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How much do you buy into Barney and Robin? That’s the question that might divide fans of How I Met Your Mother the most this year. In Season 7’s fourth episode, “The Stinson Missile Crisis,” Robin’s rediscovered feelings for Barney take front and center as she begins a series of court-ordered therapy sessions with a psychiatrist played by Kal Penn of “Harold & Kumar” fame.
The individual character plots of Season 7 are kind of like a Lazy Susan: all three are always within site, but one gets to be front and center each week. Just as last week’s “Ducky Tie” (which Barney wears without shame in this episode) forced transitions between the scene at the Japanese restaurant and Ted’s recalling of his encounter with former girlfriend Victoria, the same occurs this week as Robin keeps telling Kumar — I mean her shrink — about Lily and Marshall’s parent-to-be adventures with an over-involved Ted instead of revealing how she ended up with court-ordered therapy.
The tactic worked terrifically last week because the stories being juggled had both strong humor and sentimentality, but it gets annoying in “Stinson Missile Crisis.” Perhaps its because I don’t buy that Robin still has such gooey feelings for Barney, but I think the episode lacked for originality on most fronts.
Part of the problem is that Robin resorts to manipulation and drastic tactics to essentially get Barney’s interest back. She convinces Sandy to send Nora (Nazanin Boniadi) abroad to produce a show for a few days and then under the guise of deep kinship with Barney, agrees to help him end his various long-term scams that have helped him get laid for years.
The Nora bit is a stretch, especially when most viewers, I’d wager, still haven’t made up their minds on how they feel about Barney and Nora. Nora’s reduced to a peripheral character in this episode and not her whip-smart self, treating her as if we’re not supposed to like her all that much and should feel bad for Robin. Maybe this story needed to be a little further into the season so the writing had somewhere to build to first if we are indeed supposed to take up Robin’s cause.
Elsewhere on the Lazy Susan is the beginning of Marshall and Lily’s future parent adventures. They start seeing a Russian obstetrician named Dr. Sonya (Vicki Lewis) who says Lily can indulge in some typical pregnancy no-nos so long as it’s “just a little bit.” This puts Ted on high alert and using “we” when referring to the pregnancy.
The “we” stuff pushes it a bit far as Ted is a character who should be overbearing but not ignorantly so, yet it’s a welcome return to him being the third wheel, which brings back college flashbacks, the most amusing being previous Halloween costumes where Marshall and Lily would be two things in a pair and Ted would dress as the random unrelated third thing, such as salt, pepper and — cumin.
The birthing classes that Marshall and Ted take after Lily insists it’s too early only lead to unoriginal bromance jokes. The only good that comes of this subplot is some wonderful HIMYM foreshadow as we get a sneak peak into the delivery room months later with a crazy Dr. Sonya and no Marshall in sight. The humor potential with Ted trying to get over involved with the baby is still high, but this week it didn’t reach that bar.
Long-time fans of How I Met Your Mother can catch on when the show starts to get predictable because there’s such a minute difference between “I love this because it’s so HIMYM” predictable and “That’s what they do because it’s HIMYM” predictable. What makes it one or the other depends on how organically they let the HIMYM-ness happen. In “Stinson Missile Crisis” there’s a more contrived feel to most of the jokes; the only organic creativity comes from Barney’s various scams and the old Halloween costumes, but even the case of Barney’s scams there’s only so many ways to re-assert that Barney Stinson will do anything to get laid.
Looking forward, it seems we’ll get some more of Kal Penn, who went from completely unfunny to effectively sarcastic from beginning to end of this episode. My swift change in opinion about him caught me off guard. Hopefully the Barney-Robin thing won’t get dragged out unnecessarily long, or at least the execution will improve, or if rumors hold true, Penn will end up humorously in the mix.