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How I Met Your Mother Recap: No Neil Patrick Harris, No Problem

A week after a 100th episode highlighted by an insistently catchy musical number about suits, How I Met Your Mother pulls out one of its best all-around installments in a long while. We got guest-star Amanda Peet doing more than just eliciting “Hey, what’s [person X] doing on this show?” responses, a throwback perceptive-relationship-observation catchphrase, and less Barney (stay with us; yes, this was beneficial). HIMYM: looking good in 2010!

Things start off with the gang, minus Lily, at a college bar, where they’re meeting Jenkins, Marshall’s hilarious new office buddy. Marshall had been regaling everyone with stories — Jenkins ate a whole jar of maraschino cherries! — for a few weeks, and they’d all assumed Jenkins was a chubby dude (that’s how he appears in the flashbacks). But nope! Jenkins is Amanda Peet. We get the flashbacks again, which is a good thing because seeing Amanda Peet guzzle maraschino cherries is definitely better than seeing a generic chubby dude do it.

Barney, unsurprisingly, announces he’ll sleep with Jenkins. And clearly Neil Patrick Harris was doing a movie or hosting an awards show or something the week this episode was shot, because that’s pretty much it for Barney. Counterintuitively, this set the table for a really great episode. We even liked Ted! Which got us thinking — had the writers, after ending his relationship with Robin, been focusing too much of their energy on trotting out unneutered Barney? Last night’s episode had more time in the classroom, further developing Ted as the corny professor both mocked and liked by his students, and we totally bought it. If that means less of Barney (in the words of the Jersey Shore) “creepin’,” we’re cool with it.

And the conflict is: Everyone but Lily knows Jenkins is a woman, so when Lily shows up randomly at work, Marshall starts panicking. He quickly informs Jenkins of the situation, and she rolls with it, dropping a French accent to try and put one over on Lily. (“I’m here for a small but significant cheese incident” was pretty brilliant.) Marshall’s too honest, though, and quickly blurts out that the Frenchie is Jenkins. And Lily ... doesn’t care at all.

Turns out, as Robin and Ted explain to Marshall at the bar, every relationship has a “reacher” who landed out of his or her league and a “settler” landing just slightly below it. Seeing as Marshall is the “reacher,” Lily can never be jealous. Marshall goes back to Lily and twists her arm into admitting that okay, yes, maybe, if she had to pick one, she is the settler. Freaked out, he hatches a plan to get Jenkins all hot and bothered by his Skee-Ball skills (see, so many good things happened this week we don’t even have space to fully explain them all!) and finally make Lily jealous. But before he can, Jenkins kisses him at work. The ever loyal and sweet Marshall, of course, recoils in horror in a big, big way. Honestly, we have never seen better horror-induced recoil.

Turns out, Jenkins was wasted at work from playing the Robin Scherbatsky drinking game. Wait, there’s a Robin Scherbatsky drinking game? Yes, a Robin Scherbatsky drinking game! Ted’s students made it up, seeing as Robin’s show comes on so early they’re usually still at the bar: Every time Robin says “but, um,” you take a shot. This leads to two good things. First, more subtle admissions of weirdness for Ted post-Barney/Robin ...


Barney: It’s funny, I had a drinking game based on Robin. Actually, it was on Robin. I’d pour peach schnapps on her belly button.

Ted: Dude, we agreed you wouldn’t do this.

Barney: Sorry. You’re right. She didn’t like it anyways. Said it woke her up.

... and second, and even better, more of Robin’s barely controlled, completely inappropriate, and totally awesome megalomania, induced when she finds out Ted’s students know who she is. Since she’s being a total jerkface, Ted has to break the bad news to her about the drinking game. Then the ever wily Robin kills the game by saying “but, um” more than ever before, which is too bad because Ted finally got invited to hang out and play it with his students (Funny Ted: “Well, what can I say except, but, um’s up!” [Silence] “Can I still come? I’ll pay!”)

Meanwhile, Marshall tells Lily about the Jenkins kiss, and she doesn’t believe him because of the whole “reacher” thing. Marshall encourages Jenkins to apologize to Lily directly, which is good because Marshall feels vindicated, and because we see Lily slowly and methodically removing her jewelry throughout the apology before beating the crap out of Jenkins.

This really felt like a return to form. Just like you know how your real-life friends would react to certain things, after a while you know how your fake TV-character friends would, also. For most of this season, we’ve felt like we don’t really know these people anymore. Last night, we got reacquainted.

And now, more funny jokes from last night, presented without context, mostly because it’s been a while since there were actual funny jokes on this show:

• “It’s like watching a well-lit aquarium but not as interesting. And come to think of it, not as well lit.”

• “There’s an interesting article in the paper ... well, not in this newspaper. It’s in one I read a while back. This newspaper reminded me of the other newspaper.”

• “Which would mean ... I didn’t get super wasted and throw up all over myself. Oh wait, I did both of those things! Soo ... face.”

• “Dude, you are so the reacher ... you’re getting her a horse! Shhh. Take the hit, take the hit.” (Particularly awesome, we thought.)

More Recaps:
The Shame Index goes to bat for Marshall: "If Oprah were about to crash a plane carrying the Index's children and grandchildren, into an art museum holding the Index's favorite art, the Index would still say that neither Lily nor Marshall is a reacher."
The AV Club explains that "the show's tricks have ceased to amaze and astound. But that doesn't mean they are any less extraordinary as ways to entertain us and simultaneously reinvent the traditional sitcom form. No, it just means they have become invisible in their virtuosity, and that we've begun to take them for granted."

Photo: Eric McCandless/FOX