Spoilers for tonight's "How I Met Your Mother" coming up just as soon as a clown predicts the weather...
Stella is not the Mother.
Of that, I feel confident -- as confident as I can about a show that, by design, has had to draw out the premise of its title for four years now with various head fakes and potential loves of Ted's life who turned out to be anything but.
My guess is that, as some people speculated last year, the Mother will turn out to be a friend of Stella's, with whom she went out with on the same St. Patrick's Day night when Ted stole the yellow umbrella(*). Ted and Stella will reconnect, she'll feel bad again about dumping him on their wedding day, and as a peace offering she'll fix him up with the eventual Mother. This is my assumption. I liked Sarah Chalke as Stella at first, but the writers didn't know what to do with her except have her and Ted get into fights about how they shouldn't be together, and the events of "Shelter Island" -- particularly the hypothetical flash-forward to a future where Stella was the mom, and Future Ted was telling the story to two different, blonde, kids -- would seem to make it clear that the show can't and won't try going down that path again.
(*) We saw Ted and Barney out on the town that night in "No Tomorrow," and Stella mentioned having gone out to a bar that night in "Ten Sessions."
But here's the thing: as I said in that "Shelter Island" review, the show has given us too many red herrings, and Ted's romantic life has proven to be one of the least interesting parts of the show, that I've largely lost interest in who the Mother is and when we get to meet her. Unless they have a terrific actress in mind -- someone who pops on the screen, and is funny, and has chemistry with Josh Radnor at least as good as Cobie Smulders or, say, Ashley Williams did -- then I'd rather the show not be going here now. If the casting and conecption of the Mother isn't perfect, I'd rather the show just wait till the end of its very last episode, have Ted bump into a woman at a party, and hear Saget go, "And that, kids, is how I met your mother. Good night."
Or, failing that, I'd like to see the show take the same approach it did in season two, where Ted was with Robin, and happy, and therefore the series was able to spend most of its time on other, funnier, more compelling storylines while Ted and Robin's couplehood was just taken for granted.
Because on a show where I was still invested in that kind of foundational story arc, I'd have been tearing my hair out each time the episode jumped away from Ted with the yellow umbrella to show yet another vignette explaining how he got there. Instead, I found myself enjoying the vignettes so much I kept forgetting the reason they were there.
Heck, I even loved the return of the Intervention gag (from the episode of the same name, also written by Stephen Lloyd), when I disliked it the first time out. I guess it was one of those Letterman things where the sudden return of a joke I had quickly grown sick of somehow made it funny all over again. That, or it was just the surprise of it, and the complete lack of commentary, and the looks of disgust on Ted, Robin and Barney's faces, that made it work.
I was also amused that Marshall went to the trouble of computing Barney's success rate (foreshadowing of his pie chart addiction), because from the minute Barney announced he was about to reach the 200-woman number, I kept asking myself, "Isn't that too low?" My approach was a little different, in that I just divided 200 by the last decade (while he was sexually active before that, it wasn't that often) and came up with under two women a month. This would be a lot for most men, but for a blatant himbo like Barney, and one who prides himself on rarely bedding the same woman twice? Seemed low to me. So I'm glad Marshall did the math on it. (And, as an added bonus, he compared it to Jim Abbott's batting average, making "HIMYM" the second excellent comedy this spring to do a random Jim Abbott joke.)
Funny episode and an outstanding use of Guide By Voices' "Glad Girls." But I'm holding my breath on the Mother thing. Whether it's Stella, Stella's friend, or someone Stella will accidentally introduce Ted to, it looks like the show is finally going for it. And I really hope they get it right -- especially since the look on Barney's face when he ripped up his list and peered over at Robin had me a lot more excited than finding out who was under the blue umbrella.
Go big or go home on this one, I think.
What did everybody else think?