By Sandra Gonzalez
Updated March 24, 2014 at 12:00 PM EDT

UPDATE: Recap is live! Monday’s episode of How I Met Your Mother, titled “The End of the Aisle,” was the series’ last new episode before next week’s hour-long season finale. Your full recap of tonight’s episode is on the way, but as the series prepares to wind down, we want to get the discussion going ASAP.

VOW-za, guys. Vow-za.

I’m moved. I’m smiling. I’m crying rivers of happy tears.

I always knew the writers of How I Met Your Mother could do a several things extremely well. Craft masterful inside joke, for example. Or create a catchphrase that somehow weaseled its way into ours everyday lives. But what am I going to miss most when this show takes its final bow next week? Basically the last four minutes of every episode that ever resonated with me.

This week, as the titled of the episode indicated, Barney and Robin finally reached the end of the aisle. They got married. But wrapped up into this long, long, long, long, long, long-awaited ceremony were lessons about love and honesty and bears. Ok, maybe just the first two were important.

I’ll back up…

Thirty-two minutes before the start of Robin and Barney’s wedding, Robin freaked out and told Ted that she couldn’t go through with the wedding. In fact, she was ready to bolt down the drainpipe that Ted had helped Victoria scale not too long ago. According to Robin, she thought it was a bad sign that she never found her locket, or, she added, that Barney never found it for her. “Some part of me thought that Barney would magically find it…I want to be with a guy who comes through for me. The guy who, somehow, against all odds finds my locket.”

Ted, of course, knew where it was. However, instead of handing it over to Robin directly, he gave to Barney. “She needs it to come from you,” he told Barney, who put up a small fight against taking the credit but ultimately did as Ted suggested.

The problem, per usual, is that Ted Mosby tends to think he’s more clever than he actually is. Robin knew the REAL source of the gift, and she confronted Ted about it later. Once the truth was uncovered, she claimed her point had been made: Barney didn’t measure up — and was only capable of showing his love by lying. The Canadian rehearsal dinner, the proposal — “those are the most loving things Barney has done for me and they’re all based on lies,” she said. “Lying is second nature to Barney. Everything is ‘legendary.’ You know what ‘legendary’ means? Not real….Maybe I should be marrying you.”

If this comment had taken place last season, I probably would have chucked something at the TV when she said that. But Ted saw what I saw in that moment: a scared friend. Not someone who was truly in love with him. “I’m not your future; Barney is,” Ted said. “The truth is I don’t love you like that anymore. You don’t love me. You love Barney. And if you think I’d be any part of screwing that up, then maybe you don’t know me at all, Robin.”

Ted Mosby, truth-teller.

Robin submitted: “We can’t run away together…so I’m just going to run away alone.” Boom. Scherbatsky, out.

For a woman in a mermaid gown, Robin sure could haul a–. And I’m pretty sure she would have sprinted all the way home had she not had a chance run-in with The Mother. And by run-in, I mean she literally ran into the Mother and nearly broke the tiny woman. That’s how Robin met The Mother. And it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

Think for a second of all the biggest decisions you make in your life. To love. To commit. To walk away. Those are not leaps you take before thinking them out, and if you don’t, you could do something that alters your entire future. It didn’t take The Mother long to notice that Robin was at risk of making a decision that could have derailed her life. The Mother wasn’t aware of the circumstances that led to Robin wanting to run away, as she pointed out, but she encouraged Robin to pause long enough to clear her head. Just three deep breaths, she said.

One. Two. Three.

After the third, Robin opened her eyes — and saw Barney, who had been looking for her.

Throughout the episode, we saw Barney receiving help from Lily and Marshall while writing his wedding vows. He was having trouble finding a proper route. Early drafts all turned out awful in that Barney way that we’ve come to accept. And when Lily and Marshall tried to help, Barney threw in their face the fact that their own vows had, over the years, proven to be less than honored. That “in sickness and in health” bit? Yeah, Marshall threw that out the window after Lily started throwing vom-bombs on the plane to their honeymoon destination. Instead of helping his new wife, he pretended to be asleep.

When Barney came to his own conclusion about his vows, he couldn’t wait to tell Robin. “Marshall and Lily have broken most of their wedding vows, but they’re still the best couple I know. I think their biggest problem is that Marshall didn’t tell Lily the truth. So I’ve decided to make only one vow to you because it’s the only one that really counts: Robin Scherbatsky, from this day forward, I’m always going to be honest with you. Because I love you,” he said. He even confessed about the locket.

That was exactly Robin needed to hear.

What followed was the wedding. Well, the second of two, in a way.

Earlier, after realizing their vows were a little outdated and didn’t reflect their current situation, Lily and Marshall stood at the altar before a nearly empty room and made a new set of promises to each other. (Marshall, for instance, promised to let Lily poop in peace and she promised to get less angry when Marshall interrupts her.) They also promised to keep updating their vows, because “one set can’t cover a lifetime of growing and changing with you, of raising children with you, falling more and more in love with you every day.”

I said “nearly empty,” by the way, because Barney saw the whole thing. And that’s what got him to reconsider his own approach. It was perfect.

So was the ceremony itself, actually. Not only was there a ring bear, who was adorable, but we got the FINAL SLAP. Barney was officially set free after Marshall smacked him across the face while standing at the altar. Normally, this would be a rude thing to do at a bro’s wedding, but Marshall only did it to snap Barney out of a last-minute bout of cold feet. Slap Bet complete. (PS – That sentence makes me want to cry.)

We didn’t get to hear the actual vows at the altar. But after all that happened in the episode, the specific words don’t really matter to me. What Future Ted said was far more important. Even with one more hour of the show left for us to see, I felt like his words were a parting letter to the fans: “It was a twisting, turning road that led to the end of the aisle. Not everything everything along the way was perfect. To be honest, not everything to follow would be perfect, either. But what is? Here’s the secret, kids: None of us can vow to be perfect. In the end, all we can do is promise to love each other with everything we’ve got. Because love’s the best thing we do.”

Here was the kicker: “…And on that lovely spring evening, that’s exactly what Barney and Robin vowed to each other. And it was legendary.”

Best quote:

“Awww, you feed her like Sloth from Goonies. So the magic is still there.” — Barney, re: Marshall’s loose definition of “breakfast in bed”

Visual gem:

Barney panicking.