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How I Met Your Mother, “Garbage Island” (6.17)

Ted (Josh Radnor) in 2021, at the airport.

A review of the episode, written by Tom Ruprecht and directed by Michael Shea, after the jump…

“You’re just not right for each other. Look, I know it’s tough to face, but I’m sure a small part of you has always known that.” – Ted Mosby

Things with Victoria didn’t go well. Things with Robin didn’t go well. Things with Stella didn’t go well. And, of course, things with Zoey aren’t going to go well either.

“Garbage Island” was a strong episode, playing with time, using its perspective tricks, and revealing some stuff about the road ahead. I’m guessing, from 2021 Ted’s reaction, that this Zoey thing blows up in Ted’s face when it inevitably goes south, and Ted will officially become a homewrecker, even though he’s tried to be a generally stand-up guy. The one main flaw of this arc is that, just as with Stella, we’re seeing the cracks before getting the chance to appreciate the pretty picture.

The arc with Victoria worked because there were episodes where the two of them were just happy. Not just that, but they were given the screentime within their relationship for us to enjoy their dynamic. That also happened with Ted and Robin; it was a few episodes before there were signs that doom was approaching, and even longer before we were given real reasons why. One reason Stella was so disliked as a character was because we only saw she and Ted in crisis. One of the few awesome moments the two had was when Stella agreed to fake loving Star Wars forever (4.01), showing that she really liked Ted and that there was a genuine bond between them.

That same mistake seems to be occurring here. The only really meaty chance we’ve seen at Ted and Zoey’s flirtatious, fun dynamic was back in “Natural History” (6.08); since then, a lot of their interaction has been short and plot-based. Even their big romantic moment in “Oh Honey” came at the end of an episode where they spent little time together. I’d feel the heartbreak to come if we’d had more of Ted and Zoey like they were in those two episodes: flirty, completely into each other without being shmoopy about it, with an edge to it. But she interacted with everyone else in “Blitzgiving” (6.10), was barely there in “The Mermaid Theory” (6.11), disappeared for two episodes, then spent “Oh Honey” and “Desperation Day” framing Ted’s story rather than being his girlfriend. Compare this to, say, season one’s “Cupcake” (1.16): before it, we’d had Ted and Victoria having their romantic night (1.14), then fun at Game Night (1.15), and even though the episode was throwing them into crisis and they spent little time together, you got a genuine sense of their chemistry and the choice they’d have to make. Here, we’re told that Ted and Zoey’s relationship is doomed before its even had a chance to grow on us.

It also falls back into the Great Marshall Inconsistency of his real intentions regarding environmental work, though it tries bravely to dodge that bullet by tying it back to his father’s death. I’d say it largely worked, though the earlier inconsistency was bugging me even as Marshall and Lily had their big heart-to-heart in the dumpster. That said, it was a sweet moment, propelling Marshall into his next phase of action for the season: packing in his big corporate job and working to save the world.

The Barney and Robin plot, I think, made me the happiest. Their dynamic has been sour for a while, ever since the complete mishandling of their relationship last season, and its only been during this Nora arc that it’s finally come back (aside from, again, “Natural History”). Both were on top form here, with Robin knowing Barney inside and out and having fun making him face the exact thing he already knows: he’s into Nora. There’s no ‘shipper tension here (though I honestly thought Barney might mention the one and only time he ‘chased’ led nowhere good), just a really solid friendship that is fun to watch.

And a future glimpse! Wherein Wendy the Waitress and Marshall’s fired co-worker meet and, in the future, are married. Now, continuity wise, I’ll be confused if Wendy hangs around Maclaren’s long after Ted/Zoey implodes (which would mean she’d know what happened there), if only by seeing Ted date various women afterward, so I’m curious to see whether they’ll keep that in mind.

A fun episode, and another in a pretty good string. Now I’m very curious to see where this is leading, and whether Jennifer Morrison will be back for season seven…

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