Nothing good happens after 2 AM… except one of the better late-period HIMYM episodes in recent memory. After descending to embarrassing depths with a listless Kill Bill parody that managed to bore everyone it didn't offend, the endgame-approaching series rebounded with an episode that was, at heart, its version of Before Midnight. Just as that movie set off truth bombs that nearly destroyed one of contemporary cinema's great screen romances -- Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy's Jesse and Celine -- "Unpause" put Lily and Marshall through the emotional wringer by dredging up conflicts from their recent and distant past and, in the process, made each of them more human (not to mention likable) than they've been in ages.
Granted, we still had to endure some pretty obnoxious behavior to get to that point. Having finally arrived at the Farhampton Inn (and almost immediately ditching poor Marvin with a babysitter who is apparently on call up to and after midnight), Marshall joins his pals for some late night drinking action because 1) wouldn't you need a few stiff drinks after being trapped in a car with Sherri Shepherd for half a season? And 2) more drinking means a longer "pause" from the fight he and Lily are going to have re: his decision to accept a judgeship when they're supposed to be moving to Italy.
As a few flashbacks helpfully illustrate, this "pause" shtick goes way back in their relationship, previously allowing them to put off arguments about, among other things, Lily's compulsive (and expensive) Brazilian bikini waxing habit and her hatred of her mother-in-law. Hoping to stave off the inevitable, Marshall continues to pour more liquor down his boozy wife's throat, but her sex addiction eventually overrides her alcoholism, so she takes him upstairs because "Mama needs some Papa time," a creepily-phrased demand that casts her relationship with her own father in a disturbing new light. Her husband then decides that, rather than make her drink until she passes out, he'll just boff her until she passes out. It's touching stuff like this that earns them their status as the Worst Married Couple on Television.
But wait! We said there was good stuff coming and lo and behold, it arrives. Awoken from her post-boffing slumber, Lily unpauses their détente and things get real raw real quick. She leads off by laying into Marshall for accepting the job without telling her and he counters with the "we have to at least talk about it" excuse, which she immediately (and correctly) shoots down by pointing out that he pretty much took "talking about it" off the table by saying yes. He then compounds his string of bad decisions by referring to her art world profession as a "hobby," and even though the show has done Lily little favor in making her appear as a competent, knowledgeable art buyer that's still a bonehead play, dawg.
Standing firm on the "We're going to Italy plan," Lily tearily informs Marshall that he was "more selfish than I've ever been to you." And that inspires Marshall to come up with his equivalent of Jesse's "You are the fucking mayor of Crazytown," line by throwing Lily's San Francisco sojourn from Season 1 back in her face and accusing her of being "selfish all over again." Even worse, he questions whether their whole life together exists purely because that trip was a bust, exposing insecurities he's kept bottled up for seven years (show time) and eight seasons (real world time). And, just like Celine, Lily responds to this by storming out into the night. Phew. Since we've long known that they're still together and happy in the future, it's not like there'll be much suspense in waiting to see how they move past this crisis, but still, hats off to some great writing by Chris Harris and strong work by Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel. This is the most demanding scene they've had to play in at least four or five seasons now, and it's nice to be reminded of how good they can be as they prepare to go off and look for other work.
While major truth bombs are going off upstairs, Barney is setting off some smaller detonations downstairs in the bar after achieving a new level of drunkenness in which alcohol takes on the effects of truth serum. So as not to upstage Lily and Marshall's Before Midnight moment, none of these revelations are especially weighty, although we do finally learn what exactly his position at Goliath entails. Turns out that "Please" isn't just his way of avoiding the question -- it's his literal job description: "Provide Legal Exculpation And Sign Everything." In other words, he's the bank's designated fall guy, affixing his John Hancock to all manner of incriminating documents in exchange for massive paychecks. But, as he informs his shocked pals, he's more of a fall guy in the Lee Majors tradition, because he's been collaborating with the FBI all along to take down his Goliath boss… the same d-bag that stole his girlfriend back when he was a coffee-brewing hippie. Man, first this episode makes us care Lily and Marshall again and then Barney actually seems cool instead of repulsive. If they can only give Robin back her spine and make Ted halfway tolerable, we might really be onto something.
Oh yeah, and the Mother shows up in two quick scenes set in 2017 that find her and Ted back at the Farhampton Inn just as she's about to pop their second kid out into the world. She'll be more prominently featured on next week's 200th episode, which will be told entirely from her perspective. Will the characters continue their journey back to likability when seen through her eyes? We can only hope.