Spoilers for tonight's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as I work out a problem on my whiteboard...
Okay, now what?
We can strike Stella from the list of potential Mothers, along with Robin. And that's fine, I suppose. I really like Sarah Chalke, and thought she and Josh Radnor were terrific together way back when in "Ten Sessions," but ever since then, Stella's been a frustrating character. I have to assume that Thomas and Bays knew all along that she wouldn't be the Mother, but that she and Ted would be together for a while -- only they didn't know what to do with her between the get-together and the break-up. I know Sarah Chalke wasn't very available last year, but "Scrubs" wrapped production in August, and I think if we could have seen an episode or two where Stella was just Ted's girlfriend hanging out with the others in the middle of a non-relationship storyline, it would have been easier to buy into the idea of her as the woman of Future Ted's past. At the very least, it would have made me miss her more after she left.
But Ted and Stella spent most of their episodes together having various fights designed to warn us that they weren't right together, and so the point was... what? Just another red herring? Something to fill time for parts of two seasons? Or will Stella somehow play a role in the meeting of the actual Mother?
All of which brings me back to a fundamental question about "How I Met Your Mother" which is this: at this point, early in the fourth season, how much do any of us really care about who the Mother is and how Ted met her?
What we have here is a very funny show, one that can be really clever and creative and even romantic, one that features one sublime comic character (Barney), three very good ones (Marshall, Robin and Lily) and one who can be funny or extremely annoying depending on the week (Ted) -- and who happens to be our main character.
I don't think it's a coincidence that we all think of season two as the strongest to date. It was the only one where Ted was in a relationship -- with a woman we know he wouldn't marry -- for virtually all of it, and which therefore allowed the writers to focus on other, more interesting, much funnier things than the guessing game about the Mother's true identity.
And with Stella now mostly out of the way (I've heard vague things about Sarah Chalke being in at least one more episode, possibly to sort out the aftermath of Stella running out on the wedding), I'd like to see the search put off for a very long time. In fact, there's a part of me that wishes that the very final scene of the series is Ted bumping into a woman with a yellow umbrella, followed by Saget saying, "Oh, yeah kids, and that's how I met your mother," followed by the producer credit.
I don't want this to sound like a screed. Still love the show, and in fact liked a lot of things about this episode (most of which I'll get to in the bullet points). But they've been doing this a while now and it should be pretty clear that the hunt for the mom is sill getting so much prominence only because it's in the title. I didn't feel bad when Stella ran off with her baby daddy, nor did I feel relieved, or any other strong emotion. My only thought was, "Okay, so how many more times do we have to go through this before the real mom shows up?"
Now, for some specific thoughts on "Shelter Island":
• The episode itself didn't try to hide how it was going to end. And in case all of Future Ted's narrative hints weren't enough, we got that funny alternate future of some blonde children and Stella (whose dark roots were showing way too much given the joke) urging Future Ted to shut up already.
• I'm not sure what the point of putting Jason Jones into a karate gi was other than as a sight gag, but Jason Jones in a gi was, in fact, funny.
• My wife took Robin's speech to Ted as a sign that the show would return to Robin pursuing Ted, but I don't think so. For one thing, there's still the large matter of Barney's crush on Robin to deal with. For another, the speech didn't play to me as "Don't get married because I'm still in love with you." I think Robin and Ted still are in love with each other on some level. They didn't break up because of that; they broke up because they realized they wanted different things, and that's not going to change. Robin was just saying that, given her feelings for him, it stunk for her to have to be there -- and, given how well she knew Ted, she suspected this wasn't the right match for him.
• I like that both Barney and Lily were right about Barney's plan: he knew that getting Robin drunk at the wedding would get her in bed with him, and Lily knew that Barney would screw it up by not being able to resist temptation. I did like the added wrinkle that the naked woman tied to Barney's bed wasn't Stella's sister -- and that sis didn't object when she arrived.
• The song playing whenever we see characters driving to or from Shelter Island is "Monday" by Mikey and the Gypsys, and I have not been able to get the damn thing out of my head for days now.
• It's too bad Sarah Chalke wasn't available for last week's Super-Canadian moment from Robin. Judging by the way Stella said she didn't feel comfortable "aboot" Robin coming to the wedding, I think Stella and Robin could've had quite the Canuck throwdown.
What did everybody else think?