4.3/10. There's a lot going on here, but let's start with the one good part of the episode. I enjoyed the conceit of Marshall imagining the various "ghosts" of his past (which include present Lily, 2006 Lily, and his dad) in order to realize that he f[spoiled]uck[/spoiler]ed up. Frankly, I'm a sucker for that kind of device in general, but I particularly liked it here as a way to dramatize Marshall's internal realization. The 2006-related gags were amusing, and Marshall realizing that even if he was going to get to take his judgeship, doing it behind Lily's back was selfish and is the kind of thing that would drive her away over time. It's a nice character moment and takes a nuanced approach to a complex conflict of dreams.

Let's move on to the easy bad of the episode. Barney passing his Playbook and related lifestyle on to a pair of young guys on a drunken bender was standard late-season HIMYM bad. There's something to be said for the humor that could come from Barney passing the torch, but things like a magical strip club and more gratuitous celebrity appearance just made this feel like a thin excuse to have Barney do a victory lap with his bro-tastic ways. Nothing really to chuckle at (and some distractingly bad green screen) but nothing offensive either.

Then, we get to Balloon Robin. Ohhhh man. I've said my piece on Ted and Robin, but suffice it to say, the idea that there's some magical connection between the two of them that keeps Ted pining after her despite everything loses a lot of credibility when he has better chemistry with Stella and Victoria in a pair of 30-second long, disjointed phone calls than he does with the woman he supposedly loves to the point of his own ruin. There's something endearing and meta about the Top 5 Best/Worst girlfriend lists, but bringing Jeanette back was a swing and a miss, and my lord the forced melodrama of it all.

Ted's speech about love being something that can't just go away, because that makes it something false, does seem believable for Ted. And Mrs. Bloom posited an interesting theory, that even if Ted really had moved on previously, it makes sense that he would convince himself that he'd always loved Robin. (I don't think it's what the show intended, but it makes a lot more sense than taking this all straight.) But it just kills me that the show is still fixated on this love triangle seven years after Ted and Robin broke up. If, like me, you don't buy into the idea that there's been some quietly burning love between them for that amount of time, one-sided or otherwise, then this entire exercise rings false.

And then Robin literally floats away. I mean really, who thought that was a good idea? This show has always trafficked in magical realism, but the moment is so awkward, still such a victim of the show's poor attempts at special effects, and so hamstrung by the musical choice of "Eternal Flame" that it feels like a bad parody of How I Met Your Mother instead of the genuine article. We've seen Ted let go and move on so many times in this series that it feels like a complete repetition of beats the show's hit many times over, but even if it didn't, this is about as cheesy and ill-conceived way to dramatize that process as one could imagine.

There's still a few episodes to go, but the nadir of the season thus far.

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