With only four episodes and maybe fifteen minutes of actual content left (Barney and Robin's wedding, Ted meeting his bride-to-be and then learning whether or not he's buried her by the time he's spinning this yarn to his kids), How I Met Your Mother takes a break from the main action -- such as it is -- to say "sayonara" to the many, many recurring characters, special guests stars and stunt cameos that have provided so much laughter, frustration and annoyance (mainly annoyance) over the years. It's that rare "In Memoriam" clip reel where you don't feel all that bad that you'll never see any of these people again.
The unexpected arrival of one Gary Blauman at the Farhampton Inn on Barney and Robin's wedding day is what sets the stage for this extended roll call of familiar and semi-familiar faces. Blauman himself is a five-time returning champ, having made his first appearance way back in 2006 and his most recent, prior to now, in 2010. (And, of course, he's played by Mr. Cobie Smulders, Taran Killam -- now better known as one of the two white dudes who sold Solomon Northup into slavery.) Since Blauman's RSVP card failed to arrive or was never sent in the first place, there's no paper avatar of him on the seating chart at the post-wedding reception, threatening to ruin what is already shaping up to be a pretty disastrous wedding. So Robin's a panicky mess, but Marshall reassures that he has it under control, before he becomes a panicky mess the moment he's alone with Ted, insisting that there's no way he can make space for the inadvertent wedding crasher.
This sets off a spirited, but entirely pointless debate about whether Blauman is allowed to stay at the wedding or be kicked to the curb, with Ted, Barney and James taking the latter position, while Lily and William Zabka argue the former. For the "nay" side, Gary's a cockblocking, fry-stealing adulterer, while the "pro" contingent insists that he's a good advice-dispensing poetry fan. Eventually, Marshall decides to just ignore all their nonsense and tell Blauman he can stay, except that Barney has already giving him his walking papers, under threat of a Zabka-delivered crane kick. (Which isn't much of a threat since it ain't Zabka's move, as the frustrated poet repeatedly states until it stops being funny.) The gang rushes out to commute Barney's sentence of exile, but Gary's ready to get the eff out of Dodge and, really, who can blame him? He takes off his car while those left behind contemplate the transience of existence and the way people come and go from your life, until, two minutes later Blauman pulls back up, because he apparently decided that the promise of free food, booze and cake makes spending an afternoon in the company of these bozos worth it.
Those two minutes where Blauman is offscreen, by the way, also happen to be the only scene of any emotional or narrative import in the entire episode. Mocked up to resemble a single tracking shot (though the digital compositing is pretty obvious), the camera travels through the parking lot revealing the futures of such supporting players as MacLaren's bartender Carl (running the place with his underage son), Robin's boring ex-boyfriend Kevin (he shacks up with Ted's crazy ex-girlfriend, Jeanette), always-on-call driver Ranjit (he owns the limo service), irritating environmentalist Zoey (she's a regular victim of hawk attacks, which sounds exactly right) and lecherous newsman Sandy Rivers (he ends up reading the news in Russian). Going entirely unmentioned are the fates of folks like Quinn, Korean Elvis and Abby, but the fact that they managed to avoid appearing automatically means that they're in a better place. (Not that kind of a better place. Think Las Vegas or a Seth MacFarlane produced animated series.)
Finally, this week in "Dead Mother" conspiracy theories, a framing device shows us her first date with Ted, but otherwise doesn't reveal much about whether or not she's taking a dirt nap by 2030. (Though, if he had followed through on his threat to feed her Scottish-Mexican fusion food, she'd probably be pushing up the daises the next morning.) Of course, Ted's final line of the episode -- "Remembering this." -- does sound more melancholic than happy, thus keeping speculation about her fate… um, alive for another week. You know, even if she's not actually six feet under, a future with Ted does sound pretty deadly. (And hey… "Ted" rhymes with "dead"! Oh my god, you guys! They've been telling us she's dead all along!)