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TV Review: How I Met Your Mother – “Challenge Accepted”

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CBS’s How I Met Your Mother closes the sixth season with a twist and a mystery in “Challenge Accepted.” The wedding framework story, which has popped up several times throughout this year, is revealed to be Barney’s (Neil Patrick Harris) ceremony, though the bride is still, as yet, unknown. Signs point to either Robin (Cobie Smulders) or Nora (Nazanin Boniadi). Back in the present, Ted (Josh Radnor) considers giving his relationship with Zoey (Jennifer Morrison) another shot, while Lily’s (Alyson Hannigan) food poisoning turns out to be pregnancy, a bit of good news at the end of a very hard year for Marshall (Jason Segel). And Ranjit (Marshall Manesh) makes another cameo.

To learn that Barney will soon be getting married is a shocker, to say the least. Although the seeds of maturation have been planted and have started to take root in the perennial bachelor, as season six concludes, he is a far cry away from monogamy. Barney has tried to be with one woman a couple of times in the last couple of years, and it hasn’t taken. This, despite the fact that Barney’s girlfriends, Robin and Nora, have both been near perfect for him. In the past, it has been shown that Barney was once a romantic. Season seven will likely bring a return to that old Barney, though a transformation back will never be fully complete.

While Barney has a long way to go, he is nothing if not determined when he puts his mind to something. By uttering “Challenge Accepted” after reuniting with Nora, Barney is saying that he is ready to try a relationship again, and this time, he is determined to make it work. That phrase cements the character of Barney as turning a corner, as he does not lightly embark on such challenges. He generally only accepts them if great amusement or reward can be gained. Romance is not a source of amusement for him, despite his derision towards the concept, so the latter is more likely.

The question is, will it be Robin or Nora that tames Barney? Nora is most likely, based on a survey of where the characters currently are. But Robin gives Barney a longing look at the end of “Challenge Accepted,” and fans have been rooting for the couple for quite awhile. It appears that season seven is set up to be a back and forth between the two women for Barney’s affections, ending with one of them walking him down the aisle. Robin still has growing to do herself if she wants to win, but after her serious pairing earlier in the season, she can probably bridge the gap between single Robin and Mrs. Robin-son. See what I did there?

If Ted and Robin tie the knot, that leaves Ted the sole single member of the group. How I Met Your Mother begins with Lily and Marshall’s engagement, spurring Ted to seek a woman of his own. It has already been revealed that Ted will meet his children’s mother at Barney’s wedding. This takes a little of the sting off, as looking at the group from the outside, Ted has always been much more suited to marriage than either Barney or Robin. For either one of them, or perhaps both, to get married before him will be very painful to Ted. Unless he already has a potential mate in the pipeline, which the show says he soon will.

The mystery of the mother has been kept up for six full seasons on How I Met Your Mother, with varying degrees of success over time. With two more seasons ordered, it may elicit groans to learn the mother’s identity will be kept under wraps for at least another year. As excruciating as the wait has been, if the series were to announce the mother will be revealed in next year’s season finale, it would take a lot of the pressure off. A smart move would be to begin casting early, and end next season with a big reveal, allowing at least one season of courtship to be in the docket.

To do otherwise would be a mistake. How I Met Your Mother has floundered when comedy and premise is stretched too thin. A restoration has begun in season six, far superior to season five, because an emotional maturity is settling over the group as they actually begin to move forward with their lives. Ted is stuck, and cannot move on, until he meets the mother. As such, logically it is time for that to happen. Since the wedding is already pinpointed as the date he will do so, and the wedding is still awhile away, the creative team should begin pushing the show in that direction. Such a development could earn the series its strongest season yet.

A large part of the rejuvenation of season six can be credited to Marshall, who is worrying about his career, still grieving the sudden loss of his father a few months ago, and frustrated with his wife’s inability to get pregnant. Not that he blames her, but he really wishes it would happen already. One of those obstacles is hurdled in the final moments of “Challenge Accepted.” While predictable from early on in the episode, it is no less satisfying to see the Eriksens celebrate their joyous news. They deserve a break.

As to what is next for Marshall and Lily, obviously Marshall needs a job. Lily’s Kindergarten teacher pay will not support a family alone. Marshall so far has had to balance the need for serious income versus his passion to save the world. It would be a sad step backwards if Marshall is forced to return to the corporate world after all that he has been through. But is there an environmental lawyer job with a decent salary realistically available in today’s economic climate? That is up to the writers of the show to figure out.

With an early pick up for two more seasons, How I Met Your Mother will definitely be back next fall on CBS.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com