Is it 'How I Met Your (Dead) Mother'? We don't think so
When I saw Monday's episode of How I Met Your Mother, titled "Vesuvius," it didn't cross my mind at all that something sinister was bubbling up from underground. (There's spoilers ahead if you haven't seen the episode, and if you have seen it, you'll see how deeply down this rabbit hole I went.)
After all my digging, I still feel confident the creators aren't going to sock us in the gut with a finale in which Bob Saget tells those bored kids this was all about their now-dead mother. But first, bear with me.
As I said, the whole thing went right over my head on first viewing. Then I saw this article in Slate and this one in Entertainment Weekly who all credited Jenna Mullins of Eonline.com for first suggesting this idea with some pretty convincing arguments.
The theory has been floating around the Internet for a while, but Mullins argued that:
A) The show's creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, have said time and time again that the ending of the show was decided early on and they never changed their minds regarding the series finale. The mother being dead is the kind of ending they could keep while still changing other plotlines in the series
B) There's Ted's speech in the season 8 episode "Time Travelers" in which he goes to his future wife's apartment and says, ""Exactly 45 days from now, you and I are going to meet. We're going to fall in love and we're going to get married, and we're going to have two kids. We're going to love them and each other so much. All that is 45 days away, but I'm here now, I guess because I want those extra 45 days with you. I want each one of them…I am always going to love you. Until the end of my days and beyond." Kind of sounds like someone desperate for "more time" with his love, no?
C) Then there's the weakest argument, in my opinion: that the mother never appears in flash forwards or is mentioned by the kids or Saget in the look-backs.
With this knowledge I rewatched Monday's episode, in which Ted revealed that Robin’s mom came to her wedding after all, which was a surprise to the whole gang. The Mother countered “What mother is going to miss her daughter’s wedding?”, which causes Ted to choke up with tears. The Mother quickly changes the subject as if to comfort him. On second viewing it certainly does seem like something is wrong.
So maybe this episode was titled "Vesuvius" because of the explosion it caused on the Internet. Even EW's own writers are debating each other with Erin Strecker calling it a compelling red herring. "The natural conclusion of a show that has a long-running joke about “sandwiches” being code for “marijuana” is not death," Strecker writes. "Frankly, it would be insulting to anyone who spent years of Monday nights watching HIMYM; it seems like a twist just for twist’s sake. Can you imagine if Friends had concluded not with Rachel getting off the plane, but dying in a freak plane crash?"
Here's why I think Strecker is right, that it's a red herring. Apart from the fact that it would tonally be out of whack for this show, the episode's title holds a clue. As the HIMYM Wiki page notes (yes, that's how deeply I was diving into this pool) the word Vesuvius appeared in the flashforward of the episode "Coming Back," earlier this season when Ted incorrectly assumed one of the words on his crossword puzzle is Vesuvius. I still had the episode from September on my DVR and checked and sure enough, Ted does say that word out loud, but then discovered that the word didn't fit.
So there you have it, Internets. The Mother may be sick but the clue is wrong. This episode was a deliberate misdirection, with the writers giving those who are paying attention just enough clues to figure that out.