Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

How I Met Your Mother: "The Platinum Rule"

Illustration for article titled How I Met Your Mother: "The Platinum Rule"
Illustration for article titled How I Met Your Mother: "The Platinum Rule"

For all you Ted hair fans, this episode features several extended scenes of him tousling it in front of a mirror. I finally get it: He's single! That's why the hair has been rising like a hot air balloon. Some part of Ted believes that girls love gel. (Do they? I've been married for ten years, and I just don't know anymore. Help me out.)

For all you Lily's-closet fans, this episode features the worst top of the season — some kind of Mickey Mouse meets Humpty Dumpty thing that was too hideous to take for more than a few seconds at a time.

And for all you comedy fans, this episode featured an ingenious nested-flashbacks structure that managed to advance the story by six whole hours by the time it was over. Not exactly a leap forward in the mythology, but I feel a perverse admiration for a show that could have so many wardrobe changes to achieve so little.

It's yet another attempt at a Barneyism — so blatant that Ted helpfully provides a cheat sheet of Barneyisms to date, and Lily wonders at the catchphrase's origin why he doesn't have an easily-remembered name for the phenomenon in question. This one is based on the Golden Rule (well, Barney's version of it: "Love thy neighbor"). The Platinum Rule isn't really a rule; It's more like a natural process, like mitosis. And like mitosis, it has phases. As Barney explicates each stage to Ted to explain to him why he shouldn't date the plastic surgeon who is removing his tramp stamp from "Wait For It," we see the three controlled observations that have empirically verified the Platinum Rule played out in reverse chronological order.

One trope at which HIMYM excels is executing variations on the same gag over and over again in a brief timespan, and "The Platinum Rule" is really a master class in the technique. Robin thinks dating her co-worker the former hockey player will be fine; Lily and Marshall try to convince her otherwise. Whip-pan to Lily and Marshall thinking they've found the perfect buddy-neighbor couple; Barney recalls his disastrous experience dating Wendy the waitress. Then they all experience the moments of disillusionment and despair working back up to the present. Repeat for eight stages in 22 minutes.

Even though the attempts at neologisms continue to grate (especially the way the actors have to repeat the phrases emphatically several times an episode) and even though almost nothing happened this week (the doctor wouldn't date Ted because of some obscure rule about "ethics," whatever that is), the clever construction and zippy editing kept this one moving along nicely.

Grade: B+

Stray observations:

- Better candidate for a catchphrase that the title of the episode? "They're just across the hall!" Even better? "Don't kill the bar, dude." Both, not coincidentally, Marshallisms.

- Mason Raymond, you've been … what's the opposite of namedropped? … by Robin! Come on down!

- While Barney's Wendy-the-waitress misadventure has one very good line ("the other girls have to be there; that's the important part") and a nice misdirection denouement, the charade-playing neighbors and Iron Man are more consistently funny. The sportscaster's breakdown on camera ("the Knicks suck!") and Lily and Marshall's bewilderment at the neighbors' omnipresence ("are they ghosts?") are mini-classics of the genre.

- In a bit of underemphasized business, Marshall passes his handkerchief to Barney after the two Ted hair-tousling incidents, so Barney can rid his hands of hair gel. First: Marshall carries a handkerchief? He really is a lawyer! Second: We've come back to Ted's hair, right where we started this blog. Having gotten nowhere, it's time to say goodbye until next week!