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How I Met Your Mother "Weekend at Barney's" Review: Burn, Baby, Burn

How I Met Your Mother S08E18: "Weekend at Barney's"

How I Met Your Mother is built around the concept of building up a story with the promise that there will be a payoff, and that that payoff will be worth our time. To borrow a phrase from Lost’s Sawyer, HIMYM is a big fan of the Long Con ... except hopefully we’re not getting conned. The series has crafted an extensive mythology, with some of its storylines requiring several weeks/episodes to reach fulfillment. The plot of "Weekend at Barney’s" was not one of those storylines.

In a season of HIMYM that’s been largely about bringing long-running storylines to a close, "Weekend at Barney’s" gave us two of its best segments so far, both of them featuring just one character absolutely nailing a joke.

It’s easy to forget that HIMYM was once a show that centered on Josh Radnor’s Ted Mosby, and the fact that Radnor is an excellent and funny actor himself often gets lost in the noise created by the rest of the talented cast. Watching Ted run The Kidney, the second play being coached by Barney, was one of my favorite moments of the season. After getting dumped by Jeanette, his crazy girlfriend, Ted agreed to let Barney help him find a new plus-one for the upcoming Barney-Robin nuptials, which led to Barney breaking out the Playbook once again. (As it turned out, Barney only burned a "ceremonial" copy of the Playbook earlier in the season.) Barney first had Ted run The Special Delivery, a basic maneuver that required Ted to dress up as a delivery man, pick a pretty girl in the bar, and try to give her a package. Unfortunately, Ted couldn’t execute the final line: “How about I give you a different package? My penis.”

Undeterred, Ted returned to MacLaren’s in a medical gown to run The Kidney. When Ted realized that the play ended with the line, “How I about I give you a different organ?,” Ted refused to finish it. While speaking to Barney via his earpiece, Ted repeatedly stated “I understand that” in a completely deadpan fashion, and Radnor killed the scene, reminding us that HIMYM doesn’t alway need an elaborate joke to bring the laughter. By the time Ted finally mumbled, “My penis,” I was dying. HIMYM used to be revolve around simple jokes like this, highlighted by its actors, but after the show became secure in its place in CBS’s lineup around Season 3, the show's focus shifted to guest stars and massive setups.

Jason Segel had to do even less than Radnor in his show-stealing scene. With Lily now working as The Captain’s art expert, she and Marshall went to check out Strickland Stevens, an up-and-coming artist. After Marshall’s jokes about art fell flat at the gallery (maybe he should’ve fallen back on his fish-related standup act), Marshall decided to stand in the back of the room and quietly support Lily as she worked. Strickland, during a speech to those in attendance, asked the room for a moment of silence in memory of his grandmother, to whom he was dedicating the show.

Now, I should mention that Marshall, who'd worried that the gallery wouldn’t be serving food, had smuggled in a large bag of Skittles. It broke just a few seconds into the moment of silence, loudly spilling onto the gallery floor. Despite the noise, Marshall remained perfectly still.

Like Radnor in his MacLaren’s scene, Segel made this joke work. As Marshall, Segel often earns laughs through the character’s boisterous nature, but in "Weekend at Barney’s," Segel had to purposely do nothing. And that was worth more jokes that Marshall finding his inner goddess could ever deliver.

Mythology wise, "Weekend at Barney’s" did two big things. First, it brought Barney and Robin closer together. While Barney was running plays with Ted, Robin caught him with the real Playbook. The couple had a small fight, but Barney convinced Robin that, despite his lies and illusions, his biggest truth is that he loves her. I was worried that HIMYM was going to toy with the couple again, so I’m glad the writers chose to just make this a tiny bump in the road to their wedding.

Second, as HIMYM teased a few weeks ago, Jeanette’s insane ways finally caused Ted to declare that he was done dating, that the time had come for him to settle down. Even though Jeanette had dumped Ted at the beginning of the episode, she found him at MacLaren’s while he was trying to run another play. The two went back to Ted’s apartment, where Jeanette also found the Playbook. In contrast to Robin — a rational person who could be reasoned with — Jeanette went ballistic. The gang returned to Ted’s place to find him sitting on the curb while Jeanette trashed his apartment and threw most of his belongings out the window. The Playbook and Ted’s infamous red cowboy boots were both victims of Jeanette’s rampage, with each item going up in flames. Now that the red cowboy boots gone, all that Ted has left to pull off is making good on his declaration to finally settle down.

Notes and quotes

– Confession: I’ve never seen Weekend at Bernie’s. When this episode began, I was worried that much of it would depend on understanding the references to the film. Luckily that didn’t happen.

– Canada alert: Robin was wearing a Vancouver Canucks T-shirt to bed.

– Marshall trying to make art jokes: “Why couldn’t the art dealer pay his rent? Because he ran out of Monet.” Stick to the fish jokes, Marshall.

– Robin response to Ted using his plus-one to bring Jeanette to the wedding: “If you count the voices in her head, it’s plus five.” This isn’t the first time Ted has had issues with a plus-one.

– In case you needed more reasons to believe that Jeanette was crazy, she got bored and started going through Ted’s emails. Upon seeing a message that she later realized was actually just penis-enlargement spam email, Jeanette smashed Ted’s plates, peed on his mattress, and left an upper-decker in his toilet. This woman is a cop? I’m a bit concerned about New York City’s screening processes when it comes to allowing people to join the police force.

– No matter what he did to try to explain the Weekend at Barney’s play to Robin (“The movie is called Weekend at Bernie’s ... my name is Barney.” “Um, a little thing called rigor mortis.”), Robin wasn’t buying Barney’s justification for the Playbook.

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Bill Kuchman
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