This week we get some good yuks — and no annoying Ted-centric plotlines. Instead, Ted’s wrapped up in teaching Barney how to date Robin through a series of late-night classes he holds in his architecture lecture hall. Due to Barney’s frequent, unexplained absences, however, Robin assumes he’s cheating on her, and sledgehammers Barney’s briefcase open to find proof. Instead, she discovers his class notebook. The episode flashes between Robin’s irate reactions to the information contained therein, and Ted in the classroom, trying to teach the comically unfocused Barney.
At least this addresses (if not very realistically) what will surely be our biggest issue all season: How could Ted, who’s been madly in love with Robin for most of the show’s run, be this cool with Barney and Robin being together? We recall there being a “we’re not friends anymore” plot arc into an “okay fine, if anyone dates her it should be you” resolution, but when, exactly, did they reach this point, where no-girlfriend, no-career Ted is totally fine with his best friend finding love with the woman he once thought he’d marry? We can, we guess, imagine a real scenario in which a guy realizes his best bud is actually perfect for his ex-girlfriend/close friend. And true, all along the show has hinted at Barney and Robin as a sensible pair, at least cosmetically, with their mutual love of cigars, scotch, and not talking about their feelings. So, maybe we’re talking ourselves into this a tiny bit …
But we have another quibble! How does this week’s plot, which has nothing to do with Ted’s love life, serve as fodder for Ted’s future stories to his kids? Maybe we’re supposed to assume that the kids have gotten so involved in their dad’s wacky bachelor days they actually want to hear about this bullshit, but, still. The whole premise of HIMYM is stretched gossamer thin if we expect this level of detail twenty years into the future, but still, don’t shove it in our faces, HIMYM.
Anyway, back to the plot: Angry Robin heads to the classroom and confronts Barney — you don’t get a crib sheet for our relationship, etc. — and storms out. Ted tracks her down at the bar and lays on some classic Ted cheesiness: “I’ve seen Barney work hard to get girls. I’ve seen Barney work hard to get rid of a girl. But I’ve never seen him work so hard to keep one around.” She softens, so when Barney confesses he’s worried that she’ll break up with him and that’s why he did this, all is forgiven. Yay!
Also, Marshall has a phoned-in subplot about a beloved barrel he’s kept from college, named Mable, and wants to give away. So, quibble three: Give Marshall better stuff! The writers should be watching Undeclared and Freaks and Geeks episodes before every session to remind themselves just how good Jason Segel can be for a TV comedy.
This time out, Lily embodies the worst sitcom instincts of the show, most notably in trying to keep Robin from opening the briefcase, when we all know any real friend would be perfectly happy rooting around in other people’s stuff. (Also, once they get the notebook, why is she suddenly so willing to read it?) There are highlights, though, including Barney instinctively sneaking out of bed at 4 a.m., as if Robin was a one-night stand; and Lily calling Robin, in a 30 Rock-esque line, “an occasional guest star in some confusing dreams that remind me women’s sexuality is a moving target.” All the best stuff comes in the classroom: Robin’s surprising erogenous zones, the random foreign exchange student auditing the class, a genuinely funny Twitter joke. But the gold star goes to whoever wrote the bit about the three conversation topics for distracting Robin from getting mad, which include emperor penguins: “Did you know, that before intercourse, the male and female penguins bow to each other? Oh god, silly penguins acting all fancy!”