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How I Met Your Mother "Splitsville" Review: Bait and Switch

How I Met Your Mother S08E06: "Splitsville"

If I were Lily Aldrin, I would be glaring at this week’s How I Met Your Mother and uttering, “You sonofabeetch.” After weeks of dwelling on useless characters and dead-end relationships, last night's "Splitsville" had finally removed the last obstacle to getting the show back on track, thanks to the most emotional speech Barney Stinson had ever delivered in his life. Tired of watching Robin get sucked in by the sexual chemistry she had with the scented candle-eating Nick, Barney emptied his heart to Robin, declaring his soul-crushing love for her.

And then HIMYM pulled the bait-and-switch.

Like the time the show made us think that Barney had returned to declare his feelings for Nora and meet her parents, his proclamation of love turned out to be a ploy. A bro move of the highest order designed to break up Robin and Nick after Robin proved powerless to pull the trigger herself. Or, at least that’s what Barney wanted Robin to believe.

When HIMYM first introduced the idea of Barney and Robin as a couple, the concept didn’t work so well. Fans were used to seeing Barney as a womanizing playboy, not boyfriend material. During their first go-round as a couple, Barney put on weight. Robin let herself go. They weren’t happy. It just wasn’t meant to be. Three years later, though, we know that Barney and Robin will eventually get married (or rather, we know that they'll at least make it their wedding day), and it’s become more engrossing to root for this couple to get back together than it has been to root for any of Ted’s relationships. It's not enough that Barney has become the Fonze or Steve Urkel of HIMYM — his relationship with Robin has usurped Ted’s search for his own wife as the key relationship of the series.

As I mentioned after the Season 8 premiere, HIMYM has always been good at delivering a speech that makes it feel like you've pulled groin muscle in your heart. Barney’s (allegedly false) revelation to Robin was one of those moments. I don’t care what Barney told Robin after they left Splitsville. I believe that he meant every single word he said to Robin. And it’s only a matter of time before he finally acts on them.

So what’s everyone think about Nick, the final member of the Significant Others We Don’t Care About crew, exiting the show? I started to like Nick last episode, laughing at his attempts to come up with a catchphrase for his local-access cooking show. What I didn’t realize until last night was that Nick's been a dummy this entire time. Now, it’s one thing for Robin, who was addled by Nick’s abs, to not have noticed. But for the audience to not realize that Nick wasn’t very bright? I’m chalking this one up to poor character development. As was the case with Victoria, the character was whatever the writers needed him to be, changing when it best suited the plot. Brilliant amatuer chef who’s also sympathetic to Robin having guy friends? Sure thing. Moron who can’t understand the basic subtleties of the English language? Why not?!

I’m going to blame Nick and Victoria being awful characters on the fact that we never really got to know them. HIMYM reintroduced Nick in the season premiere, skipped several months, and then just told us how we should feel about him. We never had the chance to get emotionally invested or even determine who the character really was. In the end, this was a disservice not only to Nick, but also to Robin’s story. HIMYM doesn’t do this to Ted’s girlfriends — no matter how we ended up feeling about Robin, Stella, or Zooey, we had the chance to get to know them ourselves. When their relationships with Ted fell apart, we knew exactly how we felt about all three women and we understood what they meant to Ted.

Six episodes into what could be HIMYM’s final season, the pieces are finally in place to move forward. Were those six episodes wasted? Sadly, I think so. None of the characters are really in a different place than they were before Ted reunited with Victoria, Robin began dating Nick, and Barney proposed to Quinn. Ted is still looking for the one, Robin still has awful luck when it comes to relationships, and Barney is still fighting his feelings for Robin. If this season is it for HIMYM, let’s get things moving again.

However, despite the bait-and-switch and the recalibration of Nick, I still thought "Splitsville" was a strong episode of HIMYM. Unlike last week’s episode, which saw Marshall trying to get in touch with his inner goddess, most of the gang was true to the characters we know them to be. Everyone got a chance to deliver humorous lines, and there wasn’t a plotline that could’ve been ditched. Even Marshall and Lily becoming obsessed with working out and Nadia, the imaginary Danish slut, pushed the characters back toward normalcy. Marshall and Lily not having sex? As Ted found out many years ago while stuck on that top bunk, Marshall and Lily not having sex isn’t how the universe intended things to be.

If this season of HIMYM is like most of the show’s recent seasons, we can expect it to run for 24 episodes, meaning we’re down to what could be the last 18 episodes of the series ever see. Everyone is exactly where they need to be. No more dead ends, HIMYM.

Notes and quotes

– Ted: “Groins on Ice. Least popular Madison Square Garden holiday show ever.”

– Ted: “Our point guard is a 52-year old virgin, and he’s happy as a clam.” Barney: “I’m sure he’s quite the ball handler.”

– Nick isn’t the first dumb guy Robin has dated. The local-access chef may have problems with crossword puzzles, but at least he doesn’t act like a dog. Remember Scooby?

– Nick: “Hey, what’s a four-letter word for ‘cut’?” Marshall: “Nick.” Nick: “It’s a four-letter word for ‘cut.’” Lily: “Nick.” Nick: “What? Oh, I got it — ‘shave.’”

– Nick: “And what do unicorns and elves and leprechauns like to be called?” Ted: “You know that gypsies are a real ethnic group that exists … ?” Nick: “Wow, you guys, I feel terrible now. I always thought they were just made up like goblins or trolls or dolphins.”

– In a way, Nick and Robin are perfect for each other. Nick thought gypsies and dolphins were made-up things while we learned in Legendaddy that Robin didn’t think the North Pole and reindeer were real.

– Everyone noticed that Barney immediately looked up when the notion of Robin breaking up with Nick was mentioned, right? Of course his speech to Robin was real.

– Marshall: “Is Nick a genius? No. Does he have average attendance? No. But he’s a human being with a heart.”

– Nick: “So I went to this fortune teller today, and she said there’s a curse on me.” Robin: “Did she sell you something to ward off the curse?” Nick: “It’s like you’re fortune teller, too.”

– Robin was wearing a Vancouver Canucks shirt while she talked to Nick about the fortuneteller. We saw Robin wearing a maple leaf shirt earlier in the season, making it clear that she has a wardrobe full of Canadian-themed gear. If HIMYM puts her in a Labatt Blue shirt, my crush will be complete.

– Robin: “I don’t know if we should keep seeing each other.” Nick: “You wanna start turning off the lights during sex?” Robin: “No. No. God, no.”

– Robin: “I just worry that as a couple we’re not working out.” Nick: “You want to start going to the gym together?”

– Did anyone else laugh when Nick started crying? I know it’s horrible, but Michael Trucco crying is funny.

– Robin: “Order whatever else you want. It’s on me.” Nick: “Well thanks, but I think I’d rather just eat it out of the bowl.”

– Ted when describing his basketball team of architects: “Picture a well-oiled machine.” Barney: “Your sewing machine?”

– One of the Jewish kids on the sideline during Ted’s magical shot was holding a basketball with “MOSBY” written on it.

– Barney to Robin, with regard to Nick’s injury: “You can’t wait. His groin will heal. And then before you know it, you’ll be marrying a man who once ate a vanilla-scented candle.” Robin: “That was on me. I shouldn’t have left it in the kitchen. But it was lit... man, he dumb.”

– Nick describing his injury to Robin: “It’s a tear in the libial flim flar ligament.”

– Robin: “I think I’m suddenly in the mood for something hot.” Nick: “I see. It sounds like I should order some cappuccinos.” Robin: “Don’t talk ’til tomorrow morning.”

– Barney confessing his love to Robin while Ted, Marshall, and Lily listened on the phone: “I thought love was just something idiots thought they felt, but this woman has a hold on my heart that I could not break if I wanted to. And there have been times I’ve wanted to. It has been overwhelming and humbling and even painful at times, but I could not stop loving her any more than I could stop breathing. I am hopelessly, irretrievably in love with her. More than she knows.”

– Nick dealing with his break-up: “It feels like I have a pulled groin muscle... in my heart.”

– Looks like Nick is going to ride the tricycle with those two women he met at Splitsville.

– Barney sharing his thoughts on Nick with Robin: “You were this close to ripping off his misbuttoned shirt and inside-out underpants.”

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Bill Kuchman
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