How fast was that? While HIMYM generally does a good job of tackling contemporary issues, it’s never been quite so timely when it comes to incorporating current events. Though last night’s episode didn’t quite rival another infamous weather-related one — our beloved “Three Days of Snow” — we were pretty psyched to see the writers channel the titillation that accompanies New York’s disaster preparation. As a caveat, yes, there is some insensitivity here. While the city escaped largely unscathed, Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc and cost lives elsewhere. But if Facebook and Twitter updates at the time were any indication, the storm led primarily to alcohol consumption and frenzied candle purchasing, so ultimately, it seemed fair to find the gang doing exactly that.
Kevin began by asking about the sign outside MacLaren’s prohibiting boogie boarding (although the backstory to the “Do not punch the llamas” notice piqued more curiosity). This is a formulaic HIMYM setup — a present-day question prompts an expository retelling that gives Future Ted a break from narration — and we find it usually results in a satisfying half-hour (see also: “The Ducky Tie”). The origin of the signage dated back to August 26, the night of the much-ballyhooed hurricane, which former Boy Scout Ted had been tracking since its days as a tropical depression. Jibes from his friends aside, Ted insisted on taking everyone to his house in Westchester. Three reactions: (1) Finally, Ted’s house is mentioned again; (2) Thank you, writer Robia Rashid, for giving him a destination beyond the overly vague “burbs” of last week; (3) In what world are Manhattanites safer in Westchester, where basements flood, trees fall, and the power goes out? Not a good plan, but more on that in a moment.
So on one hand we have Ted, overly cautious in his pink wellies and his Memoirs of a Geisha on tape. On the other, Robin, whose Canadian blood led her to accuse Ted of having a “safety boner.” Also, note how game for pro-Vancouver (“the ‘Couve”) boasting Barney was in the weeks preceding the discovery of his own heritage? Somewhere in the middle was a temporarily uninsured Marshall, whose fears of injurious scenarios always involved a bear attack and left him clinging to Lily for protection. (And as for the scene in which she must brave the outdoors to get a bagel: Yes, it is so important to insist on only half a schmear of cream cheese or they will smother the sucker.)
Robin’s real issue turned out to be that, unlike her friends, her dad hadn’t checked in to make sure she was okay. To prove that point, Barney prank called her pretending to be her father, which was a real dick move and, again, more on that in a minute. When the news warned that the storm was serious, the gang argued about who was going to Westchester, but eventually, actual footage of Mayor Bloomberg saying that the time for evacuation was over left them stranded at Barney’s.
It’s only in the present day that the events of that weekend proved to be significant. Like how it was in Barney’s bathroom that Baby Eriksen came to be. Though we had never considered the particular encounter that led to his conception, this was a surprising — if a bit icky — reveal. And because of it, Lily and Marshall will allow Barney to lose the ducky tie, which he was suddenly dying to do, and Kevin figured out why based on his opening lie: He had to meet Nora’s parents. Ted: “Therapisted! Shrinked! Shrunk! We’ll figure it out.” Speaking of that opening lie, solid callback to the vengeful pigeons on the roof of the GNB building. In exchange for relieving him of the hideous accoutrement, the pregnant couple up the slap bet ante. Where one slap remained from the original bet, three slaps have now been added, two of which Marshall dispensed with immediately. And yet still, as we know from flash forwards, Barney will wear the tie again.
Impressively, the criticisms we noted while watching in real time were actually countered by the episode’s end. The first is minor: Future Ted admitted that a tree fell through the house in Westchester, so it was for the best that they didn’t go. Exactly. And also: How is he affording those repairs? Second, on the rainy morning following the brunt of the storm, which technically was still an unsafe period to be gallivanting around, Barney sweetly apologized to Robin for being a jerk about her dad, saying that any day that passes without talking to her is no good. That Neil Patrick Harris can act. The look he gave Robin when he leaned in for that kiss was hotter than anything she has going on with Kal Penn. Though their close call was averted at the time, the recollection of it drove the two of them back together for a closing make-out session in the back of a taxi.
As for that boogie-boarding incident, a thin conceit if ever there was one, Marshall ended up crashing through the window of MacLaren’s on a garbage can lid. But this, like Kevin and his question, didn’t really matter.
So Barney’s first. We thought things between Robin and Ted might reignite initially, but given how little-used Kevin and Nora are, it feels right. And episodes like this one, which cast Ted’s earnestness in such a doofy light, make it hard to imagine what Robin could see in him again. The pink boots are the blue violins taken a step too far. But then, other episodes overdo Barney’s caddishness to such a degree that the same could be said for him. So do we speculate about what happens next, or just wait and see?