With 31 hours to go until the wedding that nobody on the show or in the audience really cares about, How I Met Your Mother takes a 22-minute flashback break in "Platonish." Normally, I'd feel obligated to object to this kind of momentum-killing gimmick, but considering that there's been zero momentum to the season anyway, why the hell not? This particular flashback is instigated by Robin's sorrow over her mother's absence from her impending nuptials, though frankly, Mrs. Scherbatsky is wise to stay far, far away from this depressing spectacle. Her husband-to-be accepts the challenge of cheering her up and, once he's accepted a challenge, can't be stopped until said challenge is completed. Which leads a temporarily sober Lily to taunt, "Oh, is that so? Then where are our diapers and samosas? Ah ha!" And with visions of diapers and samosas dancing in our heads (ewww), we time-warp back to…
The fall of 2012. A full six months ago in show time -- long enough to be before Robin and Barney got back together for realsies, but not long enough so that any of the cast members has to recreate a vanished hairstyle with a ridiculous wig. At this point, Barney is still seducing other women with wild abandon, while Ted can't bring himself to admit that he's still carrying a torch for Robin even though he totally is. Instead, he agrees with Lily's aggressive characterization of his and Robin's relationship as "platonic," a category that Barney rejects out of hand, pointing out that there's only one genuinely platonic couple in the world of the show and that's Marshall and Robin. (He's not wrong about that; Jason Segel and Cobie Smulders couldn't have less chemistry together if they tried. And nobody on this show has tried at anything in a very long time.)
Anyway, now that somebody has said the Secret Word for this episode, the characters split up into their respective plots. That means that Barney sets off on a "challenge accepting" spree, taking on a series of tasks personally dreamed up for him by Robin and Lily. First, he uses dolphin-speak to successfully secure a girl's digits. Then, he dons a garbage bag and eliminates the letter "E" from his vocabulary to pick up another girl. Next up? Convincing a redhead whose been led to believe (by Robin) that she's about to travel to that place beyond the pines with Ryan Gosling to settle for his Doogie Howser-looking mug instead. (Fortunately for him, she's got the same negligible IQ shared by all of Barney's non-recurring conquests.) After that, it's off to the pharmacy for diapers and the Indian place for samosas, picking up a girl along the way.
And that girl? Turns out to be the too-little seen mother, who isn't in the mood for Barney's B.S., thanks very much. (I knew there was a reason I liked her, though not her poor taste in husbands.) Her total and complete rejection lets the air out of his challenge balloon and he hems and haws for a bit until he decides he wants some more straight talk from this total stranger. So she tells him to pursue the one that got away with the grandest of grand romantic gestures, which is how Barney concocted that cockamamie scheme to put a ring on Robin's finger last season. Gee, that means that Robin has Ted's future wife to thank for the hell her life is about to become. Better hope that secret never comes out on a couples' retreat.
Meanwhile, over at a Harlem Globetrotters game (is this 2012 or 1973?), Marshall goads Ted into revealing his not-so-latent feelings for Robin. Much Robin-related conversation is had and all of it is boring. Somewhere in the middle of it, Ted receives a random phone call from Bryan Cranston, who is supposed to be reprising his role as Hammond Druthers -- Ted's old boss from Season 2 -- but is really just playing Bryan Cranston. Which is fine, because Bryan Cranston is awesome and I admire how he negotiated a cameo that wouldn't require him to physically interact with anyone in the cast, lest they taint that awesomeness with the flop sweat of their desperation. Bryan invites Ted to Chicago, but we all know that's not happening because, flashback, so this conversation serves no purpose except to remind people that Bryan Cranston was once on this show before he got a much better job. (Hi, Bryan! Are you sick of talking about Breaking Bad yet?)
Back in the present, Barney finishes explaining why he didn't return home with diapers and samosas six months ago, a story that does successfully cheer Robin up. Another challenge accomplished! Looking entirely defeated, on the other hand, is Ted, who can't believe he has to wait another half-season to meet his own bride. Chin up, dude. At least you've got Cranston's number in your Call Log.