Enjoyment of last night’s episode was probably affected by at least one of these three things: (1) How much you like Star Wars jokes; (2) How much you like Twilight jokes; (3) How much you love shout-outs to Friday Night Lights. For us, two out of three isn’t bad.
First things first: Forget whether it’s ethical or not for a therapist to date his patient — Kevin and Robin should refrain from a romantic entanglement on the grounds that that Kal Penn and Cobie Smulders have zero chemistry together. Their meet-cutes at the (suddenly popular) diner were as flat as day-old Champagne (put a spoon in it!), and they looked about as comfortable snuggling on a couch as two siblings would.
Theirs wouldn’t have been such a glaringly dull dalliance if the subplots had proved distracting, but Barney’s tenuous theory regarding the Ewok Line — a demarcation that determines when a woman was born based on her association of Ewoks with teddy bears — was a borrowed premise, an amalgamation of his Hot-Crazy Scale and the Stella’s-never-seen–Star Wars gag. On one hand, perhaps Star Wars is too major a touchstone for HIMYM to limit its importance to season four, yet it seemed more organic then. (Without admitting anything, this recapper will cop to “having a friend” who has never seen the movie.) Meanwhile, Marshall’s continued disappointment over his new boss’s failure to protect the environment wasn’t exactly fresh, either.
Let’s talk about the plotline with the most promise: Ted’s field trip. On a totally superficial note, the beard? Unlike the red cowboy boots, he is pulling. It. Off. There was some good old-fashioned Ted-teasing as the gang tried to divorce him of any grand aspirations for his Intro to Architecture class. Barney: “Don’t try to stand and deliver an Intro class.” Meanwhile, Marshall remembered his own “Intro to Somethingology” as “a path to not being hung-over anymore.” Solid scene, and always worth watching closely to catch Barney smiling in Robin’s direction, usually after she’s said something extra-sarcastic. Also amusing here was Barney’s suitcase, at hand in case he needed to ditch Nora, which was better for being underplayed. What was overplayed, though, was Lily’s folksy, kindergarten teacher act. Scolding Marshall for his vulgarities in front of Baby Eriksen was a little too joyless (Barney: “It’s like watching The Breakfast Club on TBS.”)
When Ted’s tour of the new GNB building got derailed, he took the students to visit Barney, who quickly used the opportunity to explain his hypothesis that women born before May 25, 1973 — exactly four years prior to Star Wars’ release — do not appreciate Ewoks; Nora doesn’t like Ewoks. Ergo, Nora is actually 37, and not 29, as advertised. His many prepared charts on the Ewoks’ anatomy, diet, style, and language were clever, but like we said, it didn’t feel like new territory. Plus, it was just generally offensive, as the whole gang has to be inching toward 35 anyway.
Out of desperation, the two took the class to Ted’s apartment, where they caught Kevin and Robin almost kissing, and Barney got his first taste for polling the group, asking whether they agreed the situation was icky (they did). Polling fever soon reached its apex on the steps outside. Ted had lost a few students but gained a family of German tourists, and Barney and Ted quizzed everyone on topics like Edward versus Jacob, which was momentarily confusing because it seemed like a Twilight riff, yet they were talking about Stand and Deliver’s Edward James Olmos. Great payoff at the very end, when a flashback to a few weeks earlier showed a pre-duck-tie Barney insisting to Ted that the actor’s name was not Edward, but Jacob. (Barney: “You’re Olmos correct.”)
Not to give Marshall short shrift, but his story can be summed up thusly: He worried Garrison Cootes (Martin Short) too easily capitulated to the demands of a polluting corporation, Cootes admitted that he’d lost faith in his activism, but Marshall convinced him to care about the environment again by showing him an ultrasound of his child. Ugh. Lily and Marshall are a little performative with this pregnancy. Anyway, the most rewarding part, for us, was when Cootes described his survival plan, which involved an abandoned Colorado mine, canned goods, assault rifles, and all five seasons of Friday Night Lights. Also, though we think HIMYM is promising an awful lot here, a little shiver ran down our spine when Marshall told Cootes, “We’re going to save the planet” and Future Ted intoned, “And kids, as we now know, they did.” A healthy Earth is the next best thing to five seasons of FNL in a bunker.
Back to Kevin and Robin: In the silliest development imaginable, she decided to become his therapist so as to even out the imbalance between them, which resulted in lame counseling tropes. It’s not worth getting too riled up over because, clearly, the season is leading us by the nose toward a showdown between Barney, Robin, and Ted. Kevin, much like Zoey, is stuck stalling for time. And Penn deserved more than a walk-on role, so his continued presence, while predictably limited, isn’t unwelcome. Still, this was early season fare, which in the late era of a series means somewhat forgettable episodes. Until next week