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'How I Met Your Mother': It started with a tape

November 9, 2009 |  9:28 pm
Things got off to an auspiciously good start for Ted (Josh Radnor) when he became the heir of Barney's (Neil Patrick Harris) porn collection. Lily (Alyson Hannigan) marveled at the titles, such as “Horny Coed Surprise Party 23,” before trying to steal one for her and Marshall (Jason Segal). Any readers also fans of the British comedy series “Coupling”? If you are, then you know why I want to rewatch “Inferno” now.

Ted “attempted” to throw away the tapes, but one magically landed in the VCR player, pressing the play button all on its own. Unfortunately for Ted, Barney has taped a message over “Archisexture.” If Ted is watching the message, it means one of two things: Barney is dead, in which case he wants Ted to take his body to the Hamptons to re-create the classic “Weekend at Bernie's,” or he's in a committed relationship, in which case, “Get me out!” he begs.

Normally, I'd be pretty upset at the idea of breaking up Barney and Robin, but the writers seem to have lost who they are. The couple are so unhappy, they've completely let themselves go. For Barney, that means eating everything in sight to the point where Barney will have to buy his suits at the Big and Moderately Tall store. For Robin, it means ceasing to wash her hair and developing a case of acne face. They now resemble Marshall's favorite '70s detective show, “The Fat Guy and the Old Lady.” Yet both are too stubborn to break up with the other. Sigh. I really wish it hadn't come to this. Robin and Barney have enough emotional problems to cause a breakup without resorting to a game of relationship chicken with decidedly unkempt side effects. I think they're both smart enough and assertive enough to know when to end things. And I don't quite buy that either party would let themselves go like that.

As much as I love Barney and Robin when they're being awesome, I was glad when Marshall and Ted called in Lily for reinforcements in their plan to break up the twosome. Lily has quite a track record in this arena – she broke up seven of Ted's relationships – and she comes with a plan. They'll reignite the couple's four biggest fights: the dish incident, the ex-girlfriend argument, a squabble over Barney's Stormtrooper, which Robin says looks like it's wearing a diaper, and “the Canadian-American War.” Lily calls on Robin's old pal Alan Thicke and Barney's crazy ex Meg (April Bowlby), who show up at the gang's stakeout station wagon (“A van costs like $25 more,” Ted explains). For me, the banter during the stakeout was the highlight of the episode, especially Ted thinking the pizza guy was from one of Barney's porn movies and the not-a-Stormtrooper robot guy leading Lily to realization that those were people who died on the Death Star.

Lily's plan doesn't work, but Barney and Robin still break up after seeing how horrible they look in a window reflection. Do they not have mirrors at home? Don't they get stares from strangers? I did like the idea that they weren't breaking up but “getting back together as friends.” It was a sweet sentiment before a newly svelte Barney suited up and declared, “Daddy's home.”

But let's not forget the best part of the episode. Alan Thicke let is slip that he and Robin did a failed Canadian variety show! For a minute, I thought he was going to say they slept together – ew, he's your fake music video father – but this is so much better!

Are you excited for Robin Sparkles' inevitable return? Are you glad Barney is single and on the prowl again? Did you catch the return of “Murder Train” by Robin's Canadian ex Simon (James Van Der Beek)?

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


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Photo: Lily (Alyson Hannigan) enlists Alan Thicke's help. Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS