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How I Met Your Mother "The Bro Mitzvah" Review: Do Barney and Robin Belong Together?

How I Met Your Mother S08E22: "The Bro Mitzvah"

With How I Met Your Mother’s eighth season down to its final few episodes, you might expect the show to start addressing some of the questions we've been pondering for years. Who’s The Mother? How does she meet Ted? When will Marshall deliver the final blows of the Slap Bet? “The Bro Mitzvah” skipped those questions, instead focusing on Barney’s bachelor party while further illuminating a much more serious question: Do Barney and Robin belong together?

In an episode that played out like a weird mashup of the Season 2 episodes “Atlantic City” and “Bachelor Party,” “The Bro Mitzvah” showed us what a bachelor party planned by Ted and Marshall would look like. A cheap hotel outside of Atlantic City, a clown who could make balloon hats, An Inconvenient Truth on DVD, Ralph Macchio (who Barney vehemently believes played the villain in The Karate Kid) … oh, and Barney’s former fiance Quinn as the night’s featured stripper. For most of the episode, it appeared that Ted had completely Mosby’d the the event.

And while Barney was having a miserable time, Robin was stuck having dinner with Loretta, Barney’s mother. Barney was initially supposed to join them, but gleefully missed the meal when Marshall and Ted kidnapped him for the aforementioned bachelor party. Through Robin’s increasingly angry phone calls to Barney, we learned that things was not going well.

After talking to Robin one last time on the phone, Barney decided to call off the bachelor party and head home. That plan was derailed when Macchio started egging Barney on over the fact that he hadn’t gambled during the party, despite being just minutes away from Atlantic City. Barney had already made it crystal clear that he hated Macchio, so there was no way he was going to let the star of The Karate Kid mock him when it came to gambling. Thanks to a dangerous U-turn (aren’t all U-turns on TV dangerous?), the gang ended up at a casino, with Barney poised to play the very confusing Chinese game we last saw during Season 2’s “Atlantic City.” Unlike last time, when Barney won enough money to pay for Marshall and Lily to be married by a boat captain, he lost. Twice.

Down $85,000 ($5,000 of which Robin had given to Barney to pay for their caterer deposit), Barney returned to New York. During the drive back, things soured further, with Lily realizing that Marshall was missing (Barney had used him as credit with those Chinese mobsters) and Ted telling Barney that the groom-to-be was only concerned about himself. Ted stormed into the apartment building, with Robin intercepting Barney outside. Robin’s teary horror story of her dinner with Loretta was interrupted by Quinn approaching Barney for payment. For Robin, this was the final straw, and she threw her engagement ring back at Barney before leaving him.

By the looks of things, this was the night Barney’s life completely fell apart.

Well, this is HIMYM, and we’ve been taught to never fully accept things the way they may seem. A quick flashback revealed that the gang had grown tired of Barney telling them that they could never pull off the bachelor party of his dreams. Recognizing that Barney lived every night as if it were the best night of his life, Robin decided they needed to give him the opposite if they really wanted to give him a legendary bachelor party. So Robin took inspiration from Barney’s playbook and devised “The Barney,” a play that would leave her fiance feeling as if he'd experienced the worst night of his life. As it turned out, everyone — the gang, Quinn, Macchio, the Chinese mobsters, Barney’s mom, the clown — was in on the play. When Barney learned the truth, he was thrilled.

Joke-wise, “The Bro Mitvah” was another enjoyable episode, and while I won’t harp on the whole “did it advance the mythology?” argument, I will ask whether or not the HIMYM writers need to keep poking at Barney and Robin’s relationship. Over the course of their engagement, we’ve seen Robin disgusted that Barney would put her through a final play in order to get her to say “yes,” we've learned that Barney held onto the real Playbook, we've watched the couple argue over whether or not they should sell Barney’s bachelor pad apartment, and we've seen Ted issue a stern warning to Barney that Barney shouldn’t keep pushing Robin’s boundaries of coolness. After watching Barney and Robin spend seasons upon seasons trying to rekindle, why is the show so keen on making us question whether or not they're right for each other? Or, even more drastically, whether or not this marriage is even going to happen?

From what we've seen in “The Bro Mitvah” and “The Final Page,” Barney and Robin don't have much trouble hurting each other. And not just kind of hurting each other, but really, really doing some serious emotional damage. It’s one thing to plan elaborate schemes to surprise your partner, but the game Barney and Robin have been playing is a dangerous one. How can these two build a marriage based on trust when they now have this history?

There are two episodes left this season — "Something Old" and "Something New" — and nowhere in either synopsis is there any talk of plot points that take place after Barney and Robin get married. Either we won’t actually see what happens after the wedding during Season 8, or the wedding never happens. In “Band or DJ?” we saw Robin dancing with her father at what we assumed was her wedding reception. What if Barney and Robin call off the wedding at the last second, decide to remain friends, and enjoy the reception they already paid for? Maybe I’m pulling at the conspiracy strings too much here, but what does HIMYM gain from the way its writers have portrayed Robin and Barney’s relationship?

Notes and quotes

– Barney laughing at the idea of Robin throwing a successful bachelor party ignored a key part of the show’s history: Barney and Robin have always been compatible, since she was usually a better bro than Marshall or Ted. She should be able to throw an awesome bachelor party.

– Adding fuel to the fire that is my questioning of Barney and Robin's future, throwing Quinn back in the mix was an interesting turn of events. Did the repeated mention of Barney being engaged to another woman just ten months ago hint that his engagement to Robin also wouldn’t last?

– I’ve never seen An Inconvenient Truth. How drunk would you get if you chugged a beer every time Al Gore said “catastrophic”?

– Quinn in a flashback after hearing the ridiculous things Barney expected from his bachelor party: “There’s a good chance our engagement doesn’t work out, isn’t there?”

– “Noooo. I hate Ralph Macchio. I hate him, hate him, hate him. He’s not the Karate Kid.” During the Season 4 episode “The Stinsons,” we learned that Barney grew up believing that Macchio’s character was the villain in The Karate Kid while William Zabka was the hero.

– Robin telling Barney’s mom that she wasn’t a virgin: “My napkin ring has seen plenty of breadsticks. And a baguette. I dated a center for the Knicks.”

– Key sign that the Chinese gambling game was rigged: While Ted had no idea how the game was played, Marshall was actually pretty good at it. In “Atlantic City,” Marshall helped Barney win. If $80,000 was on the line, Marshall should've been giving Barney advice.

– Ted to Barney: “Ralph Macchio is right. You are a bozo.”

– Quinn: “Uh, I think they prefer people of bright color.”

– Quinn seeking payment from Barney: “It’s my usual fee plus I always charge on extra hundred for girl-on-clown action.”

– “You’re one of the few people in the world who actually gets the Karate Kid movie.” It turned out the annoying clown was actually William Zabka, the actor Barney believed played the hero in The Karate Kid.

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Bill Kuchman
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