his child-like self make for an amusing contrast that will hopefully continue to crop up throughout this season.
Meanwhile, Ted’s big magazine cover story has him in cocky territory and dating two girls at once. We get a bit of Old New Ted, the shallow jerk of Season 5 that simply doesn’t work because we know Ted better than that (and Josh Radnor is much more adept at “Sentimental Ted”). Of course the real discussion here lies in the briefly teased return of Season 1 girlfriend Victoria (Ashley Williams), the cupcake girl that Ted cheated on with Robin in one of the all-time best episodes, “Nothing Good Happens After 2 AM.”
It would be highly unlikely Victoria to be involved in more than 2-3 episodes as clearly she and Ted are not getting back together, but the dynamic of an old flame actually from the show’s past who Ted hasn’t seen in six years will definitely make for new territory and more likely than not put Ted’s character in a more permanent course for the rest of the season until he meets his wife at Barney’s wedding come season’s end (oh please, let it be so). At the least, she will be a real audience-pleaser for those who’ve been following since the beginning. How I Met Your Mother has always been good to the fan base in the sense of callbacks.
Speaking of callbacks to Season 1, the Slutty Pumpkin is set to return this season in the form of Katie Holmes (great idea, bad casting). With that in mind, it looks like we’ll be getting a lot of Ted coming to terms with his past this season, which should, again, be great fun for fans.
Yet the bulk of “The Naked Truth” focuses on the Barney and Nora relationship, which has its moments for sure, but hurts the cohesiveness of the episode and plays off more as set up. Still, you could make a compelling case for Barney and Nora to marry, even though all bets are on Robin. If Robin doesn’t get a strong potential love interest soon, it will be hard for the story to run away with Barney and Nora and leave Robin in the dust. Fans wouldn’t like that at all. We also know that the bride requested Ted’s presence prior to Barney’s wedding, and Ted and Nora have no such relationship yet. Hopefully there’s a brilliant catch to this heavy-handed multi-season tease, otherwise it will have to be a fairytale for Barney and Robin for it to be satisfying.