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

How I Met Your Mother: "The Playbook"

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

Last week's episode proved rather divisive, didn't it?  For the record, I'm generally against makeup-based comedy.  But the tone was so spirited, the action so light on its feet, and the overall effect so genial that I quite enjoyed "Rough Patch."

I also appreciated how the show decided to deal with the masterplot problem it has set itself this season.  After Barney and Robin become Brobin … what then?  What at first appeared to be a ringing of the changes of relationship humor turned out to be an accelerated synopsis of the overall challenge of the show: growing up.  Without a real change in Barney, we all knew, this thing couldn't last — nor did we want it to, given that it meant the end of the Barney we knew and loved.  You couldn't just pair him up and shuffle him off to the side.  No, as Barney goes, so goes Ted's journey toward the mother.  Only when they all move on, can we move on.

And so I profess equal appreciation for tonight's delightful list-based (hooray!) episode, in which Barney takes us whooshing past the breakup and right back into his unredeemed essence.  His plan for post-Brobin-hood: Break out the Playbook and run every gadget play from the back pages on every unattached female with the poor taste to walk into MacLaren's.  At the same time, in a nicely understated B-plot, Robin pledges to forget about dating entirely and concentrate on her career, a statement Ted and Marshall characterize as one of the many possible clues in a Things People Say Right Before They Meet the Love of Their Lives category.

Here's the list:

  • The Don't Drink That (pretty simple — claim that somebody slipped a roofie into the girl's drink, saving her from a malicious drugging)
  • The Mrs. Stinsfire (on the opposite end of the scale of complexity: a Mrs. Doubtfire routine as a house mother for a sorority)
  • The Lorenzo von Matterhorn (Google-bomb the name with fake exploits, then pretend to be charmed when the girl hasn't heard of you, giving her a chance to find your web plants and become intrigued)
  • The SNASA (claim to be an astronaut for Secret NASA)
  • The Cheap Trick (you're the bassist from Cheap Trick; actually quite expensive, given the hair extensions)
  • The He's Not Coming (approach forlorn women at the Empire State Building observation deck and give 'em the bad news about their Affair To Remember co-stars)
  • The Ted Mosby (wear a t-shirt and flannel overshirt, tell women you got left at the altar)
  • The My Penis Grants Wishes (self-explanatory; turban and harem pants optional)

We all knew from about mid-episode, didn't we, that The Scuba Diver was the most complicated ploy of them all, enlisting the whole gang as unwitting accomplices believing that they are exposing Barney's flim-flams but actually playing right into his hands.  But his triumph is undercut when Marshall and Ted turn out to be right — when Robin, just focusing on her career, meets her new co-worker Don and … something starts.  There's something quite elegant about the never-explicitly-stated motto of this contrast.  While Barney is trying to get women by being anyone but himself, Robin, by focusing on herself and calling off the endless hunt, has a chance of finding something that really lasts.

How is Barney going to feel about Don, and all that he represents?  How will their progress past Brobin and toward whatever comes next affect Ted, and how far do they all have to go before they leave their Peter Pan existence behind and decide to embrace adulthood once and for all?  That's where this has all been leading.  And without a word about the mother for weeks, we're still moving on that trajectory — toward growing up.

Stray observations:

- Many thanks to Noel and Scott for filling in for me the last two weeks.  It's good to be home.

- MILTSWANCA: Mothers I'd like to sleep with and never call again.  (Barney celebrates Ted's successful deciphering of his acronym with the night's first of two game show references: "Correct!  Circle gets the square.")

- Strange but wonderful line readings from Marshal: When noting that Barney has written yet another book, he stutters, "Uhhhh … Stephen King over here!"  And after explaining to Robin his frozen waffle theory for finding the love of your life exactly when you don't mean to, he requests, "Also, could you pick up some frozen waffles?  In this case, frozen waffles are frozen waffles."

- Nice pickup by Claire, the blond girl, on the "Hell, no!" harmonizing — especially since she saved Alyson Hannigan from having to sing.

- Does Robin have a book of moves to get her back into the dating scene?  "Two volume set, right here," she points out.  "Reading it right now," Lily murmurs.

- Lorenzo von Matterhorn (spelled like it sounds) was written up in Extremities Quarterly because of his unsuccessful search for penis reduction surgery.  Also, the Lazer Tag competition where he came in third was at the Vatican.  Also, he's not a jerk.

- Only if you rub it hard enough.