How I Met Your Mother – Who Was Ted Really Meant To End Up With: Tracy Or Robin?
After nine long seasons on CBS, How I Met Your Mother came to an end on March 31st 2014, revealing to audiences worldwide how Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) and the mother of his children Tracy McConnell (Cristin Milioti) finally met. The finale sparked controversy as fans were disappointed with the highly anticipated series finale. Ted wraps up the story, revealing the mother has actually been dead for six years, and his children believe the reason he told this story was to get their permission to ask out Robin. Ted professes his love for Robin the same way he did when he first met her: standing under her apartment window holding the stolen blue French horn.
Since the beginning of the series and well past the finale, there has been the argument by fans of whom Ted was really meant to end up with. Who was ‘the one’ for Ted: Tracy or Robin? Who really was his soulmate? It has been four years since the finale premiered and I feel the heat has cleared to finally investigate this question fully.
Is It Really Ted Vs Robin?
How I Met Your Mother has always been a story hidden inside a story; a big misdirection. The title of the series alone leads audiences to believe that the entire focus will be on the mother, however, it’s more about the timing and the journey Ted has to go through and not meeting the mother. From the very first episode of the series, Ted is retelling this story after already loving and losing both Tracy and Robin; this information not revealed to the audience until the finale. Tracy and Robin both had different roles to play in Ted’s life, so let’s look into these deeper.
Within the first five minutes of the pilot, after expressing to the universe “Okay, I’m ready. Where is she?” Ted spots Robin on the other side of MacLaren’s bar. Future Ted’s voiceover together with present Ted’s fixed romantic gaze sets the tone for the rest of the series:
“And there she was. It was like something out of an old movie. Where the sailor sees the girl across the crowded dance floor and turns to his buddy and says ‘see that girl? I’m gonna marry her someday’.”
After Future Ted explains to his children “the true story” of how he met “Aunt Robin”, the idea of Robin being the mother is completely rejected. That did not mean, however, the idea of Ted and Robin was completely shut out. For nine seasons, Ted and Robin were one of TV’s biggest on again/off again couples, always being torn apart by bad timing, including all the way up to Robin’s wedding day when, hours before the wedding, she asked Ted to run away with her. Ted, who was still in love with her, knew this wasn’t meant to work out. Already accepting a job opportunity in Chicago, Ted finally decided to let go of Robin for good and leave New York City for a fresh start.
The moment Ted let Robin go, he met Tracy. Tracy had also been with someone she considered her ‘one’ before Ted, her late boyfriend Max. Episode 16 of Season 9 had Tracy show she believes “each of us only gets one” and she “got” hers already so she was on “permanent hiatus” in the “love department”. It wasn’t until she fully decided to let Max go that she met Ted. Unlike Ted and Robin who were always being torn apart by bad timing, Ted and Tracy’s paths have continually crossed for years before they even met each other, clearly fated to meet just at the right time. They were both at the same St. Patrick’s Day party, Ted accidentally lectured Tracy’s class on his first day at Columbia University, and Ted dated Tracy’s roommate. Tracy is Ted’s perfect woman: she played bass, loved the Renaissance fair, and they had the same goals and same dreams. They even named their daughter Penny after their love of coin collecting. The finale presented Ted and Tracy having a fulfilling marriage, raising two children, and growing older together madly in love. It then shows Ted realising he still has feelings for Robin, and Robin realising she still has feelings for Ted.
The blue French horn was one of the biggest romantic symbols of the series. The horn represented “Ted’s eternal affection for Robin”. Josh Radnor who plays Ted believes it to be a symbol of “both romanticism and his [Ted’s] slight insanity” representing “the lengths to which he’ll go to win someone.” He can always go after the horn despite constantly losing it, mirroring how he always goes back to Robin. In contrast, the yellow umbrella represents the mother, love coming in unexpectedly through fate. Ted didn’t need to do anything to get the yellow umbrella. He physically found it after St. Patrick’s Day, but metaphorically it belongs to him, branded with – what he thought – were his initials ‘T.M’. Ted needed to perform a rain dance to win Robin, however, when he met Tracy it was already raining. Ted gave away the blue French horn but always went back to retrieve it. The umbrella found him, and when he ultimately lost it we see it blowing away, symbolising loss and moving on. They both symbolise his very different love stories: Robin’s which he controls, and Tracy’s which fate controls.
Who Was Ted Really Meant To End Up With?
To answer the question – to the best of anyone’s ability – of who Ted was really meant to end up with: both. The entire series would not make sense without ending up with both women. If Robin were Ted’s soul mate, the series would lose all meaning, however if Ted did not end up with Robin the series would also lose all meaning. Ted never would have met Tracy if it weren’t for Robin and Ted would never have ended up back with Robin if it weren’t for Tracy. Tracy was Ted’s soulmate and Robin is the love of his life. Neither of them are ‘the one’ because Ted was never meant to be with one or the other. For no matter how long, or how short a time, Ted’s destiny was to end up with both of them. The blue French horn led to the yellow umbrella. Ted letting go of Robin let to Tracy, and then letting go of Tracy led back to Robin.
How I Met Your Mother can be looked at from the angle of ‘what do you do after you’ve been with the one?’ Tracy believed her one was her late boyfriend Max, so for Tracy, Ted was her ‘after the one’. Ted always believed Robin was the one, so Tracy is Ted’s ‘after the one’. I, a fan of the series for years, have always sided with the argument that Tracy is Ted’s ‘the one’, but after looking deeply into it, my answer has changed.
As much as the finale will pain most fans, it did justice to the entire series, because Ted’s story has always been about Robin. It will always circle back around no matter how much time has passed and no matter how many women he dates. The title of the series alone is a misdirect, the viewers finding it hard to grasp the fact that future Ted’s happily-ever-after is not permanently with the mother of his child. But just like the series explores, that’s life. Tracy was the one for young Ted, the Ted who wanted children, a marriage, and a happily ever after. Robin was the one for future Ted: the Ted who had achieved his life goals. In the end, everyone ended up with who they were meant to be with. Tracy went back to Max, and Ted found his way back to Robin.
What do you think? Leave a comment.