HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER Cobie Smulders and Neil Patrick Harris
''Um. Why is Jon Cryer in NPH's spot?" says commenter MKS. ''How can the Emmys ignore Barney's tear-jerking yet touchingly funny journey with his reunion…

There was so much to love on last night’s Desperation/Valentine’s Day episode of How I Met Your Mother. For one, we welcomed Barney’s new squeeze, played by Nazanin Boniadi of General Hospital. And what’s not to love about her? She made Barney question his Desperation Day theory and played freaking laser tag. Laser tag — the only quicker way to Barney Stinson’s heart than claiming to be an aerobics instructor with daddy issues. In sum: She was legen– wait, that’s really over now, right? Ok, I liked her, and I loved Barney’s reaction of adorable thanks when he realized that Robin had set him up.

We also saw Ted and Zoey move on to a new stage of their relationship; it involved overnight bags. Wink, wink.

But the highlight of the evening, as has been the case in many recent episodes, was the Lily and Marshall storyline that found Marshall in Minnesota “helping” his mother cope with the death of his father in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. Lily missed him dearly (welcome, Marshpillow) and decided to go be with him so they could watch Predator — a tradition. What she found was a regressed Marshall. A video game-playing shlub who needed his mom to bring him milk with curly straws and buy him new batteries for his Game Boy. (Oh, little grey box of outdated technology, how I still love thee.) He claimed his mom needed him there because she liked taking care of people, but it soon became apparent to Lily that it was Marshall who needed his mom — too much.

Lily went back to New York in hopes he’d followed suit and move on with his life. After she did, Marshall shared a heartbreaking moment with Ted — who’d come to avoid his own issues with Zoey. “I miss my dad, Ted. I miss him so much,” he said.

He told Ted that when he was a kid, his family would often travel in the dark of night, and he’d always be intimidated by the road of darkness before them. But he knew he’d always be okay because his dad was driving. “He was like some superhero who could see way out into the darkness. Now he’s just gone, and it’s pitch black. I can’t see where I’m going — I can’t see anything.” And I couldn’t see at that point either — because my vision was completely blocked by huge a– tears.

As much as I love the comedy of HIMYM, these teary moments are becoming highlights of the show. They’re raw and beautiful. Not forced and insightful. I took my dilemma to co-creator Craig Thomas recently, hoping he could explain the decision to take us on this not-so-sunny journey.

“You kinda know it works out for all these guys. I think the storytelling device of the show (the flashbacks and flashforwards) enables us to show some of the harder times in life, because you know that at the end of it, everyone is okay in the future,” he said. “I think that’s the great thing about looking back at your own life. You can laugh at the sad times because you got through that. That is in the past, and we all look back on our lives to have the capacity to laugh at things that at the time seemed tragic.”

I know the newish direction of these episodes has been met with some debate — they’ve been Marshall-heavy and, at times, huge downers. I get that. But they’ve also rejuvenated Mother and given it new life in its sixth season. I think that — much like Marshall’s dad in the car — we might not be able to see what’s ahead, but we should just keep driving forward, hoping for the best.

Agree, PopWatchers?

On Twitter: @EWSandraG

Episode Recaps

''Um. Why is Jon Cryer in NPH's spot?" says commenter MKS. ''How can the Emmys ignore Barney's tear-jerking yet touchingly funny journey with his reunion…
How I Met Your Mother

Ted, Robin, Barney, Marshall, and Lilly remind us all of the joy of slap bets

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