Oh, wow. This episode is totally confusing and makes very little sense at all. Not only that, but the "plots" that it "furthers" are tedious and full of plotholes. But I'll give this a shot. So, Ted's invited to go to a boring architecture thing with Zoey and everyone else makes up an excuse not to go (they're all washing Lily's hair, except left-out Barney), leaving Ted and Zoey alone. Lily lays out the rules to him of how he can behave with Zoey (a married woman), as a single male friend. Basically, they can't lie about anything, no candles, and nothing involving saliva. Something like that, but I'll clarify in the weecap. Ted goes, and there is a small lie: Zoey tells the Captain (who it turns out is terrifying, despite his goofy caddishness the only other time we met him) she's with "friends." Then she invites Ted to hang out with both of them to make up for it, but no-shows. Ted spends the rest of the episode on the Captain's boat, afraid the crazy man is going to kill him. (He's not; if he were, he'd have taken Ted to his hunting lodge, duh.) In the end, Ted and Zoey are alone together again, and sparks are beginning to fly. This is our plot development, but we get Saget!Ted's kids and his narration a lot this episode, which just made it obvious that Zoey can't be the mother. If she were, wouldn't Saget!Ted not keep calling her "Zoey" as his kids stare at him blankly?
Elsewhere is the confusing storyline in which Barney and Lily get in a fight. The reason it's so confusing is that Saget!Ted can't remember who is mad at whom, or for what, or when. He ultimately remembers that the fight he's connecting to the rest of the episode actually took place a year later, when Lily is pregnant, so we get a little flash-forward that includes Ted in a green dress (but why? You just know we'll never know). While Lily and Barney fight, Marshall and Robin try to hang out alone and test the Mermaid Theory of the episode's title: It's Barney's theory that if you are around any woman long enough, she will go from being a manatee to a mermaid. That's why Marshall's never hung out alone with Robin: He needs her to remain a big, fat manatee. There's awkward conversation, but then he fills her in, then they drink. Just as she's morphing into a mermaid and he's panicking, she vomits and gets disgusting and manatee-like again. Phew.
Oh, and the Barney-Lily and Marshall-Robin storylines do connect, because the fight Barney and Lily are having ends up being about the Mermaid Theory. Because the only antidote to mermaidism is pregnancy, which is why Barney no longer finds Lily attractive, and why she gets mad and cries that he'd call her a "big, fat manatee." He promises her she'll get hot again just as soon as she starts breast-feeding, because (insert boob- and penis-swelling joke -- you can figure out it out yourselves or wait for the weecap -- here).
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It's hard for me to even contemplate anything resembling a recap of this episode, because it's so... bizarre (and not in a good way) and jumpy and ridiculous. But it is my duty, so I'll try to suffer through. Just don't blame me if the weecap sucks, considering what I have to work with. Anyway, Saget!Ted tells 2030 kid us: "Kids, in the winter of 2010, we had a new addition to our little group: Zoey." I don't know if she's really in the group yet, but way to spoil the ending, Dad!Ted. He fills us in on her husband, the Captain, who you'll recall is Kyle MacLachlan, the sole redeemer of this sucky episode. Zoey gets out of his car, and Kyle talks to the guys from the back seat, window half-down, hair half-grey, all "Have a wonderful time!" The three guys are freaked out, because they find his wish for them to have a wonderful time to be terrifying. Saget!Ted says they couldn't put their finger on what was so freaking freaky about the guy. Until...
The gang (minus Zoey) is eating Chinese in the apartment when Marshall runs in with a giant headshot of the Captain that he snapped last time he dropped off Zoey. He holds a half-headshot-sized cloaking device up to cover the Captain's eyes and nose and says that the Captain's smiling on the lower half. Then he moves the cloaking device down to cover the mouth and says the Captain's top half wants to murder you. The gang (minus Zoey) screams in fear. Smiley mouth and murdery eyes = totally frightening. And this photo of Kyle MacLachlan is crazy-pants. Unfortunately, I can't find it anywhere online or I would show you. They ask the Captain some questions that he either loves or hates based on Marshall's cloaking device responses. When Robin asks if he likes the Jonas Brothers, Marshall cloaks the left half of his face. No one gets it, so Marshall explains: "He hates that he loves them."
The gang (minus Zoey) are still gathered eating Chinese food, and Ted's getting off the phone. He used the duration of the show's opening number to get invited by Zoey to a Frank Lloyd Wright retrospective. He asks who's in, but Lily's, uh, washing her hair; Marshall's, uh, uh, running the water; Robin's, uh, uh, uh, holding the towel; and Barney's pouting that no one invited him to the big hair-washing party. (You won't get this yet, but he wants to be part of it because he sees Lily as a mermaid, and mermaid means hot, or at least doable. Keep up.) Ted says he guesses it will just be him and Zoey, so Lily tells him to tread lightly and follow the rules that a single guy hanging out with a married woman must follow. Rule Number 1 ... "Don't use the husband's condom. That's just rude," says Barney. But Lily scoffs and shares her Rule Number 1: "Don't go anywhere that has candles." Marshall asks the Captain's headshot how he feels about Ted, Zoey, and candles. MURDERY EYES. Rule Number 2: "No sharing food. In fact, anything involving saliva is off-limits: toothbrushes, thermometers, lipstick." Ted makes a joke about how he shouldn't bother going if he can't share her lipstick, but I'm more hung up on Lily thinking lipstick involves saliva; how's she applying it? The most important rule of all is... Barney: "Lubricant is public property." Lily: "No lying to the spouse about anything you do." Ted doesn't get why they'd have to lie; they're just friends.