We’re into season endgame already, folks. I know it seems fast, but this is the 19th episode out of 24 for season seven. With the few half-hours we have left, the writers are going to be maneuvering us quickly into place for the wedding we saw back in September. Barney’s wedding. And right now they want us to believe that he’s getting married to Quinn.
To which I wail a plaintive “Noooooooooo!” at the overhead camera. Not just because of Robin, but also because of Barney. Our own oversexed Peter Pan has spent the season showing signs that he’s ready for the next step—if not a full-on Douchey Ted search for True Love, at least to retiring from the field. And that reference Marshall makes to the play where he gropes his co-star due to his growth spurt can’t possibly be a coincidence. In his story, he’s the one who grows up, even though he’s playing the eternal boy, and in the HIMYM gang, he’s the one who’s progressed the furthest down the pathways of adulthood. As much as Ted and Barney have mocked and decried Marshall and Lily’s absence from their nightly revels, they’ve also shown time and time again that they’re not in any shape, mentally or physically, to carry on like they all used to. (Witness crashing-in-university-housing Ted’s plea to undergraduate doppelgangers Ned, Martin, and Millie to stop playing the drums because it’s 10 p.m. and people are trying to sleep.)
Yes, Quinn stood up to Barney and called him on his crap. Much the same way, might I suggest, that Zoe stood up to Ted and called him on his crap. That breath of fresh air, however, is not enough on which to build a lasting relationship, and Barney knows it. Neither is their mutual love of evil plans in which they conspire to mess with their friends’ heads, getting them all worked up about Quinn’s unsuitability and then humiliating them for attempted relationship meddling. No, I am not at all a fan of that reveal. Because whether or not Quinn and Barney were pretending to be all dysfunctional and naive and conniving and moving too fast, the fact is that they got started off on a huge wrong foot, and Ted is right to be concerned. As we are reminded via flashback, Quinn used Barney’s besottedness to enrich herself. And now, at the end, she is further playing on Barney’s poorly-concealed dissatisfaction with her career choice to get one step closer to a ring and a better retirement plan than bills in a G-string.
Am I being too hard on her? Consider: We’re not given any more reason to like her than Barney has—that she tells the truth and doesn’t roll over for his lines. The show has not gone out of its way to help us empathize with her, and this episode, in which she plots to make the gang look foolish rather than seeking its approval or friendship, cements her in the role of antagonist. At least with Stella or Zoe or Kevin or Nora, the character's presence at McLaren’s communicated that the gang was trying to include him or her, and that sends the message that we should try, too, despite our (and perhaps their) belief or hope that it would only be temporary. There's nothing like that going on here. Why should I regard Quinn as anything more than a golddigger with an unusual methodology?
The real reason I don’t want Barney going this way because I know that Barney has a heart. And whatever he’s got with Quinn, it’s not an affair of the heart. That’s why it’s being contrasted with the difficult time Ted and Robin are having returning to friendship after Ted confesses what he thinks was love and Robin reveals that she can’t reciprocate. On both sides, it’s their hearts pushing and pulling that makes it all so complicated—the wistfulness, the scenario-running, the rehashing, the finality that turns out not to be so final, the damnable feelings. Barney has feelings, but he’s trying to pretend he doesn’t, because what he really wants is just the moving on, just the getting past and getting on with. That scene where he asks Quinn, hypothetically, what would get her to stop stripping—that’s the feelings saying “If we’re going to bother having an adult relationship, then it has to be the kind where I don’t brag to everyone that I’m banging a stripper. It has to be the kind where I care enough about the person I’m with that I don’t want her having pretend sex with strangers for money.” And her assertion of her freedom to answer his question revealed that what she’s interested in is far more like a collaboration or artistic collective, where they pursue mutual projects of pleasure and chaos-unleashing, than a relationship. Unless, of course, she can get a commitment. Barney has a heart, and I'm afraid of it getting broken again.
Moving in together is a bad sign. The gang is right; that’s going way too fast. And getting them to give up on that judgment through a shaming ritual just makes it worse. Although it might be all worth it for Ted and Marshall kissing each other, especially Ted shaking off Marshall’s awkward hands moving in: “Don’t touch my face.”
- The B-story—well, not really a story, more of a running gag—is that Marshall wants to participate in all the crazy stories his male friends tell about their past sexual conquests, but only has Lily stories to offer. ‘You’re like 20 slutty chicks all rolled into one,” he half-brags, half-complains.
- Ted and Robin both want Quinn’s huge rent-controlled apartment when they find out she’s moving in with Barney. “There’s a working fireplace!” Ted exclaims. “Patrice is ironing my pants all wrong!” Robin blurts out.
- Speaking of Ted and Robin, we’ve got trouble on that front that probably won’t get out in the open until the season finale, I’m guessing: “We wouldn’t see each other for a long time, but that’s another story.”
- Undergraduate Ned: “I feel bad for his future kids, dude.”