The How I Met Your Mother Shame Index: Episode 8

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 17 2009 10:00 AM

The How I Met Your Mother Shame Index: Episode 8


Last week's episode of How I Met Your Mother proved to be controversial. The Shame Index pronounced it the worst of the season . Vulture called it the best . Others were somewhere in between. There was some disagreement about whether Barney in a fat suit was funny or, as the Index argued, plain lazy. But the more serious issue was the treatment of the relationship between Barney and Robin. It seems that many fans of HIMYM had quickly soured on the romance—they wanted the old Barney back.

They got him. This week's episode was given over almost entirely to Barney's scams, cons, hustles, hoodwinks, gambits, stratagems, and bamboozles. And flimflams.

Shameful:

—MILSWANCA. We live in a post- MILF Island world. There's no going back to MILSW-.

—The flashback within a flashback. It wasn't at all clear to the Shame Index why this episode required a second layer of recollection. Couldn't Lily have intercepted the blonde (Sarah Wright, last seen making out with Mad Men 's Pete Campbell after her failed Maidenform audition ) before The Scuba Diver was to begin in earnest and warned her then of Barney's plot? HIMYM is typically masterful in its handling of chronology—memories often inspire other memories, so it's natural when Bob Saget stops a story and rewinds further to explain. Here it just felt unnecessarily complicated.

—Robin joining in the chorus of "hell no" when Ted asks rhetorically whether he'd consider dating a woman Barney had hooked up with. Um, you're one of those women now, Robin.

—SNASA. Actually, SNASA is pretty funny. But the writers stepped on a fragile joke with Smoon and Smoron.

—Don. That guy is going to be the love of Robin's life? She deserves better. (The Shame Index recognizes this is a snap judgment based on the briefest glimpse of the guy. But come on.)

Awesome:


—"Civil Union and planning to get married pending passage of legislation currently on the floor of the New York State Senate." Funny and timely .

—Marshall's fumbling comparison of Barney to Stephen King.

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—Marshall's extended frozen waffles metaphor, followed up by his quite serious request that Robin pick up some frozen waffles.

—As indicated above, some of the gambits from Barney's playbook were better than others (whereas Robin's two-volume playbook is thrilling from cover to cover). But, on balance, Barney's collection of strategies were imaginative, cleverly enacted, and handsomely calligraphed. Of particular merit:

—The Lorenzo von Matterhorn—"spelled like it sounds." Kudos to Barney for his inspired set of fake Web sites, and to the art director of this episode for actually making the Internet look like the Internet. (The cartoonish rendering of Web sites on network television is a pet peeve of the Shame Index.)

—The Ted Mosby. Barney impersonating Ted—that can't help but be funny.

—The Cheap Trick. Elegant in its simplicity.

The Shame Index suspects that most viewers were thrilled to have the old, promiscuous Barney back last night. The Index enjoyed seeing him in action as well, but couldn't shake a nagging feeling—that HIMYM fans were on the wrong end of a different cheap trick. The series spent nearly an entire season establishing what felt like a very real, very believable relationship between Barney and Robin, only to abruptly dissolve it last week on the thinnest pretense. Barney and Robin deserved better than that, and so do viewers, who were led to believe the series was invested in its characters enough see the relationship through. Barney's coup de grâce in this week's episode was to land the blonde by feigning sympathy for Robin's lingering sadness about their breakup. It felt like a joke on the audience—you fell for that whole Barney and Robin thing? Sucker. You thought for a moment that Barney felt empathy for Robin? Sucker. Robin seemed unfazed by all this, but it may be a while before the Shame Index can fully appreciate Barney's antics again.

Previous Shame Indices: Episode 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7

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John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

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