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How I Met Your Mother Recap: The Nick of Time

"Splitsville" -- When Robin (Cobie Smulders) is hesitant to break up with Nick, Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) takes matters into his own hands, on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, Monday, Nov. 5 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Nick, we hardly knew you — not that we really wanted to. It’s not a surprise that this guy joined Victoria and Quinn in the character graveyard as he didn’t have so much as one compelling plotline to his name. The episode opened on a promising enough note, with Future Ted musing faux-poignantly about the reason Nick and Robin clicked (sex) and the reason they began to falter (they haven’t had sex in three days).

We think back to “Spoiler Alert,” when the coupling and uncoupling of Ted and a new girlfriend was couched in a smart, believable storyline about the temporary blindness that comes with first lust and the impossibility of ignoring flaws once they’ve been pointed out. “Splitsville” is pretty uncreative in comparison. Nick is, as Lily says, “as hot as lava and just as thick,” and yet somehow we’re asked to believe Robin didn’t notice or mind that he couldn’t think of a four-letter word that means cut and once ate a scented vanilla candle that had already been lit. In a very far-fetched plot device (although not as far-fetched as eating a lit candle), Robin must keep her phone on to prove to the gang that she is breaking up with Nick, giving Barney the opportunity to overhear her hesitation and rush to the restaurant to give an impassioned speech declaring his love for her, which he was only doing to be a bro. (But not, obviously.)

Better was the B-plot about basketball leagues for “little Ivies's professionals over 30 who work in midtown.” First of all, the little Ivies joke was so right on in its self-conscious bragginess (or was it actually self-effacing?). Also, the attendant jokes provided the only real laughs of the evening.

What we liked:

  • Pretty much everything having to do with Marshall and Ted’s respective teams, the Force Majeurs and the T-Squares. (Yes, we had to look up the former to find out it was a clause in contracts freeing both parties of liability.) For Marshall, who always takes his basketball coaching seriously, even when the players are five-year-olds who get a participation trophy regardless, the stakes were once again high despite being low. (A $25 gift card to Bennigans. His impassioned speech concluded with: “And afterwards we will feast like kings on Southwest fajitas and Cajun shrimp, and that check? That check will be marginally less expensive.”) Ted and his teammates, meanwhile, made disparaging remarks about the gym’s uneven flooring, and Ted maintained that you could play the game without ever touching the ball (because some youngsters from a Hebrew school stole it).
  • Robin’s complete inability to understand how Nick, a valuable ringer for the Force Majeurs, can take it so seriously when it’s a league for “lawyers and accountants and architects who sew,” and Marshall’s corresponding burn: “We have to rush Robin to the hospital because somehow she swallowed her vocal chords and they got lodged in her rectum, because she’s talking out of her ass.”
  • Two instances of Nick’s idiocy that were more in line with a believable level of stupidity: Nick did not know gypsies were a real ethnic group (who prefer to be called Romanis), but instead believed them to be as fictional as elves and leprechauns. Also, his mispronunciation of “iliolumbar” as “ilioflumflar.” If the writers had stuck to more of this kind of air-headedness, Nick might have been a mildly entertaining character for a minute.
  • Robin and Patrice’s BFF Fun Day. Robin’s irrational hatred of Patrice, which has turned into a more grounded hatred given Patrice’s cloying, copycat sensibilities, is always kind of amusing. The faces Robin makes in the photos, which were kind of a worthless gag, are still kind of funny.
  • Neil Patrick Harris in the scene where he confesses his love for Robin. The guy salvages the melodrama with some solid acting, which made this implausible gesture feel just a little less hackneyed, although the writing wasn’t bad either: “It has been overwhelming and humbling and even painful, but I could not stop loving her any more than I could stop breathing.”
  • This observation from Ted: “Lily has been slobbering over Robin’s sex life like a cartoon hobo watching a pie cool on a windowsill.”

What we didn’t like:

  • Lily’s sexual frustration. Unlike Marshall’s exercise obsession, which was a subtle constant in the background of the episode, this was overplayed. If Lily is going to have these recurring bi-curious fantasies, let her get drunk and make out with Robin already. Invented stories about a “slutty” Danish exchange student in a threesome bordered on nonsensical.
  • Robin’s centripetal force. It’s not that we don’t love her, but she looms so large in both Ted and Barney’s lives that it seems ridiculous that neither of them are dating her. Last week Barney happily let Robin wingman him into a new honey’s apartment while Ted gave up Victoria for his friendship with Robin. But this week it’s back to Ro-ro and the Barnstormer. It’s enough to make diehard Ted and Robin fans like us fine with the idea of Barney and Robin, just as long as it’s settled once and for all. (Plus, there was palpable chemistry between them last night.)
  • The relatively untroubled aftermath of failed proposals. Don’t you think Robin, Ted, and Barney should be sitting around, talking about the tackiness of their love lives? Nobody wants to watch that, of course — this is more of a criticism of the fact that the writers let certain relationships get so far along only to make them disappear in an instant, and with little remorse.  
  • Ted taking Marvin for a walk just so Marshall and Lily could have sex. Take him for the whole night, Ted, otherwise it’s just kind of weird.
Photo: Richard Cartwright/CBS