Back when How I Met Your Mother first started, who would have thought that the the most intriguing and entertaining ongoing storyline would have nothing to do with meeting the titular mother? The Season 5 premiere of How I Met focuses on the two most interesting characters in the series -- Barney Stinson and Robin Scherbatsky -- and what happened after their kiss in the fourth season finale. The result is a very fun episode that finds a perfect way to make the pairing of Barney and Robin work.
As any television fan knows, having two popular characters hook up and begin a relationship can often make that couple -- and the show -- suddenly a whole lot less interesting and fun. The writers of the season premiere (and series creators), Craig Thomas and Carter Bays, work hard to show how Barney and Robin are as a couple without sacrificing any of the elements that make both characters so immensely likable. That's quite an impressive feat, and one I'm thrilled to see.
As is HIMYM tradition, the episode jumps around in time quite a bit, from the present day of Ted's first day as Professor Mosby, back to shortly after Robin and Barney kissed last season. There's also an amusing flashback bit to a "Tuxedo Night" discussion between Barney and Ted, in which Barney has a great explanation of how the rules for girls are the same as the rules for gremlins. The skipping through time in some episodes gets a bit haphazard and nonsensical, but in "Definitions" the time jumps are perfect, showing key details we need to know, both about what Barney and Robin did the past summer as well as Ted's reservations about teaching, until we get back to the scene shown right at the end of last season's finale: Ted teaching his first class.
Ted's story definitely runs secondary to Barney & Robin this episode, and I have no problems whatsoever with that. In fact, less Ted here means that the scenes he's in actually work even better, from a fun teaching gift from the gang of a fedora and whip (required for any serious college professor) to a great sequence involving Ted writing "Professor Mosby" on the blackboard. Ted's nervousness on his first day makes for some hilarious mistakes and very funny situations, all tied to Ted's internal struggle of whether he wants to be the hip and cool teacher or the strict and forceful professor.
There was a time when the "Who is the mother?" question was paramount in the minds of all fans (myself included); I can safely say that after this episode I don't really care who the mother is or exactly when we meet her. There are references to the mother dropped in throughout the episode, and a couple times we're led to believe that we're going to see the mother -- in the past, that may have annoyed me but now I see it as something necessary. In my opinion, the longer they hold off on showing us the mother the longer we get to spend time with the gang, and specifically seeing how it works out with Robin and Barney. As Barney puts it, that's better than awesome. That's "awe-whole darn lot."