7.1/10. Not as good as the opener, but still some fun, if airy bits.

I was never crazy about the Marshall and Daphne storyline (though not as vitriolic about it as some), but their recreation of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles isn't especially compelling here. There's something nice about Marshall's faith in the inherent goodness of people paying off (and I appreciated that they tried to tie it thematically to Barney and Robin's story with James as well), but the actual time spent with the two characters wasn't especially fun.

As to the latter storyline, one of the small treats of Season 9 is that we get that much of Wayne Brady as James, bringing as much humanity and emotion to the season as the more exaggerated performances he's better known for. The gypsy curse is a little out there for my tastes, and James as the supposed one thing that convinces Barney marriages can work comes up kind of suddenly (though it has precedent in the episode where it comes originally), but again, I like that Barney's faith isn't at all shaken, and it's a nice way to dramatize some growth in his view of love and romance.

And how about that flash forward? Moreso than any other season, Season 9 of this show is as much concerned about the future of Ted and The Gang as it is with the present. It's nice to get these little glimpses of what Ted and The Mother's lives were like after the timeline of the show ended, and to appreciate the connection and chemistry between them that helps add more weight to their eventually meeting.

(As an aside, I'd completely forgotten about the desk clerk at the hotel, his over-concern for Ted flying solo was hilarious.)

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