How I Met Your Mother: "Duel Citizenship"
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How I Met Your Mother: "Duel Citizenship"

Tonight's episode is all about style -- bro-style, Canadian-style, and comedy style.  At its best, a great sitcom will surprise you a dozen times in a half hour, taking the jokes to places you never expected.  Now I can't claim that this fine, fine episode of a fine, fine show is the sitcom form at its very best, but I will make the case that it achieved that surprise factor several times.  And that's such a welcome change from last week's by-the-numbers installment that I'm inclined just to sit back and enjoy.

Surprise number 1: Kenny Rogers. 
There's no particular rhyme or reason to this one, which is why it's brilliant.  It's predictable that Lily's woman-style upsets Ted's plans for a ridiculous marathon road trip to Chicago to eat at a horrible pizza joint before it closes its doors.  A keen observer of the comic conventions could even have foreseen that Lily's idea of good listening material would be a sentimental, View-approved unabridged audio book about a dog instead of The Proclaimers and Van Halen.  But nobody could have come up with Kenny Rogers as the voice on said audiobook, let alone reading a list of the balls poor dead Sparky used to chase when he frolicked among the living.  ("Soccer balls ... baseballs ... grapefruit, which isn't a ball but is round like a ball ... football, which isn't round but is technically a ball ...").

Surprise number 2: Toronto.
  The B-story is Robin's conflicted feelings about her Canadian citizenship, which a pending assault charge (stemming from a hockey bar brawl) may force her to renounce.  Barney tries to beat the Canadian out of her by drilling -- I mean, cramming -- I mean, boning -- sorry, it's a rich area.  By helping her practice American attitudes and knowledge, such as identifying the Queen as Elton John and curling as "I don't know, it's stupid; let's go buy something that's bad for us then sue the people who made it."  But she decides to get one last drink at the Hoser Hut (ironically because "it's a free country," the most American of all excuses), and winds up in a hotel room filled with Canadian accoutrements.  Barney shows tracks her down and tells her just how Canadian she got the night before by dramatically flinging open the curtains, revealing ... the side of the next building.  "That was supposed to be a dramatic view of the Toronto skyli -- you're in Toronto," he explains.

Surprise number 3: The Crumpet Inn.
  I suppose a sharp observer could have pegged Lily's choice of a bed & breakfast, that least masculine of all accommodations, when she first mentioned the very un-roadtrip-esque option of a hotel.  But what the show did with the B&B, now that's some wonderful stuff.  Just two examples: The proprietress talks up all the couple-based activities she offers, and then when Ted asks about something for a singleton, replies, "I suppose I could arrange a little recreation.  Do you enjoy sitting on a bench?"  And in the denouement, when Lily is being rendered insensate by spa treatments, her iPhone vibrates repeatedly with messages from Marshall that they're on their way ... and each time, she just hums in ecstasy, right along with that mmMMMmmm of the phone.

The need to bring it all to a resolution -- especially the B-story in which Robin decides on dual citizenship (and can you just make that choice when facing criminal charges, really?) -- means that the episode ends quite a bit flatter than it begins.  But for all those surprising reasons, friends, I hereby declare that HIMYM is back.  And without a potential mother in sight, in a throwaway half-hour of fun, fun, fun auf der Autobahn.  Jump in the Fiero and drive!

Stray observations:


- Because it didn't fit in with my secret plot-recap agenda above, I left out the best surprise of them all: "Shrimp fried rice, totally!"

- "We'd eat nothing but jerky, drink nothing but Tantrum."  TANTRUUUMM!

- "I don't know why they make phone books anymore, everything's online now."

- I want Robin's coat -- the one from right before she went into the Hoser Hut.  So bad.

- "Next thing I knew they were inviting me to a Bryan Adams/Rich Little double bill."

- "So, you wanna talk about bitches?  I'm kidding, they're called women."

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