How I Met Your Mother returned from a brief hiatus last night, but while the title, “Exploding Meatball Sub,” seemed to promise a bang of an episode, the trip into Ted and Zoey’s relationship, Marshall and Lily’s marital issues and Barney’s disturbing psyche felt more like a misfire than fireworks.

Still, it had its moments. Here’s what happened:

Plot Points:

Marshall gets graduation goggles, and an unpaid internship:
Marshall decides to finally quit GNB and pursue his dream as an environmental lawyer at the NRDC, but before he does, he gets “graduation goggles” that make him love GNB for the first (and last) time. He quits anyway, but the only position he can find at the NRDC is volunteer. Lily tries to be supportive at first, but when Marshall volunteers their apartment for a fundraiser, Lily starts to crack. She decides to bail for a bit and go to Spain (her ol’ cut-and-run act, calling back to the infamous San Francisco trip), but she never boards the flight and comes back in time for the fundraiser. Marshall finally thanks her for being so supportive and promises to find a paying job. Support wins!

Ted gets annoyed by Zoey, but not annoyed enough:
Zoey lands a meeting with the Landmark Preservation Society to make the Arcadian a landmark, but Ted pretends that her constant “challenging” of him is healthy for their relationship. He finally tells Lily that he’s exhausted by never agreeing with Zoey about anything, especially his lifelong dream of building a skyscraper. Ted confronts her about standing in the way of his dream, and they fight at Marshall’s fundraiser … but right before he breaks up with her, Ted gets a bad case of graduation goggles. He “can’t do it for the next 50 years,” but he’s hanging on to Zoey for at least a little longer. Unfortunately.

Barney gets revenge: At first it seems that Barney is channeling his daddy abandonment issues into sadness and rage that Marshall is leaving GNB, but then he tells Robin the real reason he’s upset (after Robin tells Barney an elaborate, awesome lie about how she and her dad conspired to murder his business partner): Marshall mocked him about a meatball sub stain on his tie, and he wants to get revenge. The montage of Barney putting more effort into researching an “exploding meatball sub” than he’s ever put into anything worthwhile was funny, though emotionally flimsy. Cut to ten years later, when Barney fakes his own death in order to ask Marshall his final request: Eat the titular exploding meatball sub, which gets all over Marshall’s face … and a little on Barney’s pajamas. It was weird. I didn’t fully understand the point or the motivation, except to retroactively counteract all the serious Barney plotlines we’ve seen lately. This one just didn’t quite work for me, especially with the outrageous 10-year time jump.

Best Quotes:

Barney: “The lady with the big nipples is coming back to give another sexual harassment seminar and I bribed the maintenance guy to keep the room at a brisk 55 degrees!”

Lily: “Marshall and I have been together 15 years and the only debate we’ve had about Tommy Boy is whether it’s awesome or super-awesome. That’s love, bitch.” *HIGH-FIVE*

Ted: “The downside to having giant, Japanese anime eyes is that they’re easy to read.”
Lily: “The downside to having a woman’s mouth is that your feminine pout gives away your true feelings.”

Barney: “And tall. He’s taller than Marshall! And he knows way more laws.”

Ted: “Is support really better than being challenged? Yes. Support is better. Way better. But I’d have to learn that the hard way.”

Barney: “I’ve wracked up $30,000 of medical bills for symptoms I don’t even have. Totally worth it!”

Final verdict: One and a half out of five exploding meatball subs.
This episode felt like almost pure filler, with the major storylines — Lily and Marshall’s baby-making, Barney’s father drama, Ted’s architectural and romantic setbacks — getting only brief and superficial mentions, and serving as more excuses than fuel for the sillier, non-laugh-inducing gags. Since episode one, this season of How I Met Your Mother has been setting us up for the final big revelation at the mysterious wedding, so it’s tempting (and I would argue, worthwhile) to give them the benefit of the doubt, but episodes like “Exploding Meatball Sub” need to be laugh-out-loud funny if they’re not plot-developing, and this episode was neither. We’ve known for weeks that Zoey was obnoxious dead weight, and now that even Ted has caught on, her presence has graduated from annoying to insufferable. And we’re supposed to think it’s funny that 10 YEARS FROM NOW, Barney is still the guy pulling insane pranks on his “friends,” faking his own deadly illness, to get tiny inconsequential revenge? I was more confused and disturbed than anything. Still, the sweet moments between Marshall and Lily and Robin’s near-constant-awesomeness carried me through.

What did you think of “Exploding Meatball Sub”?

(Image courtesy of CBS)

Meghan Carlson

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Meghan hails from Walla Walla, WA, the proud home of the world’s best sweet onions and Adam West, the original Batman. An avid grammarian and over-analyzer, you can usually find her thinking too hard about plot devices in favorites like The OfficeIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and How I Met Your Mother. In her spare time, Meghan enjoys drawing, shopping, trying to be funny (and often failing), and not understanding the whole Twilight thing. She’s got a BA in English and Studio Art from Whitman College, which makes her a professional arguer, daydreamer, and doodler.