How I Met Your Mother season 9 episode 17, “Sunrise,” was about learning to let go of the red balloon, whether that be a girlfriend or a legacy.

Whatever you do in this life, it’s not legendary if your friends aren’t there to see it.

In a direct continuation from last week’s episode, Barney is still drunk and stumbling the roads beyond the Farhamton Inn when he runs into two 20-something guys, Justin and Kyle, who fear both girls and Barney’s current inebriated state. Barney assesses them and spends the entire episode giving them a makeover and passing on his womanizing, wild ways.

We know Barney and we know his antics, like how going to a strip club is just another Tuesday afternoon for him, but for two strangers who just ran into him stumbling alongside a deserted road, we can see how they’d hesitate to follow him to a second location. But against their better judgment, they enter the strip club.

After taking them to his tailor, Tim Gunn!, and making them ditch the Ted-esque wardrobe in favor of tailored suits, Barney brings them to a party for a rousing game of “Haveeee you met…?” It worked for Ted nine seasons ago and it works now for Justin. Barney certainly does have a way with words. Sometimes.

This is one of those times. As the sun rises, he hands the boys fistfuls of napkins and leaves with these parting words: “Whatever you do in this life, it’s not legendary if your friends aren’t there to see it.” Menial words in the context of “Sunrise,” heartwarming in the broader HIMYM universe. We can see the night he coerced Ted to go on the Drunk Train in season 7, or the night they all jumped from roof to roof in “The Leap,” the season 4 finale, flash in front of him.

On those napkins, we see “The Playbook” in scrawled handwriting. Barney might have burned the playbook to show his devotion to Robin, but this was the symbolic burning: he has officially passed the baton to the new generation. Perhaps this was a subtle nod to the upcoming How I Met Your Dad.

If you love something, you can never let it go or it’ll be lost forever.

Ted once had a red balloon for a best friend. But little Ted apparently didn’t know how helium worked because he let go of the balloon and watched it disappear up into the sky, to be lost forever. Nearly 30 years later, that lesson still resonates with him.

In ascending order, Ted’s best relationships were with Stella, Zoe, The Slutty Pumpkin, Marshall under special circumstances and Victoria. Too bad Ted doesn’t see it that way. Side note: we know a lot about these people’s lives, but Robin revealing the running email chain about Ted’s many, many girlfriends brings a smile to our face.

There is no top five for him, there’s a top one, and it is Robin. Ted tells Robin that he’s moving to Chicago to avoid any awkward interaction with her as Mrs. Robin Stinson, giving the same excuse he gave Lily: a lot of good things happened to him in New York City, but a lot of bad things happened too.

Will Ted ever be able to let Robin go? Even after he falls in love with the Mother, he will always have that time between meeting Robin and the Mother where he could not hold a relationship because of Robin (and, okay, maybe he would’ve gone through with the Stella wedding, but he always has the Robin Conversation with his girlfriends).

He may have physically/metaphorically let go of Robin tonight in “Sunrise” a la his best friend, the red balloon, but when “Eternal Flame” is playing to underscore it, we have our doubts.

Throughout all this, we learn Ted has talked to Stella, Victoria, and Jeanette within the past week to find Robin’s locket and give it to her as a friend. Victoria had it and seemed to take pity on him, overnighting it from her bakery in Germany, but Jeanette ends up signing for it. They meet on a bridge and – you probably can see this coming – she cannot believe he is still hung up on Robin and throws the locket into the water below.

Ted gives the typical “I love her so much that I have to let her go” speech that reinforces our trepidation above about him really letting go of Robin. In the end, the locket is gone.

For the record, Ted’s worst relationships: Blah Blah, Boats Boats Boats, Karen, Zoe (she made both lists), and Jeanette.

Ghost of Lily past, present, and future

Meanwhile, Marshall tries to get a peaceful night’s sleep, but instead dreams of his father, 2007-Lily, and 2014-Lily to try to sort through his emotions. 2014-Lily points out that their relationship will begin to dissolve, little by little, if he continues to lie and make the Big Decisions without her.

We don’t know who picked Lily up last week, nor do we know where she went. All we know is that she came back. And after what future-Ted calls the worst fight of their marriage, that is what’s important.

She concedes that they’ll stay in New York, and Marshall seems so relieved about both the fact she came back to make up, and that they’re not moving to Rome.

In other ‘HIMYM’ news:

Creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays hosted an IAmA Q&A session on Reddit today. you can read the whole thread here.

Some highlights include:

  • They first approached Jennifer Love Hewitt for the role of Robin, then Cobie Smulders once Hewitt backed out.
  • The Robin and Barney wedding was decided between season 5 and season 6 once they “locked in on what the endgame would be.”
  • And, on the topic of another Robin Sparkles appearance, Thomas teases, “stay tuned…people do tend to sing at weddings…”
  • ‘How I Met Your Mother’ will return on February 24 with ‘Rally.’

    It’s the final seven episodes, folks.

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