In honor of the upcoming finale and the promise that the show’s title will be addressed I think it’s worth rehashing some of the popular theories to see which are viable, which are debunked, and what we actually think is going to happen.
Much of this data is gathered from the great How I Met Your Mother FAQ on IMDB.
The Tracy Theory
The “Tracy Theory” is based on the concluding scene of the Season 1 episode “Belly Full of Turkey,” where Ted meets a stripper who introduces herself as “Tracy,” upon which Future Ted’s narration chimes in, “and that, kids, is how I met your mother.” The kids react with shock, and Future Ted quickly reveals he’s kidding.
Fan consensus, however, is that there’s nothing that definitively establishes the mother’s name as Tracy, and the “Tracy Theory” is typically disregarded:
- We know what we see and hear on the screen isn’t necessarily what Future Ted tells verbatim to his kids, unless we actually hear Future Ted say it (one example: Ted and Victoria’s last day together in “Cupcake”). In other words, just because we heard the stripper say “I’m Tracy,” doesn’t mean that Future Ted told his kids, “She said her name was Tracy.”
- The kids’ shocked reaction in that scene would’ve happened regardless of whether Future Ted mentioned the mother’s real name or not. Future Ted defused the situation before the kids might’ve uttered something like “but her name’s not Tracy!”
- Considering the series’ previous “contingency mothers” (people who would’ve been the mother had the show been canceled at particular times) were Victoria and possibly Stella, the creators are certainly open to a mother who wasn’t named Tracy.
So while there’s no ruling out “Tracy,” there’s nothing definitive about it either.
Christine Scott Bennett is to blame for this theory gaining popularity lately. She has been cast as a woman named Tracey in the season four finale “The Leap”. Is this a hint toward the mom? Are the writers aware of the fan theories and just messing with us? What do you think?
St. Patrick’s Day Theory aka “Bump Girl”
“Bump Girl” is the nickname fans have given to the character played by Nicole Muirbrook Wagner in the third season episode “No Tomorrow.” Her entire scene amounts to Ted accidentally bumping into her while walking through a nightclub, Ted briefly apologizing and her graciously dismissing him. This was discussed immediately after the episode when fans, myself among them, noticed this girl.
Because Ted earlier notes that the Mother was in the nightclub that night but that he didn’t meet her, some casual fans have jumped on the theory that since the scene is pointless otherwise, Bump Girl must be the mother.
However, most of the more seasoned fans have come to the consensus that Bump Girl is simply a red herring; HIMYM has a recurring habit of subverting fiction tropes, often tied in to Future Ted’s recurring theme of “that’s not how it is in real life.” In real life, people don’t get over a broken heart overnight right after a seemingly healing epiphany; in real life, people don’t triumphantly push a dead Fiero to 200,000 miles; in real life, friends don’t always do the smart and thoughtful thing and tell their friends that purchasing an expensive apartment despite a horrendous interest rate and huge credit card debt is a stupid thing to do.
The trope that “Bump Girl” is riffing on is that of The Conservation of Information, also known as “Chekhov’s Gun“–you don’t show something if it’s not important. The writers are aware of this, and know that sparking a discussion is always a plus when it comes to the show. Bump Girl was thrown in to inspire that discussion, but one needs to keep in mind that “that’s not how it happens in real life,” and while she’s not technically ruled out as a candidate for “Mother,” knowing the life lessons HIMYM puts forward, it’s not a path that the writers are likely to pursue.
Stella saying she was at a St. Patrick’s Day party only contributes to this theory considering her inclusion in the general storyline surrounding the yellow umbrella (which Ted picked up from the bar after that party.)
Is Robin/Victoria/Wendy the Waitress/Coat-check girl the mother?
As for Robin, we learned it in episode one. “That’s how I met, your aunt Robin.” Radnor and Smulders chemistry is so good that fans have kept trying to figure out ways to justify her being the mother.
No, “Aunt Robin” doesn’t necessarily mean he’s married to Robin’s sister. Future Ted also refers to “Uncle Barney,” “Uncle Marshall,” and “Aunt Lily,” meaning that his kids employ the custom of referring to their father’s close friends as “aunts” and “uncles.”
Further proof that Robin is not the mother is in “Something Blue,” where Future Ted’s closing narration not only establishes that he had not yet met the mother at the time of Marshall and Lily’s wedding, but also that Robin and the mother are two separate people.
In “No Tomorrow,” Ted and Barney go to a club where (Future Ted tells us) the mother is attending the same St. Patrick’s Day party; Robin spends that same night with Marshall and Lily.
As for other girls from past episodes of the show, it’s not possible.
- At the end of “Lucky Penny,” Future Ted wraps up the story by saying that the firm he was interviewing for hired someone else, and that person had to move to Chicago three months later. He points out: “Kids, funny thing about destiny; I thought I was destined to get that job. But I was wrong. My destiny was to stay in New York. Because if I hadn’t, I never would’ve met your mother.” Aside from strongly suggesting that he meets the mother in New York, it clearly means that he had not yet, at the time of “Lucky Penny” (and some window of time afterwards, prior to when he would have moved to Chicago) met the mother.
- At the end of “Something Blue,” Future Ted closes the story with this revelation of his and Robin’s futures: “And as hard as it was at the time, in the end we both got what we wanted. She did eventually go on to live in Argentina, and Morocco, Greece, Russia, even Japan for a little while. And I? Well, I met your mom.”
So anyone Ted can be construed to have “met” before the events of “Something Blue” can be definitively ruled out as the mother, including Victoria, the coat check girl, the Slutty Pumpkin, Wendy the Waitress, Trudy, and most other female characters Ted has personally significantly interacted with from Seasons 1 and 2.
There are, of course, subsequent statements that nonetheless establish Ted as not having met the mother yet:
- “No Tomorrow” – Future Ted makes a point of the fact that he learned years later that the mother attended the same St. Patrick’s Day 2008 party that he did, but did not meet her there.
- “The Three Days Rule” – after telling the story of how things with Holli went, Ted mentions that when he met the mother, he didn’t hesitate to call her back as soon as he got her number, strongly implying that this event has not happened yet in the timeline.
- “Right Place, Right Time” – Ted implies that the sequence of events that lead to his running into Stella “changed his life forever,” further implying that these events were crucial to his meeting the mother (and that Stella is going to be a key factor in this path). Take that all together and it means he hasn’t met the mother yet.
Carter has said in phone interviews that the reveal of the mother will not take advantage of a loop hole or clever twist. That promise further debunks many of the above theories.