In terms of a winter finale, I was expecting “Bass Player Wanted” to have a little more umpth to it. Last year we had the fantastic two-parter, “The Last Page,” which finally brought Barney and Robin together in a hugely successful way. This year, How I Met Your Mother didn’t end things – temporarily – on an emotionally high note; instead we’re left with many dangling threads and a lot of hurt feelings. There is a small ray of sunshine in the form of the Mother making a return appearance, but even that couldn’t take away from the fact that “Bass Player Wanted” just wasn’t big enough to start off the winter hiatus. I’m not even sure what I was expecting – it’s still too early for Ted to try and ruin the wedding – but it certainly wasn’t the light-hearted romp that we got here.
Admittedly, “Bass Player Wanted” is a funny half-hour. Cristin Milioti shows us, once again, why she was the best choice as the Mother. This time we get to see how Marshall first meets her, having been picked up by the Mother during his latest installment of “Marshall Vs. The Machine.” She immediately demonstrates her humor by pretending to be a psychic, correctly guessing Marshall’s travel troubles. By the time she confesses to knowing who he is, thanks to having already met Lily and heard everything Marshall’s been up to, Marshall can be seen cowering in the backseat of her van. But is it her van? As she eventually explains, she stole the van from the lead singer of her band. It turns out he is an expert at getting between friends and has forced the Mother out of her own band. She retaliated by taking his van.
The singer, Darren, spends much of the episode tearing rifts open between Lily and Robin and Ted and Barney. After being referred to as both a fire-starter and the devil, Darren is given a hilariously evil close-up, complete with flames in his eyes. Every time the show cut to that close-up I burst out laughing. And his slimy way of getting useful nuggets out of the group was great as well. His MO involved opening up about some fake, sappy story that was usually taken from Bambi (at one point, he used Finding Nemo). Lily found out about Robin siding with Marshall on taking the judgeship and Barney learns Ted is moving to Chicago. It never felt like the stakes were that big, but it was enough for the episode to get to a, mostly, satisfying conclusion.
The four friends managed to fix their drama through means that were true to their characters, which is all you can really ask for. Robin admitted she didn’t really side with Marshall taking the judge position, but she still didn’t want Lily to leave New York because then she’d be losing her best friend. Ted patches things up with Barney by stealing another bottle of 30-year-old Glen McKenna, tying in with an earlier conversation about going to jail for a friend. So with those plots wrapped up, “Bass Player Wanted” needed to contrive other ways to end the episode in a cliffhanger. Lily and Marshall reunite, but choose to put their disagreements on “pause” for now. And Marshall threatens Barney with the seventh slap, which we won’t see until the show returns. As fun as it was to watch “Bass Player Wanted,” I expected something with more emotional weight as a lead out for the first half of the season.