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How I Met Your Mother Recap: Man’s Best Friend

"œThe Autumn of Break-Ups" -- Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) distracts the bulldog (Ernie) while his wingman "œBrover" hits on a yorkie mix, on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, Monday, Oct. 29 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

How did it take this long for HIMYM to come up with the idea of having a dog play Barney’s wingman? Perhaps it’s a cheap joke, but only to those who don’t find canine actors to be supremely delightful, especially those that wear suits. It’s a shame that having a pet as a character puts such a practical and financial strain on a series (this is why Marcel the monkey didn’t make it very far in Friends), because an actual dog provides a lot more leeway for Barney’s played-out jokes: “He buries his bones all day” and “the bitches love him” and so on and so forth. It’s fine because he’s just talking about a Scottie/Jack Russell terrier mix (shot in the dark — we don’t know what breed of dog Brover is). Now that NPH seems to be on his own in terms of plotlines, pursuing arcs that don’t really involve his cast mates, a dog would’ve made a great sidekick for a few more episodes.

But the most interesting talking point from last night’s strong episode was slightly more charged (and we’re not talking about Marshall’s dubious “snap sister”). “The Autumn of Break-Ups” suggested that straight men have an easier time accepting their partner’s friendships with the opposite sex than straight women do. Nick wasn’t thrilled about Robin’s concern for Barney, but he was willing to keep his crepes warm for her as long as she came back to him at the end of the night. At the same time, Victoria refused to accept Ted’s marriage proposal unless he ended his friendship with Robin.

Of course, as die-hard fans of Robin, we couldn’t support her terms. But there’s no way to definitively like or dislike these developments, except to say that Victoria’s caveat seemed to come too late, especially considering this was a retread of past concerns. We were surprised Lily sympathized with her — this is the same Lily who meddled in all of Ted’s relationship and helped to break Robin and Ted up when she decided they wanted different things out of life. You’d think she would immediately understand that a relationship founded on limitations could never work and she’d interfere, but maybe watching Ted grow long in the tooth weakened her resolve. Plus, she has a kid now. Eight or higher.   

Anyway, we’re not sure what to make of the fact that even though Ted asked Marshall and Lily not to tell Robin that he split with Victoria on her behalf, she finds out, but Future Ted says, “We’ll get to that.” (So you keep saying!) It certainly seemed like the writers put a nail in the coffin of their story last year, when Robin once and for all told Ted that she wasn’t in love with him. We can’t imagine how they could hit refresh on that.

What we liked:

  • Lily’s admission that couples only invite other people to do things to “judge them and feel superior.” That’s not the kind of thing that would have been true at the beginning of the series, but as Lily and Marshall have matured into their thirties, it seems completely accurate.
  • Marshall’s on-point comment about Victoria’s high-school friends posting photos of their second babies to Facebook.
  • Squirlock Holmes. The third member of the Mosby Boys — who were, in reality, Ted and his sister, mentioned at least once previously during Marshall and Lily’s memorable fight about finances. We’re an easy laugh when it comes to anthropomorphized animals.
  • Ted’s switcheroo at the bar. For a second, it looked like he was going to capitulate to Victoria. But instead, he backed off, instead telling Robin about a potential YA series involving the Mosby Boys. Robin’s advice: “Lose the Mosby nerds and focus on that crime-solving squirrel. That guy is gold.”
  • Barney’s admiration of Brover: “Even though I think it’s kind of gross when you pleasure yourself orally, don’t think I’m not impressed … You do it with such joie de vivre!”
  • Nick’s failed catchphrases. The poor guy certainly hasn’t been the victim of too much character development, but “poppin’ a chub for some grub” was a noble attempt for cable-news fame.
  • Victoria’s faux-complimenting Robin, with the implicit suggestion that women feel a need to be nice even when they’re jealous/threatened/stark-raving mad. She blames her for ruining her relationship with Ted, but adds: “Nicest girl in the world, salt of the earth!”
  • Marshall’s terrible inner-goddess advice to random women: “Loves show tunes, total shopaholic, not always pestering you for sex? Clifford sounds like a keeper.”
  • Michelle Williams. Jason Segel is looking very handsome these days, and not that he wasn’t equally as charming in his greasy-haired, beer-gut days, but his grooming is not unappealing.

What we didn’t like:

  • Ted’s sudden resistance to commitment. Sure, Victoria was never going to be the Mother. But the series is founded on his desire to get married and start a family, and he dated Victoria before (agreed that the clock was paused and not restarted). He broke up her wedding! It’s implausible that he would suddenly be so dense about the subtext of their reunion. Victoria shouldn’t have been brought back to flounder like this.
  • Marshall’s sassiness. It was uncomfortable, and the idea that he was doing it to be on Lily’s wavelength didn’t work, because Lily only talked like that when she was around her friend Michelle. Though Marshall’s channeling of Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost would have made a good singular joke, and “Ms. Fudge” was a solid callback.

This episode was supposed to air last week, but was preempted for Sandy coverage. It will be interesting to see if HIMYM absorbs the events of the storm in their plotlines, like they did with Hurricane Irene, or if the effects of the storm were just too serious for a sitcom. But we appreciate the show’s attempts to honor the New York experience on their L.A. lot, so we hope it factors in somewhere. 

Photo: Richard Cartwright/CBS