5.8/10. Despite the pleasures of getting something approaching a "regular episode" given the use of the flashback structure, this one fell flat. I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- I just don't buy Ted as being that hung up on Robin, which makes all of the shows' efforts to retcon this into some kind of unspoken obsession come off as more and more strained. There's something neat about Marshall and Ted at a Globetrotters game, with Marshall using the idea of the Generals just needing one good night to pull off an improbable win as a metaphor for romance, but it's in service of a big waste. The simple fact of Robin eating olives after she once hated them being enough to convince Ted that maybe they have another chance is a pretty weak dramatization too. It's all just a big attempt to try to make the implausible feel like something palatable, and it doesn't work.

The Barney "Challenge Accepted" flashback works a little better, mostly because it's amusing to see Barney back into his goofy play-making mode, and the premise of Robin and Lily coming up with challenges for him to execute gives the three of them each a bit of a chance to shine comedically. On top of that, the idea that convincing Robin to love him was his "ultimate challenge" and thus he doesn't need to accept other challenges anymore is a sweet one, even if it's mired in the B.S. of "The Robin." But while Miloti's been a great addition to the show as The Mother, I didn't like the way the series shoehorned her into the past like this. It's implausible to begin with, but that would be forgivable if the episode didn't turn her into some uber-perspective psychic who knows Barney's entire deal just by looking at him. They're interactions and epiphanies feel unearned because of that, and that entire plotline smacks of a lazy attempt to give The Mother significance in events she had nothing to do with and to turn her into some kind of preternatural fixer of people. Not the show's finest hour.

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