Jason Segel as Marshall, Alyson Hannigan as Lily, Josh Radnor as Ted, Cobie Smulders as Robin and Neil Patrick Harris as Barney, on CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother”
I’ve talked before about how much I enjoy the CBS show, How I Met Your Mother. My theory at the time was that Ted (the show’s protagonist, who some years in the future is telling his teenage kids how he met their mother) had found his romantic destiny in a woman he met at a wedding.
Another theory bandied about by fans is that Ted is actually destined to wind up with Lily – who is engaged to Ted’s roommate, Marshall. I pooh-poohed that, thinking that Marshall and Lily seemed too tightly bonded.
Well, since then, Lily broke up with Marshall mere days before their wedding, and left for San Francisco. After Marshall spent the summer totally devastated by this, Lily came back and begged forgiveness. They are finally back together, and nearly got married in Atlantic City earlier this season before Lily called it off again – this time, saying she really wanted a wedding that went well and felt right.
Lily and Marshall are still together at this time, and they seem strong. Except…
Caution to those who have not seen this week’s episode yet: Spoilers Ahead!
In last night’s episode (Dec. 11), Lily discovered the old answering machine that Ted and Marshall had unplugged over the summer she was away. There was a message on it from Ted to Marshall, trying to lift him out of the deep depression he was in over the break up. In it, Ted called Lily a….
Well, the word used in the show was grinch, only narrator Ted, telling the story to his kids, promptly explained that the word he used wasn’t grinch, but another one that sorta-kinda sounds like grinch, and is often applied to females.
Lily was horrified that he could have called her that. Ted tried to explain that at the time, he was just trying to help Marshall, and that, well, she was in fact sort of grinchy all summer.
Yeah, Ted – that helped.
Ted and Lily had a huge argument, and he left to cool off. Ted realized that he had to make this right, so he went back to apologize. Seems he and Lily, who met back in college, have a traditional way to apologize – the apologizer brings the other a beer. So he takes a mug of beer all the way back to the apartment, only to find that…
The Winter Wonderland that Lily had decorated for the holidays with, and which Marshall (who was off writing an important paper for law school) was depending on seeing as his reward for writing his paper, was gone, along with Lily.
Now Ted realizes he’s not only made Lily unhappy, but he’ll leave Marshall unhappy as well. Christmas ruined for the whole household, over one little answering machine blunder.
Ted goes off to find Lily and really apologize this time. He gets to her apartment, and again, the conversation devolves quickly into an argument.
He leaves, and comes to a conclusion: he’s ruined Christmas for everyone, he should go away for the holiday after all and spend it with his cousins on Long Island who are so Christian they reject all the pagan trappings of the holiday.
Meanwhile, Marshall comes back to the apartment to find that Lily had relented and brought back the decorations. He walks into the anticipated Winter Wonderland, carrying a box.
Seems that, instead of writing a paper, he was actually running around to many UPS package centers, trying to locate Lily’s Christmas gift. He finally finds one that admits the box left on a truck five minutes ago. Running down the street, he catches up with the driver, who explains he’s short on time, and Marshall will have to climb on and look for the box in the back while he drives.
Marshall finds Lily’s gift, but meanwhile learns that the driver doesn’t expect to be able to deliver all the packages before the end of the day – and it’s Christmas Eve! So he determines that he’s going to help make all the deliveries possible, and we see a montage of Marshall handing packages to smiling people.
So, Marshall makes Lily all mushy already with how sweet he was to help make Christmas happy for so many people. Then, Lily opens her gift and finds out he got her an Easy Bake Oven. “I’ve always wanted one – and this exact model, too!” she exclaims. “How could you ever have known that?”
Well, Marshall explains. Seems he’d wanted to give her a jukebox for Christmas, a little one that dispensed candy (I think). But when he told Ted that, Ted said that wouldn’t be a good idea. Then, after a moment’s more thought, Ted explained that he knew exactly what Lily would want.
Flashback: Eight years before, Ted and Lily are lounged out in a smoky dorm room, obviously stoned. I forget why the conversation went there, but Lily told Ted she had always wanted an Easy Bake Oven, ever since she was a little kid.
Back to Today: Lily is awestruck by how Ted remembered that about her from so long ago. And now, she feels remorseful about their arguments and how he went off to a relative’s home – and not a favorite relative, either – instead of spending Christmas with them as planned.
We see Ted at dinner with his relatives next, treading carefully through the minefield of allowed topics and banned pagan Christmas traditions. He’s clearly not very happy. Even gifts are forbidden in this family – the mom says they’ll give them all to charity. At which, the daughter, Charity, lights up for a moment, before being told “No, not you. Needy people.”
The doorbell rings, and Ted excuses himself from the table to answer it. It’s Marshall, Robin, and Barney. And Lily, with a mug of beer in her hand.
Lily apologizes, but reiterates that Ted shouldn’t have called her a grinch. And it’s clear that they’re once again using grinch as a stand-in word, because the son from this religious family has come over to see who’s at the door, and suddenly calls out, “Mom, what’s a grinch?”
Mom gasps, horrified. “Mom, what’s a grinch?” the boy asks again. Seeing Mom’s reaction, the whole table full of children start chanting, “grinch, grinch, grinch, grinch…“
Ted realizes what a horror show they’ve inadvertently inflicted on this family, and how upset they’ll be with him. So he grabs his coat, and he and his friends hightail it back home.
So there we have it. Not an overtly romantic moment between Lily and Ted. But I couldn’t help but feel the depth of emotion between them over these issues. And look at Ted, remembering a wish of Lily’s like that for so long, and then making it happen when the opportunity arose.
My theory has changed. Never mind Buttercup, off there at pastry school in Europe. I don’t think they know it yet, but I think now that Lily and Ted are, in fact, destined to be together. And I think the writers, clever beings that they are, will show us a long, slow, building of little, stealth romance moments like this one.