Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 8, Episode 17 of CBS "How I Met Your Mother" titled "The Ashtray."
Much like Robin's repeated flash-forward last week (Mrs. Doubtfire turned into Mike Tyson, just to jog your memory), this episode's core sequence was a repeated memory. Granted, last week Robin added key details with each new story and this week we saw the same incident through three different sets of eyes, but come on, "HIMYM" writers, switch up your act. We have a whole new season ahead of us.
The premise: The Captain (Kyle MacLachlan) is back, as promised, and leaves a message on Ted's archaic answering machine to call him back at his earliest convenience. Ted, freaked out, recounts the story of the last time he saw The Captain, a year and a half earlier, a few weeks after he broke up with Zoey (watch out for Ted and Barney's hilarious Garth and Kat-like storytelling). It was at a gallery opening Lily had dragged Ted and Robin to, which Barney insists he was also present for.
Ted's version: While enjoying the shrimp cocktail, Robin alerts him that The Captain just walked in. In this rendition, The Captain is rude and unpleasant to Ted, so much so that when he invites the trio to his upstairs apartment he threatens Ted with a harpoon gun. Ted then notices that the photograph The Captain holds near and dear to his heart is that of Becky (remember Robin's overly perky past co-anchor?), whom Ted resumed dating. He is afraid that's why The Captain is looking for him but when he finally takes his call, he discovers The Captain wants Robin's number.
Robin's version: Ted smoked a serious sandwich before showing up at the gallery and his memory of The Captain acting obnoxious was a result thereof (his spoken-out-loud internal monologue is one the show's most LOL-worthy moments). In Robin's version of events The Captain comes on to her rather crudely and when she turns him down, she asks him to call her in a year and a half after he's done rebounding. In her opinion, that's why he's looking for her. But when she calls him back she discovers it isn't her The Captain is looking for, it's Lily.
Lily's version: Ted was baked, Robin was smashed, and Lily tried to keep it from getting embarrassing. When The Captain waltzed in with his art consultant, Lily tried to give her professional two cents only to be ridiculed by the condescending expert, and later at The Captain's apartment, by him. In her recollection, when The Captain showed her his new painting she told him she liked another one better, the one with the elephants. He brashly told her she knows nothing about art because she is just a kindergarten teacher. As punishment, she stole his priceless crystal ashtray.
Present day Marshall begs Lily to return the ashtray to The Captain before he presses charges. She initially refuses and bursts into tears, claiming his remark hurt most because it was true. She is just a kindergarten teacher and has done nothing with her art degree. In an incredibly poignant moment, Marshall tells Lily it's never too late for her to pursue her dreams: "I promise you, your best and your most exciting days are all ahead of you," to which Lily replies: "there gets to be a point in life where that just stops being true." Nevertheless, she agrees to right her wrong.
The end: The Captain didn't even notice his ashtray was missing. Instead, he called Lily because he ended up buying that elephant painting the night of the art exhibit. He liked how she just liked it, no artsy fartsy reasoning to it. Now, a year and a half later, he sold it for four million dollars. Lily's keen eye for the next Basquiat earned her The Captain's respect and a job offer - to be his art consultant. And though it's not quite what she had in mind when Marshall urged her to rekindle her romance with art, she agrees.
"How I Met Your Mother" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.