Last week's dud of an episode had the Shame Index expressing concern that Barney and Robin's nascent romance might be problematic for this season of How I Met Your Mother —could these two be funny together? This week's solid effort answered the question with a reassuring yes .
—Robin's opening of Barney's briefcase with a sledgehammer. A shade too broad. Plus, would that even work?
—Marshall's beloved barrel, which felt like an afterthought—something to keep Marshall busy in an episode that didn't have much use for him.
—Barney's Twitter joke. Twitter jokes will surely be popping up all over sitcoms this fall. Prediction: Zero of them will be funny.
—Barney's Barack Obama Jr. pickup line. Another strained attempt at unnecessary topicality.
—Lily's declaration that Robin Scherbatsky is many things: "friend, confidante, occasional guest star in some confusing dreams that remind me a woman's sexuality is a moving target."
—Lily's professed allergy to barrel resin. The only good thing to come of the barrel plot.
—Pretty much all of the Robin Scherbatsky 101 bit. Kudos to the HIMYM writers for taking two plot strands that had the Shame Index concerned about this season—Robin and Barney's relationship and Ted's teaching gig—and combining them for quality comedy. Of particular merit:
—The three ways of distracting Robin from being mad at you, especially her soft spot for the mating rituals of empire penguins.
—The top five things never to do around Robin. Occasionally, HIMYM will leave some of its best material as an Easter egg for the close viewer. Last season, when Marshall became obsessed with Goliath National Bank's graphics department, he commissioned a chart ranking the U.S. presidents in order of how dirty their names sound. He only announced the top four—Johnson, Bush, Harding, Polk—but the list was printed big enough for viewers to see that Bush was also ranked ninth, which took the joke to a whole new level of hilarious complexity: Why is one Bush's name dirtier than the other's? Last night, a bonus item not to do around Robin was scrawled on the chalkboard but never read aloud: "mention hockey's lack of popularity in the U.S."
—Ted's hypercorrect pronunciation of Beaux Arts , which came out sounding like "bozarts."
—Shin Ya, who is auditing Robin 101. Just on the right side of the thin line separating amusing and harmful stereotype .
—You know an episode is more awesome than shameful when even Ted's sappy moral has some bite: "When you're dating someone, it's like you're taking one long course in who that person is. Then when you break up, all that stuff becomes useless. It's like the emotional equivalent of an English degree."
So: A fine return to form this week. In other HIMYM news, Rachel Bilson , late of The OC , has been cast in what executive producer Craig Thomas touts as a pivotal role in the series' upcoming 100th episode, raising the possibility that she is the one for Ted. Knowing how HIMYM 's producers love to milk this mystery for all it's worth, however, the Shame Index hereby pledges to eat its shoe if Bilson turns out to be the eponymous mother.
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[ Update, 5:18pm, Oct. 6th: Corrected the spelling of Scherbatsky. The Shame Index must have cut that class of Robin 101.]