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'How I Met Your Mother': The art of fighting

November 2, 2009 |  9:58 pm
One of this season's strongest episodes, “Bagpipes,” was all about different types of couples and how they deal with conflict.

Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) thinks he and Robin (Cobie Smulders) are the best couple. They've had sex in 83 and a half beds (the half was a 19th century ottoman in an antique shop). They never fight, except about who's more awesome, which is understandable. I'm in a deadlock over that one too. As Ted (Josh Radnor) calls it, they have new-relationship smugness of the honeymoon state condition. Except Robin and Barney are in a fight that won't get started because whenever they feel they're about to have one, they find a way to avoid the conflict. Barney leaves the room. Robin starts undressing. As far as avoidance tactics go, Robin's seems more fun.

Smug over his seemingly perfect relationship, Barney tells Marshall (Jason Segal) what he would do if he were married to Lily (Alyson Hannigan). It involves lots of making out and definitely no dishwashing. The Barney and Lily fantasy sequence was a great callback to the underrated episode “World's Greatest Couple,” in which Lily moves in with Barney. Those two don't get enough scenes of their own. For that matter, neither do Marshall and Robin.

Marshall takes Barney's advice – danger, Will Robinson! – leading to a huge fight with Lily and one of my favorite scenes as multiple Lilys and Marshalls have it out over different arguments. One pair argues over Lily bringing up “The Shining” at night. Lily retaliates by doing a “Shining” impression, freaking out all the Marshalls, who simultaneously beg her not to do that.

Barney and Robin return from their sky trip with simultaneous ski slope moves (cutest scene ever) and nicknames so sweet, they even make Ted sick. Yes, you read that correctly. The most romantic, in love with love man in New York is nauseated by Barney and Robin. But Ted's not a professor for nothing. He figures out the twosome isn't nearly as happy as they appear to be. Turns out, ever since they got trapped on a ski lift with no way of avoiding a fight, they've been fighting so much, Barney's downstairs neighbor could hear everything. Barney and Robin go to Marshall and Lily for advice. After hearing about Barney and Robin's fights, they quickly make up and tell them you have to let go of your ego because it's not about winning. Naturally, the advice goes over the head of the world's most competitive couple. No way the guy who plays laser tag like his life depends on it is going to give in. Barney and Robin will never be Lily and Marshall, who were back to their cute and non-annoying ways for the first time this season.

Meanwhile, another couple was, um, hammering it out above Ted and Robin's apartment. Their elderly neighbors just couldn't stop “bagpiping,” as Ted's voiceover labeled it. I always enjoy when Ted tries to censor his story with ridiculous substitute words, like the time Marshall lit up a “sandwich.” It's not like he's telling his kids all sorts of inappropriate details about his and his friends' sex lives.

What exactly is Ted up to lately, anyway? He always seems to be grading papers at home or at the bar – those are so coming back to the students with beer stains – but we never see him teaching anymore. We haven't even seen him really date anybody this season. The motherquest seems to be on hold, which is fine when there's strong Robin/Barney and Lily/Marshall story lines like tonight. I know Ted is not the most popular character on the show, but I enjoy his search for The One. His speech about being the marrying kind in the pilot always gets me.

Readers, are you concerned about Ted's lack of a story line? Who do you think is the best couple, Barney and Robin or Lily and Marshall? And who is more awesome, Barney or Robin?

– Vlada Gelman (follow my TV musings on Twitter at @stayingin)


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Photo: Marshall (Jason Segal) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) have a heated argument. Credit: Ron P. Jaffe/Fox