This past Monday, Vesuvius, the 19th episode of the final season of How I Met Your Mother aired on CBS, and everyone is all in tizzy about it because it seems to indicate that the titular Mother is dead. She’s been dead this whole time – and by extension, if she’s dead, Ted’s been telling his kids this story of How He Met Her to remember her by, or something to that effect. Cue all the sads.
That’d be a feat of Shyamalanian proportions were it to actually be true, and while pretty much everyone is wishing for it *not* to be true, people seem to be hard pressed to come up with anything concrete to refute it, and that this is all just an elaborate a red herring. Have no fear, though – I’ve got you covered.
The Mother is NOT dead, and this is all just an elaborate red herring.
To begin, let’s look at the title of the episode: Vesuvius. While that does carry connotations of grand unexpected tragedy, and of moments locked in time like preserved ruins of Pompeii, it doesn’t really say anything about the episode itself. And of all nineteen episodes of season 9 that we’ve seen so far, it’s the *only* one that doesn’t have a title directly tying into something that’s going on in the story. Let’s break this down, episode by episode:
ONE: The Locket
The episode introduces some of (but not all of) the details of Ted’s procurement of the lost locket (Robin’s “something old” from the end of season 8).
TWO: Coming Back
Future Ted recounts the promise he made to his past self to the Mother: “I’m coming back, and I’m bringing you.”
THREE: Last Time in New York
The episode focuses heavily on Ted’s list of things to do before leaving New York City for Chicago, before shifting into some revelatory character stuff.
FOUR: The Broken Code
The title references the main conflict of the episode: whether or not Ted’s actions with Robin in the park at the end of season 8 constitute a violation of the Bro Code.
FIVE: The Poker Game
(Almost) everyone is playing a poker game.
SIX: Knight Vision
A recurring gag of the episode revolves around the knight from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade appearing to Ted after he’s made contact with a potential wedding weekend hookup.
SEVEN: No Questions Asked
The episode details the “No Questions Asked” moment of everyone in the gang.
EIGHT: The Lighthouse
Ted proposes to the Mother one year into the future, at the top of the Farhampton lighthouse.
Ted confesses near the end of the episode that he and Robin only have a “platonish” relationship, and not a platonic one, and that fate may yet bring them together.
TEN: Mom and Dad
Barney concocts numerous schemes over the course of the episode to coax his mother and father (Loretta and Jerome) to get back together.
ELEVEN: Bedtime Stories
Marshall tells baby Marvin three rhyming bedtime stories in the episode to get him to sleep while they’re on a bus to Farhampton.
TWELVE: The Rehearsal Dinner
The episode revolves entirely around Barney and Robin’s rehearsal dinner.
THIRTEEN: Bass Player Wanted
The episode details how the Mother is forced out of the band she started by fellow bandmate Darren, who’s attempting to replace her on bass.
FOURTEEN: Slapsgiving 3: Slappointment in Slapmarra
It’s another slapping episode. There’s a lot of slapping in it.
Lily and Marshall are known to “pause” fights that they don’t want to deal with in the moment, and this episode details Lily unpausing the oncoming fight about Marshall’s acceptance of a judgdeship without consulting her first.
SIXTEEN: How Your Mother Met Me
The episode fills us in on what the Mother’s been doing in parallel to Ted the past eight seasons.
The episode concludes with Ted and Robin watching the sun rise on a beach.
The gang tries to get Barney to rally from his colossal hangover so he can be in the wedding photos and not appear…well, colossally hungover.
The title Vesuvius doesn’t tie into anything, plotwise, that’s happening in the episode. But there’s more: this is the only episode (so far) of season 9 that doesn’t have some sort of wedding countdown in it at the beginning – and it’s also the only episode of the entire SERIES that doesn’t have any Future Ted VO delivered anywhere in it courtesy of Mr. Saget. That’s odd. It doesn’t fit.
BUT. The title Vesuvius does tie into *something* from season 9 – but it’s not from this episode. Near the end of Coming Back, the second episode of season 9, the following exchange occurs between Future Ted, and the Mother (note: you can watch all of this exchange here):
One-year-later Ted: Hey, wanna hear something funny?
The Mother: Uh huh.
One-year-later Ted: One year ago today, almost to the minute, I was sitting at this very table right in that seat.
The Mother: Oh yeah, I can see it. Nursing your gin and tonic with three extra limes, doing the crossword, probably being all showboaty about it.
One-year-later Ted: I wasn’t being all showboaty about it.
This is the first time we ever see any iteration of Ted actually *with* the Mother, and this conversation is framed so that we see Ted and the Mother, one year into the future, but also Ted in the present, at the same table. We see Present Day Ted working on the crossword, nursing his gin and tonic with three extra limes, just like Mother said. And when One Year Later Ted says this:
“I wasn’t being all showboaty about it.”
Present Day Ted follows it up with this:
He then proceeds to dance in his chair and showboat for a bit, before ultimately saying THIS:
“Oh wait, that doesn’t fit.”
Vesuvius, as an episode, doesn’t fit. Or to paraphrase The Princess Bride, it doesn’t mean what we think it means. This callback is so sly and indirect that it can’t be a mere coincidence. After all, How I Met Your Mother is no stranger to hiding things in plain sight, and the entire premise of the show is basically to keep the audience guessing as to where things will end up. More to the point, if this is wrong, and the Mother *is* dead, it will go against the entire spirit of the show (I’ll be vehemently denouncing that conclusion when the show ends if that’s how things wind up). But for now, if the Mother being dead was a big long term bet, not unlike the ones Marshall and Lily have going, and someone asked me to pay up, I’d tell them “not yet.”