At MacLaren's, Ted tells the gang how, with time, he's recovered from his hurt over being left at the altar, and is ready to move on from Stella. Lily reminds him that the wedding was only 24 hours ago, but he refuses to dwell on it, and insists they celebrate a great new chapter in his life. Marshall thinks Ted should be furious. Barney suggests that Ted may actually be relieved. Lily insists he's in bad shape and that they should be there for him. And everyone tries (okay, Barney just tries to use Ted's apartment for canoodling with two women, when he thinks Ted's out), but Ted will have none of it.
After two weeks, it all boils over -- from the rest of the gang. They can't take it that Ted hasn't fallen apart or blown up. He insists that pushing down the pain is the Buckeye way, and all it requires is to avoid running into Stella for the rest of his life. When they decide to go out to dinner, Ted pulls out a color-coded map of neighborhoods Stella frequents (red areas), and Stella-free zones (white) to narrow down their choices. Lily remembers hearing about a Tapas place in the white zone, which turns out to be pretty nice. As Ted asks the waiter for some almonds to set up the inevitable joke about him being without nuts, he asks Lily how she heard of the place. She can't remember until...
Stella walks in. Ted tells everyone to follow his lead and promptly dives under the table. They refuse to join him until they panic when Stella starts to turn toward them. Under the table, Lily tells Ted the New York way isn't to avoid, but to take your anger and shove it right up in people's faces. Lily insists there isn't anyone she'd avoid, until Ted reminds her of Michael Stasser. Lily went to high school with Mike. She ruined what little social standing he had when she cut the cheese, deflected the blame to Stasser, and re-Christened him Gasser. Barney tells us about his conjugal visits with convict Becca DeLucci, which he botched when he attempted to throw Becca over for a new felon. He still receives letters from Becca, threatening him with bodily harm once she's finally released. Ted feels his point has been proved and insists they stay under the table, but when Marshall checks and sees Stella is gone, they return to their seats. Ted starts to gloat about avoidance, Ohio-style, when Stella returns and they all take a dive again.
Marshall says Ted needs to talk to Stella, but Robin disagrees. She tells her friends a little about her bad relationship with her father, Victor Freaking Newman... er, I mean Eric Braeden... that is, Robin Charles Scherbatsky, Senior. Robin hasn't spoken to her dad in three years, but the trouble started with her birth. Papa Sherbatsky wanted a son and treated his daughter Robin -- whose full name is Robin Charles Scherbatsky, Jr. -- as such. At age 14, Robin's otherwise all-male hockey team won a big game. Robin Sr. had the "lads" back to his house for a celebration, and when he found young Robin kissing a teammate, he had to come to terms with the fact that he had no son. There are some great Canada gags in here which will be covered in the weecap (confidential to Kylie and Diana: wait for it). After telling her story, Robin realizes how bottling up her feelings has hurt her, which makes Ted realize it's not too late for him to escape being haunted by Stella for years.
Stella's left the restaurant, so the gang chases after her cab in one of their own. When Stella's cab doesn't take the Lincoln tunnel, Ted realizes the "home" she referred to when placing her take-out order at the restaurant wasn't her New Jersey house, but Tony's downtown apartment. It hits Ted that while Stella insisted that he move to Jersey, she's willing to live in the city with Tony, and so Ted explodes. When her cab stops in front of Tony's building, Lily encourages Ted to plan his approach, because he'll have one shot at this. Sounding like Dirty Harry, Ted says he knows exactly what to say...
As Stella climbs the stairs to Tony's building, Ted calls out to her. "You picked the wrong guy." He tells her she made a really bad choice and why, and hammers home his point in a way that's more assertive than I'd expect from Ted. She calls out to him as he storms off, so he explains he's not trying to win her back. He just wants to know that she knows she made the biggest mistake of her life. Stella's eyes fill up; her voice is choked. "I know." Ted is glad. Stella watches him walk off. In the cab -- hey! There were no flashes forward, or back! No sideways slides! You tricky little show. In the cab, Ted tells his friends that's what he'll say. Ted exits to spy Tony and little Lucy coming out to welcome Stella home. Ted watches as this happy little family greets one another with kisses and hugs. He's no longer angry, because he believes Stella is meant to be with Tony. Saget!Ted tells his kids that although swallowing anger or throwing it in someone's face may seem like the only choices, the third option of letting it go is the best one, because then you can move forward. He ends with, "And that kids, was the perfect ending to a perfect love story. It just wasn't mine. Mine was still out there -- waiting for me."
Over a brief montage of Ted reading Stella's Dear John letter, and Stella smooching with Tony on the ferry back from Shelter Island, Saget!Ted tells his kids that a wedding should be the perfect ending to a perfect love story, and on behalf of the happily married people out here, I'd just like to say, "HEY!" That's not true, Saget!Ted. I can see 2008-you talking that way, because he sees marriage as an endgame, but I've been hoping that by the year 2030, you would have gained some perspective, Saget!Ted. I hope your love affair with the mother didn't end when you got married.
Saget!Ted's not listening to me. He's still torturing his kids. "My wedding -- at least my first wedding -- didn't go so well." Stella and Tony's kiss fades into current day Ted, at MacLaren's. He sounds, if not sanguine, then wiser. "It's funny looking back on it now. I was so sure Stella was the one. And when she left me, I was so devastated." Marshall's expression puzzles me, considering how well-adjusted Ted sounds. Ted continues: "But you guys got me through it." Marshall looks at Robin, with a definite WTF face, but quickly recovers. Barney stares ahead as if he's afraid to meet anyone's eyes. Ted says, "And now the painful part's over. I've come out the other side, a little bit stronger. You know, I hardly even think about her anymore." Barney looks at Robin out of the corner of his eye. Lily's eyes dart left and right. Ted tells us, "That's what time does." Barney scowls, and Robin takes a huge swig of her beer. Finally, Lily cracks. "Ted? The wedding was yesterday. It's been 24 hours!" Ted smiles. "I know. And this is me -- moving on. A great new chapter in my life began today, and right now, we need two things. We need Kool... and we need The Gang. It's jukebox time, huh? Woo!" He dances his way over to MacLaren's music machine, giving his friends and the audience enough time to roll our eyes without being downright rude and doing it in his face.
Barney says, "I look at that young man popping and locking his way over to the juke box and I think to myself... maybe Stella made the right call." Lily punches him. She's quite violent with him, isn't she? Marshall and Robin voice their disapproval -- of Ted's actions. They couldn't care less that Lily abuses Barney on a regular basis. Marshall is frustrated that Ted isn't acting like a violent spurned lover -- smashing up Stella's car with a sledgehammer. Yeah, 'cause that would show her she made the wrong choice. Screw, the "Baby come back!" approach. Leaving them without a getaway car is far more efficient. Barney hypothesizes that Ted never wanted to get married in the first place. "Ted just pulled off the greatest train dodge since Stand By Me. Well, not the first kid -- but the other kids." Ouch. I think Neil Patrick Harris is getting addicted to Carsonesque mannerisms, but he does them so well, and Barney is nothing if not a chameleon, so I'm not complaining. Lily's argument that Ted is in really bad shape is undercut by the fact that he dances his way past their booth and over to the bar, but she still insists they all need to be there for Ted.