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How I Met Your Mother: "Robots Vs. Wrestlers"

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Let's use the guest stars on this episode to sketch a little psychological profile of you readers. Who did you geek out about the hardest?  (a) Arianna Huffington (b) Peter Bogdanovich (c) Will Shortz (d) Michael York (e) that Number Five-esque robot who defeated the wrestler in the first match.


Me?  Will Shortz, without a doubt.  I subscribed to Games magazine in my childhood and teenage years, for which he famously provided the crossword puzzles.  And I get a goofy smile on my face when I hear his sonorous voice on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday.  (In case you missed it, the HIMYM gang announced the prizes for this weekend's puzzle — a rebus-like affair that required some serious lateral thinking.)  I'd say if you squealed in delight at the sight of any one of b through d, you should embrace your inner Douchey Ted.  I've never been repelled by D.T., and in "Robots Vs. Wrestlers" we get a welcome sense of why he's actually lovable.  While Barney, Marshall and Lily enjoy the peerless spectacle of Mexican wrestlers fighting chrome-plated robots, Ted is equally thrilled to meet the professor who wrote the article about foreign policy he just cited, or join in a conversation about Monteverdi's fourth book of madrigals, or to quiz Will Shortz about his pet theory that Ulee of Ulee's Gold shows up in the Times crossword so much because of the vowels. ("Because of the vowels," Will Shortz confirms.)

"Robots Vs. Wrestlers" works on a number of levels, at least for this particular douchey viewer.  There's a debate here about high culture and low culture, and whether the insistence on one or the other as self-evidently worthwhile is a fracturing influence.  There's a step toward the next step for Marshall and Lily, as they start to agree that a baby is in their foreseeable future.  And there's a hopeful note that although the group cannot continue on as they always have forever, there will still be some things that bring them together.


Barney thinks he's knows what those things will be — the new traditions that are so intrinsically awesome that not participating is tantamount to treason. Ted's effort to share other things he finds awesome — like Emerson, opera, wine, Dante — are met with fart noises from his friends in unanimous concert.  But Ted finally gets to spend some time among his own when he insists on crashing Jefferson van Smoot's penthouse party at the Alberta after receiving an invitation addressed to the former occupant of the apartment, Marisa Heller.  The little fantasy sequence where the version of Heller constructed from the evidence of her mail enters the apartment, putting down her golf clubs, passing by wicker furniture, and feeding her pet bird is a lovely little piece of storytelling integrated into the scene in a way that reminded me of Ted's superdate song from earlier this season.

The party is everything Ted hoped it would be, but the others don't fit in.  Marshall's wearing jeans, can't locate any tiny hamburgers, and makes the mistake of hitting an antique gong.  (After van Smoot objects, Marshall gives the longest mumbled comeback in history: "His wife's a 500 year old relic who hasn't been struck since W.S. Gilbert hit it at the London premiere of the Mikado in 1885.")  Barney can't get anywhere with the women because (a) they know too much to fall for his lines, and (b) in the case of Arianna Huffington, he's too old.  Lily doesn't have anyone to talk soap operas with.  So they're off to Robots Vs. Wrestlers, but when Ted decides to stay among those he now seems to consider his people, Barney exiles him from the group: "You are out of our gang forever!  You can reapply in two years."  Then, at said wrestling match, Barney has to contend with Marshall and Lily planning for a family. Robin's already left him, now the rest of the group are going their own ways, and Barney feels abandoned.

I appreciate that even though Ted had an enthralled audience for his blindfolded wine identification, Zeta Chi song rendition, and extended dramatic rendering of Dante's Inferno in Italian, he realized that he was not completely being himself.  He was being a side of himself — the douchey side.  Or we might be kinder and call it the enthusiast side, the kind that exhibits a cultish attachment to exquisite objects of refined taste.  But there's more to him.  There's a person who was also so instantly thrilled by the very idea of robots vs. wrestlers that he didn't even need to know what it was before committing himself.  ("We assume it's some kind of sporting event that pits robots against wrestlers!" he explains to Lily in the cold open.  "That's exactly what it is, according to the website!" Barney responds in amazement.)  Everybody gets to have a life outside the group … or to put it another way, a side that the group cannot contain or satisfy.  It may be a relationship, like Robin's with Don; or an incipient family life; or a set of unapproved enthusiasms.  As threatening as those sides are in periods of transition, they don't in and of themselves threaten the group's cohesion.  Yet they presage people that are coming, sides that can develop into full-fledged lives.  Nothing can remain the same, but for a night every year, all those changes can be temporarily set aside.

Stray observations:

  • How far away is a baby?  According to Lily, so far down the road you can barely see it.  According to Marshall, you might wanna get in the right lane.
  • Best laugh of the night: the camera panning along the couch full of party guests as Ted recites Dante, finding Bogdanovich holding up his hands to frame the shot.
  • Marisa Heller has nice teeth; she must be remembering to go to the dentist even without those reminder postcards.
  • "I wonder if you'd like to join me in the Map Room and give my package some stimulus."
  • Barney's conditions under which Marshall and Lily can have a baby: (1) They have to love Barney more than the baby; (2) Twice a year Barney gets to use the baby to pick up chicks; (3) Said use may involve the baby falling from a two story building and Barney heroically catching it; (4) No breastfeeding in front of Barney; (5) Forget about number 4, whip 'em out anytime you want; … (83) If anything that comes out of that baby gets on one of Barney's suits, he gets to touch Lily's boobs.
  • Mexican wrestler doppelganger Ted has been added to the group (dramatically smashing the robot so that metal parts fly up in the air).  Marshall and Lily agree that when the final doppelganger — Barney — shows up, that's the universe telling them it's time to think about having a baby.  The name of the episode in two weeks is "Doppelgangers."
  • "Sorry New York, I had to take that.  Now where were we?  Oh yes — bus crash!"
  • "I don't think it would change our lifestyle all that much."