The next two episodes are the two-part finale, and therefore, “Good Crazy” is mostly about putting pieces in place for the endgame. Nothing too fancy. We’ve got to get Robin and Ted talking to each other again. Barney needs to move another notch toward the realization that having a stripper girlfriend sucks. And Marshall gets drunk with ducky-tie-wearing Barney in an Atlantic City casino while wearing a “Marshall + Steph 4-Ever” t-shirt, just as we saw in the second episode of this season, “The Naked Truth.” We’re ready to wind this season up and set the cliffhangers for next season in motion.
If you’ve got to spend an episode setting the chessboard, you could do a lot worse than to give us a lot of Barney. That’s the saving grace of “Good Crazy.” In both storylines—Marshall is way overpreparing for the baby, and Ted is unable to get Robin off his mind—Barney plays a gleefully enabling role. He urges Ted to get back out there and find a few girls to act as “palate cleansers” for the bad taste Ted’s unrequited declaration of love for Robin has left behind. Ted tries online dating as per Barney’s suggestion, but Barney is so sure he’ll mangle it that he crafts a fake profile (architecture, Neruda, Ghostbusters, a picture of a famous female ESPN anchor) to intercept the lame date offer (minigolf) before it can get out into the world. Instead, Barney chooses the women based on how much boob they show in their pictures. But no matter how close or far the dates are from Robin in looks, life experience, taste, or temperament, Ted ends up seeing her across the table.
In Marshall and Lily’s storyline, Lily gets fed up with Marshall’s obsessive baby prepping, from setting an alarm to wake up every three hours, to changing a watermelon’s diapers, to watching a lot of breastfeeding videos. (That last one gets a wonderful sideways glance from Ted.) So she tempts him with a “baby boot camp” weekend at the Paramus, N.J., Waldorf, filled with seminars and workshops, but when he falls asleep in the car, she switches out with Barney who has orders to take Marshall to Atlantic City and give Lily a weekend of peace. Lily shells out for hotel, gas, food, and gambling money; Barney gives her a bag of cookies. At the casino, Barney bribes Marshall to turn off their phones for an hour and get rip-roaring drunk by promising to wear the ducky tie. Naturally, because this is a sitcom, the exact moment they switch off the phones is the moment Lily starts feeling labor pains. When they finally check back in an hour and 200 shots later, with Marshall so drunk he needs subtitles, Lily has filled up their voicemails with rage.
The two storylines come together in a moment of anticipatory anticlimax: Ted resolves to seek Robin out in order not to lose her love as a friend because he feels bad about the way he let her go. Exiting the bar, he runs into her and mentions they need to talk, but Robin says it’s not a good time—presumably because she’s there to get Lily to the hospital.
There’s a third story, actually, and it’s the one that’s actually about Barney. He is coming to grips with the fact that he can’t be comfortable with Quinn stripping, but also realizing that he doesn’t have any way to ask her to stop. In this storyline, Barney isn’t engineering sexual encounters for Ted or arranging for Marshall to have a legendary night. He’s not in control of his own feelings and can’t figure out how to fix a relationship that, by all of his usual standards, ought to be awesome. This Barney isn’t the confident quip machine that makes the other two storylines pop along so entertainingly, and I feel for him because of it. One gets the sense that Barney’s going to learn a painful adult-type life lesson because of Quinn, and although I’ve made the argument that his long-delayed maturation is a vital part of the series’ progression toward the eventual overall endgame, it’s still difficult to watch him so flummoxed and humbled.
There’s plenty of that coming in “The Magician’s Code,” the two-part season ender airing in two weeks. For now, let’s enjoy not only Barney perfecting the slow, resigned Condolence High Five (“I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go. Up top”), but also Neil Patrick Harris completely losing his cool in the epilogue as sloshed Marshall yells to the dealer that he’s the manager of the fictitious Paramus Waldorf: “You come to Paramus, we will hook you up!”
- Is there the slightest hint that Lily's labor is a false alarm based on the homemade cookies Barney gives her, and the fact that she is happily enjoying them when she gets the pains?
- One of Barney’s most enduring character traits is his habit of saying what he really thinks while engaged in righteously indignant finger-pointing, as at Lily’s baby shower when he accosts “Grandma Lois” (K Callan, aka Martha Kent in Lois & Clark!): “And maybe society considers what she does slutty, or disgusting, or verging on prostitution, or actual prostitution…”
- The only good part about Marshall’s pre-daddy workout routine is that Lily gets to be swaddled.
- Things Lily denies saying during the big fight that precipitated her send-Marshall-to-Atlantic-City mistake: Babies aren’t so hard, “you just watch ‘em be cute and feed ‘em spaghetti!”
- When Ted zones back in during his third date, he hears, “And that’s the story of my only lesbian experience. I’m sorry for going into such detail. I’ll never tell that story again.”
- Quinn explains that nobody puts her in a cage, except on Cage Nights at the Lusty Leopard, and then the bars are made of cardboard and she could get out any time she wants. Barney: “Thanks for ruining Cage Night.”