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How I Met Your Mother Recap: Shock and Awww

“The Rebound Girl" -- Ted (Josh Radnor) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) discuss making a life-changing decision together, on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, Monday, Nov. 21 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (L-R) Lily (Alyson Hannigan), Marshall (Jason Segel), Ted (Josh Radnor) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris).
Photo: Eric McCandless/FOX
©2011 FOX Television. All Rights Reserved.

Generally, these recaps stick to the episode’s actual chronology, but after last night, we have to skip right to the end. Robin’s pregnant? Did anyone see that coming? Our reaction was total surprise, followed by mild disappointment. Not with the episode itself, which continued the season’s winning streak, but because Robin is the self-appointed “vice girl.” She hates babies almost as much as she loves scotch (okay, hate might be strong — she did steal Jeremy’s sock that one time). Put it this way: She isn’t pursuing traditional roles. Now the two female leads are becoming mothers, which might be wonderful in real life, but threatens to compromise the quality of a show about the prolonged adolescence of people who live in New York. At this rate, if Barney’s the father, Ted will be drinking at MacLaren’s by himself next year — unless Robin has a convenient television miscarriage or gives the baby up for adoption, both of which would be rather loaded moves for a sitcom. Surely, this will be much discussed in the comments. Too bad next week is the first repeat of the season.

 

Anyway, a few weeks ago, Marshall and Lily’s plan to move to “the burbs” was immediately dismissed by Robin as a side effect of “pregnancy brain,” which felt a little hasty. Even dyed-in-the-wool New Yorkers would find it hard to turn down an inherited house, especially when there’s a baby on the way, so we thought this issue merited more discussion. As if on cue, creators-writers Bays and Thomas agilely picked up the plot and, this time, “the burbs” got a little more real — to begin with, they were properly identified as being on Long Island. Of all the ways Marshall dreamed of utilizing the property (a year-round haunted house, a chimp sanctuary), none were as appealing as simply inhabiting it, particularly after the couple returned home to their own cramped quarters. In a neat trick of the set design, Marshall and Lily’s apartment was downsized to look smaller. Suddenly, they struggled to fit through the doors and navigate around the couch, an incredibly astute detail about New York City living that was enough to make us forget last season’s wildly inaccurate depiction of Smith and 9th Street. And, on another level, it was sad to see Marshall and Lily outgrow the place they once coveted, when, as honeymooners, they fantasized about watching their children grow up there. But people change and dreams adapt accordingly (or is it the other way around?).

Our favorite part of this subplot was the return of The Sign. Those of us who are paralyzed by indecision know that, sometimes, it’s better to believe the universe is in control. When Marshall and Lily were deciding whether to have a baby, they bent the universe to their wishes, seeing doppelgängers when perhaps there were none. Last night, over Robin’s noisy objections, which included calling Long Island “Brooklyn’s fart trail,” they once again left their fate to the cosmos and perhaps just as willingly interpreted signs according to their preferences. (Also, we loved Marshall’s mixed messages about becoming a ghostbuster as well as Robin’s escalating fury at knocking over so many lamps in the tiny apartment.) So are they going to relocate for sure? It’s hard to say, but it definitely looked like it.

In another incredible plotline, Barney and Ted decide that they’re done with girls. Ted: “Based on all the stuff you’ve done to them over the years, I’m not sure you ever liked them.” What’s particularly endearing is how Bays and Thomas flipped the script here: It’s usually women who pretend-plan a life without men, or at the very least, it’s two platonic friends of the opposite sex deciding to do away with lovers. To watch Barney and Ted contemplate joint parenthood with the same zeal they shared for opening a bar (Puzzles!) was fantastic and not nearly as implausible as it should have been. There were so many good one-liners: Barney pointing out that it’s no longer the eighties so you can’t just drive by an inner-city playground in a limo and scoop up some kids; Ted imagining a child riding their “purebred golden” (who could still be a rescue!); both of them wondering, if all three of the guys were gay, who would date Marshall. NPH and Josh Radnor really played off each other here and their frankness — a hint that straight characters could entertain other urges — was incredibly refreshing.

Finally, just the sight of Barney with a baby strapped to his person was worth the gag alone, but that the infant’s name was Hurricane really paid off. Obviously, this called back to the Irene episode when Marshall’s eyes lit up at the suggestion of naming their baby after the weather system that led to his conception (which apparently resulted in a longer debate than we were privy to). Of course, Hurricane turned out to be Sadie, James’s daughter, and, in the end, Barney and Ted both sack up and realize they have to be patient and — well, who cares, Robin is pregnant! That’s crazy! Her desperation to keep Marshall and Lily in the city already made perfect sense. Locking herself in the bathroom actually seemed like a grand display of affection, which is why the twist caught us totally off guard. Babies, and all their accompanying wackiness, tend to spell doom for a sitcom. Will HIMYM avoid this fate? We’re in need of a sign.

Photo: Eric McCandless/FOX Television