You’ve read the groundbreaking behind-the-scenes interview, you’ve seen the exclusive extended cut — and, last night, you witnessed the return, in full episode form, of Robin Sparkles. For the record, this is only partially faux-enthusiasm: The original appearance of Sparkles — in the Tiffany-indebted “Let’s Go to the Mall” music video — is an undeniable highlight for How I Met Your Mother, and the closest the show has ever come to touching the kind of sharp pop-culture-skewering 30 Rock tosses off several times an episode. But HIMYM is not — and more important, does not want to be — 30 Rock. So while Tina Fey is turning up her nose "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah II" pitches in the writers’ room, the HIMYM staff is trying to figure out how to give the people what they want. Which in this case means — more Sparkles! Also: more genuine, general sitcom-appropriate sweetness.
But first, the B-plot: Ted is revealed to have a high-school chum, Punchy, back in Ohio, whom he claims to be in great relations with. It turns out they only have superficial conversations, mostly consisting of reminiscing about one particular doo-doo incident, approximately once a year. But this latest time Ted calls and obligatorily invites Punchy to New York, and Punchy takes him up on it — to the great annoyance of all the snobby New Yorkers in Ted’s life. But! Turns out Punchy’s not a desperate out-of-touch Midwesterner; he’s a caring, in-a-stable-relationship Midwesterner, who showed up unannounced to soothe Ted’s lonely life, mostly by doing gags that involve surreptitiously showing Ted his scrotum. You know, that is kind of a 30 Rock appropriate element as well! (Also: Thoughts on Punchy having a chubby Midwestern-y stereotype girlfriend?) Eventually Punchy reveals that he’s getting married, and wants Ted to be his best man. Tears, acceptance of offer, more punches. Will this drive the show into a Lily-esque wedding obsession? Probably.
(By the way, this subplot totally overperformed in the zinger department. The best was Ted trying to make Robin feel bad enough for Punchy to let him sleep on the couch, and a sad, solitary "Lebron?" sealing the deal.)
Speaking of Lily and being crazy: Lily is baby-crazy. Like, even more so than before: She’s reading the books, renting the water-birth DVDs — everything. And it’s driving Robin crazy. This is realistic! And here comes the emotionally significant backstory: Through unexplained machinations, Barney has acquired an episode of Robin’s previously hinted at Canadian show Space Teens. (Side note: Why does Barney go to slap Marshall when it looks like it’s a porno at first? That is not ringing a bell.) Robin’s best pal on the show, we find out, was one Jessica Glitter (hello, Nicole Scherzinger!). They were BFFs — until they weren’t. Robin walks out, glum at the memory of her ex-bud, and then Ted (admirably quickly) pieces together that Glitter had a baby five years ago, right around the time the Sparkles and Glitter friendship team broke up. But Lily’s going to have a baby! Will Robin and Lily stop being friends when that happens?
Fast-forward through the Glitter-Sparkles team-up, a rendition of the hit “Two Beavers Are Better Than One,” and the resolution: No, Robin and Lily will not stop being friends when that happens. Robin hates babies, but she’ll make an exception for Lily’s future child.
One last thing: Hologram Alan Thicke. Okay, we are done here.