"Caning Randy" was a lot less Barney-heavy than I was expecting—or maybe just hoping for—from a Halloween episode. You know, costumes, woman-chasing, all the stuff he specializes in as much as the costume parties that surround the holiday. Of course, it's more of a post-Halloween episode than one about it, which is smart—the show's writers used the show's air date to their advantage. Like its viewers, HIMYM spent the Monday after dealing with Halloween's aftermath. In the show's case, this meant the aftermath of both the Goliath National Bank holiday party and a protest outside of an old building Ted is preparing a new plan for after it's destroyed.
Barney isn't absent, of course—he's the one filming Marshall as he refuses to play nice for the bank's TV ads. (Barney: "All you have to say is, 'I care about making dreams come true.'" Marshall: "That line makes me sound like a hooker and saying it makes me feel like a hooker.") And he leads the catcalls when the guys sit on the stoop during the morning-after Walk of Shame. (To a woman dressed in Native American costume, Marshall says: "Looks like Pocahontas has a couple of wounded knees.") That's when they see Robin straggling home in a nurse's outfit, immediately arousing suspicion that she's slept with someone everyone knows.
After all, Lily surmises later at McLaren's, why else would Robin claim to have gone to bed with Bill Pepper, named for a couple of items on the table? "Any chance you and Bill had a threesome with Fork Napkin?" Lily taunts, before divining that Robin's tete-a-tete was with Randy (Will Forte), Marshall's useless assistant, who has a penchant for shredding documents that need to be delivered downtown, and whom Marshall fires during the episode. ("This is the candle kiosk at the mall all over again," says Randy.) This is followed by a hideous bout of remorse, including a nightmare in which Randy jumps into the shredder himself. "Marshall Eriksen does not fire people," he decides, convincing his boss (who lets people go for wearing the same color of tie as his) that troubled employees should, like dogs, be given second chances. Randy, meanwhile, is thrilled to have been fired—the severance allows him to concentrate on his true passion, craft-brewing beer—and alarmed to learn he's been hired back, especially since quitting deprives him of that severance.
Barney films Randy trashing Marshall's office and testing his Minnesota-bred kindness to its limit in order to get himself fired again. It's an excuse for broad physical gags, of course, which Forte handles well. So does Jason Segel, but there's something a little absent about him on the show lately—as if he's a little tired of Marshall being so Ned Flanders-like. Randy finally gets his severance the old fashioned way—he earns it, by giving Marshall some of his handmade beer, which so impresses the boss he lets the lackey go.
Ted, meanwhile, is in a different sort of trouble. Zoey (Jennifer Morrison), who leads the protest against the destruction of the building that's being torn down to make room for Ted's, enrolls in his architecture classes and rallies the students, including one girl who incorrigibly brown-noses her teacher. ("Did it hurt," asks Lily, "getting that kid’s nose surgically removed from your ass?" Ted replies, "It’s not her nose that’s in my ass—it’s her heart." I admit, I flashed back on my mom's dunderhead ex-husband, who was once told he was cold and unemotional and responded, "Well, what do you want me to do? I can't make my face turn into a heart.") It turns out that, smarting from the attention paid to dizty new co-anchor Becky, extra-popular thanks to a mindless TV ad for the Farhampton Boat Show, Robin has come back from doing an ad of her own for adult diapers (which, Ted's voiceover informs us, runs for seven years)—and not having had a one-night stand with Randy, as Lily surmises (and Robin agrees with, just to get her off her back).
The episode's big running joke is a revolving, a cappella cover version of a certain annoying neighborhood car alarm: Lily asks Ted and Robin if they know it, and they respond with a rendition of its noises in perfect unison. Turns out it works on a kindergarten class while turning the room lights on and off; apparently, it works on a college class as well, at least until Zoey leads them to the building site with protest signs. Ted brings out the big guns, promising everyone an F if they don't show up to the next class. They do, preventing Ted from going as buck-wild on his students as it turns out Lily did with hers, by placing a stuffed horse's head under the blanket of a problem student during naptime. Maybe next Halloween, instead of being a toreador, Lily can be Tom Hagen.
- Classic, cool-teacher maneuver from Ted, who proposes to get his class's trust back by making them mix-CDs. "None of them had ever heard the Pixies B-side. Actually, none of them had heard the Pixies. Or a B-side."
- Robin: "You're a journalist. Don't you want to be taken seriously?" Becky: "No, I'm cute." A little close to Jenna on 30 Rock, no? (Something Will Forte's appearance only amplifies, in a roundabout way.)
- And last but not least, my thanks to Donna Bowman for letting me watch this space for her while she was indisposed. She will be back as usual next week.