Boilerplate for last week’s episode: I liked it. The rhyming conceit was a little thin, but at this point, I’d rather watch a gimmicky episode of HIMYM than most regular episodes of other sitcoms.
Now, episodes like this? They make it tough to root for our mother-seeking protagonist in his doomed feelings for Robin, because this last season is demonstrating unequivocally that Barney is her ideal husband. Ultimately I think it’s a smart move for HIMYM to make, showing that Robin chose the right man for her, but it leaves little credence to Ted’s feelings. He’s a lovesick idiot chasing after the ideal of a woman madly in love with someone else. I can relate. But I’m way too jaded to feel sympathy for the poor bastard.
Enough pontificating. Let’s talk about what worked in this Marshall-less episode (minus a few golden flashback appearances): Ted’s Liberace fake-out, Robin’s straining patience, Lily’s hollow insistence that she can keep a secret, and Barney’s masterful orchestration of yet another touching bamboozle. As we saw from the beginning of their engagement (8×11-12, “The Final Page,” brave HIMYM-stronauts!), Barney has developed his proclivity for deception and elaborate machination into the tools of a good, if unorthodox, husband. He wants to be Robin’s man, but he still has to be Barney. And like he told her last season (8×18, “Weekend at Barney’s”), lies are an indelible part of who he is. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
I didn’t catch on to the Canada-themed rehearsal dinner right away, even though I should have. In retrospect, the “Let’s Get This Party Started” bear was pretty obvious. Chalk it up to some spot-on NPH this episode; he was on-point with the physical comedy. But turning his obsession with a lazer tag-themed dinner into another gift for Robin was a sweet way to demonstrate that, while he is still made of lies, he’s willing to compromise to make a better marriage.
If there was one thing I didn’t like about the episode (and episodes like it), it was how the plot forced Robin to be the nay-saying nagger. It just doesn’t feel like a natural fit for her character, and it skews uncomfortably close to more traditional sitcom marriage fare. One of the things I love about HIMYM is how Lily and Marshall—its original married couple—are equally insane, and frequently trade roles as the crazy one and the responsible one in the relationship. With Barney and Robin, it’s beginning to feel as though Robin’s been given the choice to join in Barney’s antics or oppose them. We haven’t seen enough of her own scheming (a la her brilliant bachelor party [8×22, “The Bro Mitzvah”]), which is a damn shame.
But for all that, an episode that gives us Ted dressed as Liberace gives us a lot to like. It’s definitely a gimmicky episode, but not in the same vein as last week’s: this kind of gimmick, the elaborate misdirection, is a tried and true HIMYM staple turned up to 11. And something tells me it’s not the last surprise Barney has planned for the weekend.
- Robin’s “pretty mad” and “pretty hungry” face are nigh-identical. Does she get angry when she gets hungry?
- Barney’s previous terrible ideas: gluten-free edible panties, hot dog on a stick on a bun, inflatable sex toy life raft, the Breast Augmentation Channel, single malt scotch tape (which I think might be a winner), and the time he ran for mayor.
- How long can the gang make fun of Canada? Long enough for that nice couple in the background to have a happy and full life.
- Doctor Lazer Tag Security Guard has a really sad story that we probably wouldn’t care about.
- “If you guys are saying what I think you’re saying…” “Probably not. Go on.”
- NPH does the best spit-takes on TV.
- “I trust you with a secret as much as I trust Marshall with Pop Secret.” Topical popcorn jokes courtesy of Theodore Mosby.
- Robin is still pretty insistent they have a ringbearER at the wedding.
- “I need your apple juice.”
- The ingredients to a good marriage: honesty, trust, Lily and Marshall crap.
- Singing Alan Thicke is the best surprise.
- Unless it’s Singing James (Wayne Brady!) wearing a Duality of Man getup.
- The many gifts of Canada: insulin, paint rollers, Alan Thicke, Wonder Bras (?), two World War victories, Neil Young, William Shatner, Leonard Cohen, Pamela Anderson, one-quarter of Barney Stinson, instant mashed potatoes, and Robin.