A review of last night’s “How I Met Your Mother” coming up just as soon as I’m subject to a 50-meter restraining order…
“Slap Bet,” the episode that introduced Robin Sparkles, was, is and will likely always be (barring a miracle in the final season and a half, now that we know next season will be the end) the absolute pinnacle of “HIMYM.” Since then, the show has unsurprisingly brought back the two components of that episode to very mixed results. The slap bet itself has seemed to have a better shelf life than Robin Sparkles, even though there were parts of “Sandcastles in the Sand” and “Glitter” that I enjoyed.
But “P.S. I Love You” was the first “Slap Bet” sequel of either flavor that felt like it had a genuine idea behind it, and a genuine reason to exist beyond the show trying to recapture that Canadian lightning in a bottle. It wasn’t “Slap Bet”-level, but it’s the most I’ve enjoyed an episode of “HIMYM” – and the least troubled I’ve been by any part of it – in quite some time.
Ted’s Dobler/Dahmer Theory about the line between adorable obsession and creepy stalking was enough to fuel stories for all five regulars, and to make the entire episode feel like one big story, even while Barney was off in Canada and no one else got to meet Jeanette.(*) The “HIMYM” writers are still capable of coming up with good relationship theories and gimmicks, but they don’t always stick with them (like ditching the Twentysomething Mad Libs after one scene a few weeks ago). This was an entire episode built around a theme, and it worked – especially because it built on pre-established continuity about Lily and Marshall’s first meeting and Robin’s teen celebrity, rather than ignoring what came before for the sake of the joke.
(*) Played by “SNL” alum Abby Elliott, who was originally supposed to play Kate on “Ben and Kate,” but was replaced by Dakota Johnson and thus available for this arc. And I’m okay with the idea of spending time with one more significant Ted girlfriend pre-Mother, particularly since the show has framed it as his last big romantic mistake. Maybe this can be what the Zoey arc should have been.
Mainly, though, the “Underneath the Tunes” by itself sequence justified the return to this character. We had an excellent mix of Canadian celebrities, including a hockey player (though I’d have liked to see a Vancouver Canuck in there, Luc Robataille worked just fine), a Barenaked Lady, Jason Priestley, Geddy Lee and, playing Robin’s manager, “SCTV” alum Dave Thomas, one of the great masters of Canadian parody as one half of the McKenzie brothers. (See the embedded clip below.) We revisited the idea from “Slap Bet” that American pop culture was slow to cross the border into Canada with grunge being “invented” in 1996 by Robin Daggers. And given the obvious homage to Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know,” the cameo by Dave Coulier (long believed to be the subject of that song) was pretty much mandatory, and good on him for doing it.
Add in Barney frequently giving in to the Canadian roots he tries to hide, the return of James VanDerBeek as Simon, various other Canadian gags (one of Robin’s boyfriends defines “summer love” as getting to go “under parka, over turtleneck”), Alan Thicke kicking Barney’s ass and Paul Shaffer being revealed as the object of Robin’s obsession (paying off the earlier bit about his stomach being in knots), and you have a very satisfying, funny episode of “HIMYM.” I don’t know that we need a Robin Sparkles 5 in the final season, but I’m glad they broke out the blonde wig and jelly bracelets one more time for this.
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